Investors nerves on edge as US election approaches

BNZ Private Bank Analyst, Katie Thompson, gives us an overview of the current state of play and what you can expect to see in financial markets in the lead up to the US election day.

The US presidential election will take place in just over four weeks, on 8 November 2016. The thought of Republican candidate, Donald Trump, becoming the president of the world’s largest economy is making investors nervous, and setting the stage for more market volatility, given his unconventional views and lack of clear policy direction. Continue reading…

Brexit still got you on edge?

BNZ Private Bank Analyst Chris Stephens, takes a closer look at the impact of Brexit on global financial markets and some of the other key issues that could affect investment returns going forward.

In the week that followed the UK’s referendum vote to exit the European Union (EU), global financial markets fell heavily, but quickly recouped their lost ground. In fact, during the three months since the vote, investors have been quick to shift their focus away from Brexit to other issues that may impact investment returns.

Continue reading…

Don’t miss out on the ‘free five hundy,’ KiwiSavers!

Get a head start now and be sure not to miss out on a ‘free five hundy’ next year. BNZ has this life hack sorted for you.

Did you know there’s an incentive put in place by Government that basically means you could receive up to $521.43 a year just for contributing to your KiwiSaver account? It’s called the KiwiSaver Member Tax Credit (MTC). Here’s the deal: Continue reading…

The easiest $521 you’ll ever make

If you’re relatively new to KiwiSaver or don’t know too much about it, then you may not know that there’s an incentive put in place by the Government that basically means you could get up to $521 a year just for contributing to your KiwiSaver account. Here’s the scoop:

Each year, if you qualify, the Government will contribute 50 cents for every dollar you contribute to your KiwiSaver account – up to a maximum Government contribution of $521.43. Sounds good, right?

To get the maximum credit, you need to contribute at least $1,042.86 during the MTC year, which runs from 1 July to 30 June, and be eligible for the full year.

With 30 June fast approaching, if you haven’t already contributed enough, now is the time to top-up your account to make the most of this great incentive.

Anything else you need to know?

Visit bnz.co.nz/mtc for more information and eligibility criteria. Importantly, if you joined KiwiSaver part way through the MTC year, or were eligible for only part of the year (for example, you turned 18 during the year), then your maximum MTC entitlement will be pro-rated depending on how long you qualified to receive it.

Have you contributed enough?

The onus is on you to check you’ve paid enough into your KiwiSaver account each year. It can be a bit tricky to know exactly how much you’ve contributed in any one year, especially if you’ve been contributing to your KiwiSaver account directly via your salary or wages. That’s because there is a delay between your contributions being collected by your employer and these making their way through the system and into your KiwiSaver account.

Here are some quick tips to know if you’ve contributed enough to maximise your MTC this year:

  • If you earn an annual salary or wages of $35,000 or more and have contributed at a minimum rate of 3% from your pay, then the chances are you’re on track to maximise your credit.
  • If you make voluntary contributions equivalent to $20 a week or more, you’ll also be on track.
  • Register and log in to ‘My KiwiSaver’, a service provided by Inland Revenue, where you can see all of the contributions you’ve made into your KiwiSaver account via your salary or wages.
  • If you’re a member of the BNZ KiwiSaver Scheme, log in to BNZ Internet Banking to see what your member contributions add up to. Remember, not all of your more recent contributions may have arrived into your KiwiSaver account as yet.
  • Check your pay slips to see how much you’ve contributed.

Time is running out!

If you haven’t made the most of your entitlement this year, it’s not too late. You can make a one-off contribution to top up your account. The easiest way is to make a voluntary payment to your KiwiSaver account.

If you’re a member of the BNZ KiwiSaver Scheme and a BNZ customer, log in to BNZ Internet Banking and simply transfer the money between your accounts. Our advice would be to ensure that your money is in your BNZ KiwiSaver Scheme account by Wednesday 24 June to make sure it counts.

If your KiwiSaver account is with another provider, please check with them for the easiest way to make a contribution and when they’d need to receive this by.

Donna Nicolof is BNZ’s Head of Wealth and Private Bank

First home help

Buying your first home is no easy task these days. The booming residential property market has seen house prices rising steadily, and Reserve Bank restrictions on loan-to-value ratios mean banks are able to lend to fewer buyers if they have a deposit of less than 20%. It’s tough out there, and as a result, we’re seeing more people joining forces to buy a home. Continue reading…

Getting on the property ladder with KiwiSaver

Saving for a first home is hard. According to 2015 Reserve Bank inflation figures, house prices (especially in Auckland and Christchurch) are rising faster than wages. For many saving for a deposit, it can feel like the finish line never gets any closer. All is not lost, however – if you’re a member of a KiwiSaver scheme, you might actually be eligible to withdraw almost all of your KiwiSaver savings. In fact, as of April 1 2015, the Government has opened the first home buyer benefits up even further, making it just that little bit easier for new buyers to get on the property ladder.

Who is eligible?

First things first, you must have been a  member of a KiwiSaver scheme for three or more years in order to apply for a first home withdrawal. Not only that, it needs to be your first home and must be for you to live in — if you’re intending to rent the house out, then the KiwiSaver first home withdrawal isn’t for you.

How much can I withdraw?

Happily, as of April 1 2015, you can withdraw more than previously. Up until then, first home buyers were only able to withdraw their own contributions, any returns on their investment and any employer contributions — the Government contributions (member tax credits and $1,000 kick start) were out of bounds. As of right now, however, you are able to withdraw all the Government member tax credit contributions, too. So that means if you qualify, you can now withdraw everything in your KiwiSaver account except for the $1,000 kick start — a welcome change for first home buyers.

KiwiSaver HomeStart grant

In addition to accessing your KiwiSaver savings, you might also qualify for a grant to help you into your first home. The Government has replaced the old KiwiSaver first home deposit subsidy with a new KiwiSaver HomeStart grant. It’s a little more complex than it used to be when it comes to figuring out how much money you might receive, but it is also more generous.

If you’re purchasing an existing home (as opposed to building or buying a brand new one), the grant is between $3,000 and up to $5,000 — depending on how long you’ve been a member of and contributing to a KiwiSaver scheme ($1,000 per year of membership and contribution).

If you’re purchasing a new home, a property off the plans or land to build a new home on, the grant is doubled to between $6,000 and $10,000 ($2,000 per year of membership and contribution).

These amounts are per person, so if there are two of you and you both meet all the criteria, you can, in effect, double the maximum amounts.

House price caps

Because the Government’s aim with this scheme is to help first home buyers into home ownership, they figure you won’t be buying million dollar houses, so they’ve put maximum house price caps in place. These caps vary depending on where you are in the country, and, as part of the recent changes, have been increased slightly.

In Auckland, the maximum purchase price is $550,000. In Hamilton, Tauranga, the Western Bay of Plenty, Kapiti, Porirua, Hutt City, Upper Hutt, Wellington, Tasman, Nelson, Christchurch, Selwyn, Waimakariri and Queenstown, the maximum purchase price is $450,000. For everywhere else, the maximum purchase price is $350,000.

More rules

To get the grant, there are a few boxes to tick. You must be 18 or over, have been a member of and contributing to a KiwiSaver scheme for at least three years, have an annual household income less than $80,000 for one person, or $120,000 for two or more people. You also need a deposit of at least 10%, which a home purchase withdrawal from a KiwiSaver account counts towards, and plan to live in the house for at least six months. Phew! Still, it’s a great help if you qualify.

How do I get it?

When it comes to the first home withdrawal, you should talk to your KiwiSaver provider as they will handle the application process and the release of the funds.

The HomeStart grant, on the other hand, is run by Housing New Zealand, so if you think you’re eligible, get in touch with them to begin the application process.

One last chance

Last of all, even if you’ve previously owned a home it may be possible that you’re still able to access your KiwiSaver savings and qualify for the KiwiSaver HomeStart grant. If you no longer own a home and can prove that you’re in the same financial position as a first home buyer, you might just be in luck. To find out if you are, you should again contact Housing New Zealand for help.

The BNZ Kiwsaver Scheme has a First Home Buyer Fund designed for people planning to buy their first home in the next three to five years and want to use their Kiwisaver to help save for it. Find out more.

This article is solely for information purposes and is not personalised financial advice. We recommend that you seek advice specific to your circumstances and contact Housing New Zealand for full details of the KiwiSaver HomeStart grant. No representation or warranty, express or implied, is made or provided as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of any statement in this article. None of BNZ Investment Services Limited, Bank of New Zealand or any other person accept any liability for any loss or damage arising out of the use of, or reliance on, any information in this article.