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Communtity Law Manual | Work & Income | You’re 65 or older

Types of benefits

You’re 65 or older

Main criteria for NZ Super: Age and residency

New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001, ss 7, 8

The main criteria for New Zealand Superannuation (NZ Super) are that:

  • you are 65 or older
  • you are ordinarily resident in New Zealand
  • you have been both present and resident here for at least 10 years since you turned 20, and
  • you have been both present and resident here (or in Tokelau, the Cook Islands, or Niue) for at least five years since you turned 50.

However, some absences from New Zealand are not counted in determining whether you’re eligible for NZ Super, including when you are:

  • absent for medical or surgical treatment
  • a mariner or overseas on a New Zealand registered ship
  • serving overseas in the New Zealand armed services or in those of any Commonwealth country
  • an accredited volunteer for Volunteer Services Abroad, or
  • doing missionary work.

No income-testing or asset-testing

NZ Super is neither income-tested nor asset-tested.

An exception is that if your partner is under 65 and you choose to include them in your NZ Super, then both your income and your partner’s income will be taken into account (this is explained further under “Rates of NZ Super” below).

Rates of NZ Super

New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001, s 12, Sched 1

If you’re single, there are two rates of payment: the “Single (Sharing)” rate, and the slightly higher “Single (Living Alone)” rate:

  • Single (Sharing) – You get this if you’re living with one or more other adults (people 18 or older), including any of your adult children if they’re financially independent.
  • Single (Living Alone) – This is about 10% higher than the Single (Sharing) rate, because people’s living costs are generally higher if they live alone. To qualify, you must not be living with any other adults (people 18 or older) except for any of your adult children who are financially dependent on you, and except for any temporary visitors (people staying less than 13 weeks). The Living Alone payment can begin within 28 days after you become eligible.

    Note: You can find out the current NZ Super rates at www.workandincome.govt.nz . The rates are usually adjusted for inflation on 1 April each year.

If you have a partner, the amount of your NZ Super will depend on whether they also qualify for NZ Super, and, if they don’t qualify, on which of the following two options you then choose:

  • Couple rate (if both qualify) – If you and your partner both qualify for NZ Super, you’re each entitled to the same “Couple rate”, which is paid to each of you separately.
  • Couple rate (if only you qualify) – If your partner is under 65 (but meets the residence qualifications), then you as the qualifying partner can choose either of the following two options, whichever is better for you financially:
    • You can include your partner in your NZ Super, in which case you and your partner will get a maximum combined amount that’s slightly less (about 95%) than the combined amount the two of you would get if you both qualified for NZ Super (see above). This combined amount is paid directly to you as the qualifying partner. The payments are also subject to an income test that takes into account both your incomes.
    • An alternative is for you to instead take half the couple rate that would apply if you were both 65 or older. Here there’s no income test. So, depending on your particular situation, it may be better for you to choose this option and for your partner to continue working or for them to get half of the couple rate of another types of benefit.

    Note: If you’ve been receiving the Living Alone rate of NZ Super and then move in with one of your adult children, you’ll need to inform Work and Income of this, as this means you’ll no longer qualify for the Living Alone rate and will qualify instead for the lower, Single (Sharing) rate. However, if you’re financially supporting your adult children, you’ll still qualify for the Living Alone rate.

Residential care or hospitalisation

New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001, ss 17–19

If you have a long stay in hospital, the rate of your NZ Super is not affected for the first 13 weeks. After the 13th week, NZ Super can be paid at a lower rate. However, Work and Income has a discretion in these cases to pay a higher rate based on your personal financial situation.

If your partner’s rate of NZ Super is affected by them being hospitalised for more than 13 weeks, your NZ Super will then be paid at the Living Alone or Single (Sharing) rate of NZ Super.

If your partner moves into residential care and you’re entitled to NZ Super, you’ll get the Living Alone or Single (Sharing) rate of NZ Super. If you’re not entitled to NZ Super, you’re instead entitled to an Emergency Benefit from Work and Income at the same rate as the Supported Living Payment.

Absences from New Zealand

New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001, ss 21–24

You will lose your entitlement to NZ Super if you’re absent from New Zealand, except in the following situations:

  • You will continue to be eligible for the first 26 weeks of an absence, so long as the absence is for not more than 30 weeks (or if an absence beyond 30 weeks is for reasons beyond your control).
  • Absences for a cumulative total of up to two years are permitted if they are for medical treatment for you, your partner, a dependent child, or your brother or sister, but only if the Ministry of Health is providing assistance for the treatment.
  • Entitlement can also continue for up to 156 weeks if the absence from New Zealand is because you’re engaged in full-time voluntary work with an aid agency and you’re not depriving someone else of paid employment.

Payments when intending to live or travel overseas for six months or more

New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001, ss 26, 26A, 26B

You can continue to be paid a proportion of your NZ Super if you leave New Zealand intending to live or travel overseas for more than six months (26 weeks).

Note: To take advantage of this provision, you must apply to Work and Income before you leave (unless you left intending to be away for less than six months, but you’re required to be away for more than six months by circumstances that are outside your control and not foreseeable).

If the relevant overseas country is one with which New Zealand has a reciprocal agreement, or if you’re intending to live in a specified Pacific country for more than one year (52 weeks), those situations are specifically provided for by different statutory provisions (see below “Reciprocal agreements with other countries” and “Living in a Pacific country for more than a year”).

Reciprocal agreements with other countries

New Zealand has a range of reciprocal arrangements with other countries, such as Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada. The specific details can vary from country to country. In general, payments from state-funded/non-contributory pension schemes in those other countries can be deducted from your NZ Super, and you can receive the balance, if there is any.

Living in a Pacific country for more than a year

New Zealand has an arrangement with a number of Pacific countries (including Fiji, Sāmoa, Niue, the Cook Islands, Vanuatu and others) that allows you to be paid some or all of your NZ Super while you’re living in one of those countries. You’ll be covered by this arrangement if:

  • you qualify for NZ Super in your own right before you leave New Zealand
  • you’re going to live in one of those Pacific countries for more than one year (52 weeks)
  • you apply under this arrangement before you leave
  • you’re resident and present in New Zealand when you apply, and
  • you apply for any overseas pension you may be entitled to.

If you’ve been resident in New Zealand for more than 20 years since you turned 20, you’ll receive the full rate of NZ Super. If you’ve been resident here for less than 20 years but more than 10, you’ll receive a lower rate.

Overseas pensions

If you’re from overseas, you may be entitled to payments from pension schemes that you contributed to from your own income or savings while overseas. Payments from these types of pensions should not be deducted from NZ Super.

Challenging Work and Income decisions about NZ Super

If you’re refused NZ Super, you can challenge the decision by applying for a review by a Benefit Review Committee (see “Challenging Work and Income decisions: Reviews and appeals” in this chapter).

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