Link love (the gratitude edition)

NZMuse - Link love roundup with awesome reads from the week

I had originally hoped to buy a house one or two suburbs over, ever so slightly closer to the city (it was a bit of a long shot, to be honest).

I’m glad I didn’t. It worked out for the best.

I love that there are so many great places to run and walk with the pup (and a dog park around the corner). Two major cycleways/walking paths, one that passes horses and vineyards. A short bush/forest trail, even.

I love that we are close to crazy cheap supermarkets and grocers, and down the road from an amazing bakery.

And I love the fact that I can actually get a seat on the train (because it fills up FAST along this line).

I live nearly equidistant from two train stations – they’re about 20 minutes walk from home, though one is slightly closer and can be easily done in 15 at a brisk pace. The train station is just a couple of minutes from my office at the city end. And the train is just so darn civilised – it’s smooth, great for people watching and occasionally there’s wifi.

There is a bus stop practically on my doorstep but it’s slightly more expensive and less frequent. Plus, traffic.  Ugh. There lots of roadworks on nearby so it takes forever to get to the motorway (but at least once on the motorway it’s fine, plus the sea views and the horses near the onramp are easy on the eye). It is a longer walk at the city end to my office (10-15 minutes) but slightly less walking overall still, and it’s more sheltered if it’s raining.

This week’s links

Luck matters – more than you might think

The biggest wastes of time we regret

Every dream starts with this

Simple pleasures

Why we read

Succumbing to lifestyle inflation

A better approach to networking

Convincing a partner to get a better job

And a succinct but bang-on summary of the Auckland housing market

Should you leave your unemployed partner?

Should you leave a chronically unemployed partner?

You are not a terrible person if you’re thinking of leaving a chronically underemployed/unemployed partner. We only get one life, and you’re allowed to put your own interests first. Love is lovely … but so is peace of mind and financial security. In some circumstances it might be blindingly obvious whether to stay or go. But in others it’s not – this one’s for you. (For the record: While things seem to be back on track, I’m keeping things separate so that they’re easy to untangle again if needed.)

How did I know I couldn’t keep going?

When I asked myself, is this relationship adding net value to my life? I could no longer say yes.

For all the good, the bad outweighed it, and had been for a long time.

Nobody knows all the gory details. They don’t need to. Honestly, I could have coped with it all – as long as he had a full time job. But all those things, combined with zero income … different story. Especially given the fact that going separate ways would render him eligible for unemployment benefits.

It is damn hard to tell where supporting becomes enabling, and being taken advantage of.

I am far from blameless. I made mistakes. There are many things I could have done better. And I’m much wiser for it.

I held on too long. Then I came to a crossroads.

I could keep being passive. And I would almost certainly wind up bitter and drained. Probably having a breakdown and having to take time off work – ironically, the only thing keeping us afloat financially, not to mention the only good thing in my life.

Or I could cut my losses. Put myself first for once. Heal from the toll of two years of uncertainty and stress.

Life was exhausting. Going from carrying the weight of two people to just me – it was infinitely lighter. I can’t quantify the relief I felt; I slept like a baby those first few nights after leaving.

There was second-guessing, of course. There always is. But after months of internal back-and-forth, I knew it was the right call. I’d done so much soul searching and so much reading, in pursuit of the answer.

What it boils down to, is that the discussions in these three threads hit me like a ton of bricks. Realising that we might never be financially stable  together. And I simply could not live that way.

It’s so important to have a financially responsible partner.

It takes two. You cannot do it all yourself. And nor should you.

Love and trying isn’t enough.

Love is not willingness to live in a cardboard box together.

Love is doing whatever it takes to not get to that point.

Screw your false dichotomies – we don’t need ’em

Drizzle - The myth of false dichotomies

 

It’s not always an either/or.

  • Devoted, loving, domestic partner who makes no money, vs a workaholic, emotionally unavailable baller.
  • A cute apartment in the central city vs a McMansion in the suburbs.
  • A job you love paying poverty wages vs a job you hate paying six figures.
  • A $1k beater vs a brand new car you’ll be paying off forever.
  • Disposable fast fashion vs investment clothing that lasts a lifetime.

You don’t have to settle for one or the other.

Link love (powered by stew and strolls)

NZ Muse link loveI think I need to accept that life just never gets easier. Yes, you become stronger and smarter but as your resilience grows, so do the hurdles. Gone are the days of high-school-sized issues and injustices. It doesn’t seem fair, but them’s the breaks.

Women are awesome. My closest IRL friends may be male, and have been incredible supports when I needed it, but there are some things they will simply never understand. From crushes in long term relationships to emotional labour and pulling your financial weight, female friends get the gender dynamics that my dudes don’t.

I’m very passionate about the state of the housing market and the huge effects it has on people’s lives – mostly from a quite personal angle, but also at a more macro, societal level.  A spirited conversation about this at our weekly all staff meeting about this very topic and what it all means for New Zealanders – especially in retirement – got me quite fired up and reaffirms that I’m in the right place (both at work and at home). It’s incredible how much difference it makes being free of the “emotional and financial challenges of renting”, as it was put.

This week’s links

A great post on household division of labour and finances when the woman earns more (because things do not always fall neatly along the lines of High Earning Busy Spouse and Low Earning But With Lots of Flexibility Spouse)

Sherry sums up some thoughts on the circular logic of early retirement/financial independence more eloquently than I ever could have

Sometimes, YOU’RE the rich friend

A couple of  things about poverty

How important is job satisfaction, really?

Graduating beyond frugal habits 

You’re making life harder for yourself

What does money mean to you?

Sometimes less is just less – minimalism within reason, guys

Money matters – whether we admit it or not

Money matters - even if we don't like to admit it

You know what? I love money and I don’t care who knows it.

For so long, the underlying driver in my life has been fear.

What it comes down to is money. Money means security and options and ultimately freedom.

Money:

keeps a roof over my head

puts (good) food in my belly

pays for my health care

lets me enjoy my free time

You know what else?

I want to be spoiled. Not all the time. But on the odd special occasion.

I want to treat my friends. Turns out when I have enough, I’m a giver.

Having money in my bank account lets me sleep at night.

No money = stress.

Stress and happiness are mutually exclusive.

Money = peace of mind.

And peace of mind is happiness.

All the money I’ve wasted renting

All the money I've wasted renting

Ten years of renting was a few too many, personally.

Non refundable agent’s fees

A week’s rent plus GST – many, many times over.

Bonds you never see in full again

Fair enough in some cases, but definitely not in others.  And as a tenant you’re at a vast disadvantage here.

Carpet cleaning

Expensive carpet cleaning fees are included in leases by agencies – big and small alike – everywhere. Tenancy law information online seems to suggest these are unlawful, or ‘unenforceable’, but practically speaking, if it’s in the contract what are you going to do, kick up a fuss? There’s a dire shortage of housing in Auckland and it’s hard enough to secure a rental as it is.

Dodgy utilities

I was briefly in a very strange situation where I was in charge of the power bill, and everyone was supposed to split it evenly with me, but there was also a separate couple subletting the self contained downstairs rooms from one of the other flatmates/tenants (who was also the mother of my friend and fellow flatmate), and that flatmate was charging them a flat all inclusive rent and not including them in the power bill split. Yeah, try wrapping your head around that. Then there was the shitty apartment where you had to use their electricity provider – there was no other choice – and that provider had only one plan and no low user option, meaning we were stuck with higher prices than we would be paying on the free market.

Buying and selling things

Every move forces change of some sort – buying or selling appliances and/or furniture depending on each individual property’s size and what is or isn’t provided with it. Fridges, washing machines, tables, couches … It gets old.

Lost and broken stuff

I’ve had countless possessions go missing or break due to flatmates. No point having nice stuff.

And I can’t put a dollar amount on it, but…

So much time and stress. Taking time off during the work day to dart out to viewings (always within business hours) and to agency offices to sign papers.

Literally months of uncertainty over the years when you know you have to move and scramble to find a new place (about six months total in 2015 alone).

Fighting shitty landlords trying to blame us for things going wrong with the house, so they wouldn’t have to foot the bill for their own maintenance and repairs.

So, so glad not to be living what amounts to a temporary life anymore.

Link love (the settling in edition)

NZ Muse link love

There’s quite a few things I need to furnish my house, but it will be a slow process as I’m on a tight budget.

As with clothing, my preference is to buy second hand and get better quality.

I find myself walking a fine line, though. Obviously, I want pieces that are solid and in good shape, that look presentable. Not necessarily pristine – after all they’re going to take a battering in my household! But I don’t want items that have already sustained actual injuries in the line of war, like rips and tears.

This week’s links

PSA: fill up your own cup first

The funnel of financial privilege

What money is really for

Income as power

A millennial and baby boomer trade places

What travel does for (and to) you

When you find yourself surprised by what you want out of life

A life without writing

The comments on this post are really quite excellent

So you want to buy a house in Auckland?

So you want to buy a house in Auckland?

It’s funny that buying a house is one of the most stressful times in life, and a time when you’re also forced to deal with all sorts of horrible people – realtors, bankers, lawyers. (I don’t say that in a mean-hearted way; I was once a journalist, one of the most reviled jobs on the most-hated professions list every year.)

The good ones make things easy and I think I got off fairly lightly on that front! I would definitely use my lawyer and broker again. (Alas, we do not have buyer’s agents in NZ.) You’d think it would be quite rewarding, too, helping people achieve a big dream and being involved in part of that happy (if stressful) process. They’re only in our lives for a brief stretch of time, but it’s such a significant period.

That said, I encountered NO END of awful agents and nightmarish properties.

Allow me to rant a little about…

The houses themselves

There are so many damn things to watch out for, the most obvious being leaky homes. But then there’s also all sorts of other materials to be wary of. Asbestos in older houses. Weatherside (I’d never heard of it before), a cladding that looks just like hardiplank but not as sturdy, and falls apart.

Then there’s unconsented work to look out for, or things that don’t match the plans.

I wasn’t opposed to buying a do-up, but do-ups need to be affordable enough in the first place to make financial sense (because you still need to pay for all the renovations!) and in no case did the prices stack up. Plus there were basically no “light” do-ups. They were universally in dire need of a total overhaul… and when you’re spending half a million dollars, you want it to be somewhat liveable off the bat.

And other stuff

I lost count of how many times I turned up to an open home (or emailed about a listed property to organise a viewing) only to be told that it was already under contract. Look, I get why they continue to do showings when an offer is still conditional, but I think it’s lame not to be upfront about it, when it’s rare for contracts to fall through. I can only think of about one instance where I saw the actual house listing had been edited to say “under contract” online, in every other instance it was a case of ‘surprise’!

Speaking of agents, not to tar ‘em all with one brush, but the majority I had the misfortune of crossing paths with were useless. Can’t tell you anything, or won’t tell you anything – well, I’m not going to get a lawyer to check the plans or a builder to inspect the place for every single house I have a modicum of interest in!

I suspect it’s damn near impossible to actually use KiwiSaver funds toward the deposit that goes to the seller’s lawyer. They say you need at least 10 days to process the withdrawal, and that’s a long time. I only had five days to go unconditional – my KiwiSaver money went toward the remaining balance for settlement.

And can I add the weird mind games that come about when bidding on a house? There were eight on this one. You’re in to win and then at the end of it all, second guessing yourself – am I paying too much?

Also, I (perhaps naively) imagined my broker would be 100% in the know and up to date with all things KiwiSaver and home-buying related. Not quite the case.

Hey, vendor’s lawyers: how about being prompt with sending through the dang statement with the final sum to settle? Do you want a deal or not? Because I want to pay you. Seriously.

Finally, dear bank: so my passport expired a week after my mortgage draw down / settlement day, and months after my initial approval, and you need an updated form of ID now? And are you seriously going to ask me for updated ID every few years?

Life after journalism: No regrets

Life after journalism: No regrets

Looks like my two year anniversary has flown by!

Leaving publishing enabled me to buy a home and break the clunker car cycle. I’ve built on my existing skill set and learned so much more. I think I’ve found my place.

For me the shift wasn’t terribly huge or hard. But here are a few observations on what was different and took a bit of getting used to…

Acronyms
So many acronyms. From BAU and COB to industry specific ones, they are endless.

Meetings
So many meetings. Some useful, some not so much.

Email chains
How long can you go? That is the question.

Microsoft everything
My last publishing job had me working on a Mac, and switching back to PC was a little rough. But mostly it was a bit of a learning curve getting the hang of basic Office-type things that I’d never really had to deal with before, from Track Changes to Powerpoint, booking meeting rooms and setting up appointments via Outlook, etc.

Big budgets
In comparison to where I came from? Everything is extravagant. Spending basically any amount of money is a luxury.

Ebbs and flows
There are more seasonal rhythms to work now, which I must admit is a nice change from daily madness. The wheels also tend to move slower. Along with a colleague who’s also an ex journo, I’m frequently bemused by how long it can take to get some things done. We’re used to getting on with it – no faffing about, no wasting money.

Having been ensconced in the public sector so far, I’m wondering if I want to venture into the corporate world at some point. But there’s still plenty of time to think about the long game.

I got 99 problems but insurance ain’t one

Income protection insurance NZ

 

The worst thing about New Zealand (aside from our property market, which is FUBAR) is how unemployment works.

If you’re over 65, you get superannuation. It’s not means tested. Everyone can receive it.

If you’re employed, you pay ACC levies as part of your taxes. If you get hurt and can’t work, then ACC covers part of your wages, based on your earnings.

If you’ve been working but lose your job, unless you’re basically destitute, you won’t be able to get unemployment (or Jobseeker Support, as I believe it’s now called) if you live with a partner who is employed. Even though you’ve been working and paying taxes.

I work with a lot of Brits, one of whom once voiced surprise at how common it is to have income protection insurance in New Zealand. The reason is pretty simple: it’s necessary.

I now have insurance that will cover 45% of my income for awhile if I’m not working. I have some trauma insurance, which provides a lump sum if I get seriously ill. And I also have a bit of life insurance, which probably isn’t technically needed just yet but hey, it’s a cheap addition.

For this peace of mind I will be forking out about $800 a year, which is more than car insurance but less than house insurance or contents insurance.

I got these insurances through an insurance broker, who was in turn referred to me by my mortgage broker. Insurance is definitely a grudge purchase, but I wouldn’t be without it, particularly now with a mortgage.

Am I a grown up yet?