COMMENT:

Saving for the future should start the moment a toddler recognises that money has uses.

Regular small savings will grow into not just a pot of money, but a savings mentality that can't be bought. KiwiSaver really is worth its weight in gold as an education tool.

My teenagers are with their bank's KiwiSaver because my number one priority is financial education. I wanted them to transfer 10 per cent of their earnings and be able to see their balance grow.

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They do this religiously, even when it's $2 here or $5 there. A tenth of all earnings is a figure that is negligible to the cash they have to spend, but will ensure they always have savings, small at first then bigger later when they need it.

They aren't in the fastest-growing fund or lowest-fee provider but the trade-off of is worth it for a teenager who understands money and is saving.

That's not necessarily the case for a 5-year-old where mum and dad are managing the money. Paying $30 to $50 a year in fees with no regular investment could mean negative returns.

My teens are aware that their provider, ASB, still hasn't sold off its sin stocks such as tobacco. That discussion was a teachable moment. If the sell-off doesn't happen soon we'll have the "should I switch banks to align better with my morals?" discussion.

Not that any of the other providers are perfect. Most may rule out sin stocks, but they don't have a positive screen, meaning they only choose good companies rather than avoiding bad ones.

A friend mused on what to do with his children's KiwiSaver over coffee with me two weekends back. He was miffed that their investments have gone backwards thanks to the fees charged by their bank and he felt moving to a lower-fee fund made sense at their stage in life.

The issue he found was that by the time the children's fund provider had taken its monthly charge out and additional investment fees, the capital was shrinking.

Fortunately, fee-free KiwiSaver funds for children are out there. In recent months provider Juno announced no fees for under 18s. Simplicity quickly followed suit.

Other providers already waived administration fees, including Craigs, Booster and NZ Funds.

Some waive the administration fee with no regular contributions needed, others require a minimum investment per year and others are fee-free if the balance is under a certain figure, such as $500 for Booster.

These fee-free offers are mostly for the annual administration fee - there may be investment fees within the funds themselves that aren't waived.

But when I checked this week, some providers that waived fees previously now charge.

I've heard it argued KiwiSaver isn't worth it for children now the $1000 kick-start has gone and there is no annual member tax credit. Those in this camp say there are better savings vehicles for children.

But with zero fees and a growth fund, I disagree. Saving for retirement should become as Kiwi as togs and takeaways for children.

Another argument is that employers don't have to make contributions for children under 18. But it's worth asking the employer to make voluntary contributions. Often employers do so for over 65s.

Finally, there is the argument that once in, your children can't opt out of KiwiSaver and parents shouldn't make that decision for them.

But we make plenty of other decisions for them and if they graduate at 18 with a savings mentality, then it was a fine decision to make.