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In this report on the 2019 Review of Retirement Income Policies, we address the specific terms of reference set by the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, as required every three years under section 83 of the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001. These are set within a broader outline of the retirement income ecosystems that the questions they give rise to cohabit.

This summary should be read with the full report it accompanies. It is provided with the intention of making the issues and findings covered under the review as accessible for as many New Zealanders as possible, and to respond to their energetic engagement in the review process.

In this summary, we set out our main assessments in response to each of the terms of reference set for the review, followed by any key corresponding recommendations. To understand the rationale behind the assessments, it is important that the full related chapters are reviewed, including the outline of the relevant commissioned research. As importantly, the chapters set out a fairly comprehensive outline of the public submissions we received, reflecting what many New Zealanders stressed to us are critical issues for themselves, their children, grandchildren, parents and grandparents.

Key findings:

  • NZS is good value for money for the country; it is supported by New Zealanders, and it delivers positive impact for recipients and particularly for those who are in material hardship before they reach 65 years of age.
  • For these New Zealanders, NZS delivers a noticeable lift in standards of living. This is a very significant and positive impact that we do not think should be risked for future retirees – at least until policies that can better prepare more New Zealanders for their retirement are delivering more measurable impact.
  • Extensive modelling of the effect of raising the age of eligibility is required before we can be sure that it is the most effective mechanism to keep NZS sustainable – and we have time to undertake this through the next review periods.
  • There are other options that government should address in the nearer term and that are more pressing than changes to age of eligibility. These include creating a better coordinated and more impactful pre-retirement policy system, so that New Zealanders have the best opportunity to prepare for retirement, and more support for appropriate housing provision at the same time as being able to save and invest outside of the housing market.
  • Beyond the question of age of eligibility for NZS, to build greater sustainability of the retirement system long term, we need to look at the wider pre-retirement period when asset accumulation and savings provide the foundation for an independent retirement.
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