New research has revealed many New Zealanders could be just two simple steps away from a better retirement.

The Commission for Financial Capability and the Financial Markets Authority ran a survey asking how much KiwiSaver members knew about the fees they were paying and the returns they were getting.

The answer was not enough. More than two thirds didn't know how much their fees cost and nearly half were unsure what their KiwiSaver investments earned them this year.

David Boyle, the commission's investor education group manager, said if people thought it wasn't a big deal understanding the impacts of fees and returns, they might change their minds when they find out what a difference both could make to the lump sum they end up with in retirement.


When prompted to think about it, just over half agreed that fees and returns were equally important in reaching their retirement goals.

Paul Gregory, FMA director of investor capability said it was good to see people recognised that but now they needed to do something about it.

"The reason for this survey was to prompt them to think about two of the most important factors in their KiwiSaver scheme - the fund they are in and how it performs, and the fees they are paying for those returns," Mr Gregory said.

Over a lifetime of contributing to KiwiSaver, the average amount paid in fees is around $40,000.

In return, you could end up with $357,000 in your retirement pot if you save from 18 to 65 in a balanced fund. That's enough to pay for 30 years of groceries for a couple in retirement and still have more than $50,000 left over.

The cost of fees could go higher - or lower - than $40,000, depending on what your provider charges. The trick is to look at similar funds to yours and see how the costs compare and what sort of investment returns they have earned.

It's easy to find out what different KiwiSaver providers charge by using the fund finder on Sorted. But it's given as a percentage and many people say it is not easy to understand what that means in hard cash. Of those surveyed 94 per cent said they would like to see a dollar amount on their annual statement.

Work is under way by the FMA, CFFC and MBIE to require providers to show this information in the future.