The information here will help you gain a basic understanding of investments and how the strategy you choose can affect the amount you receive from the scheme.
We pool member and employer contributions and use them to buy a range of different investments, including shares, property, fixed interest and cash. These are known as asset classes. Investments in these asset classes are combined in different proportions to give you a range of investment options.
The asset classes we invest in can be broadly divided into growth assets and income assets.
These are assets such as shares for which the return on investment comes mainly from changes in capital value (or price). Growth assets may also provide a source of income in the form of dividends.
These are assets such as cash and fixed interest for which the return on investment comes mainly from income. Income assets are sometimes called ‘defensive assets’.
Income assets can also change in value as a result of changes in the general level of interest rates in an economy.
Risk and return
We expect different types of asset classes to perform in different ways. Returns from growth assets, for example, are likely to move up and down more widely from year to year than returns from income assets. In other words, growth assets tend to be more volatile – although all asset classes can sometimes produce negative returns.
Generally, the more volatile the return, the higher it is likely to be over time. In other words, the higher the expected return, the greater the risk.
You’ll be familiar with the saying that it’s wise not to have all your eggs in one basket. By spreading your investments across different asset classes, you can reduce the volatility of your overall portfolio without lowering your expected return. It’s called asset diversification. In addition, different assets perform differently in different market conditions. Cash investments, for example, might produce solid returns at a time when shares are in the doldrums – and vice versa.
One of the advantages of saving with UniSaver is that your savings are spread across many different investments across a range of asset classes. The mix of investment classes varies depending on which investment option you choose.
Let’s take a closer look at the different types of growth and income assets the scheme invests in.
These investments include government bonds, bank bills and corporate bonds or notes. They offer a fixed income for an agreed period of time. They can also be bought and sold before the fixed period of time is up. If general interest rates fall, the capital value of the investment increases and your fixed interest investment is worth more. Similarly, if interest rates rise, the capital value falls and the investment is worth less.
‘Cash’ does not necessarily mean money deposited in an interest-bearing bank account. Here, it’s used to mean fixed-interest investments made for very short terms – usually less than 12 months. Examples include floating rate notes and bank bills. It is important to note that the value of these investments can also rise and fall as markets change. However, the fluctuation in the value of cash is small relative to other asset classes.
Buying shares (also called stocks or equities) is simply buying a portion, or share, in a particular company. Company shares can be publicly listed and traded on the sharemarket or stock exchange (as well as being privately held). The performance of shares generally depends on the financial performance of the companies in which the shares are held. Economic or market factors also influence performance.
We invest in Australasian shares (company shares listed and traded on the New Zealand and Australian stock exchanges) and global shares (company shares traded on stock exchanges in other developed countries like the USA and emerging market countries like India).
Many people invest in property in the form of their home. Similarly, many super schemes invest in (mainly commercial) land and buildings such as office buildings and shopping centres. This can be done directly (by buying a particular property) or indirectly by buying units in a trust that owns a number of properties. Returns come from rent and/or a change in the value of a property itself. (As with house prices, values can go down as well us up.)