If you've checked your KiwiSaver balance recently, you might be a little worried.
Sharemarket volatility has resulted in some people's KiwiSaver balances dropping. For many, this will be the first time they have seen that amount go backwards. It's not a nice feeling. We've had a pretty good run with the retirement savings scheme so far. When KiwiSaver first launched, markets were jittery but our balances were so low that contributions covered the impact of any downturn.
Then there were stellar returns for many years. Now, we have larger balances and market wobbles are a lot more noticeable. It's important to realise that KiwiSaver is a long-term investment. You will experience downturns and upturns, periods of volatility and episodes of smooth sailing.
It's the downturns that clear the way for the increases in value and historically, equity markets - where much of your money is invested if you are in a growth fund - have always increased in value over time.
If the value of your account has gone down, the best thing to do is absolutely nothing, unless you really need the money immediately. While you have your money invested with a KiwiSaver provider, you are effectively holding units in that fund. You still own the same number of units, increasing all the time. Just right now they are worth a little less.
If you decide to sell those units now and buy units in a more conservative investment, you realise the losses that would otherwise just be on paper.
The big benefit of being in a growth fund during a market downturn is that you'll have a much more valuable account when things bounce up again.
If you're worried about your balance, get in touch with your provider. And if you don't understand, ask. The biggest determinant of the success of these sorts of schemes is time in the market. Don't undo all your hard work so far.
- Jeremy Tauri is an associate at Plus Chartered Accountants.