KiwiSaver members have withdrawn about $470 million over the 12 months to the end of January this year to splash out on new homes, according to the latest Inland Revenue Department (IRD) statistics.
The IRD figures show almost 34,000 KiwiSaver members withdrew an average of $13,850 from their retirement savings accounts to help fund house purchases over the 12 months to January 31, 2016.
Since the new HomeStart rules came into place last April the number of KiwiSaver members accessing the first home withdrawal option increased from 1,865 in February 2015 to a peak of 3,551 last November.
The HomeStart legislation enabled KiwiSaver members to withdraw the previously ring-fenced member tax credit government subsidies that had accrued in their accounts for house-buying purposes. As well, KiwiSaver members can apply for a HomeStart grant of up to $10,000.
Monthly first home withdrawals held steady between $45 million to $51 million from August to December last year before dipping to $33 million this January, the IRD statistics show.
Elsewhere, it was business as usual in KiwiSaver with membership numbers ticking up almost another 10,000 in January to sit just below 2.6 million.
However, the average monthly membership increase has dropped off since the government axed the $1,000 ‘kickstart’ payment last May.
Prior to the surprise move, average monthly KiwiSaver membership growth sat at around 14,000 compared the post May 2015 level of 7,600.
But the IRD statistics reveal a modest recovery in membership growth in the 18-24 age group. KiwiSaver members in this age bracket declined each month for most of last year, falling from a high of 360,350 in June to 358,743 as at the end of November. In the subsequent two months, KiwiSaver membership in the 18-24 year-old cohort crept up to a new high of 360,987.
As expected in the wake of the kickstart cancellation, though, the number of under-18 members continued the downward trend to reach 358,683 at the end of January, almost 10,000 fewer than the May 2015 peak for the children of KiwiSaver.
After a lull in December 2015, the IRD stats also show the KiwiSaver transfer market picking up pace again in the new year. According to the figures, almost 11,000 members switched schemes in January compared to 8,238 in the previous month.
Over annual period to the end of January 2016, monthly scheme transfer numbers ranged from the December low to 17,892 last June.