KiwiSaver funds with higher allocations to cash and fixed interest performed better than those with more money invested in shares and property in the three months to June 30, figures from Morningstar show.
The company's analysis also shows the first type of fund is on average the better performer over four years.
Chris Douglas, Morningstar's Australasia co-head of fund research, said global economic and political concerns had reasserted themselves strongly in the second quarter of this year, causing world sharemarkets to fall.
"The mixed returns from sharemarkets resulted in KiwiSaver options with higher exposures to income assets [cash and fixed interest] outperforming those with more invested in growth assets [shares and property] over the June 2012 quarter," Douglas said.
Conservative funds on average had returns of 5.3 per cent per annum over the four years to June 30 while balanced funds had an average of 3.3 per cent per annum and growth funds 2.5 per cent per annum.
But Douglas said the small amounts of money invested in KiwiSaver meant there wasn't much difference between how much a person who invested in a conservative fund would have now versus someone who chose a growth fund.
The research firm compared the potential balances of a median salary earner who contributed 2 per cent per year and received an employer contribution of 2 per cent, including the $1000 kickstart but not the Government contribution, and found just an $808 difference between investing in ASB's conservative fund versus its growth fund, despite a difference in the investors' total returns of 5.75 per cent per annum.
"Just being in KiwiSaver is the most important decision for now," Douglas said.
"In the early years of KiwiSaver it is all about being in a scheme and incrementally building up the nest egg."
But Douglas said as the value of KiwiSaver accounts grew picking the right fund would become increasingly important.
"A 15 per cent loss in 2008 had virtually no impact on an investor's future KiwiSaver savings, because the investor had only just started accumulating.
"In 10 to 20 years' time, however, a similarly sized loss will have a much greater impact on the investor's total savings."
The total amount invested in KiwiSaver grew by $386 million over the quarter to $11.6 billion.By Tamsyn Parker Email Tamsyn