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.

Don’t throw it away: five things to check in your KiwiSaver statement

Don't throw your KiwiSaver statement away

Don’t throw your KiwiSaver statement away

If you’re like many people, statements are just one more task that you can’t be bothered with or they stay on the to-do pile until the next statement arrives. But there are some good reasons to check your KiwiSaver statement carefully when it arrives – here, we have outlined five things to look for or check.

Know the fees you have been charged

Fees can quickly eat into the gains you have made – especially if you are only making minimum contributions each year.

Fees vary quite significantly between different fund managers, and also across the different types of funds themselves. For example, investments in growth funds generally will have higher fees than more conservative funds – often because the growth funds require more management – and will also generally provide a better return over time, meaning your balance is growing at a better rate than if it was in a conservative fund.

Regulations require your KiwiSaver provider to clearly set out the fees charged in your statement – and these need to be shown as a dollar figure, rather than just a percentage.

Is your fund growing?

Check your statement each time you receive it, to make sure your balance is going up rather than down.

Having said that, don’t forget that markets do go up and down, so if you want to avoid unnecessary worry, checking your KiwiSaver balance every day may not be a good idea. Markets fluctuate on a daily basis, and while you may see a reduction in your balance one day, it may well increase again the following day.

KiwiSaver is a long-term investment, and you are looking for growth in your investment over a period of years, not day-to-day or even month-to-month.

Check the fund you are in

It is well documented that when you have a long investment timeframe, having your investments in growth funds will generally provide you with the best returns over time. You do, however, need to ensure that the ‘risk’ you are taking with your retirement fund still lets you sleep at night.

Complete a risk profile to understand your own tolerance to risk and volatility, and check that you are in a fund that will give you the best chance of a good return, within your own risk profile.

Check all your deductions or other payments have been credited

While it may be easy to think that, with everything happening electronically these days, all your deposits will just magically go through (and they usually do), it’s still a good idea to check carefully. Make sure all your contributions, or manual payments, have been credited, as well as your employer contributions and the Government contribution are showing.

Are you on the right tax rate?

Lastly, make sure you are not paying too much tax – at least on your KiwiSaver returns. The tax rates are variable, ranging between 10.5% and 28% and your rate is based on your income over the last two years. If you haven’t told your provider what tax rate you should be on, you will automatically pay at the highest rate – eating into your valuable retirement fund.

 

KiwiSaver is a set-and-forget investment in a lot of ways, especially if your contributions are being deducted directly from your salary or wage. But if you want to have a comfortable, rather than budget retirement, keep an eye on KiwiSaver and make sure you are maximising your retirement fund.

An Adviser Disclosure Statement is available free and upon request. 

Should you withdraw your first-home deposit from KiwiSaver?

Have you been a KiwiSaver member for at least three years? Then your very first step on the property ladder may be closer than you think.

Just like KiwiSaver HomeStart Grants, KiwiSaver early withdrawals are a welcome helping hand for many first-home buyers looking to build their deposit. But before you decide to use this tool, it’s also critical not to let the dream of home-ownership get in the way of your long-term goals – your retirement savings.

Are KiwiSaver withdrawals worth it? Have a read of these tips to learn more.

Young Kiwis have property in mind

According to recent data from Westpac, an increasing number of young Kiwis are joining KiwiSaver to save for their first property.

That was the main reason mentioned by 74 percent of young New Zealanders aged 18-24, compared to 59 percent of Kiwis aged 25-29, and 16 percent of people aged 35 to 54.

At the same time, only 24 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds said they had worked out how much they would need in retirement. Plus, just 44 percent of Millennials said they had a proper understanding of their KiwiSaver scheme, with 12 percent of them admitting they did not know where their money was invested.

The cost of withdrawing from KiwiSaver

With house prices on the high side, and old age probably being less of a priority for people in their 20s, the focus on property shouldn’t be a surprise. But, even at this young age, it’s a good idea not to let planning for the long-term slip through the cracks.

Eligible first-home buyers (click here to read the criteria) can withdraw all but $1,000 from their account. There’s no limitation.

However, the bigger the withdrawal, the greater the impact on your long-term retirement savings could be. This is based on a combination of factors, like your age, the fund you’re in, and the amount withdrawn.

The benefit of owning property

Having said all that, there are valid reasons to consider home-ownership.

Owning your own place can be a great step towards wealth creation and financial security. As time passes, your home’s value may increase and you come to have equity in your home. Plus, once you’ve paid off your mortgage, you’ll free up a great deal of monthly income.

As always, when pondering your options, make sure to take every element into account, including your short and long-term goals.

An Adviser Disclosure Statement is available free and on request.

Know your KiwiSaver fees

Do you know how much you’re paying in KiwiSaver fees?

Fees are just one of the key elements to consider when looking for the right investment fund, of course – performance is also crucial and should be taken into consideration. Having said that, when you’re investing to earn solid returns and save for retirement, it’s important to make every dollar count.

Here are some key things to consider if you want to minimise your KiwiSaver fees and get the best returns possible.

 

Why fees are so important

All KiwiSaver providers will charge you fees for investment, management and administration costs. The amount can also vary greatly across different providers and fund types.

To give you a practical example, when analysing balanced funds, Canstar found a difference of $123 between the most and the least expensive fees. It might not seem a lot in the short term, but different fees can have an impact on your long-term returns, your saving strategy and – most importantly – your goals.

Types of fees & disclosure rules

Usually, the annual cost of a KiwiSaver fund is a combination of separate fees. These include:

  • Annual member fee
  • Management fee
  • Administration fee
  • Trustee fee
  • Expense fee.

So, how can you know for sure what fees are involved and how much you’re paying for them? All funds are required to fully disclose this information in their periodic disclosure statement, which can be found on your KiwiSaver scheme website. And of course, if you need help understanding the ins and outs of your fund, we’re here to help.

We can help with comparisons

When it comes to planning and working towards your retirement goals, ensuring that you’re getting the right value for your money (and earning a healthy compound interest) is crucial. That’s why taking the time to choose, review and compare KiwiSaver funds makes sense.

Obviously, a fund cannot be judged on fees alone, as the highest-fee fund can also be the one achieving the highest returns. But as you can imagine, that is not always the case. If you’d like to have a thorough understanding of what’s available out there, and how it relates to your needs, always feel free to contact us. We have the tools to help you make an informed decision about your investments.

For more helpful information, don’t miss our recent guide “Will your KiwiSaver meet your retirement needs?“.

An Adviser Disclosure Statement is available free and upon request.

Five things to know about KiwiSaver

Keeping your KiwiSaver top-of-mind makes sense. If you’re familiar with the basics, but could do with expanding your KiwiSaver knowledge, read on for five (of the many) things to know…

 

About your first-home deposit

One of the advantages of KiwiSaver is that you can dip into your KiwiSaver funds to boost your first-home deposit, reducing the mortgage you would otherwise need.

However, there is a bit of confusion out there as to how this works, so to clarify, a KiwiSaver first-home withdrawal can only be used on the day of settlement. In other words, the money from your KiwiSaver account goes straight to your solicitor, to be paid to the vendor (owner of the property) on settlement day.

To be eligible to make a first-home withdrawal, you must have been a KiwiSaver member for at least three years. The savings you withdraw can’t be put towards purchasing an investment property – it can only be used for a first home. Although, in some circumstances, even if you’ve owned a home before, you may still be allowed to make a first-home withdrawal. Needless to say, we can help you check your eligibility and assist with the application process.

 

Early withdrawals? Just in limited cases

As you will know, KiwiSaver is designed to help you build long-term retirement savings. As such, making early withdrawals to cover day-to-day expenses rather defeats the purpose. However, there are some specific circumstances when you might be able to access some or all of your KiwiSaver funds. These include your first-home purchase, significant financial hardship, permanent emigration (depending on your destination) and serious illness. If you’d like to discuss the particulars of your situation, we’re here to help.

 

What happens when you turn 65?

Once you turn 65, provided you’ve been a member for at least five years, you can tap into your KiwiSaver funds.

Unless you need all the money right away, you don’t necessarily have to close your account. Many providers allow KiwiSaver members to remain in their scheme and will continue to manage your money for you, so that you can continue to save. You would also be able to make regular withdrawals and voluntary contributions.

After you turn 65, it’s up to you whether you want to leave some or all of your money in your KiwiSaver account – and at that time, it would be a good idea to talk to a specialist about your options, goals and needs.

 

Funds can be changed

There’s a wide range of schemes and providers you can choose from. If you decide not to join a scheme of your choice, you’ll be provisionally allocated to your employer’s chosen scheme or to a default scheme.

Depending on your age, plans and personality, sometimes a default scheme can be the best choice. As default schemes are conservative funds, they come with lower risk, relatively low fees, fixed interest investments and higher levels of cash than most funds.

It’s always important to select a fund that suits your own needs in terms of risk and possible long-term outcomes. And don’t forget you’re allowed to choose another fund to invest in at any time, which is something your adviser will be happy to talk you through.

 

How safe are your savings?

It’s a common misconception that KiwiSaver is guaranteed by the Government. While it’s true the Government invests a lot of resources in making KiwiSaver appealing to Kiwis, it doesn’t guarantee the absolute safety of your savings. So, beside the reporting obligations and regulatory supervision that each KiwiSaver scheme is subject to, the ‘safety’ of your savings largely depends on the type of funds you choose.

Defensive funds are the lowest-risk option, but usually grow very slowly. On the other end of the spectrum, aggressive funds offer potentially higher returns with greater risk. And in between, conservative, balanced or growth funds are also available.

If you’re looking for the right KiwiSaver scheme and fund, or want to review your investment portfolio, we’d be happy to answer your questions.

 

An Adviser Disclosure Statement is available free and upon request.

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.

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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.

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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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Are You Maximising Your KiwiSaver? – Make sure you do by 30th June 2017!

I wanted to make you aware of Member Tax Credits for KiwiSaver that you are able to claim.

There were just under 580,000 eligible KiwiSaver members who received no contribution from the Government in their accounts in the 2016 financial year. That’s up from 573,000 the year before, 517,000 a year earlier and 466,000 in the 2012/2013 year. – Why let the Government keep money that is entitled to you!!

The Government contribution to your KiwiSaver savings is worth up to a maximum of $521.43 – but to get the full amount, you need to have contributed at least $1042.86 by 30 June 2017.

The Government pays 50 cents for every $1 you contribute, the maximum will be $521.43, so therefore you need to contribute $1042.86 to maximise the tax credit

If  you are 18 or over, working, self-employed or not working, you can get these tax credits as long as you contribute $1,042.86 for the year. 

You can check your KiwiSaver contributions online with most providers and see if you have contributed at least $1,042.86.

You DO NOT have to contribute if you do not wish to or you can contribute what is affordable in order to get at least some of the $521. (So for example if you contributed $500 you would receive $250 tax credit).

We can show you ways to make this easier over the course of the year and plan it so that you are maximising the benefits of KiwiSaver.

If you have any questions, then please feel free to contact me on 09 551 3500 or email info@insurenz.co.nz.

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