Retirement Commissioner calls for changes to KiwiSaver so man with Down syndrome can visit brother

The Retirement Commissioner is calling for changes to KiwiSaver rules so a man with Down Syndrome can access his money earlier than the age of 65.

Tim Fairhall, who has been working at Countdown for 14 years, wants to use his savings to travel overseas to see his brother while he is still in good health.

The 39-year-old recently starred in a video made by the Retirement Commissioner's office to champion his case for early access to his KiwiSaver funds.

Diane Maxwell, the Retirement Commissioner, says Mr Fairhall and his mother have been "to the Ombudsman, they've been through every avenue, [and] they've been back to the provider and they've still be told 'no'".

The money Mr Fairhall needs to travel with his mother is locked up in KiwiSaver until he turns 65, but Down syndrome means he is ageing faster than most.

Joan Fairhall, his mother and carer, says, "If Tim survives till he's 65, and it's quite likely he will, he'll be a really old man then - the equivalent of about 90".

Being diagnosed with a terminal illness, buying your first home or proving financial hardship are all accepted reasons for opting out of KiwiSaver, but a life-shortening condition such as Down Syndrome is currently not under consideration.

Mr Fairhall's family said the situation is unfair as he has worked hard, and his needs and those of others like him must be considered.

"He's probably going to have to retire somewhere around 42 or 45 if he's to have a bit of time to enjoy his retirement," Ms Fairhall said.

The Retirement Commissioner says some changes are needed, but the process is slow.

"Cases like Tim's, I suspect, represent a few thousand people who need something more and the risk is it falls into the 'too hard' basket," Ms Maxwell said.

Mr Fairhall and his mother have made a submission to a select committee looking at tax laws.

By the time Tim Fairhall reaches 65 to access his KiwiSaver, he’ll be “the equivalent of about 90”. Source: 1 NEWS

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