24 Jan 2019

What to do when your Kiwisaver balance falls

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 3:15 pm on 24 January 2019

Share markets have been volatile lately, and RNZ listeners have been sharing their concerns with personal finance advisor Mary Holm.

People asked if it's better to switch funds when their KiwiSaver balance falls, whether to move KiwiSaver money to term deposits in retirement, how self-employed people can make the most of KiwiSaver and how to tell if your fund is low or high-risk.

New Zealand's share market immediately fell two percent on opening

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

RNZ listener Sue asks whether it is a good idea to move her KiwiSaver savings into a more conservative fund in the short term while the income from KiwiSaver is trending downwards

Sue (63) and her daughter (28) have balanced funds – both of which have lost value in the last month or so.

Mary says:

“If you’re going to be spending that KiwiSaver money in the next few years, say 3 to 4 years, you should move your money into a low-risk KiwSaver fund, either cash or conservative fund, because you don’t want the market to plunge just before you take your money out. So do that now if you’re in that situation.

“If you’re not planning to spend the money within the next few years, especially if you’ve got ten years or more, then it’s really good to be in one of the higher-risk funds.

“Your balance will go down when the markets go down and what you must do is do nothing about it – just hang about and it will come back up again.”

Mary says it’s inevitable that the value of KiwiSaver funds will go and down with the markets, but balances will come back again and in the long run, you’ll get more growth by putting up with that volatility.

However, if you move your money to a conservative fund after the markets have gone down significantly then you’ve made an actual loss, she says.

Don’t try and time the markets which never ends well, she says.

If you need to protect your KiwiSaver from a serious market downturn, do so now before any major correction happens, Mary advises.

RNZ listener Gary is retired, married, and lives on the pension in a mortgage-free home.

He has $76,000 and his partner has $58,000 untouched in their KiwiSaver in conservative funds.

He wants to know if he’s better off putting it in a term deposit as his fund has performed about the same as term deposit recently.

Mary says:

“I wouldn’t necessarily move your money. The big negative about term deposits is you’ve tied the money up whereas in the KiwiSaver you can get it out any time.”

Although because Gary's KiwiSaver is a conservative fund “it’s a bit half a dozen of one six of the other" Mary says.

You can listen to all Mary Holm's personal finance podcasts here.

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