All New Zealanders aged 65 and over are eligible to receive New Zealand Superannuation payments (also known as the pension, National Super, Government Superannuation or Super). The Government pays for these through taxes paid by today’s taxpayers. In a nation such as New Zealand with an ageing population, the burden of funding a pay-as-you-go national superannuation scheme falls on a shrinking group of working age New Zealanders. These demographic changes mean that in order to keep funding universal superannuation, future generations face a much higher tax burden than their predecessors.
The Fund was created as a means of partially pre-funding (save-as-you-go) future retirement benefits to help smooth the cost of New Zealand Superannuation between today's taxpayers and future generations. The New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001 (the Act) established:
Between 2003 and 2009, the Government contributed NZD14.88b to the Fund. Contributions were suspended in 2009, during the Global Financial Crisis, and restarted in December 2017. The Government contributed NZD500m to the Fund in 2017/18 and is projected to contribute a further NZD7.2b over the next four years. Full funding, as per the formula in the Act, is projected to commence from 2022.
From around 2034/35, the Government is expected to begin to withdraw money from the Fund to help pay for New Zealand Superannuation. On current forecasts, a larger, permanent withdrawal period will commence in 2053. The Fund is expected to peak in size as a percentage of GDP in the early 2070s (see contribution rate model for projections by New Zealand Treasury).
On current Treasury projections, capital withdrawals from the Fund will be meeting 10% of the net cost of superannuation by 2066, peaking at 12.7% in 2078, and averaging 11.3% for the 30 years to 2090. The Fund will also be paying tax to the Government in addition to the capital withdrawals. At the Fund’s peak, the capital withdrawals and tax payments combined will total 21.2% of the total net cost of pensions, and more than 44% of the incremental cost increase due to the rising proportion of retirees in the population.
In this way, the Fund adds to Crown wealth, improves the ability of future Governments to pay for superannuation and, ultimately, reduces the tax burden on future New Zealanders.
The Guardians invests the money the Government has contributed in a growth-oriented and highly diversified global portfolio of investments: the Fund. The Guardians has operational independence from the Government regarding its investment decisions.
We compare the performance of the Fund to a passive, low-cost Reference Portfolio in order to benchmark the value we have added through active investment.
We also compare the performance of the Fund with that of 90-day Treasury bills – a measure of the ‘opportunity cost’ to the government of contributing capital to the Fund instead of using the money to retire debt.