There are a few steps you need to take before investing.
You probably have several financial accounts. Before you start investing, make sure you pay off those high interest debts (like credit card). Also leave yourself with an emergency fund to cover short term needs, so you don’t need to be transferring money in and out of your investment fund too often. Mindful Money can help you get organised. You can have an account at Mindful Money and see all your responsible investments in one place.
That’s not always easy to do, but have an idea of what you are investing for – whether it is to buy your first home, for retirement, or for your kid’s education. If you’re in a relationship, it’s good to do this together! This gives you an idea of how much you want to invest, for how long, and how much risk you may want to take on (more risk generally means a higher return).
It is important to set aside money regularly. So if you are able to start when you are 30 years old for example, look at how your investment can grow by the time you retire!
Risks and Returns:
When you invest, your money can fund companies through buying their shares (risky but higher returns) or lending them money (less risky, lower returns). It can also be held in a bank (even less risky but very low returns). You need to feel comfortable with the risks you are taking and the returns you are likely to get.
Typical risks and returns on different investments
Invest with your values:
Responsible investing offers us choices. If you use a conventional fund, some of your portfolio will support companies that make profits from polluting our planet and exploiting people. There is a better way. We can invest responsibly, according to our values. That’s what Mindful Money helps you to do.
is the main form of financial investment for most Kiwis. The government has made it attractive for people to join through employer contributions and an annual credit, so if you’re not already a member, you should think about joining.
Get smart about investing:
Some basic things that are useful to know before you invest are:
- Portfolio investing – this is the way that Kiwisaver funds work. Your savings go into an account, together with other investor funds, and then it gets invested in a range of different companies shares or loans bonds) or short term loans (like term deposits).
- You can invest responsibly to avoid investing in sectors and companies that exploit people and damage the environment. There are options that allow you to target your investments in companies with high social and environmental standards. And average returns are likely to be as high or higher than traditional investing.
- Kiwisaver is a good deal for most Kiwis wanting to save some money. Your employer and the government both contribute to your funds. You can choose a responsible Kiwisaver fund that matches with your values.
- Be prudent about your investment because there are always risks from investing your money. Take your time to learn about your options and choose carefully.
This website isn’t giving you financial advice about which investment to choose – only information that will help you make sound decisions. If you’re not sure, you should contact a financial adviser.
is a way to spread our investments across a lot of different companies. Whenever we put our money in a bank or Kiwisaver or an investment fund, it gets invested in a portfolio. That lowers the risk and uses the knowledge of financial experts who form those portfolios. You could invest in individual companies, but experts warn that it is almost impossible to beat the market return unless you are prepared to make it your fulltime job.
Portfolio investing is a good way to spread the risk (diversify) so that it doesn’t matter if any single company goes bankrupt, because each investment is fairly small. Investors still bear the risk that the share prices of a lot of companies will fall if the economy performs badly, but there is less risk from individual companies.
Mindful Money focuses on portfolio funds, often called mutual funds or diversified funds. Investors contribute into a common pool of funds that then are invested in corporate shares or loans. Traditionally, these funds have been invested across all companies in a category, with no attention to their ethics.
Because the investment is spread, there will be a range in corporate behaviour. Some companies will be ethical, but others may have a harmful impact on society. They may be involved in making weapons or exploiting workers or destroying the environment.
There is a better way. Invest responsibly! Click here.
offers a growing number of Kiwis choices about where our money goes. We can ensure that our money doesn’t get invested in corporates doing harm. We can invest according to our values. And there’s not necessarily any financial penalty – in fact, there is evidence that returns from Responsible Investment are as at least as high as from mainstream investments.
Responsible investment is growing rapidly around the world, but until recently it has been a small niche activity in New Zealand. This is puzzling. New Zealanders care as much about the environment and social wellbeing as anyone. A problem has been a lack of information. Mindful Money has been set up to let the public know that there are good options. You can choose to invest responsibly. More information is here.
is the main savings and investment scheme for working New Zealanders. You get benefits from your employer contributing 3% of your salary, and from a government credit worth $521 each year. You choose the fund to invest in and that fund provider invests your money. You should know there are restrictions so that you can only withdraw money before retirement under specified conditions (eg. to buy your first home, when you emigrate or in case of financial hardship).
If you don’t choose a provider, Inland Revenue will assign you to one of the nine default Kiwisaver schemes. These are generally conservative funds (ie. low risk and low returns). They may be suitable for people near retirement or those wanting to buy their first home, or those who want to avoid risk. However, if you a longer term investor, staying in these funds over a long period of time would mean that you generally get a lower rate of return than if you were in a higher risk fund. Get more information on Kiwisaver.
There are around 225 options for your Kiwisaver. Some of those exclude investments in sectors that you may feel uncomfortable about investing in, such as gambling, pornography and fossil fuels. Others have a proactive investment policy that includes companies with higher social and environmental standards. Mindful Money can help find you the Kiwisaver account that fits your values and your investment aims. Click here.
Switching is easy. If you already have a Kiwisaver account and want to switch it into an ethical or responsible fund offered by the same provider, it is simple. Mindful Money makes it easy to switch your website. Click here.
If you want to switch to a different provider, Mindful Money will provide you with a link to their membership form, fill it in and it’s done. They will tell Inland Revenue and arrange for your money to be transferred. The process is really quick online but then takes 10 to 35 days for the funds to be moved. Click here.
Being prudent about your investment
means taking the time to find out about the options and only investing when you have carefully considered your options.
Investments are often put into different categories, depending on the level of risk:
- Defensive – a high proportion of relatively safe investments (such as cash)
- Conservative – a high proportion of debt (ie. lending) and less shares
- Balanced – a balance of debt and shares
- Growth – mainly shares, generally those on stock exchanges
- Aggressive – some high growth, high risk shares such as small companies
If you are young and saving for the long term, you may choose to accept higher risks (on the basis that the highs and lows even out over time). Those who are approaching retirement generally prefer less risk, to ensure their savings are protected.
Analysis by NZ Treasury shows the variability of annual returns for the period 2010-2014 (% annual return on the left hand scale), and the different returns to each risk class of investment.
For those put off by the potential risks of financial investments, it is important to understand that there are also risks in non-financial investments, notably housing. Over the past decade, New Zealand has experienced a period of exceptionally high house inflation. By some measures, Auckland has the most unaffordable house prices in the world. Buying a house has traditionally been the investment of choice for most Kiwis, but there are risks in tying up your savings in property, especially for those who are mobile or may need to sell their house on short notice. House prices can go down as well as rising (and periodically have).
Past returns are not necessarily a guide to the future. We have seen downturns and crises before, in New Zealand as well as globally, and there are no guarantees that share prices will continue to rise, or that loans or bonds will produce positive returns. There have been periods in the past when prices have fallen and companies have collapsed, so investors who have a short-term time horizon (such as those needing money for their retirement) should avoid risky investments.