KiwiSaver - where has your money been invested?
The Government says it's up to KiwiSaver investors to check whether their provider is making ethical investments and avoiding companies making cluster bombs or components for nuclear weapons.
So how do you find out which companies your KiwiSaver manager has invested in?
The first place to look is the annual disclosure statement each manager is required by law to issue. You should be able to find this on their website.
It is supposed to detail all of the companies the provider has invested in. There might be a database allowing you to search for specific companies.
However the disclosure statements do not always detail each and every foreign company the fund has invested in. Instead the statement might list the names of overseas managers that are investing money on behalf of your KiwiSaver provider.
When it comes to offshore investing, in places like the United States and Europe, many KiwiSaver managers use a local investment manager.
The money could be invested in what is known as an index fund. This is a fund that buys an entire index, like the S&P500 (500 of the biggest companies on the US market), or the Russell 3000 (the 3000 largest companies on the US share market).
It appears that some managers might have breached the New Zealand investment rules, banning cluster bomb makers, because they invested in index funds with exposure to weapons component makers.
In some cases a Google search can provide more information about the specific stocks the overseas managers have invested in.
If you do not find the information you are looking for you should call or email your provider.
Questions to ask include verifying that they are complying with all of New Zealand's investment laws. The managers should not be investing in companies making cluster bombs.
Other investments can be more of a grey area however.
You may have concerns about investing in the tobacco industry, gambling or alcohol. But not everyone does.
So ask your provider if they are invested in sectors that you have concerns about.
Do they offer an alternative, like an ethical or socially responsible investment fund? If they do, ask what type of investments are included or excluded from the fund.
Hopefully this issue will help boost awareness of KiwiSaver in general.
A survey last year by the Financial Markets Authority found that ten percent of KiwiSaver investors did not know who their manager was. People aged between 18 and 24 were the least likely to know who their provider is.
Although two thirds of adult New Zealanders have joined KiwiSaver, the survey found that nearly half of people believed they had no investments.
A 2014 survey found that many people thought KiwiSaver is Government guaranteed. It is not.
As well as asking whether your provider is investing responsibly you should also check what type of fund you are in (Conservative, Balanced or Growth).
Growth funds have the highest exposure to New Zealand and foreign shares. They are generally considered the best place for younger people to invest their KiwiSaver money.
As you get older you might want to consider switching more of your money to a Balanced or Conservative fund.