NZ's wealthiest people aren't doing any better than the rest of us at the moment.


Here's another great article from financial columnist, Janine Starks, which looks into the investment growth of New Zealand's wealthiest people and compares it to our own Kiwisaver's performance.

Imagine the Christmas stockings under the trees of New Zealand's wealthiest individuals and families. Surely cash spouts effortlessly from their fur tops.

While the rest of New Zealand drip-feed their KiwiSaver funds these people have private jets and access to clever investment opportunities on a silver platter. Right? Yeah, nah. It's not quite like that.

Agreed, most of them had a big win at some point and they secured their base wealth by taking risk and developing businesses that wouldn't pass any textbook diversification test.

However, what you find over the long term is they're doing no better than the rest of us when it comes to growing their money.

In fact many suffer enormous volatile swings, because they continue to have concentrated risks and have nearly wiped themselves out at times.

Over 10 years, Graeme Hart's wealth has grown from $2.75b to $7.5b.

The figures from the annual NBR Rich List paint a picture. The Todd and Goodman families are underperforming your average KiwiSaver account on a 10-year basis.

Their wealth rose by less than half of the 6.7 per cent annual return on a growth fund and the 5.9 per cent achieved by a balanced fund. Sir Michael Fay and Douglas Myers did no better with their wealth compounding around the 3 per cent level.

Graeme Hart had a stunning decade at just over 10 per cent a year, but even that will surprise many people, as public expectations are no doubt higher.

Sir Bob Jones is a long-time property investor and topped the Rich List in 1989 at $320 million. He's now reportedly worth $750m, but over 28 years that's compound annual growth of a smidgeon over 3 per cent.

If Sir Bob reads this, I'm sure he'd pour cream sherry on my musings and call them fictional trifle. It's well known what he thinks of the accuracy of the NBR Rich List numbers.

Even I don't believe a lifetime of commercial property investment resulted in 3 per cent annual growth. What we must remember is he's bought his groceries, educated his kids, kept a few wives in holidays and sunk one or two bottles of red along the way. His wealth creation is net of all that, but it still seems low.

It's also well-documented that the Jones retirement tip for the average Kiwi is not to bother investing. Stuff it all in your house, downsize and move to Nelson he says. At that point you can invest the excess. I live in Nelson and I'm about to downsize, but you can be sure as custard I've got a proper investment portfolio.

Bob and I come from opposite ends of the investment spectrum. He thinks fund managers are prone to mishaps and mismanaging money. I think developers have a rather murky idea of the word "valuation" and trip over their lack of liquidity too often. We can probably just agree to differ, because a fundie and a developer debating who's the biggest snake will only end up with both of us ducking cream pies.

According to the Rich List of 2017, Sir Bob had a good year in property. His wealth is up 15.3 per cent on 2016. It beats my portfolio, which rose 13.3 per cent. Mind you, my KiwiSaver account (Booster Asset Class Growth Fund) is up 19.52 per cent in the year to October 31. In the interests of full gloating disclosure I should admit it only has a balance of $5000.

The lesson in all this? Murky numbers aside, the wealthy have no secret tricks up their sleeves. While they have money in high volumes, they are often taking a lot of concentrated risk and failing to keep up with a simple well-diversified portfolio over the long term.

Todd Family

1987: $700 million
2007: $2.6 billion
2017: $3.5b

30-year return: 5.5 per cent a year
10-year return: 3.02 per cent a year

Goodman Family

1987: $165m
2007: $1.8b
2017: $1.475b

30-year return: 7.57 per cent a year
10-year return: -1.97 per cent a year

Douglas Myers

1987: $250m
2007: $700m
2016: $900m

29-year return: 4.52 per cent a year
10-year return: 2.54 per cent a year

Sir Michael Fay

1987: $175m
2007: $660m
2017: $920m

30-year return: 5.69 per cent a year
10-year return: 3.38 per cent a year

Bob Jones

1989: $320m
2017: $750m

28-year return: 3.09 per cent a year

Graeme Hart
2007: $2.75b
2017: $7.5b

10-year return: 10.55 per cent a year


Average growth fund 10-year return: 6.7 per cent a year
Average balanced fund 10-year return: 5.9 per cent a year