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January 10, 2023

3 Tips to Make the Most of Your KiwiSaver Plan

For many Kiwis, KiwiSaver will likely be the second largest asset we’ll own in our lifetime. Because of this, you would think that we’re likely to be more engaged with our KiwiSaver accounts; surprisingly this is not the case. A recent survey we conducted found that 1 in 5 Kiwis don’t even know who their KiwiSaver provider is!

With this in mind, here are 3 ways you can make the most out of your KiwiSaver today, so you can reap the benefits tomorrow.

1. Know who your KiwiSaver provider is and the fund you’re invested in

How do I find my KiwiSaver provider?

Finding this information is easy. You can either ask your employer, log in to myIR (it will show you almost immediately when logged in) or simply call the IRD and ask – their wait times are generally short!

Next step: Checking the fund you’re invested in

Unlike finding your KiwiSaver provider, the fund you’re invested in isn’t available to find through the IRD/myIR. You’ll need to go direct to your provider; either call them or log into their online portal and navigate your way around to find your fund type. Your provider is also meant to email or post you a statement at minimum once a year with these details.

Once you’ve figured out which KiwiSaver fund you’re invested in, you can now think about if this is the most suitable fund for you. We recommend checking this about once a year. After all, it’s for the long term, and you are unlikely to make better decisions by looking often.

Choosing the best KiwiSaver fund for your situation can depend on:

When you will need the money

For a first home or retirement (otherwise known as your investment time horizon). How soon you’ll need the money can influence the level of risk and/or volatility that might be suitable for you.

Generally speaking, the longer the time horizon, the higher risk you can afford to take on and the better off you are likely to be for your patience. However, this is also dependent on your appetite for risk, which leads us to the second point;

Your risk appetite

How well you can manage the ups and downs that the market will bring. The greatest risk with KiwiSaver is the risk of volatility and that market movements test your patience or nerves.

The theory goes that the higher the return you are after, the more risk you are willing and will have to take. The more volatility you can accept in the short term, the greater the expected return in the long term.

Cash has the lowest risk, therefore the lowest expected return. Of the four major asset classes (cash, bonds, property, shares), shares have the highest risk and the highest expected return. Share funds are lower risk than individual shares, and crypto assets, commodities and “private investments” are even higher risk.

However, the greatest risk is missing out on growing your investments by being over-conservative when you have time on your side. Read more about this in our KiwiSaver blog. 

If you’d like to learn more about the different kinds of funds you can invest in and figure out your risk appetite, check out Sorted NZ’s investor profiler or listen to our latest podcast episode below.

2. Adjust your KiwiSaver contribution rate

When setting up your KiwiSaver contributions, you can choose between 3%, 4%, 6%, 8% or 10% of your gross (before tax) income. While the options for your employer to do the paperwork are limited to the above, you can also make a voluntary contribution yourself anytime for any amount.

Depending on your expenses and preference, you may want to increase or decrease your contributions. However, here are a few things that you may want to consider before making those changes:

Are you contributing enough to get the annual $521 government contribution?

As a contributing KiwiSaver member aged between 18-65, you are eligible for an annual government contribution of $521 if you contribute $1,043 between the 1st of July and the 30th of June.

If you’re a full-time worker contributing 3% of your gross income, the amount you contribute to your KiwiSaver will be already over that threshold. But, if you are self-employed, you may want to contribute at least the minimum amount to be eligible for the government contribution. It’s free money and a 50% return!

The trick is to be registered in KiwiSaver for the whole year to be eligible and contribute automatically. But you can make a single voluntary contribution in June to receive the full amount.

Your employer matches at least 3% of your gross income too

Different employers offer different KiwiSaver contribution matches; however, they must contribute at least 3% of your gross salary if you do. This is also in essence free money as your employer doesn’t have to pay if you don’t. It’s worth double-checking and/or speaking to your employer about the rate at which they contribute to your KiwiSaver balance.

Calculate the different contribution projections

The difference in saving levels between contributing 3% to your KiwiSaver balance versus a higher rate can be significant over time. So, it’s worth taking 5 minutes to check what the difference could amount to over time. Sorted’s KiwiSaver Calculator is easy to use and a quick way to see this difference.

For example:

According to Sorted’s KiwiSaver Calculator, if you’re 30 years old, employed, currently earning $80,000 until retirement, and are invested in a growth fund, your projection may look something like the below:

KiwiSaver Contribution Rate

Total estimated nest egg at 65

Weekly spend from retirement until 90 years old










Note a few key assumptions: Inflation is not considered, your KiwiSaver balance is not used for your first home purchase and your salary is estimated to grow at 3.5% per year. Results as of January 2023.

Consider increasing your contributions as forced savings (and vice versa)

Similar to how many Kiwis think about their mortgages, the amount you contribute to your KiwiSaver over time can be viewed as a form of forced savings.

For example, let’s say you have a change in circumstance and pay off your student loan. Instead of spending all the additional income, you could increase the amount you contribute to your KiwiSaver instead to continue saving at a higher rate.

This applies in the same way with decreasing your contributions, if you are looking for more flexibility with your money because you would like to invest in assets outside of your KiwiSaver, decreasing your contribution rate can allow for flexibility.

Just be mindful that you *still* invest enough of a percentage of your income to secure a comfortable retirement!

Whether this is suitable for you or not comes down to how you like to invest best, plus generally knowing yourself, your habits and your resistance to temptation. Many of us need the locked-in savings to keep us on track to our financial goals!

3. Higher fees don't mean higher quality

While KiwiSaver fees are just one piece of the puzzle (as there are other factors to consider such as returns, diversification, and personal preferences), it’s a great starting point in helping determine which fund provider is most suitable for you.

When it comes to fees, what you pay for isn’t always what you get. Higher fee providers are not proven to give better outcomes, service or performance. In fact, much research says the opposite and that higher fees can be detrimental to your KiwiSaver’s long-term balance as they eat into your returns.

To see an overview of fund management fees, Sorted’s KiwiSaver Fund Finder is a very useful resource.

The Kernel KiwiSaver Plan

In 2022, we launched the Kernel KiwiSaver plan, an offering that sets the bar high, while keeping the fees low.

You can choose between the Kernel Cash Plus, Kernel Balanced and Kernel High Growth Funds and work towards your short, medium or long-term goals. Or you can choose to create your own diversified portfolio using a mix of several Kernel funds.

Check out the Kernel KiwiSaver Plan now.

Kernel’s 3 KiwiSaver Tips

Although your KiwiSaver balance is generally a long-term investment, it pays to stay engaged. Taking 15 minutes out of your day about once a year can equate to thousands of dollars saved/earnt throughout your lifetime. Using the 3 tips above as a checklist can be a great starting point to help you become more engaged with your KiwiSaver today.

Wondering how switching KiwiSaver provider works? Check out our blog below.

Tim Rodriguez

Tim Rodriguez

Marketing Coordinator | LinkedIn



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Indices provided by: S&P Dow Jones Indices