Fees – The Stealthy Kiwisaver Killer

“An investor with $1.00 invested in 1900 would have seen his dollar grow to over $1,000 in real terms, if they had paid the industry average of 3% in management, monitoring, performance and trading fees then the real terminal sum would drop to just $37.40”

The New Zealand sharemarket on average has returned 10.0% p.a from 1900 to 2015 (Yes, we are awesome, send us all your moneys). If you invested $1 in 1900 in shares with no ongoing fees you would have around $64,000 in today’s dollars or $1027 adjusted for inflation. In a fund with fee’s you would only have $37. Staggering difference. Would you rather have $37 or $1027? It’s a no brainer.

If you only read this one line then know this – Fees matter!

I only know this little tidbit of wisdom because Brent Sheather wrote a brilliant opinion piece for the NZ Herald titled “NZ shares vs the rest of the world”, within the article are some sparkling gems of information and the one that stood the most was the topic of fees. In fact the article should have been called “Kiwisaver Fees and how they’re stealing your retirement!” and maybe it would have got a bit more attention.

Kiwisaver accounts (and managed funds) are charging us huge fees for managing our money and fair enough you may argue. Nothing in life is free. But when Kingfisher funds can pay themselves a 1 million dollar performance fee payment on a fund that only returned 4.3% (the sharemarket returned 16.5% over the same period) then something is horribly wrong.

Shadow hoping and praying for ethical money mangers
Hope like hell you have an ethical Kiwisaver provider!

Consumers of investment “products” are not always getting value for money and are not always aware of how the fees are charged. We are all  very trusting of our Kiwisaver providers to do the right thing by us, they are the custodians of our futures, determining by their stewardship just how much money we will have to spend during our golden years. But they are clearly making bank along the way, taking a % cut of our total savings each year.

I’d like to think that the fee’s would only come out of the profits or gains that the fund makes but sadly this is not the case. That scenario could leave providers making zero dollars in recession years. There are obviously baseline costs for administering funds that need to be covered so performance only fees are not entirely fair either, but does it cost anymore to manage $1 million in kiwisaver funds than to manage ten thousand? The money is all going into large generic funds and individuals are not receiving personalised investment services. So shouldn’t each customer pay a flat fee? But this would penalise those with smaller amounts invested. Perhaps percentage fees up till a certain amount invested then a flat fee there after?

I’m not sure what the best way to go is, but I can tell you I’ve had excellent returns from very low fee index funds and like Brent says, the computer managing it has never paid itself a one million dollar performance fee for barely beating inflation.

I checked out Sorted.org’s fund comparison tool and found the lowest fee’s for a kiwsaver fund was 0.31% for the Superlife NZ50 ETF (which returned 12.75% in the last year, nice). The highest fee’s charged are 4.74% for NZ funds Growth Strategy fund (-10.9% return in the last year but to be fair a +22% the year before that). That’s a massive range of fee’s and returns, clearly it pays to dig a little deeper and find out exactly what fees you are paying.

If consumers want change then its going to have to be demand driven. Start comparing funds, look hard at those fees and be prepared to move your money to a lower cost fund. If you do switch, let your fund manager know why! Let family and friends know that fee’s are a really important consideration when choosing their Kiwisaver provider or any investment fund. (Cause everyone loves talking money with family and friends right!)

Luckily the Financial Markets Authority is on our side as Tasman Parker reported this week in the NZ Herald. Her article “FMA warns – don’t treat KiwiSavers as ‘cash cows'” reported on several concerns of the FMA including fees and lack of confidence from kiwisaver investors in the market.

Rob Everett, chief executive of the Financial Markets Authority, said KiwiSaver providers could not afford to treat members as “cash cows” raking in millions of dollars in fees a year without doing anything to communicate with them other than the minimum.

 

You tell em Rob!! We need institutions to challenge the big providers to do better, the more pressure the better.

3 thoughts on “Fees – The Stealthy Kiwisaver Killer”

  1. You raise a great point here QW4L :)!
    I suppose for me I’d be happy to pay for fees provided the performance is there..
    Admittedly most people do not focus on tracking their performance and as a result wouldn’t question fees if performance is “bad” relative to the overall market or alternatives..

    Cool post here and thanks for highlighting it!

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