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7 reflections on money and financial resilience


This month I was at the latest OECD conference on financial education, bringing together attendees from nearly 50 countries from around the world.

I jotted down various random points but I wanted to put down in a post some of the thoughts I came away with – some new, some simply reinforcing.

5 new things

So glad KiwiSaver is as simple as it is: administered centrally, goes along with you even if you change employer. It would be great if there were tax incentives and if provider fees came down but overall it could be worse.

Economic anthropologists are a thing?! If I was more academic, this would totally be an ideal career path.

Designing financial products for people in a variety of situations is so crucial. I’ve read a lot about apps like Digit but always from the perspective of bloggers trying to hack savings, essentially. But it was raised here as an example of tech that can be used by people with unstable incomes to save when they do have money, but not force it when they don’t.

Financial resilience: I really liked these four indicators of financial resilience. 1) Control over your day to day finances. 2) Being on track to meet your financial goals. 3) The ability to cope with financial shocks. 4) The freedom to take advantage of opportunities and make choices to enjoy life. Speaks to me.

The notion of retiring with dignity: Look, wealth is not just about money. But we will all need money to get by when we stop working. The non financial aspects of wealth will absolutely help make retirement enjoyable but without sufficient funds to cover the basics of living, retiring won’t be much fun at all. I know I want more than just ‘getting by’; I want choices. Working toward a dignified retirement is something I can get behind.

2 reminders

Job and income volatility is a killer for financial security. Between that and other systemic factors like stagnant wages and rising costs, the gig economy and the rise of automation, things really are different for this generation. The benefits of certain trends are borne by certain parts of society but the costs are typically borne by others.

Obvious but something those not on the frontline of financial education/literacy sometimes lose sight of: how hard it is to save when there isn’t much money and life is chaotic. For those in real hardship it’s about triaging the now in order to get to ‘later’. To do otherwise is like swinging a baseball bat while standing in a canoe. At that stage, retirement is the Ferrari of the savings world.

Link love (the overstimulation edition)

Another stranger appeared in my Twitter feed recently. Though not a stranger as it turned out, just another woman going through a divorce who had changed username. They were one of those cute couples who had the same last name and similar @ handles.

(What is the average divorce rate among celebrities? I’ve never understood celebrities who change their names after marriage – the odds are so stacked against you, and if you’re likely to change back in the event of a divorce, why risk the double hassle? And to a lesser degree, I think the same goes for us plebs. I know we all think we’re going to live happily ever after, but many of us won’t. After the mostly terrible past 2 years – even with the buffer of some decent months since – I’m still personally not 100% sure myself. But eh, call me cold.)

Maybe there is some truth to the theory that often, the people who post the most about their wonderful relationships are usually not that solid. The people who aren’t posting are actually busy living life and building their relationship rather than spending time crafting an online narrative about it.

I remember, in the wake of one of my darkest posts here, a reader raising the question – why stick around? What are you getting out of it?

Fair enough. There probably isn’t very much positive stuff on the blog. When things are good I feel no need to write and post. When things are bad, I work through it by writing. I could have said, trust me, there are good things, occasionally. I could have listed them, even. But I suspect they would have sounded weak and generic.

Because … generally the things that make you a good person and a good partner are fairly universal. Honest. Kind. Giving. Dependable. Encouraging. Perhaps good with kids/animals. That kind of thing.

But it seems to me there are many more ways in which to be a bad partner. Lazy. Unmotivated. Dishonest. Selfish. Volatile. Physically abusive. Emotionally abusive. Have an addiction problem. Controlling. Indifferent. Dismissive. Critical. Unsupportive. Unethical. Unreliable.

Maybe. Maybe that’s just my end-of-a-long-week brain going off on illogical tangents. Too many other thoughts swirling around about money and financial literacy and society and systems after the conference I was at, but that can wait till next week’s post. I need sleep.

To the links…

Why I stopped travelling full time

The reality is that when we look at those living in poverty, they often experience multiple issues that cause or are caused by their poverty

We must learn to say no 

The myth of the lifestyle entrepreneur

The first $100k is the hardest (although the majority of it will be tied up in real estate, I hope to hit this by 30)

Can you really afford NOT to buy a house?

Can you afford NOT to buy a house?

As you may expect, the following is a New Zealand and particularly Auckland-centric perspective…and yes, it is a rhetorical question.

Look, for many of us home ownership is beyond reach. That ship has well and truly sailed. Things may change in the future, but then again, they may not.

I’ve managed to scrape into my own place, but I worry about those who haven’t, who won’t.

Buying a house (as in the actual transaction) boils down to nothing more than money – albeit at levels that are wayyyy beyond reach for the average person, seeing as an Auckland house makes more than anyone working an actual job. But owning a home is not just about the money.

New Zealand: where you can’t afford to buy a house … and yet you can’t afford NOT to, either.

What’s your health worth?

Our housing stock is shite and our rentals are the worst. Cold and damp, they are literally making us sick. Renters in NZ have worse health outcomes than homeowners. What’s good health worth? $50 a week? $100? $250?

My house isn’t perfect. In the worst of winter it still gets too cold and the windows mist over. Yet it is many times better than the rentals I’ve endured. I can actually breathe. And that is priceless. More importantly, now I can install insulation, a heat pump, whatever I want.

Fixing renting needs to start here. Longer tenure is pointless if the property still sucks. But that does bring us to…

Can you afford the instability?

Renters have to move. (Often at the most inconvenient times.) Pay nonrefundable agent fees. Pay for the cost of moving (trucks, cleaning, double rent etc) over and over again. Sneak away from work to view houses because viewings are only ever during business hours. And you’ll have to do it many, many times because there’s so much competition for rentals.

That’s before we even try to quantify the stress involved with this lack of tenure. If you want a family, add kids into the picture and imagine how much harder it gets.

And after that…

What will you do when you stop working?

Retirees still need a place to live. Housing is a critical part of the retirement puzzle.

Rents keep going up. In my childhood suburb, my parents’ house has tripled in value, and the price of a 3 bedroom rental then is now the price of a 1 bedroom. Who knows how much market rents will be when it’s time for us to retire, and how much they may rise between then and when we die?

A project that I have been peripherally involved in around retirement policy is generating some discussion here in NZ. One particular submission sums the current situation up quite well, and I paraphrase it here: The political approach to housing is totally dysfunctional, favouring the old and wealthy over the young – and will cause huge problems for the currently young when they come to retire. A key theme among financially secure retirees, or those who are on track to be, is that they own their own homes. They are – or will be – free of a housing payment.

That’s going to change. Even now, there is real concern among renters about what their lives are going to look like in retirement. Moving is expensive, tiring and emotionally draining. Landlords are only going to continue to cash in on their capital gains – I know I would – and who wants to be forced to move at age 70 or 80?

Personally, I didn’t think I could afford to save enough for retirement to make up for not owning a house. I didn’t think the difference between (ever rising) rent and a mortgage payment would actually put me ahead (particularly if I was to try and rent somewhere decent). And there’s definitely something to the ‘forced savings’ discipline of having a mortgage.

But again, this is a choice that is available to fewer and fewer people as time goes on.

Us homeowners have lucked into a huge advantage. And it’s horrendously unfair. Once more with feeling: New Zealand: where you can’t afford to buy a house … and yet you can’t afford NOT to, either.

Link love (the democratic edition)

NZ Muse link love

I think this is the first time I’ve voted in my local body elections.

I can’t say I really understand how local boards work, but I plan to be staying put for the indefinite future and so, I’m more invested in my community than I ever have been.


Young candidates, at least in my area, have no idea how to sell themselves. I ain’t going to vote for you just because you’re young! Tell me something, anything, about your beliefs, policies, etc.

There’s so much pressure to keep rates (our equivalent of property taxes) low. It’s mentioned by so many candidates, and heck, there used to be a party called Citizens & Ratepayers (now changed to the more inclusive Communities and Residents)! Does anyone care about keeping rents affordable? I’m so glad I don’t have to worry about escalating rents any more – just interest rates.

Anyway. To the links. SO MANY GOOD THINGS TO READ THIS WEEK, YOU GUYS. Hope you have an hour spare!

This week’s links

What nobody talks about when they say DO WHAT YOU LOVE

The economics of dining as a couple

Why I don’t want other bloggers’ financial goals

There’s more to life than being an entrepreneur

Contemplating a next job move

Want to earn more? 5 things to do differently

Ponderings on our obsession with happiness

4 financial principles of a healthy relationship

Why you can’t afford low paying freelance gigs

Investing is the savings account I’ve always needed

The myth of gross used things

Anxiety and the hustle mindset


My love/hate relationship with my mortgage

My love hate relationship with my mortgage

I’ve always felt … oddly grateful toward my mortgage.

I feel much better about making mortgage payments every two weeks than I ever did about paying rent. My mortgage is a means to an end:  better health, quality of lifestability (and peace of mind). And one day it will be gone, gone, GONE.

But it does weigh on me sometimes.

I recently got my 6-monthly mortgage statement.  Since buying my house in March I’ve paid off $6574 of principal. Sweet! But nearly half of that was extra repayments, which I made straight to principal. Eeesh.

Much as I want to throw everything at it, though, there are other things I want to do in life. Like modernise my 1960s kitchen, for starters, and invest regularly (outside of KiwiSaver, that is).

I’ve always been terrible with balance, and balancing my mortgage against other financial priorities is probably going to be an ongoing struggle.

Homeowners, how do you feel about your mortgage?

Link love (the warming up edition)

It’s been a week since we put insulation into the roof and the effect has been instant! Temperatures through the whole house are consistent throughout and it seems to be holding more warmth, and for longer (based off the HRV console, which tells us the temperature in the roof and in the house).

I went with these ceiling insulation pads – local, nontoxic, precut to fit standard timber framing for easy DIY.  We wound up with 3 bales left over; a product of having to guess at the size of the house/roof, and the way that the sunroom (dining nook) was added onto the original house meant that extension didn’t really lend itself to adding insulation over that part.

So, if anyone in Auckland is after some Greenstuf ceiling insulation pads, leave me a comment below and I’ll email you! (Your email won’t be visible to anyone except me.)

There are 3 bales, R 2.9, each cover 6.82 sq m. all untouched and unopened. They retail in the range of $107-$130 depending on where you go; happy to knock off a few bucks.

This week’s links

The upside of low earning potential 

Are you an underbuyer or overbuyer?

When do you feel the most attractive?

Why we resist happiness

Finding our financial footing (again)

Finding financial balance with your partner

If there’s one thing I wish my parents had taught me about relationships, it’s the importance of financial compatibility.

Instead, the one lesson they imparted was the importance of genetic testing early on – you know, to ensure we didn’t have any horrible nasties lurking in our cells that might pass on to our kids, when combined with the other person’s DNA.

(I didn’t really take that one on board – not when I was 16, and not when I was older, either.)

High up among the criteria for a suitable prospective partner, according to How To Be An Adult In Relationships author David Richo, is this:

Has no disability with respect to money (e.g., cannot earn, spend, share, save, lend, contribute, receive)

Isn’t this just the most perfect phrase? I’ve never seen it articulated quite so well.

I still think there’s value in different styles. Here’s a really nice way to look at it.

When you think about it, a spender in a relationship is really working on improving your quality of life right now. Savers, on the other hand, are improving your quality of life in the future.

I’ve got a lot of priceless memories; fun experiences I would have missed out on otherwise for sure.

Savers can complement spenders, but it’s certainly not always easy.

I honestly believe we would have well and truly found our groove a long time ago, had multiple bouts of unemployment not derailed things so badly.

Lately we’ve been finding our way again, working toward a workable financial equilibrium.

As it stands now, what I see happening is a rebuilding of trust. Proving that we are both pulling our weight, adequately protecting our income through insurance, so we can work together towards a shared future.

I wish it were the kind of thing that could be done with the flick of a switch, in the blink of an eye, but it’s a process.

Inflation: My lightbulb moment

Stuff generally gets more expensive over time.

I never really thought about this until recently, but it’s true. That’s just how it is.

Inflation makes it so important to grow your income – otherwise you’re actually going backwards. Develop your skills, progress your career, maybe start a business (and get a good accountant for the self-employed).

Inflation makes it so important to invest. Saving is great and necessary, but it will only get you so far. Investing is what really gets you ahead.

To me, inflation also matters when it comes to making decisions around housing. House prices keep climbing here, but so do rents. Hard as it was to get into the market, I believe it was the right choice for me and will continue to be years down the track. (Not to mention all the non-financial benefits to boot…)

Inflation is a fact of life. I feel like this would have been a really good lesson to learn in school!

Link love (the I’ve-been-waiting-for-this edition)

Five days off in a row! That’s right, I’m taking a very long weekend. WOOHOO!

Enjoy a few reads for yours!

This week’s links

The woman you want to be is rich

Envy is a budget killer

Low income dads and their kids

If you’re wondering whether you spend a normal amount on groceries (NZ) … 

The financial empowerment game

Tempted by all the travel deals? Yeah, me too

Now is a great time to be a Kiwi with itchy feet.

It’s seriously never been cheaper to fly.  London from $1300 return? Tokyo from $800 return?

And I’ve been seeing flights to destinations all over North America – yep, not just LA – for less than $1000 one-way. There are so many places I still want to hit over there, possibly on one of these adventure tours

Suffice to say Grabaseat is giving me serious FOMO of late.

Luckily or unluckily, my passport expired earlier this year – pretty much right around the time I bought my house. If those two things weren’t helping keep me grounded I’d probably be raiding my bank accounts right about now!