Choosing a KiwiSaver fund: What you should look for

Co-author: Michelle Norton 

Wondering how to choose a KiwiSaver fund out of all the options on offer?

When getting down to the nitty gritty of finding the right KiwiSaver fund for you, comparing the product disclosure statements of the different funds you’ve narrowed your search down to is a good way to go.

We’ve summarised what you should be looking for in a fund’s product disclosure statements below. KiwiSaver providers must be open and honest about fund performance, fees, and how your money is invested.

Weigh up the net financial benefits of an investment

It is important to measure and understand the net financial benefits of an investment, to do so you need to weigh up the cost of a fund with the investment returns. Investors should consider return when choosing  a fund initially – as well as on an ongoing basis – along with other areas such as investment options, costs etc. Although the historical performance of a fund cannot be relied upon for future performance, it is important to identify consistency of returns.

Appetite for risk will vary depending on the individual. Usually, an individual’s age and relative proximity to retirement -or to withdrawing towards a first home deposit – will help them determine their investment goals whether it is long term or short term. If you have a long investment horizon you may be prepared to take on more risk because there is more time to ride out short-term fluctuations in investment returns. If you have a shorter horizon, investing for the short term and security might be prioritised over higher returns. Typically, the higher risk, the higher the return and the lower the risk, the lower the return.

The main things to look for in Kiwisaver funds

Kiwisaver fund performance

Fund PerformanceEvery KiwiSaver provider will have to use the same format to show how well their funds have performed. This will include bar graphs and pie charts for people who don’t like figures, making it easier for customers to make sense of the returns and compare providers.

Make sure you’re comparing apples with apples. For example, a Conservative type fund should not be compared against a Growth fund, as they’re designed for different purposes and have different asset allocations.

The KiwiSaver providers will also have to show real returns after tax, rather than just simple investment returns that don’t show the true picture.

Tips to maximise your KiwiSaver return

Kiwisaver fees

Paying feesKiwisaver fees eat into your investment nibble by nibble. Your statement will show the fees charged on your KiwiSaver account, including annual fees, management fees, and other fees.

Some fund managers say you should ignore the fees because “it’s growth that matters”. Higher risk funds are generally more expensive because they require more active management of the fund. The trouble is that there is no guarantee that the fund with the highest fees has the greatest return.

It’s also worth noting that some funds also charge performance fees, which means the better the return, the higher the fees skimmed off your savings. You don’t need to pay a performance fee, so it’s worth looking around before choosing a fund.

A small difference in fees can really add up over time. For example, a mere 0.51% difference in fees, on an investment balance of $11,500, there’s a difference of $58.65 in annual cost for the fund.

How your money is invested

Itis too simplistic just to base your choice just on fees, as we explain.

KiwiSaver providers have to show their “investment mix” or “asset allocation” in an easy-to-read pie chart in the product disclosure statements (PDS) for their fund options, and in your statement once you’ve signed up for a fund.

They also have to provide a list of the top 10 investments in the fund, which can be helpful. Some KiwiSavers, for example, wouldn’t want to invest in a fund that had major investments in gambling, tobacco, alcohol, or environmentally unsustainable products or practices. They would want to look for a responsible investment fund. Others may actively want more of their money to be invested here in New Zealand.

Conservative, balanced or growth:Which KiwiSaver fund is best for you?

Kiwisaver reporting requirements

KiwiSaver providers must publish this information in easy-to-read quarterly and annual statements. As well as the matters above, they will also include other useful information for anyone choosing a KiwiSaver fund, such as who the people are who have the most influence on investing decisions (the fund decision makers).

Reporting requriements

Want the best KiwiSaver for you? Compare – and keep comparing!

Finally, make sure you compare your fund with others every few years.

A good place to start is Canstar’s annual KiwiSaver Star Ratings Report to find our 5-star rated winners. Then read each of the winners’ disclosure statements to see which fund would suit you best. Your current fund might have become less competitive over the past year, or there might be a new provider or fund that you’d prefer to be in. Also check what else is in the market – there are new products released quite often, with Simplicity being the most recent.

One very good reason to keep comparing is that the longer you’re in KiwiSaver, the more important your investment decisions become. In the beginning, KiwiSaver accounts start out with quite a small balance. But after four or five years of saving even the bare minimum, many people may have at least five figures in their savings, which makes it important to understand what’s under the bonnet.

Compare KiwiSaver Funds

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