COMMENT:

Just as jeans and bras come in numerous shapes and sizes, with too many people in the wrong fit, KiwiSaver comes in numerous guises. Only one or a small handful are just right for you.

The best way to find the right one is to seek an independent professional such as an authorised financial adviser who can provide unbiased advice. That costs money and not everyone is willing to take this route. Some providers, such as Generate, have advisers who help do that, although be aware they're not going to sell you a competitor's product.

One of the biggest barriers is procrastination, says Summer KiwiSaver's Martin Hawes.

Advertisement

Even if you overcome it, you need to understand your needs and goals to make the right choice. First, what is your risk tolerance? How would you feel if your KiwiSaver balance dropped by 20 per cent overnight? Would you a: Do nothing because you know it will bounce back; or b: Switch into a safer fund? B is the wrong answer, because the horse has bolted.

Before shopping around, create a list of attributes you're looking for in a KiwiSaver, including return after all fees. Do you want rhinestones, rips, decorative stitching or stretch with your jeans? You're way more likely to get a good fit if you know what you're looking for.

It's a really good idea to find out what the fund you're interested in invests in. Is it broad or narrow and designed for growth, to avoid ups and downs?

You do need to think about when you'll need the money. If you plan to buy a home, retire or go overseas permanently in the next five years then don't go growth.

If you know that you'll never get around to reviewing your KiwiSaver as often as you should or at all then consider getting a life-stages-type fund that moves you from growth to balanced to conservative as you age. The idea, says Michael Lang of NZ Funds KiwiSaver, is to give customers approximately the right asset allocation for their age and stage.

Given that most people don't have financial advisers, one practical way to compare funds is to use a KiwiSaver comparison tool and find out more about the funds it recommends.

Sometimes I like to look at more than one comparison engine because they all have different algorithms. These search engines include Pocketwise.co.nz and Sorted.org.nz's fund finder. The Financial Market Authority's KiwiSaver Tracker also allows you to make in-depth comparisons.

BetterSaver.co.nz search helps in finding ethical funds, as does ResponsibleReturns.co.nz. Canstar.co.nz looks not just at the financial aspects, but the all-important service as well.

If you prefer tables and more detail there are industry websites, including Morningstar and FundSource, that cater to this type of search.

Beware of relying on advice from a relative or someone at the pub. They'll tell you they've done all the research. Sometimes they're trying to justify their own flawed decision.

Binu Paul, founder of Pocketwise.co.nz, often presents to groups of employees. When he asks for a show of hands of those who have switched KiwiSaver, around 10 to 15 per cent have taken professional advice. The majority have listened to friends and family.

Hawes calls these people sheeples who just do what other people suggest. But if you are conservative by nature or due to buy a home or retire within five years, the fund I'm in would be wrong for you.

Juno's Paul Gregory had a good point about customer service. If you're interested in a provider, try to find its customer service telephone number and then see how long it takes to get someone on the phone that sounds interested or understands your issues.

A few of the providers, including Milford KiwiSaver, suggested that you look at increasing the percentage of your income you invest. I'm all for this. One or two per cent shaved off your income and sent to KiwiSaver is really very painless if you budget around it. The payoff come retirement is worth it.

There are of course people who overthink KiwiSaver and sometimes switch too often, or for dubious reasons such as very short-term returns.