Low fees are key, but what other factors play into savvy KiwiSaver planning?

Is it wise for a husband and wife to be in the same KiwiSaver scheme?

It’s an excellent question from a reader I’ll call Sarah, who is in her mid thirties. She had read in my latest book that it’s best to choose a KiwiSaver fund based largely on low fees — and not on how well a fund has performed, because performance changes all the time. So she checked out the fees on hers and her husband’s funds.

“It turns out that my husband is with a provider who charges significantly lower fees than my provider,” she writes.

“With your advice in mind, I’m tempted to switch to my husband’s provider, but wonder if the risk in having both our retirement savings with one provider outweighs the long-term benefits from lower fees?”

A basic rule of investing is to spread your risk

Invest in different types of assets — such as shares and property and bonds. And have lots of different shares, lots of different bonds and — if you’re rich enough! — lots of different properties.

That way, if one performs badly that will hopefully be offset by another performing well. It’s the old eggs in baskets stuff.

Does it apply to KiwiSaver providers?

There are three issues here:

  • Concern about a provider’s strength

This is not about your balance going down when the share market performs badly. It’s about whether you could lose money because your provider is badly managed or corrupt. And the answer: it’s highly unlikely.

In KiwiSaver and other similar funds, separate firms called supervisors check that your money is invested in shares, bonds, term deposits and so on. So if a provider went out of business, that wouldn’t affect your savings. Your account would be transferred to another provider.

While the government doesn’t guarantee KiwiSaver, the Financial Markets Authority watches over providers and supervisors pretty closely.

  • Different performance

If you and your partner’s funds are at different risk levels — maybe one in a balanced fund and the other in a growth fund — your accounts will grow at different paces. But if you’re both in, say, the same growth fund with the same provider, you’ll get the same performance.

Every growth fund is somewhat different, so it makes some sense for a family to be in two different providers’ growth funds. We don’t know which fund will do better, but if one performs badly for a while, there may be comfort in seeing the other doing better.

  • Different fees

It’s a great idea for Sarah to switch to a low-fee provider, as that can make a big difference to how much she has in retirement. But there are several low-fee providers.

To find out which KiwiSaver funds charge low fees, visit Sorted’s Smart Investor. Click on Compare, then KiwiSaver and Managed Funds, then your type of fund: defensive, conservative, balanced, growth or aggressive. (If you don’t know, ask your provider.)

Scroll down and on the right side, where it says Sort By, click on Fees (Lowest First).

What does all this amount to?

It’s not a big worry for two family members to be in the same KiwiSaver fund. But you do benefit from the varied performance of two different funds.

Footnote:

Sarah also says, “My father-in-law passed away a few years ago, and it was a big eye opener to see how little my mother-in-law was involved in financial matters and how difficult it all became once he was no longer there. So it’ll be great that you get a wider audience with the AWW.”

Let’s stop any more women finding themselves in that situation.

Ask Mary

Have a question or concern about saving or investing for Mary? Email [email protected], subject Money. Letters cannot be answered personally. If your topic is chosen you will receive a copy of Mary’s book, Rich Enough? A Laid-Back Guide for Every Kiwi.

This column is supported by the Financial Markets Authority to encourage women to take an interest in KiwiSaver and investing. Visit fma.govt.nz for more information. Mary’s views do not necessarily reflect those of the FMA.

Mary Holm is a freelance journalist, a director of Financial Services Complaints Ltd (FSCL), a seminar presenter and a bestselling author on personal finance. From 2011 to 2019 she was a founding director of the Financial Markets Authority. Her opinions are personal, and do not reflect the position of any organisation in which she holds office. Mary’s advice is of a general nature, and she is not responsible for any loss that any reader may suffer from following it.