Amanda for Money Week offers five links to get a better grip on your KiwiSaver

Amanda for Money Week offers five links to get a better grip on your KiwiSaver

By Amanda Morrall

1) For the clueless.

Start with the basics by learning what KiwiSaver is, how it works, your contributions levels and the terms and conditions by visiting the official KiwiSaver Website. You'll find all the basics covered here including methods of joining, how to opt out, a primer on providers and schemes and the benefits of KiwiSaver. This is a good place to start.

2) I'm in, now what?

If you're enrolled in KiwiSaver but didn't make an active selection with whom to invest, you'll have been randomly allocated a default provider as well as have been put into a default fund. Don't know the difference between a default fund from growth fund? Visit's KiwiSaver section here for a primer on the different funds on offer and what distinguishes them from one another.

3) Tracking your funds

By law, your KiwiSaver provider is required to send you an annual statement with your balance and a report on how your fund is doing. At present, there is no universal standard for reporting, so there is no consistency among providers about what information is communicated or how. That will change next year when new regulations come in place. In the meantime, most providers offer member services on-line where you can check up on your fund. You can also get a breakdown of how much you have paid into your account, your employer contributions and Government tax credits on the IRD Website which includes your KiwiSaver records. Log-in to the IRD Website and KiwiSaver should appear in the top right hand corner.

You can also get to the same place through the KiwiSaver Website which has a log-in on the right hand side of the page.

IRD also launched a mobile app recently, if you have a smart phone or table you can also keep tabs on your KiwiSaver account that way.

4) Monitoring your performance

How can you tell if your provider is doing a good job? This is a subjective question and takes into account a range of factors; including performance, fees and communication.On the question of performance, it's hard to know unless you have a reference point. It's important to remember to compare like with like. If you're invested in a conservative fund, it would be unfair to compare your performance to a growth fund because the asset allocation differs starkly. Morningstar New Zealand produces quarterly reports on KiwiSaver where you can find out how funds across the market have fared over a one, three and four years. You'll also be able to see what your expense ratio is (see expense ratio explained below), your annual fee and the percentage of growth assets in your portfolio.This is an excellent resource for those wanting to up their KiwiSaver game and expand their knowledge. produces similar reports and ranks the various providers by performance. 

Each KiwiSaver scheme has its own particular way of charging for its services, and it can be confusing comparing and navigating your way though these fees.

Almost all schemes charge a fixed membership fee, plus an investment management fee which pays for the 'expertise' of the investment manager. The more volatile the asset class invested in, or the more active the investment management, the higher the investment management fee. In a number of cases additional performance-based fees are also be charged if performance exceeds some specified benchmark.

Other types of common fees include trustee fees and administration fees. You can find a full breakdown of fees in each fund's profile. And all funds also charge for expenses specific to the fund - things like the audit fee. These can vary significantly.

In other countries, investment vehicles are required to publish a 'management expense ratio' (usually known as the MER) which captures the total fee and expense burden on the fund. There is no such requirement currently in New Zealand for KiwiSaver funds to publish their MER.

However, we are calculating something very similar, an overall Expense Ratio using the fees and charges listed in the investment statement and the expenses from the scheme's latest annual report. Using the Expense Ratio and knowing what is included in the fund-reported returns enables us to re-calculate the fund-reported returns so they are on a consistent, comparable basis. Click here for how we calculate performance.

Our Expense Ratio includes the fixed dollar 'membership' fee that almost all funds charges.  Although only averaging around $35 a year, that is equivalent to a fee of more than 0.5% for an average KiwiSaver balance of $6,600 - and this was the actual average as at September 2010.  We have included this fee on the basis of a $10,000 balance.

Future investment performance is never certain, so it makes sense to take a close look at fees. You can get a feel for how much fees can eat away at investment returns by playing with this calculator.

5) Fees

Returns on KiwiSaver are variable. Fees aren't. In addition to the annual membership fee charged, you'll pay a host of other fees, the most expensive of which is the investment management fee. You'll only know if the fees you are paying are unreasonably high relative to what others are charging. Again, it's important to compare like with like. In general terms the fees charged on growth funds are higher than conservative funds. For a basis of comparison, you can Find your Fund on They are listed alphabetically and categorised by type of fund, or you can look it up by name in the boxed area.

Once you have found your fund, there is an option in the table menu to "see other funds like this." This will group the various funds by peer group and allow you to see what the others are charging in term of the expense ratio. There is a large variance. For example, SuperLife AIM 80 Pool (an aggressive fund) charges an expense ratio of 0.81% and the Law Retirement Plan Dynamic Portfolio charge 1.91%. It could be that the performance justifies the higher than average fee, but again you'll only know by seeing how other funds have fared over the years.

To see the long-term effect of fees, and how much you'll pay your provider over the years, has a KiwiSaver fees calculator.   We have an version as well.

For other questions on KiwiSaver, see our Q&A section here which contains questions from our readers.

To read other Take Fives by Amanda Morrall click here. You can also follow Amanda on Twitter @amandamorrall

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.


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Hello Amanda,
I'm interested if you (or any readers of have any advice on the paying off the mortgage vs kiwisaver argument. Specifically it would be really helpful if there is a spreadsheet comparison floating around on the interwebs. 

Im paying off my mortgage first....without the Govn handout most returns seem poorer than clearing debt....and going into a depression debt is bad news.....kiwisaver accounts can be wiped out....debt gets more burdensome as your income declines.

Hello Amanda...caught you on the telly  there with Nadine.. I hope I'm not too irrelevant topically speaking to remark on how very Televisio freindly you were there , yes very nice indeed....liked your hair too...really .
 Now as you know , I've always had a bit of a thing about Nadine...( I think it's the slight freckling) or ah, anyway, a wee while back now some  Andy Warhole type got to her hair and took her back to my Grandma's time your on there ,if you could have maybe a girly chat, and point her back in the right direction.  
Your help would be appreciated as I switched to Crowd goes Wild, and I think it's doing my head in....all that mumbling n stuff.
Hey , has Brian Gaynor been on the chair  with you lately...? might be good to get him in, speaking of Consistency. 
 Um, just a thought...don't tell Bernard about this post know how he gets about staying on topic.

@Christov you appear to have cross-posted your above message to this site instead of
You're welcome.

Hey Ho Stanley, deary me ..give yourself one while your at it my good man......I am afraid persons of the ilk  and sophistication of Nadine do not lurk among the desperate and lonesome sites you seem only too familiar with.
But since it appears you were being thoughtful (I think) here's one that sounds more your scene...I mean being ridiculously good looking n all..!

Sorry Christov old chap I'm afraid I don't bat for the same team. I am in Australia and living with my current girlfriend so your somewhat Freudian attempt at male territorialism is not necessary - your advances towards the fair Amanda (or slightly freckled Nadine) can proceed unhindered by any interference from myself....

Boys, boys, boys...
Amanda and Nadine doing wonderful jobs.
Although, to be fair, we love to glam it up here on
Now, where's my makeup...
Time to Jooosh me up a little...

it can't all be boring financial commentary...


Stanley my good man , there was no alpha male incursion on my part, I thought it fair to say Amanda looked very charming indeed when I thought so....perhaphs that was a mistake in follow through , but in the case of Nadine , it was out of concern old bean , as I know she is far more captivating than her current hair stylist appears to have the vision for.
In Australia you say ..? try impart some culture wont you, and don't be sheepish. 

Well I have to agree - both women look rather fetching. The above video would be the third now I think in which Amanda has been speaking and I am intrigued by the way she always seem to be barely suppressing a laugh at the start of each video.
Either she still finds being on the telly amusing, or there must be a fair bit of joking and tomfoolery taking part just before the cameras role...

Tomfoolery with, now your just winding me up ain't cruel.

I got a letter from ASB the other day saying that in the past, part of my investment was in a cash account so that fees could continue to be charged even if my entire investment was lost. This was news to me. I assume that someone twigged that this was perhaps a bit unethical and forced them to change the policy.
It would be nice if investment managers had some skin in the game so that they made more when they beat a benchmark and less when they blew it.

Recommend to stay in a pure Cash Fund within Kiwisaver.  Get all the benefits in the first 2 years.  Then take periodic 'holidays' putting your normal 2 or 4% against the mortgage while on the 'holiday' from KS. Then revert to Kiwisaver periodically.  Then you have a bet both ways...
The real beauty of Kiwisaver for most people - regardless of the Govt & Employer contributions- , is the fact that it is locked in til 65.  So you can't rob it back for the overseas trip or boat - which normally subverts our personal savings schemes.

more makeup = less credibility ;-)
Kiwisaver is a 'benefit' for the finance industry nothing more. Don't have anything to do with it.

more makeup = less credibility
A bit harsh Justice. Gina Reinhart had anough makeup on during her youtube rant to sink a battleship, in fact for a brief moment I thought maybe they had created an animated model of her at Madame Tussauds here in Sydney and were manipulating that to make it appear as thought it was talking.

But despite all the makeup, she still had zero credibility. However considering that she had zero to start with, it does render your statement incorrect, as zero is not less than zero...

Did you note the smilie? It was tongue in cheek.
My point if anything is NEITHER of these very attractive ladies needs it. Smoking hot without