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KiwiSaver is a great way to get ahead financially. There are some key choices to make, however, to get the most out of it. KiwiSaver accounts are investment funds, and we need to get savvy about how and where we’re investing our savings. The idea is to find the fund that suits us best, and Sorted’s KiwiSaver fund finder is here to help. 

It’s all about the fund

Most KiwiSaver providers offer a range of investment funds, so we can select which one our savings go into. There are two key things to consider when choosing a fund – the associated risk and return of the fund, and the fees it charges.

Risk and return

The risk level of a fund is determined by the percentage invested in growth assets. These are types of investments, like shares and property, that have the potential for higher returns over the long term, but also have the potential for changes in value.

KiwiSaver providers generally describe their funds as being:

Type of fund

Risk profile

Defensive

Low risk

Conservative

Low to medium risk

Balanced

Medium risk

Growth

Medium to high risk

Aggressive

High risk

 

At Sorted, we break the funds down further into the following categories:

 

Investment in growth assets 

Type of fund 

0–9.9% invested in growth assets

Defensive 

10–34.9% invested in growth assets

Conservative 

35–62.9% invested in growth assets

Balanced

63–89.9% invested in growth assets

Growth

90–100% invested in growth assets

Aggressive

 

Note that a higher proportion of growth assets typically means greater ups and downs in value, with the investments more likely to produce a negative return in any year.

Fees

Fees are charged to pay for the investment, management and administration costs of running the scheme.

This KiwiSaver fees calculator lets you see what fees you are likely to be charged over the life of your investment.

Some funds have higher fees because they are more actively managed and that can sometimes pay off in higher returns. When looking at fees it is important to ask, what am I getting for my money? Is the provider doing more to manage the fund and getting better results? If it does end up with a higher return, then those fees would have been worth it.

There’s no way of telling the future, however, and we can’t predict a fund’s future results just based on its past performance.

Compare funds

To compare fund performance, fees and the services offered by providers and choose the one that suits best, use the KiwiSaver fund finder

Ethical KiwiSaver funds

KiwiSaver funds are managed funds. Everyone's savings are pooled  by the KiwiSaver provider and split across many different investments, spreading the risk. 

The flipside is that it may take some research to see what you're invested in. It's not always easy to determine the names of the companies, the industries they operate in or whether they would be regarded as ethical investments. Details are outlined in the provider's annual disclosure statement, typically available online. 

If you have moral objections to investing in certain companies – for example the tobacco industry – let the provider know your preference for ethical investment choices.

 

‘Ethical’ can mean different things to different people. Here is a list of KiwiSaver funds that have some filters in place to avoid 'undesirable' investments like weapons or tobacco. 

Changing schemes or funds

Once in KiwiSaver you can change funds at any time within your KiwiSaver scheme provider. But you can also change to a different scheme or provider.

Guide to managing my KiwiSaver account

To compare performance, fees and the services offered by providers, our KiwiSaver fund finder can help.

Transferring overseas savings

You can transfer overseas superannuation savings (such as from Australia) to your KiwiSaver account. However, there are a number of important things to consider beforehand. The FMA’s website has more details. 

Getting help

For more help finding the right KiwiSaver scheme and fund, you can also get advice from an independent, authorised financial adviser.

Guide to getting investment advice

Fund checklist

Already in KiwiSaver and thinking about changing funds? Sorted’s KiwiSaver fund finder helps compare performance, fees and the services offered by providers.

Risk level

  • Is the fund at the right risk level for you?
  • Check the KiwiSaver fund finder. The scheme’s investment statement may also have a questionnaire to help work out your risk profile.

 

Fees and charges

Choosing a fund at the right risk level can make a big difference to how much you can withdraw for a first home or how much you end up with in retirement.

 

The amount of fees you pay can make a big difference to the growth of your savings. But it’s important to compare the fees charged with the level of returns generated.

  • Over the life of your investment, how do the fees on your fund compare with fees on similar funds in other KiwiSaver schemes?
  • The KiwiSaver fees calculator estimates how much in fees you pay over the life of your KiwiSaver experience.

 

Communication

  • How often will you receive reports about your savings balance (e.g. annually or six-monthly)?
  • If you need to, can you work out the value of your savings through the provider’s website?
  • Does the provider offer helpful advice and information, directly or through their website?
  • Do you understand the information you’re receiving? If not, consider moving to a provider that can explain things in a way that makes sense. To find out how well another provider communicates, check their website, and request a brochure and a sample of the regular statement they send to investors.
  • Do you understand the manager’s investing approach? Does it make sense and give you a good idea of where your money is invested and why?

 

Fund features

  • If it’s important to you, are ethical/socially responsible investment options available through the provider? Or does the provider take an ethical approach in their investment choices? For example, a fund may choose to not invest in shares in a cigarette manufacturer.
  • Can you make additional lump sum or regular contributions to your fund and, if so, is there a minimum amount?
  • Does your provider offer other features, such as a fund in which risk is adjusted with age, or a fund that invests widely around the world?

 

Fund managers

  • Some providers use separate companies to manage their investment funds.
  • Do you know of the organisation(s) named as managers and/or investment managers and have confidence in them?
  • Ask the provider for information about the fund managers – are you comfortable with their description?
  • How large is the total fund being managed?

 

Returns

Past performance can be a guide to what long-term average returns are likely to be for funds at different risk levels, e.g. for a low-risk fund versus a high-risk fund.

But the past performance of an individual fund is not a reliable guide to its future performance. What did well in the past may do badly in the future, and what did badly in the past may do well in the future. So in general it’s not a good idea to choose a fund based just on its past performance.

 

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