My KiwiSaver is with my bank so I can see my balance when I log on to internet banking. I am 39 years old and in the growth fund. Towards the end of last year my balance was getting up over $36,000 but this year it's been going down and down. It's sitting on $34,400 even though money is still coming out of my wages. Should I be worried? I'm not a first-home buyer so I'm not looking to make any withdrawals until I'm 65.
At the age of 39 you still have 26 years before you can get your hands on your KiwiSaver nest egg.
This makes you a long-term investor so market ups and downs should not concern you too much.
However, your question suggests you may not be comfortable with the volatility you are seeing in your growth fund.
To review your risk profile, go to the Sorted FundFinder website and answer the questions under "Find the Right Type of Fund for You".
KiwiSaver funds are mostly classified into Conservative, Balanced and Growth.
The main difference between them is the percentage of shares compared to fixed interest that they hold, with conservative funds usually holding under 20 per cent in shares while growth funds may have 80 per cent or more.
This weighting to shares partly determines the fund's risk factor, or the likelihood of the value going up and down and by how much.
There are many other risk factors, but this is the main one for KiwiSaver investors.
Most KiwiSaver funds invest in hundreds, if not thousands, of different investments or assets all over the world.
Your money is pooled with the money of other investors in your fund and invested according to the type of fund and the manager's strategy.
All the assets in the fund are valued and worked out as a unit price, usually daily.
When you get a statement from your fund manager it will show the number of units you have in the fund, the unit price and the value of your investment.
If the assets increase in value or earn income, the unit price will go up.
Every time your employer submits your KiwiSaver contributions with their PAYE return to Inland Revenue your money will be sent on to the fund manager to buy more units in your fund.
Because sharemarkets have fallen over the past two months, the unit price for your fund will be lower than it was back in December.
This means your money is actually buying more units now than it was when the unit price was higher.
This can pay off in the long run and is what we call Dollar Cost Averaging.
Typical novice investor behaviour is to buy shares when the price is strong, only to sell if and when it falls - losing money in the process.
Making regular contributions into a KiwiSaver account helps us to override that greed/fear behaviour, giving us a chance of achieving better returns.
Are you watching your balance too closely?
Checking your KiwiSaver balance daily is not necessarily a good thing for long-term investors.
Some people will be tempted to overspend, thinking the money is there should they need it, while others like you will feel either excited or anxious by the change in value up or down.
You can ask your bank to remove your KiwiSaver balance from your internet banking screen.
Most KiwiSaver managers give investors access to their fund information online.
Investors should log in from time to time, not only to view their balance but to make sure all contributions and Member Tax Credits are correct.
Monthly or quarterly checks should be enough for most investors.
- Shelley Hanna is an authorised financial adviser (FSP12241). Her disclosure statement is available on request, free of charge, by calling (06) 870 3838, or see peak.net.nz. The information contained in this article is of a general nature and is not personalised. Send your KiwiSaver questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.