KiwiSaver is a voluntary savings scheme set up by the government to help New Zealanders save for their retirement. You can choose to contribute 3, 4 or 8 per cent of your gross (before tax) wage or salary to your KiwiSaver account. Your employer must contribute as well—at least 3 per cent of your gross salary.
There are a few instances when you can use your KiwiSaver before retirement—these are known as “time horizons”.
It could be for:
· your first home (where you can withdraw all but the $1000 kick start),
· perhaps you’ll be emigrating (there are some timeframes around when you can take that money out),
· severe hardship (let’s hope it doesn’t come to that), or
· when you reach 65 years of age.
The key here is to ensure that your KiwiSaver is on track to maximise your return in the time between today and when you’re going to withdraw the money (time horizon).
There are several different funds you can invest your KiwiSaver in. These are generally classified as either conservative, balanced and growth or variations of these. You do need to have all of your sum in one classification. You can choose to split a percentage of “units” across a number of different funds (i.e. from a low-risk to a more aggressive fund). For example, you might put half of your savings in balanced and the half in growth. And it’s not a set-and-forget scenario—you can move these percentages around to suit your goals and life circumstances.
The investment statements must be provided to you prior to you signing up to KiwiSaver. You can of course do some of your own research. This could be looking at the Sorted website to compare some funds (see who has the best returns, lowest fees, and who invests in socially responsible sectors and so on).
The government’s KiwiSaver website provides forms and tools to get things set up, to keep track of your contributions or to help get your money out.
There are a number of different levels of advice that you can receive, from “information only” to “class advice” where the representative will outline what is suitable for people in your group or “class”. For example, “we recommend people aged 30 to 45 choose ABC fund” through to personalised advice where the investment structure is tailored to your personal situation.
The advice piece is crucial.
So many Kiwis are not close to their next time horizon where funds will be withdrawn, and they are sitting in a default fund—where their KiwiSaver is just ticking away and the potential for a larger KiwiSaver balance is not being realised.
When’s your next KiwiSaver time horizon? Is it time to have a chat about getting the most from your KiwiSaver?
Simon O’Neill is a Registered Financial Adviser with Velocity Financial. No investment decision should be taken based on the information in this blog alone. A disclosure statement is available free of charge upon request.