Sort Out Your KiwiSaver in 2021: A How to Guide 

Have you been meaning to check up on your KiwiSaver balance, re-think your contributions or look at changing your provider? Now is the time to get back on top of your KiwiSaver. Thankfully, it isn’t too hard, and Canstar is here to guide you through it.

Taking the time to have a good look at your KiwiSaver now will pay later when it comes time to retiring or buying a first home. Far too many New Zealanders ‘set and forget’ their KiwiSaver, and a large number remain in the default scheme they were placed in when they signed up.

Sort Out Your KiwiSaver in 2021: A How to Guide: In this guide we cover:

Step 1: Think about what you want from your KiwiSaver

Are you saving to retire, or for a first home? Does your KiwiSaver form a part of your wider investment portfolio, or are you relying on your KiwiSaver alone to provide most of your income in retirement? These factors will obviously impact how you manage your investment. 

Step 2: Check your contributions

You can choose to contribute 3%, 4%, 6%, 8% or 10% of your pay to your KiwiSaver account each payday. If you have not chosen one of the higher levels, you will have defaulted to 3%. Take a look at one of your most recent payslips, and it should tell you what your contribution rate is. 

Your provider will likely offer an online calculator to help you figure out how much you’re on track to save, whether that be for a first home or retirement. If you find you’re looking at hitting a lower target than you’re hoping for, you can increase your contributions.

By increasing your contribution rate, you can add thousands over time to your KiwiSaver account balance. Looking at a salary of $75,000, for example, 3% of the salary is $2250, but this amount more than doubles (to $6000) when you base it on 8%. Talk to your employer about changing your contribution rate or fill in the necessary forms if you are self-employed.


Step 3: Check your fund

Different funds suit different New Zealanders. The funds are:


Defensive funds are generally suitable for investors who have a low appetite for risk.

  • Good if you don’t want your KiwiSaver account to go down (although there are no guarantees). Although that means your account almost certainly won’t grow as fast, over the long term
  • If you expect to spend your KiwiSaver money in the next three years


Conservative funds are generally suitable for investors who are comfortable with some ups and downs in value.

  • Good if you’re willing to take on some ups and downs in value, and are seeking average long-term returns a bit higher than in a defensive fund, but probably not as high as in riskier funds
  • You expect to spend your KiwiSaver money in the next two to six years 

Balanced funds 

Balanced KiwiSaver funds are typically suited to investors who are comfortable seeing a fair degree of variation in their balance. Good if you:

  • Are middle of the road, comfortable with seeing your account value sometimes fall a little and seeking mid-range, long-term returns
  • Don’t expect to spend your KiwiSaver money within the next five to 10 years 

Growth funds

Growth funds are generally suitable for those who are looking for fairly high growth over the long term. And those who won’t be tempted to switch to a lower-risk fund if they see their balance drop significantly, which can happen from time to time. Good if you:

  • Are looking for fairly high growth over the long term, and will not panic and rush to switch to a lower-risk fund whenever you see your account balance fall dramatically
  • Are intending to leave your money in KiwiSaver for at least 10 years 

Aggressive funds

Aggressive KiwiSaver funds are for investment thrill seekers with an extremely large appetite for risk. Ideal if you:

  • Are looking for strong long-term growth, knowing you will stick with your fund even when your balance falls fast
  • Intend to leave your money in KiwiSaver for at least 10 years

Escape the default fund!

If you discover that you’re stuck in a default fund, make sure you escape ASAP! Currently, default schemes are conservative. However from June 2021, new default KiwiSaver accounts will be placed into balanced funds. A conservative fund is designed to reduce the potential for frequent and large drops in balance. They are generally suitable for those looking to access their KiwiSaver funds within the next two to six years.

Generally speaking, default funds are not the most suitable choice for members in their 20s, 30s, 40s, or possibly even for investors in their 50s. This is because members over ten years away from accessing their funds have the time to ride out the fluctuations associated with higher-risk growth funds.


Step 4: Look at your provider

You can choose to have your KiwiSaver with either a bank or another entity. Often we sign up as teenagers with our banks and forget about it, so make sure to check whether it still suits you if it’s years later. Providers will have a range of investment options and styles. Some providers offer apps, online platforms and free help desks so you can chat about your investment. Others are more basic. Check how much you are paying in fees against the rate of returns.

Generally speaking, you can expect to pay more in fees for funds containing a greater proportion of growth assets. This is because the rate of return is expected to be higher. Also, many are more actively managed, rather than passively following an index. For more on the differences between active and passive funds, check out our story: Active Investing vs Passive: What it Means for your KiwiSaver.

Step 5: Consider what you’re investing in

This one is more of a bonus step, as some people are happy just to know they’ve picked a scheme that suits them that will maximise their savings. But some are curious about what their money is actually being invested in. Generally, a KiwiSaver product disclosure statement, or simply details on the provider’s site, should tell you what your provider stands firmly against investing in, and what they do invest in. Read more on what defines ‘ethical’ investing in our story, KiwiSaver: An Ethical Investing Guide. Know that you can change your KiwiSaver scheme provider at any time. 

Step 6: Compare your options

There’s plenty out there, so have a good hunt around and start by comparing KiwiSaver providers. Use Canstar’s comparison tools, they’re helpful and free to use. Our latest report also highlights the best-value providers and schemes on the market. Just click below:

Compare KiwiSaver providers for free with Canstar!

How do I know if I’m already signed up to KiwiSaver?

If you’re not sure if you’re already with a KiwiSaver provider, contact Inland Revenue. If you’re a member, they will have your details on file. Call 0800 KIWISAVER, or log in to myIR to check. Make sure to keep track of your balance once you’re signed up.

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