Using Kiwisaver to fund Weight Loss Surgery

A question I have been asked more commonly in recent times is “Can I access my Kiwisaver to pay for weight loss surgery?”

On the face of it this is a very good question.  Many people have enough money in their Kiwisaver accounts to pay for weight loss surgery and feel the health benefits from significant weight loss will improve their quality of life in retirement.  Also, in the past it has been possible for people with Australian Superannuation to use this to fund weight loss surgery.  Unfortunately, in New Zealand things are not this simple.  Kiwisaver has been established to allow New Zealanders to fund their retirement over and above whatever NZ Superannuation is able to pay in the future.  Aside from the First Home Grant, is is very difficult to withdraw money from your Kiwisaver account, until you reach your age of entitlement.

There is however, one possible exception that some people may be eligible for in certain circumstances.  According to the KiwiSaver Act 2006, an application for early withdrawal may be on the grounds of serious illness.

‘Serious illness’ is defined as: an injury, illness or disability that results in your being totally and permanently unable to engage in work for which you are suited by reason of experience, education or training or a combination of those things; or an injury, illness or disability that poses a serious and imminent risk of death.

While I think the second clause almost precludes bariatric surgery as if someone has a serious and imminent risk of death due to their weight, then almost certainly any elective surgery would not be safe.  The first clause however may be applicable to some people, particularly if weight related health complaints prevent you from working in your chosen occupation.  A doctor will need to certify that a person does meet this clause, and even then the fund manager of a person’s Kiwisaver scheme will still need to make a decision based on the advice they receive, but it may be an option for some people.

Here at ABLE we are not financial advisors.  We strongly encourage anyone considering applying to access their Kiwisaver on the grounds of serious illness to consider the effect it will have on their retirement savings and discuss this with a registered financial advisor.  We also recommend you discuss this with your GP, as they are probably the best placed to advise you as to whether your health problems result in you being totally and permanently unable to work in your chosen occupation.  If you have any other questions, please Contact Us.