BusinessDesk investments editor Frances Cook responds to emails from readers each week to answer questions about money. Below, you will find her expert advice. Send your own questions to [email protected].
I had a question, is it ok to just have “investments” in KiwiSaver?
I’m not very good with all the money and investing things … and things are tight with a young family and mortgage … is it ok to just put any extra into KiwiSaver? It keeps it simpler and easier for me.
I often feel a bit overwhelmed with finances. Realistically, I’m not looking to create huge wealth and spend a lot of time thinking about investments, so I figure just putting it into an appropriate KiwiSaver does the job.
First of all, it’s absolutely ok!
The biggest challenge for most people is to pay attention to their money and to make a plan for their future. If you’re doing that, you’re already well ahead of many others.
Something may or may not be the best idea on the pure maths of it, but what’s more important is that it’s something that works with your life and that you can stick to.
A perfect plan that you abandon after a week is no good. An average plan that you stick to will be better in reality.
Now, as to whether it’s the best choice for your money? Maybe. Let’s look at a couple of options here.
KiwiSaver is a fantastic way to save for your future and one that’s a good place to start for most New Zealanders.
I don’t know how much you’re putting in right now, and what counts as extra for your future plans.
It’s a good idea to make sure you’re putting in at least 3% of your income if employed and to get the full employer match. If self-employed or not currently working, it’s still a good idea to put in $20 a week to make sure you get the government tax credit of $521 per year.
Those bonuses are free money that you only get if you contribute to your KiwiSaver each year. Don’t miss out on them.
Once those are sorted, you can of course choose to put any extra money into your KiwiSaver.
If you’ve got a growth account, it will be an excellent way to invest your money, mostly going towards assets such as shares and property.
The downside is that you can only take that money back out once you hit 65 or want to buy a first home.
If you ever want to help the kids out with a first home purchase in the future, or you want to retire at 60 instead, you can’t dip into that KiwiSaver money.
KiwiSaver but with flexibility
However, I hear you on the need to keep the finances simple. There’s quite enough happening in life with a young family without having to worry about an ‘investment portfolio’ as well.
Here’s a possible solution. Most KiwiSaver providers also offer another mirror fund, which is exactly the same as their KiwiSaver option, but outside of the scheme.
So you get the same investments, and the same easy contributions, but if you decide you want to access it early, it’s not locked away.
It’s an option that’s worth considering. If you’re happy with your current KiwiSaver provider, it’s worth checking if they have something like that, or emailing them about it.
How much is enough
The last thing I want you to consider is how much you're putting away into your KiwiSaver, and how many extras you'll be able to contribute.
The 3% standard that many people put in is certainly better than nothing.
But you should know that a standard rule of thumb is that it's better to put away 10% of your earnings in order to have a comfortable retirement.
We don't want the perfect to be the enemy of the good here. There's no point thinking 'well, I'll never manage 10%, so why try at all'.
Three percent is better than zero, but the closer you can get to that 10% figure, the better.
It might not even be a goal for now, as many people find the time of life with a young family is when money and time are both tighter.
But it's a good one to keep in mind while you're making financial plans.
I think either the standard KiwiSaver or a KiwiSaver mirror fund is a fine option for your situation.
If even investigating the idea of the mirror fund makes you feel tired, and likely to put this off for another few months, then just do what works for you.
Putting extra money into your KiwiSaver will be wonderful for your future and could be the difference between a hard retirement and one where you can put the heater on without stressing each winter.
The most important thing is simply to have money invested for your future in a way that works for you and that you can stick to on a regular basis.
Do what works for your life.
Send questions to [email protected] if you want to be featured in the column. Emails should be about 200 words, and we won't publish your name. Unfortunately, Frances is not able to respond to every email received or offer individual financial advice.
Information in this column is general in nature and should not be taken as individual financial advice. Frances Cook and BusinessDesk are not responsible for any loss a reader may suffer.