This article was published on 19 June 2010. Some information may be out of date.

Q&As

  • Reader better off holding on to Auckland house while moving elsewhere to care for mother
  • How to maximise the KiwiSaver tax credit — before June 30
  • Should non-employee KiwiSaver contribute more than $1043 a year, or put further savings elsewhere?
  • Four readers offer alternatives to “Mum and Dad investors”, but none of their ideas is great
  • This column pleads “Not guilty” of sexism

QI am moving away from Auckland to care for my mother very soon. I own a freehold property in Auckland worth $330,000.

I am renting it out through an agent, as I would prefer to stay in the housing market. I don’t have a need to buy a house to live in where I am going.

I appreciate that a lot of things can go wrong with tenants, but I’m keen to give it a go. It also gives me a place to return to if I need to come back to Auckland.

Should I sell and invest in funds?

AYou know what they say about sleeping dogs. I reckon the same applies to home ownership in your circumstances. Keep the house.

This is not without risks. For one thing, as you acknowledge, perfect tenants are hard to find.

However, it sounds as if you will be elsewhere in New Zealand, better placed to keep an eye on the property than overseas landlords. You might, for instance, meet the tenants at the house — after giving them advance warning — when you are on a trip back to Auckland.

Given that you have no mortgage payments, it might be wise to charge a low rent. That should give you more tenants to choose from, and they’re likely to stay longer.

Even so, if you move back into the house later you’ve got to expect the odd carpet stain, damage to woodwork and so on — which is harder to accept in your own home than in a rental. You might want to set aside some of the proceeds from renting to redecorate before your return.

On the question of whether you would be better off selling and investing the money in a managed fund, the answer is, “maybe”. These days, rental income after expenses usually amounts to a pretty low return on the money invested in a property — and I’m even suggesting you make your rent lower!

Many landlords have made up for the low yields by making big gains when they sell. But such gains look less likely in the near future. In any case, you may not sell the house, but move back in.

In short, you’ll be lucky to get a high return on your $330,000. But where else would you park the money? In high-quality fixed interest — such as bank deposits or good corporate bonds — the return is also unlikely to be high. In a share fund it might be high, but it also might be low — especially if your investment ends up being for just a few years.

Over all, I think you’re wise to stay in the housing market, so that you’ll always have a home regardless of whether prices plummet or soar. You also avoid the thousands you would pay in real estate and lawyer’s fees if you sold and then bought later.

What about hassle? Selling may be more hassle upfront, but renting could be worse over the long term. However, if you get a rental agent with good recommendations from others, and keep track of their work, things should go smoothly most of the time.

QDo you have to pay $1,000 plus to get the KiwiSaver $1,000 tax credit? My wife pays $80 a month, which equals $960 per year. Does she get $960 tax credit or $1,000 or heaven forbid… nothing?

AShe certainly doesn’t get nothing. The government matches whatever she contributes to KiwiSaver in each July-June year, up to a maximum of $1043 — or strictly speaking, $1042.86.

That means your wife will get a tax credit of $960. If she can manage to deposit an extra $83 by the end of June, she will get the full $1043.

The same goes for everyone else. Whether or not you are an employee, if by June 30 you will have contributed less than $1043, try to make up the difference by depositing directly to your provider. With the government’s matching, you double the money going in, which means you withdraw double the amount at the other end. Not bad.

I’m guessing that your wife came up with $80 a month because she was told she would get the full tax credit by depositing $20 a week. Thinking there are four weeks in a month, she multiplied $20 by four. But, of course, there are four and a bit weeks in every month except February. So the correct monthly contribution to get the full tax credit comes to $87. She may want to switch to that from July onwards.

QRegarding your recent advice to the mid-60 to continue paying into KiwiSaver, my wife is 63 and has a term deposit shortly maturing. She asks if she should contribute some of it to her KiwiSaver account in addition to the annual $1043 she has always paid. Your view please, Mary.

AIt depends whether she expects to make a bigger return in her KiwiSaver account or elsewhere.

I’m assuming your wife is a non-employee. That means the maximum extra she can get from KiwiSaver — over and above other similar investments — is the $1000 kick-start and the annual $1043 tax credit. And she’s already at that maximum.

There’s no advantage, then, in putting more into KiwiSaver, and there’s one disadvantage: the money is tied up until she reaches the later of NZ Super age or five years after she joined.

However, at her age, the tie-up is probably not a problem. She should simply weigh up the risks and returns in the different options. Keep in mind two things:

  • Practically all KiwiSaver funds are PIEs, so the tax is lower than on, say, an ordinary term deposit.
  • Many KiwiSaver providers also offer similar PIE funds outside KiwiSaver. So if she wants much the same investment as her KiwiSaver fund, but with easier access to the money, she should ask if her provider can accommodate her. Make sure, though, that the fees are no higher.

Footnote: If my assumption is wrong, and your wife is an employee on a contributions holiday — the other circumstance under which she might contribute $1043 a year — she should go off the holiday and contribute 2 per cent of her pay. Then she will get the 2 per cent employer contribution.

If she feels she can’t afford that, she should supplement her income with her term deposit money. It’s clearly worth eating into savings to get the maximum in KiwiSaver benefits.

QMary, on the question of the term “Mum and Dad” used to identify non-professional investors, I would say there is nothing wrong with the term. We must all have had both at some time in our lives, and if we think about what investments etc. we would like our own Mum and Dad to put their money in, then that is the standard of care which should be the benchmark.

AThat would be true of most of us. But I’m afraid I know a few people who might have been only too happy to learn that their parents had put the lot into Blue Chip or Bridgecorp. Not every parent is wonderful.

In any case, we need a description that embraces all generations.

QYou are looking for words to describe naïve, uninformed, small investors who put out their money hopefully. How about “dumb and mad”?

AOuch! That’s not only mean, but not wide-ranging enough. We want to also include the many thousands who have made good investments.

QI think it might be fair to infer that a “Mum and Dad” investor is a “self investor” acting on their own behalf, rather than a “professional” or “commercial” investor who invests other people’s money on behalf of those other people.

ANot bad. But it sounds as though they invest in themselves. That’s the sort of thing people running those dreadful “get rich quick” — but actually “get rich never” — seminars say: “Invest just $1000 in yourself by attending our seminar, and we’ll show you how to turn it into $1 million.”

QAlternatives to Mum and Dad investors? We could call them lay investors, but that suggests a rather passive investment strategy. Alternatively amateur investors, but that’s not strictly true as presumably they are trying to make money investing, and besides, given how amateur some of the professional investors have been over the past decade, this would cause confusion.

Borrowing from the military, we could call them non-commissioned investors or NCIs as opposed to (over) commissioned and seasoned investors or CSIs. Residential investors implies investing only in housing, so not ideal due to recent efforts to shift Kiwis away from that area alone.

I would opt for household investors or HIs, in the hope that that’s where their portfolios will go.

AAnd when we greet them, we could say, “Hi HIs”. And if we suspect they have been smoking something interesting we could say, “Hi high HIs”. Hmm.

Thanks for your responses, everyone, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet. Other ideas?

QI was disappointed to read the picture caption last week: “There doesn’t seem to be anything to stop you and your wife from transferring ownership…”. This caption appears to be targeted at male readers and I think this is dated and stereotypical.

I hope this type of sexist oversight will be addressed in the future, providing a more gender inclusive approach to your column.

AI’m wondering if you read the column, or just looked at the picture. Fair enough to do the latter, but I think it’s led you to the wrong conclusion. The picture illustrates the first Q&A. And that reader’s letter refers to “my wife”, making it clear that it is written by a man.

Oops! If we’re going to be absolutely PC, perhaps I should say, “written by a man or a partner in a lesbian relationship who chooses to refer to her partner as her wife.” I must say, though, that none of the lesbians I know uses that nomenclature. And given that the correspondent had a male name — oops again, a male-sounding name — I think I’m safe to assume his gender.

I say “I”, but actually somebody else wrote the caption. That’s not the point, though. The subeditor and I both plead “not guilty” to your charge.

If you find other examples of a “gender exclusive approach” in my column in future, feel free to point them out. But as someone who has been fighting feminist battles for more decades than I care to admit, I doubt if you’ll find too many “sexist oversights”. Peace, sister!

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. Send questions to [email protected] or click here. Letters should not exceed 200 words. We won’t publish your name. Please provide a (preferably daytime) phone number. Unfortunately, Mary cannot answer all questions, correspond directly with readers, or give financial advice.