Pension commentaries

Thought leadership from key personnel at the RPRC.

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  • PC 2022-1: Looming Crisis for Retirees

    This PensionCommentary outlines some causes and consequences of a looming crisis. Many New Zealanders now aged between 50 and 65 – a cohort of almost half a million people – will go into retirement as renters after skyrocketing house prices over the last three decades put home ownership out of reach. With minimal savings and no home ownership they are facing a future of poverty.


  • PC 2021-4: Commissioner for the Future - Again

    This PensionCommentary argues that here is a great need to reinstate a Commission for the Future to promote intergenerational equity and to ensure there is a future for the rangitahi of Aotearoa.

  • PC 2021-3: Aged Care Commissioner for Aotearoa

    This PensionCommentary questions the merits of the Government’s proposal to locate the soon-to-be-appointed Aged Care Commissioner within the Health and Disability Commission, rather than Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission.

  • PC 2021-2: New Zealand Super Fund

    This PensionCommentary focuses on the role of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund in the retirement incomes framework and asks whether it is fulfilling its initial promise. Is it time to revisit the purpose and formula of this fund or is it an opportunity to capitalise on the fact we have a fund and repurpose it for the benefit of all?

  • PC 2021-1: KiwiSaver Fees vs Contributions

    Guest contributor David Boyle notes the heightened public awareness of the effects of fees on final outcomes for KiwiSavers but points out that an even more pressing issue is the high number of KiwiSaver members who are not contributing at all, or contributing too little to gain the maximum government subsidy.


  • PC 2020-11: The spousal deduction. How did the courts get it so wrong?

    The RPRC invited Sissi Stein-Abel, administrator and editor and long-time critic of the direct deduction policy, to share her observations on the Human Rights Review Tribunal hearing in March 2018 and the long journey to abolition of the spousal deduction on 9 November 2020. This opinion piece does not necessarily reflect the views of the RPRC.

  • PC 2020-10: Seniors, COVID-19 policies and the 2020 Budget

    COVID-19 provides an opportunity to rethink all elements of retirement income policy to ensure that the pain of the pandemic is shared equitably and the settings of policy are improved to reduce the impact on those most at risk. It appears that women, ethnic minorities and the young have been adversely and disproportionately affected, compromising their retirement preparedness.

  • PC 2020-9: PM’s delays are a betrayal

    Anomalies in the policy for superannuitants with overseas pensions are an indictment on the justice process in New Zealand

  • PC 2020-8: The NZ Super Fund and cookie-jar economics

    Buried in Budget 2020’s eye-watering numbers was news that, despite the economic catastrophe we are about to endure as a consequence of COVID-19, the Government intends to keep up its contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund (NZSF).

  • PC 2020-7: Budget and intergenerational fairness

    Why this budget matters for intergenerational fairness

  • PC 2020-6: Universal basic income: Be careful what you wish for

    Any Universal Basic Income New Zealand implements would likely be far too low, helping all the wrong people and leaving those in desperate need even worse off. Adapting what we already have in place is a much safer approach.

  • PC 2020-5: Welfare policies post-lockdown

    Most policy analysts would agree that while national emergencies such as Covid-19 justify an immediate response, the policies chosen to cushion the impact should be adequately scrutinised and well-designed.

  • PC 2020-4: Accessible streets - Yeah, right

    Once the COVID-19 lockdown ends, our streets will be busy again. We have a chance to ensure we get it right for pedestrians this time, and e-scooters stop being a hazard.

  • PC 2020-3 Kiwis falling through KiwiSaver cracks.pdf

    Many low income New Zealanders can’t afford KiwiSaver contributions, and growing numbers are withdrawing their funds for hardship reasons. This vulnerable group needs options that will lift their incomes when they retire.

  • PC 2020-2 NZSF magical thinking.pdf

    “By underfunding investment in the young we've been able to create budget surpluses to be siphoned into the NZ Super Fund at the current rate of nearly $2.5b a year. This has some serious impacts for a lot of families”, writes Susan St John..

  • PC 2020-1 NZS as a grant.pdf

    The latest three-yearly 2019 Retirement Incomes Policy Review takes a refreshingly holistic view of retirement policy and is welcomed by the Retirement Policy and Research Centre at the University of Auckland. Interim Retirement Commissioner Peter Cordtz has followed signals given in the Terms of Reference that reflect this government’s wellbeing approach.


  • Divestment and Decumulation – Planning for Post-Retirement

    In the international pensions world, The New Zealand experience clearly shows that with no state action whatever, the annuities market just disappears. It is not an easy problem to remedy and as Ralph Stewart’s experience with the NZ Income Guarantee has shown it is a costly and time consuming path for individual private providers to develop profitable products. Susan St John discusses three important ways that the state can act as a catalyst for retirement income policies.

  • An analysis of the changing nature of work in New Zealand and its implications for older female workers

    This paper draws together research and discussions on the issues affecting the future of work for women, particularly older women, 50+, in New Zealand. Time out from full time (FT) employment, restricted training and development opportunities, the gender pay, age and sex discrimination, all significantly impact on their working life and future career prospects, including financial resources. The constrained ability to provide adequate resources for their future may affect women’s choice of when they can stop working.


  • Responsible investment: the new standard in KiwiSaver?

    Two years ago, RPRC Associate Dr Matheson Russell wrote in PensionCommentary 2015-3: “The ‘default’ investment options offered by KiwiSaver schemes do not include ‘socially responsible investments’.” This PensionCommentary revisits Russell’s arguments for socially responsible options, and reports on the remarkable transformation of KiwiSaver schemes since then.


  • KiwiSaver: A world-class savings plan

    The three yearly review of retirement incomes policies is underway. Each month starting May 2016 a different aspect is being examined by the Commission for Financial Capability. This commentary draws on an article written for the AARP journal in early 2016: How to save like a Kiwi Spring 2016.

  • KiwiSpend: How to spend like a kiwi

    The three yearly review of retirement incomes policies is underway. Each month starting May 2016 a different aspect is being examined by the Commission for Financial capability. This commentary draws on RPRC thinking on decumulation, see, for example, St John, Dale & Ashton (2012) A new approach to funding the costs of New Zealand’s ageing population, New Zealand Population Review, Vol 38, 2012.


  • Default socially responsible investment for KiwiSaver – an alternative view (2015–4)

    In PensionCommentary 2015-3, Matheson Russell argues that the default options of all KiwiSaver schemes should be required to use ‘socially responsible investments’ in their investment strategy. This PensionCommentary suggests that ‘socially responsible investing’ is not a robust concept. Further, all KiwiSaver schemes should be allowed to set their own default investment strategy.

  • Making responsible investment the new standard in KiwiSaver (2015-3),

    KiwiSaver will have an increasing impact on New Zealanders’ financial wealth. The ‘default’ investment options offered by KiwiSaver schemes do not include ‘socially responsible investments’. Just as the government has regulated the investment strategy of the default option for the nine default schemes, perhaps the default options of all KiwiSaver schemes should be required to use ‘socially responsible investments’ in their investment strategy.

  • The coming debate on New Zealand Superannuation – the review process (2015-2)

    New Zealand needs to debate all aspects of the design of New Zealand Superannuation but the government doesn’t want to talk about it. Realistically, nothing can happen politically until at least 2017 and possibly even as late as 2020. In the meantime, New Zealand should start gathering the data that will be needed for the debate, once that can start. We do not have anything like the information we need for a national, principles-based, research-led debate.

  • Re-designing New Zealand Superannuation (2015-1)

    The net cost of New Zealand Superannuation will increase from 4.1% to 6.7% of GDP by 2060. Many say that's unaffordable but the expected cost of NZS is a second-order issue. The first priority is to decide on the shape of NZS for 2060, based on what we might want NZS to achieve in 2060. If the ‘ideal’ scheme is too expensive, only then does cost become an issue. New Zealand has never had the suggested principles-based, research-led debate on all the key design elements of NZS.



  • On recent proposals from Labour (2014-1)

    This commentary examines the Labour Party’s just-announced KiwiSaver policies and notes with concern that political parties are either ignoring superannuation altogether, or coming up with policies that need consultation and analysis before announcement.