KiwiSaver Myths – What You Need To Know

KiwiSaver has been around now for over a decade.

I have helped people to understand and make their KiwiSaver funds work for them, but I still sit down with many people that still have some common misconceptions.

Some of the common ones are highlighted in this article: KiwiSaver Myths

I would be happy to answer any other questions that you may have regarding KiwiSaver and if you wish help get you on the right track.

Please feel free to contact me or call on 09 551 3500.

Will OCR change next week?

The Reserve Bank is expected to leave the official cash rate at 1.75% next week and continue projecting very little increase for the next three years because inflation has slowed in an economy that’s has been on a faster than expected track, BusinessDesk reports.

The Monetary Policy Statement next Thursday will provide a new set of forecasts and adjusted are expected because both the currency and inflation aren’t where the central bank was expecting back in November and Stats NZ has recalculated its measure of gross domestic product for the 2016 and 2017 March years.

The Reserve Bank will also have to consider the deflationary impact of free first-year tertiary education.

Fourth-quarter inflation of 0.1% was a third of the pace the bank forecast in November and the annual rate slipped back to 1.6%, a bigger drop than it expected.

The November MPS didn’t price in a 25 basis point hike until March 2020 and on that basis the RBNZ could be overtaken by the Federal Reserve this year after chair Janet Yellen repeated there would be gradual increases in the federal funds rate, currently in a target range of 1.25% to 1.50%.

The trade-weighted index was recently at 75.02, above the 73.5 level that the RBNZprojected for the first quarter.

Weaker inflation, the higher kiwi and the impact of the government’s tertiary education policies “are likely to see headline inflation retreat towards the lower end of the target band once again,” said ANZ New Zealand senior economist Phil Borkin in a note.

“The RBNZ will be mindful of the potential implications of this for the formation of inflation expectations.”

The ANZ Roy Morgan consumer confidence survey published today shows Kiwis wound back their expectations for inflation in the next two years.

The survey showed a net 3.2% general increase in prices is expected, down from a 3.5% rise seen in the previous month’s survey.

National house price expectations rose to 2.9% from 2.4%.

Source

Reserve Bank Hold Official Cash Rates

Statement by Reserve Bank Governor Grant Spencer:

The Reserve Bank today left the Official Cash Rate (OCR) unchanged at 1.75 percent.

Global economic growth continues to improve, although inflation and wage outcomes remain subdued. Commodity prices are relatively stable. Bond yields and credit spreads remain low and equity prices are near record levels. Monetary policy remains easy in the advanced economies but is gradually becoming less stimulatory.

The exchange rate has eased since the August Statement and, if sustained, will increase tradables inflation and promote more balanced growth.

GDP in the June quarter grew broadly in line with expectations, following relative weakness in the previous two quarters. Employment growth has been strong and GDP growth is projected to strengthen, with a weaker outlook for housing and construction offset by accommodative monetary policy, the continued high terms of trade, and increased fiscal stimulus.

The Bank has incorporated preliminary estimates of the impact of new government policies in four areas: new government spending; the KiwiBuild programme; tighter visa requirements; and increases in the minimum wage. The impact of these policies remains very uncertain.

House price inflation has moderated due to loan-to-value ratio restrictions, affordability constraints, reduced foreign demand, and a tightening in credit conditions. Low house price inflation is expected to continue, reinforced by new government policies on housing.

Annual CPI inflation was 1.9 percent in September although underlying inflation remains subdued. Non-tradables inflation is moderate but expected to increase gradually as capacity pressures increase. Tradables inflation has increased due to the lower New Zealand dollar and higher oil prices, but is expected to soften in line with projected low global inflation. Overall, CPI inflation is projected to remain near the midpoint of the target range and longer-term inflation expectations are well anchored at 2 percent.

Monetary policy will remain accommodative for a considerable period. Numerous uncertainties remain and policy may need to adjust accordingly.

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12% of Kiwis pay interest on ‘free’ loans

Nearly half of Kiwis have made the most of deferred interest deals to purchase items with what could be called a “free” loan, but consumers are getting caught out by not repaying the loan in time, new research from CreditSimple.co.nz has found.

While most Kiwis paid off the loan within the interest free period, 12% did not complete the payments in time and paid interest on their purchase.  Almost half of those 12%, took more than a year to pay back in full and ended up paying a significantly higher price for the item.

According to CreditSimple.co.nz analysis, 18% of people with a personal loan were overdue on monthly repayments at least once in the past 12 months.

Interest rates charged on store cards can be as high as 26% – higher than credit cards and personal loans from banks, the research showed.

CreditSimple.co.nz spokesperson Hazel Phillips said paying off a hire-purchase interest-free deal on time is doubly positive: borrowers avoid having to pay interest and it can help improve their credit score.

“Young people setting up their first house or flat often lean heavily on credit cards and interest-free deals to buy furniture and appliances. Our own data shows that missing a payment on a finance deal is one of the biggest factors impacting your credit score.”

Phillips said a good credit score is 500 or more on a scale of 0 to 1,000. Falling behind in regular payments soon starts to affect someone’s credit score – a high score means better deals from banks, insurance and utility companies, she said.

“Some people get into the habit of paying as late as they can every time, but that’s not a good strategy. The reality is with banks now reporting ‘positive’ credit behaviour such as paying on time, late payers stand out.

“You may earn a few cents extra interest by delaying bill payments. But it’s just not worth it if it’s wrecking your credit score, as it can affect your ability to get credit down the track, ” she said.

CreditSimple.co.nz said most New Zealanders have a credit score between 400 and 600.

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Enter KiwiSaver Survey and Win Prizes

 

Click the link below to ask yourself 4 simple questions about the key benefits of KiwiSaver.

There’s a lot more to it than people think! Most of our clients get these questions wrong…

Enter KiwiSaver Survey

If you complete your details at the end, you will go in the draw for a $4,000 House of Travel Voucher or one of ten $100 GrabOne Vouchers.

I offer a 30 min free advice session for anyone wanting to learn how to make the most of their KiwiSaver savings.

Get in touch today by emailing or, phoning me on 09 551 3500 and we can set up an appointment.

Please note: The prize draw T&Cs along with a copy of the Product Disclosure Statement can be found at generatekiwisaver.co.nz

Homeowners not losing sleep over interest rate rises, survey shows

A new survey has revealed Kiwi homeowners are largely unfazed about their ability to cope with mortgage rate rises, but they are continuing to find it difficult to curb spending on consumer items.

The nationwide survey by mortgage franchise network New Zealand Home Loans (NZHL) found more than half of respondents (57.6%) were either not concerned or were neutral about the potential for future interest rate increases.

The sentiment comes after the Reserve Bank held the official cash rate (OCR) last month at 1.75%.

Speaking to NZ Adviser, NZHL chief executive Julian Travaglia said although interest rates are slowly going up they are not completely unpredictable like in the past.

“I remember the days when rates were bouncing around like an elephant on a bungee cord,” he says, in contrast to their current slow but steady climb and the Reserve Bank indicating an OCR increase is unlikely any time soon.

“I don’t see the pressures that would require the Reserve Bank to force the OCR up particularly given that the housing market, at least temporarily, seems to be cooling.

“I think has made people a little bit complacent. I think people still don’t really understand that interest rates are by and large driven by off-shore funding costs by the banks as opposed to necessarily the OCR.”

He says mortgage holders should be paying off their debt faster and smarter.

“What we’ve seen from people’s spending habits is that they’ve managed to get themselves a home loan over a long period now when rates go up – when they come off that fixed rate and go on a new one, they can’t suddenly extend their home loan term out to make the payments lower again.

“So it’s going to force people into a position where they’re going to have to either make some reasonable cut backs or they’re going to get into some financial difficulty.”

Despite the view on interest rates, the survey found that homeowners have some areas of spending that don’t feel they have under control, with the biggest problem area of unplanned spending being around consumer items such as household electronics, tools and sports goods where 47% of respondents found difficulty controlling spending and secondly for services like household maintenance at 46%.

Travaglia he is concerned about those who have overextended themselves in the last few years and now tied to a hefty mortgage.

“If they haven’t been paying that off sooner – making hay while the low interest rate sun’s shining – they could find themselves in trouble down the track,” he told NZ Adviser.

The survey respondents consisted of 1,994 NZHL clients.

Source

RBNZ makes cash rate call

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand has today left the official cash rate unchanged at 1.75%. The result was expected by all 11 economists surveyed by Bloomberg, the majority of whom also forecast the benchmark rate of 1.75% will hold for another year.

The Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler released the following statement:

Global economic growth has become more broad-based in recent quarters.  However, inflation and wage outcomes remain subdued across the advanced economies, and challenges remain with on-going surplus capacity.  Bond yields are low, credit spreads have narrowed and equity prices are at record levels. Monetary policy is expected to remain stimulatory in the advanced economies, but less so going forward.

The trade-weighted exchange rate has increased since the May Statement, partly in response to a weaker US dollar.  A lower New Zealand dollar is needed to increase tradables inflation and help deliver more balanced growth.

GDP in the March quarter was lower than expected, adding to the softening in growth observed at the end of 2016.  Growth is expected to improve going forward, supported by accommodative monetary policy, strong population growth, an elevated terms of trade, and the fiscal stimulus outlined in Budget 2017.

House price inflation continues to moderate due to loan-to-value ratio restrictions, affordability constraints, and a tightening in credit conditions.  This moderation is expected to persist, although there remains a risk of resurgence in prices given continued strong population growth and resource constraints in the construction sector.

Annual CPI inflation eased in the June quarter, but remains within the target range.  Headline inflation is likely to decline in coming quarters as the effects of higher fuel and food prices dissipate.  The outlook for tradables inflation remains weak.  Non-tradables inflation remains moderate but is expected to increase gradually as capacity pressure increases, bringing headline inflation to the midpoint of the target range over the medium term.  Longer-term inflation expectations remain well anchored at around 2 percent.

Monetary policy will remain accommodative for a considerable period.  Numerous uncertainties remain and policy may need to adjust accordingly.

Source

7% mortgage rates could collapse housing market

In its May Financial Stability Report the Reserve Bank of New Zealand reveals the results stress tests designed to assess the vulnerability of households to service their mortgages if rates rise.

It’s findings show a high number of owner-occupier households would be under financial stress if rates jump, which could collapse the housing market as defaults rise as demand weakens further.

The central bank considered a 7% mortgage rate, close to the average for a 2-year loan over the past decade, and a 9% rate which it says is “extreme but still plausible.”

At a 7% rate, the bank estimates that 4% of all borrowers (6% of the total stock of mortgage debt) and 5% of recent borrowers (9% of total) would be unable to manage their essential expenses. A further 9% of all borrowers would have only a small buffer for discretionary spending.

At a 9% mortgage rate, 7% of all borrowers and 19% of recent borrowers would be unable to manage.

“While the LVR restrictions have increased the banks’ resilience to any fall in house prices, a significant share of housing loans are being made at high debt-to-income (DTI) ratios. Such borrowers tend to be more vulnerable to any increase in interest rates or declines in income,” said RBNZ Deputy Governor Grant Spencer.

The report warns that Auckland’s mortgage borrowers are at a higher vulnerability to increased rates with 5% in the city estimated to be unable to meet essential expenses at a mortgage rate of 7% compared to 3% elsewhere.

With high levels of New Zealand’s homeowners vulnerable to mortgage rate rises, the central bank forecasts that a sharp and unexpected hike in rates could see defaults increase, consumption cut, and homes being sold to pay debts.

Source

Why KiwiSaver balances go up… and down

Quick question: what’s the difference between a savings account and a KiwiSaver account?

Short answer: when you put money in, the first always goes up, but the other goes up and down. That’s no small thing.

And while we personal finance folks like to go on about the magic of compounding for both saving and investment, sometimes we’d be better off pointing out how different the two are.

The one caveat to saying that a savings account always goes up is inflation. Savings can actually roll backwards as well, when you bring inflation into the picture. You’re adding money, but its real value and how much it can buy gradually becomes less and less. This is why we need investing.

Which brings us back to KiwiSaver, which is not a savings account as many people think of it, but rather an investment account. And investing is aimed at buying assets that become more valuable over time, despite inflation. It’s the remedy for inflation.

But what could make a KiwiSaver account balance lose ground?

Why your KiwiSaver account can go down

Okay, so I won’t bore everyone with too technical a discussion on unitisation, but the key thing to know is that when you put money into KiwiSaver, you’re buying units.

Units are a way of keeping track of what we own in KiwiSaver.

These units are linked to the assets our fund has invested in, such as shares, commercial property or bonds. Think of the investments like a big fat orange – and our units as a segment of that. When the orange rises or falls in value, so does the value of our segment.

Unlike a savings account, where we’re setting money aside, in KiwiSaver we are buying things that have value. That orange can be priced higher on the market at some times, lower in others. It’s a very normal state of affairs.

When we look at a savings account balance, we rightly think about how much we have. Not so with our KiwiSaver balance. When we look at that, what we’re really seeing is how much our fund’s investments and our corresponding units are worth – what their value is right now. Again, no small thing.

So perhaps instead of asking ourselves how much we have in KiwiSaver, we should be asking, “How much is my KiwiSaver worth at the moment?” Might be higher, might be lower.

Of course, the idea is for our units to increase in value over time. Either because someone else will pay more for them on the market or because they earn income like rent or dividends, the overall trend should be up. That’s why we do this! Without the aim of a return, there would be no point.

But there is such a thing as a negative return.

Why your KiwiSaver account will go down

Since the GFC in 2008, we’ve had good times of growth in KiwiSaver. Long may that continue!

But this also means that most of us have only seen things move in one direction, with KiwiSaver balances almost never heading down. Things did dip a bit last August, but because most of us contribute small amounts regularly to our KiwiSaver, we probably only saw things flatten out a bit. Our balances would not have gone down at all.

At some stage they will. If you remember the GFC or are a veteran of the dot com bubble, you’ll remember how quickly markets can turn, and how assets can suddenly be worth less. When something like that happens again, we will see our KiwiSaver balances tumble.

Again, this is because our balances do not measure the money we have, but what our units are worth.

And because people feel losses so much more acutely than gains, typically there will be thousands of people calling up their KiwiSaver providers trying to understand how on earth they have lost money when they have been putting in cash all this time! We’ll need to be ready.

Much of this is about the right mindset to have when there is a downturn. Ideally, we’ll say something like:

• “Yep, saw that one coming.”
• “Bound to occur from time to time.”
• “Must be that point in the cycle.”
• “I wonder what it’ll be worth in 10 years?”

The worst action would to be to act rashly and run for cover. “Sell! Sell!” is the classic scene of a moneybags barking into a phone to his broker. If we suddenly sell our units and buy others that seem far safer in another fund, we effectively lock in our losses and miss out when values rebound. We lose money permanently.

It’s all about perspective. Because we are typically drip-feeding into our funds, when unit prices plunge, they actually become a bargain. Someone might say, for instance, “I’m putting even more money in now because I know I’ll reap rewards in the future.” When oranges are on sale, it can be a good time to buy.

Now if any of this talk about balances moving up and down makes you anxious, you should contact us to make sure you’re in the fund that suits you best. After all, you should be relaxed about your KiwiSaver and not losing sleep.

So what’s the difference between a savings account and a KiwiSaver account? One only goes up. The other goes up and down, but should always be worth much more in the long run.

Source

KiwiSaver hits $40b, but balances stay low

Strong investment growth has boosted the value of KiwiSaver to over $40 billion but individual balances remain low for many despite the scheme running for nearly 10 years.

Figures from Australian research firm Strategic Insight show total KiwiSaver funds hit $40.651 billion at the end of March, up from $38.416b as of December 31.

Daniel Morris, senior manager data and systems support at Strategic Insight, said KiwiSaver had seen 5.8 per cent growth over the quarter, bouncing back after a period of lower growth in the December quarter.

“It was probably a bit larger than expected,” he said

But while the total amount looks impressive, individual saving are still relatively small.

Based on Inland Revenue figures 2,727,675 people were signed up to KiwiSaver in March, putting the average balance at $14,903.

David Boyle, group manager education at the Commission for Financial Capability, said that on the surface KiwiSaver looked as if it were going well.

“But scratch the surface and there are some significant concerns and issues that need to be addressed to really get KiwiSaver delivering to its true potential.”

Boyle said the average balance was affected by the number of under 18-year-olds in the scheme who did not have much in their accounts.

“Most were signed up when the $1k kickstart was available and talking to a number of providers very few of these members are making any regular contributions until they reach the age of 18. So this affects the average balance.”

About 360,000 members are under 18.

Boyle said about 580,000 people, another group, were not getting the full government subsidy which meant they were contributing nothing or less than $1043 a year.

He said KiwiSaver providers needed to do more.

“Providers need to keep working on getting their members connected to their KiwiSaver account, especially those that have not made contributions but are eligible for the member tax credit.”

Claire Matthews, a KiwiSaver expert at Massey University, said it was hard to judge whether the $40b figure was a reason for celebration because people might have saved that money regardless of KiwiSaver.

“We don’t know what people would have saved without that.”

Matthews said an average balance of less than $15k did not sound a lot but it depended on the age of the person.

“For someone aged 60 – if that is all they have saved it’s not great,” she said.

But for someone in their 20s it was a good start which would now benefit from compound interest.

Matthews said the Government needed to increase the minimum contribution rate to help boost balances.

She believed individuals should contribute 10 per cent of what they earned. The current minimum is 3 per cent.

Richard Klipin, chief executive of the Financial Services Council, said the average balance of between $14,000 and $15,000 was a start.

“Like most developing countries we have got to start somewhere.”

But he said it was not enough and it opened up the need for greater advice around how much was enough to live off in retirement.

Susan St John, co-director of Auckland University’s Retirement Policy and Research Centre, said although average balances were growing, those at the low end would likely not have much at retirement.

“Not only have withdrawals for housing accelerated, but many struggling families are having to access funds under hardship claims.

“Many of those under the median will have very small amounts, if any on retirement.”

On top of that issue she said male median balances would outpace female balances.

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