When does the underarm stop for Kiwis?

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As published in Hawke's Bay Today. Canny View by Brad MacDonald, Authorised Financial Adviser.

Currently, in Australia, there is more than $17 billion in unclaimed superannuation, which is not an insignificant sum of money, and we anticipate that a large proportion of these funds belongs to Kiwis.

The cordial relationship we have with our closest neighbors, (outside of the rugby pitch) means that we enjoy the opportunity to live in each other's backyard.

With golden beaches and a warmer climate, there are estimated to be more than 500,000 Kiwis living in Australia, and a larger number lived and worked there, before heading back to this side of the ditch.

While New Zealand was a little slow off the mark with setting up KiwiSaver in 2007, Australia was ahead of the curve.

Australia enforced compulsory superannuation in 1992, building on the superannuation system they had in place for union members. Here, KiwiSaver is still not compulsory.

To put this lag effect into perspective, the total value of KiwiSaver recently surpassed $40b while the Australian superannuation market is valued about A$2.4 trillion.

One of the interesting side effects of compulsory superannuation in Australia is the tie with personal insurance, such as life and income protection.

Approximately 87 per cent of all insurance policies in Australia are written on the back of compulsory superannuation, with insurance premiums paid directly from the member's super fund.

In NZ, the KiwiSaver Act governing KiwiSaver schemes prevents this occurring.

For the returning Kiwis that we meet, who have Australian superannuation, most are aware of the insurance cover they have in place in Australia.

Unfortunately, they could be paying for something that does not exist.

Several of the insurance policies that we've read through have clauses that mean once you have left Australia, are no longer a resident of Australia, or have not been a resident for two years, then you are no longer eligible for the insurance cover.

Here's where the underarm comes off the long run-up - even though you are no longer covered, it doesn't mean you stop paying for the cover.

If you didn't know the policy rules and hadn't opted out of your insurance, the premiums would continue to be taken out of your super fund.

We can't let this underarm incident continue.

If you are no longer in Australia and not contributing to your Australian superannuation fund, these insurance premiums will reduce the return on your funds until you either cancel them or bring your funds back to New Zealand.

Worst-case scenario, this could lead to those funds whittling away to nothing, while our Australian cousins take funds off you for something that doesn't really exist, laughing all the way to the bank.

This, along with the other benefits of potentially reducing costs and giving you greater control of your retirement funds, means "why wait"?

Get in touch with your financial adviser today to discuss your super situation.

• Brad MacDonald is head of pensions and KiwiSaver at Stewart Financial Group. Stewart Group is a Bay-owned and operated independent financial planning firm based in Hastings. The advice given here is general and does not constitute specific advice. A free disclosure statement can be obtained by calling 0800 878 961.