• One way to save money on life insurance if you’re sporty

    A few weeks ago I got a pitch from an insurance company, and my first instinct was to cringe. If you’re a blogger of any size, you get brands reaching out to you and probably 99% of the time they are a terrible fit.

    But – and I can say this hand on heart – this one was actually a bit different.

    The pitch: HealthIQ offers a way for health conscious people to save money on life insurance.

    Obviously I don’t live in the US and I know jack about your insurance market. But if I did, I’d definitely give them a look.

    If you work out 3+ hours a week or even eat a vegan diet, then you might be eligible for lower rates. Here are some of the ways HealthIQ can help you save on life insurance, if you’re into any of the below:

    • Yoga
    • Running
    • Tennis
    • Lifting
    • Cycling
    • Crossfit
    • Swimming
    • Triathlons

    Whatever your exercise thing is, there are special insurance rates available and various savings qualifiers. (Example: up to 25% off if you can run a mile in 8 minutes.) HealthIQ partners with dozens of major carriers and works with you to identify the best options.

    Want to find out more? Click here to get your free quote.

  • How to break the cycle of underearning (because you’re worth it)

    How to overcome underearning and make what you're worth

    How to overcome underearning and make what you're worth

    Money troubles usually come down to one of two things: overspending or underearning.

    There’s a million and one posts out there about curbing spending. But underearning is a less explored – and thornier – subject.

    Are you an underearner? I suspect that I was, briefly. But I didn’t realise it until recently.

    It all started when I came across this podcast with Bari Tessler and ended with me reading Secrets of Six Figure Women by Barbara Stanny. I can’t say I’d ever really come across the concept before. 

    It’s a sensitive topic – who wants to think that they’re not living up to their potential? ‘Underearner’ is not a particularly flattering label. But the key is about desire – many of us have the potential to earn more in different types of work but choose not to.

    What is underearning?

    Underearning, as I’ve seen it defined, is about earning less than you want to. Bringing in less than you need or than would be beneficial, despite attempting otherwise.

    It’s not about raw numbers. Or the hours you work. Or ‘underachieving’.

    It’s about the ability (could earn more) combined with the desire (want to earn more) but for whatever reason, it isn’t happening.

    Reverse snobbery

    Especially in creative fields, I think there’s often a bit of reverse snobbery at play. Prejudices against money and toward the wealthy. We sort of believe and play into the idea of the nobility of poverty – of struggling for art. Making money is selling out. As Tessler points out, creative and self employed types often set fees too low – and don’t raise them often enough.

    But as Stanny writes in her book, ironically, few people work harder or obsess more about lack of money than underearners do.

     As the artist Willem de Kooning once aptly remarked, ‘The trouble with being poor is that it takes up all your time’. 

    Not having enough money is exhausting. Dealing with the realities of hardship is a constant grind.

    I suspect as women, there may be an added dimension at play. We are, after all, relatively new to the workplace as we know it compared to men. Home is still considered the female domain, and we’re still considered the nurturers and caretakers. A point raised in an episode of The Broad Experience (a great podcast on women and success that I’ve recently discovered) was that often we perceive ‘doing well’ as being materialistic, or greedy. I’ve definitely encountered that in reaction to things I’ve written on the blog here and there! But more on that a bit later on. 

    How to overcome underearning

    There are many external factors that affect how much we currently earn. Also, life happens and sometimes your income takes a hit.

    Not to mention, there are factors that affect how much we CAN earn. Different fields are structured differently. Some will never pay much – choosing to stay in one of those will limit your options. 

    But as with anything else in life, it boils down to focusing on what you can control. That might mean steeling yourself to:

    • Ask for a raise
    • Change roles
    • Switch industries
    • Start your own business and work for yourself

    Staying in a job too long is a common trap – a job that’s comfortable like old jeans, doing things the way you’ve always done them. In most cases, changing companies is the fastest way to advance pay-wise.

    But most importantly: learn to ask for what you’re worth. Even if that feels uncomfortable. Even if it seems outrageous. Negotiate salary offers, and ask for raises. That’s what it all seems to boil down to. 

    Overcoming underearning pretty much requires that you believe in your value, and stick to it. I was so at risk of underselling myself when I left journalism (thankfully, it worked out even better than I’d hoped). I knew better for the next time around, and I got exactly what I wanted upon my next move

    There’s a huge mental component to underearning. Most of us can’t just flick a switch and suddenly become a totally different person. Here’s where I’ve gleaned another tip from The Broad Experience: You need your own WWJD mantra. Think of somebody that you know – someone who’s direct and isn’t afraid to ask for what they want. What would they do? Channel them!

    Enjoying what you’ve earned

    Despite knowing the market, I feel ridiculously overpaid sometimes – like, how can my work be worth this much? And then I realise people around me are certainly earning 6 figures, and that reboots my perspective – and spurs me on. It would have been totally unfathomable before this; it almost feels like I’ve discovered a secret, tapped into a new level in the game of life, busted through a ceiling.

    None of the six figure women interviewed by Stanny had any qualms about openly declaring their desire to profit. They took pleasure in reaping the rewards of their work. They knew that the more money they made, the more choices they had. Financial freedom is the ultimate flexibility.

    Success goes beyond building up a bank account too; it also includes building up career capital, networks, etc along the way. And with more of these resources at your disposal, you can enjoy more freedom, security, and do more for others.

    Have you struggled with underearning in your career?

  • Link love (the contemplative edition)

    NZMuse - Link love roundup with awesome reads from the week

    One of our Class of 09 journalism grads went straight into a combo PR/marketing/admin role at $60k a year. I remember her telling us that, and I’m pretty sure my jaw literally dropped when she named the figure.

    $60k is, and has always been, an interesting number to me. I feel like it’s quite a polarising one.

    To a huge section of the population, it’s a number they’ll never hit. To others, it’s an entry-level income.

    A colleague recently asked for my thoughts on a piece of work that he was involved in. It will reach thousands and thousands of people – from all industries, regions, life stages, etc – and it had to reference a certain number as an example. Specifically, it had to be an example of an average salary over a lifetime.

    Was $60k too high to cite as an average salary over a career, he wondered?

    Old me would have said yes. New me, no.

    But I’m not sure if I’m in the majority on that – I suspect possibly not, given that NZ is such a low wage economy.

    I used to think $60k was so much money. But realistically, in Auckland, it is not. It’s possible to survive on a $40k journalism income, but if you aspire to more than just survival…

    I wanted to hit $60k when I left journalism, but it felt like so much to ask for. I could not imagine my work being worth $60k. They offered me a salary even higher than that, and at that point my jaw literally dropped, once more.

    Failing to value yourself is a key trait of underearning – a concept I’ve really only stumbled across in the past year or so. And that, my friends, is the topic of my very next post. Stay tuned.

    This week’s links

    How much do flight attendants really make? 

    How to buy a house in your 20s 

    Don’t let your debt depress you

    Yes please. Stop telling your friends to become an entrepreneur

    How to spend money on yourself and your own happiness!

  • What my Asian parents taught me about money


    Like all true Asian parents, mine drilled the work first, play later mentality into me.

    (Though in fairness they were nowhere near Amy Chua tiger mother levels.)

    And along with modelling delayed gratification, my Asian family also taught me a few things about money over the years that I’ve never forgotten.

    Shop the sales

    Apparently I once asked Mum, “why don’t you ever buy anything that’s not on special?”

    She is the most frugal person I know. Never overpays for anything, and knows how to get the best price on everything.

    Back when we were in primary school, I once went to the supermarket with my best friend in primary school to get snacks. We were so proud to find and buy bottles of Coke on special for 99c. Even my friend’s dad praised us for our bargain hunting ways!

    Not my mum. At their lowest price, she informed us, you could get those bottles on special for 79c.

    She is the queen of thrift shopping and I didn’t really appreciate it until adulthood. Now I’m like, tell me all your secrets.

    Always negotiate

    We spent a lot of time at garage sales when I was a kid and I watched the master bargainers in action. Whether it was a $2 doll or a $600 TV, they would always ask for a better deal (as it turns out, basically everything is negotiable).

    Despite all that, I could barely bring myself to haggle at markets while travelling through Asia. And I think back on the times I didn’t negotiate salary and mentally kick myself.

    I get the theory, but actually doing it is a different kettle of fish.

    Needs vs wants

    Wants never masqueraded as needs in our household, not even for a second. People bleat on about how extravagant parents are with presents for their kids, but we literally didn’t get gifts. I feel like we could have done with more wants, growing up.

    (For years we didn’t have a TV – before broadband, before streaming, and so I never got to participate in conversations about last night’s TV shows at school. #firstworldproblems)

    OTOH, sometimes needs can be disguised as wants…

    Props to them for trying to pass off buying me a sleeping bag (you know, for school camp) as an early birthday present. (Spoiler: didn’t fall for it.) Even 10-year-old me knew better.

    I’ve always stood by the belief that gifts are for things you want, not things you need. That will never change.

    What did you learn from your family about money?

    Disease Called Debt
  • Link love (the ranty edition)

    NZMuse - Link love roundup with awesome reads from the week

    Indulge me, if you will, in getting a few things off my chest:

    WTF: Steamrolling your fiancee into changing her name (if you care that much, you better damn well be just as open to changing your own surname).

    WTF: Caring more about whether a baby is born, than the quality of life it is going to have as a human for all the years beyond that

    WTF: Believing that you, as a non-indigenous person, have more claim to the country that you live in than any other immigrant

    I think that helped.

    Need to let off some steam? Blow all your steam off in the comments. Go for it.

    This week’s links (the first link love of 2017, if you can believe it!)

    For 90% of us, LESS money is NOT the solution (Couldn’t agree more! People who espouse this sound so hilariously oblivious to me, and I wrote about this exact topic late last year)

    How to stop expecting certain things of people

    Bullshit reasons not to buy a house, refuted

    How to let go of financial regrets

    10 daily money affirmations 

    8 money moments for your bucket list

    The underlying privilege in minimalism

    How to deal with food boredom

    5 ways to spend on your marriage

  • Get your money mojo back with these 8 quick financial wins

    8 quick financial wins to get your money mojo back


    Sometimes financial progress is slow. Like any other habit, getting sorted with money is an ongoing process.

    Sometimes, you just need an easy win.

    Here are a few quick financial wins I’ve found recently – there’s nothing quite like that sense of accomplishment!

    Check your credit report

    A quick win if there ever was one – requesting your credit report doesn’t cost any money and only takes a few minutes of your time. Hopefully there are no surprises! If all looks good, you get to sit back and relax for awhile. If there are any errors, it’s better to know about them now and get onto addressing them sooner rather than later.

    Organise financial paperwork

    I feel like I’m constantly chasing a pile of papers, even though I’ve transitioned to getting most things by email. Banking, mortgage, tax, investing, insurance and any other kind of financial documents lying around deserve a place to live. I sat down awhile ago and sorted them into various folders. Having some semblance of order there felt like a massive step forward!

    Make an extra payment

    Whatever amount you can throw at that loan, credit card, mortgage! Every little bit counts and results in less interest paid overall. WIN.

    Set up an automatic transfer to savings/investing

    For the first time, I have an automated investing plan (outside of KiwiSaver). It’s only $100 a month ($50 into 2 different funds) but you know, it was really hard to push the button on. I still have a massive fear of financial commitments but I am so, so aware of the power of paying yourself first.

    Start tracking net worth

    I kind of did this a couple of times, randomly, between the time I started working full time and the time I took a six-month leave to travel. I was pleasantly surprised, upon returning home, to see that the number wasn’t quite as low as I expected! Obviously I’d drained most of my liquid funds, but the investments I had kept growing, and so the total sum looked a little healthier than I anticipated. Anyway, since buying a house I’ve started tracking my net worth every month. It’s incredibly motivating to see the steady progress!

    And while I’m on a roll, here are a few more ideas I came up with! All it takes is ONE thing for each of these – a single focus at a time.

    Pick 1 thing to cut back on buying

    Delicious pies. Overpriced juices. Skincare that never lives up to its miraculous claims. Whatever. Choose a line item and reduce spending there! Not saying cut it out – just trim it back.

    Review 1 bill

    You know, those boring but important and regular-as-clockwork bills. Power. Internet. Insurance. Choose one, do some research, shop around for a better deal. Maybe even negotiate with your current provider – they might sharpen up the price on your package. (Confession: I seriously never make time to do this, and I should!)

    Track spending for 1 month

    If you’ve never really tracked your spending, have fallen out of the habit, or perhaps had major changes to your financial situation, give it a go – it might be illuminating. People always go on about the hidden costs of home ownership – in my case I’ve been making do as much as possible and haven’t really spent much on the actual place, but between setting up a veggie garden, the chickens, and the dogs? Yeah…

    Got any money moves to share that give you that sweet, sweet feeling of accomplishment?

  • Financial vampires: Is there one in your life?

    Financial vampires - cut them out of your life

    Have you ever had a financial vampire in your life?

    Some people are just financially toxic. They are in the shit moneywise, and by merely being present in your life, will drag you down too.

    You may feel obligated to help, or they may explicitly pressure you to do so.

    Whatever their situation, do not risk your own financial wellbeing on their behalf.

    When you step into the role of the money martyr, odds are you’re not just damaging your own financial health but also doing a number on your emotional and physical health as well in the process.

    Those who truly love us and have our best interests at heart will not expect this of us.

    I mean, it feels good to be selfless, if you can afford it. Not to get all The Secret-y on you, but I swear little windfalls have correlated with times that I’ve given more.

    And yet.

    Beware of giving up too much to the people closest to you.

    There’s a difference between supporting someone through a temporary rough patch, vs enabling consistently poor choices and habits. The trick is making that distinction and it’s not always easy to see where that line falls, particularly in a newer relationship.

    I’ve spoken to so many people recently who’ve been in relationships where a significant other has taken advantage of their financial goodwill. In some cases it’s been about subsidising their slacker partners; in others it’s been about taking responsibility for a partner’s debt, or even incurring new debt on their behalf.

    We all agreed on one thing: we’d be much better off today if we’d wised up earlier. Sexually transmitted debt – it’s a thing, and in the worst cases can take years to bounce back from.

    We only get one shot at life, and it’s okay to put your own financial wellbeing first. Start by helping yourself and securing your own needs, then you can turn your attention to helping others.

    When it comes to financially toxic relationships, it’s best to cut those losses earlier rather than later. As a wise friend said, we aren’t just hurting our current selves by staying – we’re also hurting our future selves.

    Give generously. But never, ever sacrifice your own financial stability for anyone else’s sake.

    When it comes to money, ALWAYS put yourself first.

  • How the young and broke make car-related decisions

    Is it worth buying a manual car? You can push start them in a pinch if they won’t start.

    How long should we register it for? It’s cheaper overall to buy a full year’s registration upfront … but what are the odds this car is going to last that long?

    How much should we put in the tank this week? If this is the week it dies….

    (Seriously, I swear every one of our past clunkers gave up when on a relatively full tank, or was put out of action for an extended period of time with lots of petrol in the tank, such as after that one big accident…)

    I do NOT miss the constant stress of owning a beater – rattling around with multiple things falling apart, only ever being about one repair away from scrapping the whole thing. When just one more would be the last straw tipping it over the edge to not-worth-it.

    This may as well have been our anthem.

    One of the best things about earning more is being able to afford a much better vehicle that doesn’t give us cause to worry.

    I’m not happy that we needed to replace two tyres this month (are our wheels just magnets for nails?!) but very grateful that we passed the WOF check (our 2nd in this car!) with no drama, and are good for another year.

  • An update on life with two rescue dogs

    Two cute dogsIt’s now been 10 months since adopting Leila, and 5 since adopting Max. Life with two dogs is never dull.

    Neither had normal lives. Each was a little over a year old when we got them. She’d spent most of her life at the SPCA, and while we don’t know much about Max’s background – he had recently been brought in by an inspector – it doesn’t seem like he was in a great situation. He had big scars on both ears apparently from flystrike, which still haven’t totally healed to invisibility, and his coat was in horrible shape.

    Bringing home a second dog

    They got along swimmingly at the meet and greet, and we brought him home that afternoon. Later that evening, when she realised he wasn’t leaving, though, she started growling at him. There were some scuffles and scraps those first few days, but they’ve bonded really strongly. He in particular seems to miss her when they’re apart and get nervous (he’s a worrier!) and they get along 99% of the time. I thrive on all the cute moments when they’re nuzzling and grooming each other. And then I sigh at all their tussling; they warned us that he has a rough play style, and she’s totally embraced that. They rough and tumble a LOT.

    Max had a lot of accidents inside to start with, and it took probably close to two months for his stomach to settle, poor boy. Runny poos for weeks upon weeks, and he even had a worm or two when he first came home with us. It took probably three months for his coat to lose its dry, strawlike, shedding condition. Now it’s shiner with deeper, bronzy hues and it makes me so happy to see that.

    Of course they had to teach each other the worst of their habits….

    She never used to go stealing kibble out of the bag (which we used to leave in the laundry room, unsealed) or rooting around in the rubbish bin. Now – after one particularly epic mess in which they tore up a nearly full bag and gorged on a fair bit of it – the food is now off limits in a cupboard.

    He was never the slightest bit reactive to other dogs, but having been party to some of her overreactions out in public, he now echoes her barking and pulling if she reacts. Oh, and he does this weird thing of tucking one paw under the rest of that leg, which she’s started doing.

    There were lots of rough moments for a few months. We’d been making progress with training Leila out of jumping up (at people), which regressed because of Max and his jumping tendencies. Their rough and tumbling was a bit extreme – constantly playing chase around the house, tearing around through the garden and because we got him in winter, lots of mud tracked through the house after racing around outside in the yard. And there are moments of sibling rivalry from time to time.

    The good, bad and ugly

    They are opposites.

    She’s smart and a quick learner, and clean (and quiet). He’s dopey, prone to farts, a snorer.

    She’s fairly good off lead though her recall is definitely not perfect – especially when other dogs are around. Once, winter storm winds blew our gate open during the day, but she didn’t leave the yard. On lead, she’s still prone to pulling until she’s worked off a bit of that initial energy at the start of the walk. He’s good on lead but prone to running away in general – it was a nightmare those first few months. Squeezing through the fence, bolting out the front door, etc, and we can’t trust him off lead yet.

    But she’s definitely the special needs one. They say collies are the most neurotic of dogs, which rings true for her. Her quirks have always been endearing. But one in particular is proving rather trying (well, aside from the carsickness!).

    She’s always been very dog reactive. From the beginning, she’d sometimes freak out if we saw other dogs and she couldn’t interact with them. Pulling, crying, whining, barking, whatever. We were working on it, knowing it would take time to train her.

    Then there was an incident with another dog (long story, she was at a family member’s house with a few of the in laws and one of their dogs, neither of us were there at the time, there was a fight between her and the other dog). She still has a tiny little scar on her face from it. Anyway, since then, her reactivity has only worsened. Now she reacts to almost every dog (previously it was a bit less predictable – small dogs usually, but sometimes larger dogs were okay).  It’s a real shame and unfortunately there is no overnight solution. It’s a work in progress, and I can’t lie, that progress is slower than I’d hoped. We may get some professional help soon. Between that and the fact we can’t trust Max off leash, my visions of fun and carefree outdoor adventures have been dialled way back. Even daily walks often require prep and planning when you own a reactive dog.

    I don’t even want to think about what we’ve spent on them to date. I reckon it’s reasonable for two medium sized dogs, but as with any regular expense you add up over time… eek.

    Worth every cent, though.


  • What to do when you find that old stash of leftover foreign currency…

    leftover currency exchangeEver found a bunch of random foreign coins or notes rattling around in a drawer, languishing after a trip years ago? (Or in my case, falling out of a jacket pocket when bending over to pick something up?)

    Even if they’re of a now obsolete currency (franc, drachma, lira) there’s a new option for exchanging these online at Leftover Currency. They are based in London, but can be used from anywhere in the world to exchange travel money in more than 50 different currencies.

    How it works: say I wanted to exchange Czech koruna from my visit to Prague. I’d select the corresponding currency, then click on the matching banknote or coin to ‘add’ it to my online wallet. (Rinse and repeat as appropriate.) It’s kind of like a reverse shopping cart.

    The screen shows how much cash – either in US dollars, euros or pounds – I would receive in return based on the current exchange rates. Then it’s a case of filling in a few details, grabbing a reference number and mailing the currency to their office. (Londoners can drop by in person.)

    Once processed, you get paid by Paypal, bank transfer or cheque (depending on the option you chose). You can also choose to donate the value of your currency to charity instead – there are a handful of nonprofit causes supported by the site.

    It’s often difficult making it work so that you use up all of your foreign cash by the end of a trip – more so in some countries than others, depending how widely card payments are accepted there. Those coin donation boxes at airport terminals exist for a reason! But now there are more choices than ever.