Now is the Time to Review Your KiwiSaver

Now, as the volatility of 2020 fades, is a good time to review your KiwiSaver, explains Jose George, Canstar NZ General Manager
Jose George, General Manager, Canstar NZ

KiwiSaver is a vital nest egg for millions of New Zealanders. As we age, buy our first home or protect against hardship, we are turning to our KiwiSaver funds for support.

More than $62bn is under management, and many Kiwis are sitting on savings of over $20,000.

And now, as the volatility of 2020 fades, is a good time to run a financial ruler over your KiwiSaver.

Fund performance

First, look at performance. It’s an obvious attraction for any fund. But it also needs to be considered in context. Past performance is not a predictor of future performance. And COVID-19 and the resulting market uncertainty has delivered extremes of investment performance.

KiwiSaver newcomer Juno smashed it out of the park. Its returns over the last year were greater than 30% on its growth fund, and over 20% on its balanced fund, after fees.

This compares to other providers whose returns have languished in the single digits. For a typical KiwiSaver fund, that’s a difference of several thousand dollars in just one year.

Juno’s remarkable annual performance was rightly applauded. But it’s worth considering longer-term performance when making decisions around KiwiSaver providers.


Consistency of performance makes a huge difference for investments like KiwiSaver, given the number of years they can be locked away. At Canstar, we assess the performance of KiwiSaver providers every year. And we have seen a handful of funds repeatedly outperform.

Over the last five years Milford, Aon, Booster and Fisher funds have ruled the roost, with 5-year average returns of nearly 10% in their balanced funds. Booster, Fisher and Milford also joined Juno as top performers last year, with returns of over 10% across balanced funds, and edging higher in their growth funds.

As such, when Kiwis choose where to put their cash, it’s worth taking long-term performance into account, along with the impact of fees. And beyond the pure financials, individual concerns such as life stage and attitude to risk should also be primary concerns.


Regular savings

Alongside these bigger questions, it’s worth looking at other ways of boosting your nest egg, for example with small, regular savings.

Canstar ran the numbers on some easy wins, such as skipping coffee twice a week and putting the funds into KiwiSaver instead.

We tested this idea against a base scenario: a 35-year-old on an average income of $66,000, with a typical $20,000 saved in a balanced KiwiSaver fund, and making contributions of 3%. We based the scenario’s returns on the previous five years’ performance in balanced funds, across the market.

So if you lose a couple of coffees a week, what do you gain? Extra funds of more than $14,000 by 65. We also considered what might happen if you skip, for example, a monthly manicure costing about $45. End result? Up to $20,000 extra.

Or, if you really want to hit the savings accelerator, doubling the salary contribution to 6% delivers $73,000 more by 65.

KiwiSaver Provider of the Year

Fund type

The type of fund chosen also makes a significant difference. From July this year, the default fund profile will switch from conservative to balanced. Those who join KiwiSaver, without making an active choice on their fund, will be automatically assigned to balanced funds rather than conservative.

This is a welcome move from the government. We ran some quick numbers on what impact this could have for a 35-year-old, with savings of $20,000, on an average income, invested in a conservative fund.

If, in this scenario, those funds and ongoing contributions were invested in a balanced fund, it could deliver nearly $60,000 by 65.

By way of further compassion, we considered the impact if the investment had been put into a growth fund. The result? Perhaps $122,000 more at 65. All scenarios have assumed average returns based on the past five years’ performance.

So, all these decisions, whether big or small, matter. It’s worth taking a minute to ensure your KiwiSaver provider and fund is the very best fit for you, and your life.

Ultimately, the more informed you are as a KiwiSaver investor, the better the decisions you’ll be able to make, which should help you build more funds towards retirement or that all-important first-home deposit.

And this is where Canstar can help. Our KiwiSaver dynamic comparison tables put all the information you need at your fingertips, from average five-year returns to fees.

So if you want to discover if you’re getting true value from your KiwiSaver, start comparing providers today by hitting on the button below.

Compare KiwiSaver providers for free with Canstar!

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