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Restarting Cullen Fund contributions

Written By: - Date published: 10:59 am, October 9th, 2013 - 56 comments
Categories: Economy, superannuation - Tags:

Stopping contributions to the Cullen Fund was always going to stand out as one of John Key and Bill English’s most economically inept decisions. They chose to stop the Fund buying assets just when they were at decades low prices, Crown borrowing was cheap, and markets were already recovering. The cost in just four years: $2.5 billion. And rising.

Even with Key’s record borrowing binge now coming to an end, the Nats still don’t want to resume salting away money for the superannuation cost explosion. They want to wait until 2020/21. That happens to also be the date they say they will start building the City Rail Link – a date chosen in both instances because they know they won’t be in government when it arrives.

My quick calculations from Cullen Fund returns data show that if National had kept contributing $2 billion a year to the Super Fund, then the Fund would now have $11.1 billion more in it – $3.1 billion of that from returns – against an added borrowing cost to the Crown of $0.6 billion. In other words, by cancelling the Cullen Fund payments, Key and English cost us a net $2.5 billion so far.

And, because the Fund’s so much smaller now than it should be, the cost will just grow exponentially over time, something made worse by the fact that contributions still won’t resume for another 8 years if National have their way. Oh, and because the Fund is smaller than it should be, when the contributions resume they will legally have to be bigger in a desperate attempt to fill it up to size.

Just assuming that the Cullen Fund makes its target return of 2.5% above the Crown’s cost of borrowing, delaying contributions until 2021 will cost a net $6.5 billion by 2021. On its track record to date of beating the Crown’s cost of borrowing by 4%, it’ll cost us $9.2 billion by 2021.

By the time we reach the point of starting to use the Fund to pay for superannuation in about 2030, there will be tens of billions of dollars less in it than there should be – and the gap will have to be made up by taxpayers.

Even the Herald is now realising what a huge mistake National has made. Even the fucken Herald says Key and English are financially incompetent and should be resuming Cullen Fund payments.

The fact is, we can’t afford not to.


56 comments on “Restarting Cullen Fund contributions”

  1. northshoredoc 1

    Apparently Bill English wants to reach surplus, and then quickly get government debt to 20% of GDP, which he considers prudent. The IMF say 60% is prudent. Countries like America and Greece are near 100%.

    I think hes being overly prudent, and should ensure a balance between debt repayment and expanded services or resumption of the Cullen fund. I think his surplus plan has been good, but the risk is he seriously starves basic services and becomes driven purely by his ideological leanings.

    • Molly 1.1


    • Puckish Rogue 1.2

      Better to be overly prudent then end up like well pick a country in Europe, Africa or the Americas

      • Tracey 1.2.1


        • Puckish Rogue

          I’ll see you Germany and raise you a Greece or a Spain

          • Pascal's bookie

            pop quiz pucko:

            What party and or politician in NZ said, prior to the meltdowns of various euro nations, that we should be ‘more like Ireland’?

            • Tracey

              he was still saying it in 2008, 2009 2010, 2011… took him ages to realise Ireland’s experiment hadn’t worked.

              “The financial services hub proposal emerged after banker Craig Stobo told the Government’s 2009 Jobs Summit an economic boost would result if the Government created a zero tax rating for foreign investors who invested in international funds based here.

              In March 2010, Stobo was appointed chairman of an advisory group whose tasks specifically included determining what incentives were required by financial firms to implement the financial hub proposal by then Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee.

              Cabinet papers from the time note $500,000 was allocated to fund Stobo’s group. Brownlee awarded group members fees he characterised as “top of the range” of up to $655 a day. ”

              “Key’s frustration with officials who recommended the proposal be canned boiled over the following month when he reportedly told the audience at the International Business Forum that official advice criticising the hub was “absolute rubbish”. ”

              “CANCELLED: John Key was to meet Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein in New York. ”

              oh dear…

              but cant buy shares for Cullen fund when the prices are low, oh no sirreeeeee

            • Puckish Rogue

              So why is NZ doing so well in comparison towards the rest of the world? Must be because of Labours stirling work in government…no wait its because of the policies (still not right enough for me but you can’t please everyone) of National

              • Colonial Viper

                Easy. Because we are more left wing and less financialised than most of those other countries, plus we have the massive advantage of currency sovereignty.

              • GregJ

                Must be because of Labours stirling work in government

                Actually you are right – the reason New Zealand initially weathered the worst of the Global Depression was because of the relatively sound economic footing left by Labour. However after nearly 5 years of the National Governments generally laissez-faire economic management (laissez-faire except of course when it actively intervenes to advantage its corporate cronies, farming interests or the wealthy) we have low & stagnating growth, increased government debt (to pay for unecessary tax cuts which actually sucked money out of the economy), and flat unemployment figures stuck around 6.5% (which only look that “good” because of the non-reporting of significant underemployment and those who have given up on finding any employment).

          • Tracey

            changing the goal pots Puck, re-read your comment to which I replied. perhaps you need to be less broadbrush with your comments.

            • miravox

              “perhaps you need to be less broadbrush with your comments.”

              True. Perhaps defining “doing so well” and “rest of the world” would be a start.

  2. Richard Christie 2

    Sorry, I don’t read NZ Herald editorials.
    Won’t start now.

  3. Saarbo 3

    Too right JH, I would be surprised if there was an investment expert’s around that would have advised the government to stop contributions to the Cullen Fund. Dollar Cost Averaging http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dollar_cost_averaging was always going to mean that just after the GFC was the worst time to stop contributing to the Cullen Fund. So NZ is a net $2.5billion worse off…nice one John and Bill….useless!

  4. Tracey 4

    This decision was contrary to everything people in keys former career know.

    You buy regularly so you catch lows and highs to even out your returns.

    he stopped in part to give tax cuts to a non stimulating part of the econony

    • SpaceMonkey 4.1

      It’s worse than that. By denying the fund money, National have denied the Cullen Fund the opportunity to maximise returns in the sharemarket at a time when the market is humming, albeit artificially. It is where most of the central bank-printed money is going around the world. At some stage it will collapse but not until the quantitative easing ends… and the markers to date indicate that will continue indefinitely.

  5. And there we go with the “inept” again. No it wasn’t. They did not want the NZ Pensionfund to purchase assets. John Key and his masters want it bankrupt as is happening around the globe. We are in hock for at least $112 billion in derivatives which are on the verge of going belly up and the Cullen fund is riddled with the same shitty crap.

    • felix 5.1

      Exactly. Key and English want asset and wealth ownership transferred into private and corporate hands.

      There’s nothing inept about it.

    • SpaceMonkey 5.2

      That’s it in a nutshell. Nothing inept about it, it’s completely deliberate. Max Keiser and many of his guests have frequently highlighted how the traders ensure pension funds and like are ripped off over time. It’s a long play contributing towards collpase and another way in which the banks socialise their losses.

      Additionally, the estimated $11 billion in stopped contributions to the Cullen Fund has meant that is $11 billion less competing with the hedge funds for assets. It’s a win on both fronts for the bankers.

  6. infused 6

    And if it had lost $11b you’d be crying saying why did you put money in it when we were borring so much.


    • felix 6.1

      And if my aunt had bollocks…

      • infused 6.1.1

        I find it pretty telling that you lot are pushing this. It pretty much says you will complain about everything.

        This could have easily gone the wrong way, yet you lot don’t seem to care.

        • felix

          More telling that you support selling assets at the bottom of the market but not buying them.

        • Tracey

          the evidence is it would have gone the right way. Warren Buffett bought at the bottom.

          • infused

            He wasn’t in debt.

            • felix


              • Tracey

                I know felix… It’s like the 76 billion debt expected to have been run up by this government by 2015 has completely missed infused…

                It rather begs the question, infused with what?

            • Tracey

              we weren’t until the national government began borrowing to fund things like it’s tax cuts. I’m sorry you don’t understand the concept of the Cullen Fund and investment generally. I’m also sorry that you don’t understand that Key knew the prudent thing to do was to keep funding the Cullen Fund when the markets were low because he knew that history told us after every collapse came the rebound for those who stayed through the downtimes.

    • Tracey 6.2

      BUT it wouldn’t have lost $11bn… and the borrowing, glad you remember the borrowing, usually the Pm’s supporters erase the borrowing from their minds… and focus on the tiny surplus in 2015.

    • Lanthanide 6.3

      That’s my feeling too, infused.

      • Tracey 6.3.1

        it’s a strategy that has worked historically post crash for all those who had money to take advantage. This government has borrowed billions but not for the Cullen fund… speaks volumes.

    • risildowgtn 6.4

      Thing is idiot it didnt so your argument as usual is full of shit

  7. Rogue Trooper 7

    The Longevity Sandals and Socks of NZ Super

    (got that surplus 200-400K to maintain living in the style you’ve grown accustomed to in retirement?)-RNZ

  8. King Kong 8

    If any of you are worried about the super fund being light when it comes time for you to retire you could always personally borrow money to invest for your retirement. It is a genius move after all.

    • SpaceMonkey 8.1

      Except the near-0% loans from the central-banks are not available to the ordinary individual… otherwise I would be in there, along with everyone else. Can’t have that… it would create too much competition for the hedge funds and competition is bad for business.

      • King Kong 8.1.1

        Would be interested to hear about these 0% loans the Goverment can get its hands on.

        • Tracey

          Dirk van Dijk, writing for the investor website Zacks.com, explains what a good deal this is for the banks:

          “Keeping short-term rates low . . . is particularly helpful to the big banks like Bank of America (BAC) and JPMorgan (JPM). Their raw material is short-term money, which is effectively free right now. They can borrow at 0.25% or less, and then turn around and invest those funds in, say, a 5-year T-note at 2.50%, locking in an almost risk-free profit of 2.25%. On big enough sums of money, this can be very profitable, and will help to recapitalize the banking system (provided they don’t drain capital by paying it out in dividends or frittering it away in outrageous bonuses to their top executives).”

          • King Kong

            In this US example the Government borrowing side of things is the T-note which has an interest bill of 2.5%. Hardly 0% is it.

            • Colonial Viper

              Are you being an idiot on purpose? It’s a good deal for the Primary Dealers who get their money for near free from the privately owned Federal Reserve system under ZIRP, and who then proceed to rip the US gov off and the US tax payers off to the tune of 2.5% pa by buying T-bills and T-bonds.

        • Lightly

          The personal loan rate in NZ is what – 8-10%? The Govt has been borrowing at under 3%.

    • Tracey 8.2

      isn’t that what your government is really doing? $76bn by 2015.

  9. newsense 9

    We should introduce a tax on those who voted National in 2008/2011 to pay for the lost Super fund money..or simply not pay it out to those who did until the ledger is square.

  10. Treetop 10

    Just read on Stuff that Aussie has over 1 million millionaires. Population about 23 million. Aussie has the highest median wealth of adults in the world.

    • Colonial Viper 10.1

      So how many of these “millionaires” can buy a house in Sydney nowadays?

      Let’s be realistic, having a million bucks in the 80’s meant something. Nowadays it means having a small pad in Takapuna and a bit of a Kiwisaver fund. Meh, that’s “progress” I suppose.

      • Treetop 10.1.1

        Imagine what they could buy in NZ.

        I have not checked out the Sydney real estate market recently.

        Is it worse than Auckland central city when you compare it to the difference in wages?

      • MrSmith 10.1.2

        No that’s inflation Cv, how a large proportion of us make our money.

  11. Ad 11

    Completely agree with this post. Hopefully Parker will grow some nads and follow your advice.

  12. tricldrown 12

    Klueless klutz.
    T bills .51% is the current rate.
    Some longerterm bills have a negative rate.

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