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…

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

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?

Adventures in first home buying

Buying a first house in AucklandThis was not how I pictured myself buying a house.

I imagined being blissfully married, with two reliable incomes, a solid savings history, starting to think about a family, maybe.

None of this was true in 2016.

But the main thing is I now have a stable place to call home. It means the world to me to have a house of my own, after two years of living in a holding pattern. The last few months in particular have been the textbook definition of ‘transitory period’ and I’m so ready to put them behind me.

A few false starts

I lost track of how many houses I saw. Dozens upon dozens. But here are the ones that came close.

The first one I saw was a cute early 1900s bungalow with a country feel, hardwood floors and nice outdoor flow. But conversely, there was no available information upfront about what updates (if any) had been done to bring it up to code, the kitchen was cramped and there was only one minuscule wardrobe (this was a tiny place with barely two bedrooms).

The next one I liked was a similarly country-feeling house, except this one was actually semi-rural, with a septic tank and all! Again only two bedrooms, but it was the location that gave me pause – it was just a little too far away. Plus, it was on a unit title, something I’d rather avoid.

Then there was an unassuming duplex that dropped my jaw once I stepped inside. Perfection in every way. There was even an adorable spiral staircase. The buts: it was two stories rather than single level, attached to another unit, parking was limited, and it was cross lease.

This one ticked basically all the boxes. Liveable off the bat, solid bones, sunny and cosy. Of course there are things I’d like to do but they can be tackled slowly and aren’t major or urgent, and there’s room to renovate.

But how do I actually do this?

I have yet to find ANYWHERE a brutally detailed, step by step guide to buying a house in New Zealand. I had basically no idea what to expect at each stage. There are bits and pieces of info online but what I desperately wanted was a thorough walk-through. I hope to never ever do this again in my entire life … but just in case, I’ve recorded the process for reference. Here’s my experience of buying a house by negotiation in Auckland.

Apply for mortgage preapproval

Meet with broker, do paperwork, gather supporting documentation.


I was applying for a Welcome Home loan, which takes quite a long time to process – two weeks in this case. It was an immense relief when it finally came (I was half convinced I would be rejected, given my usually stellar records had taken a big hit thanks to the whole unemployed partner debacle) and I had a wee lie down on the floor after opening that joyous email.

Start going to open homes

Graduate from stalking listings online to actually going out and seeing properties.


Endless viewings every weekend; scrambling to view new listings after work before they get snapped up. And then emailing my broker about every individual listing that I was seriously considering. Bleh.

Negotiating/Making an offer

AKA welcome to Stressville.

This house was listed as ‘deadline private treaty’ – aka get your offers in by a certain date. That date was about a month out and I could tell it wouldn’t get anywhere near that point. Indeed, after one look around I knew it would go like hot cakes; we got there about 10 minutes into the first open home, and there was already at least one offer in.

Getting mine in apparently involved signing a non binding  ‘offer to purchase’ form, which looked ridiculously informal. Scribble in your offer amount, desired conditions … and then text a photo to the agent. I wish I was kidding.

We popped back the following day for the second open home, which confirmed my first impressions. There were even more offers by this time. After this viewing, the negotiation commenced that same evening. It was an exhausting and inefficient round robin over the phone, slowly whittling down the eight bidders to one.

You know, I had all these grand notions about crafting an emotive personal letter to submit with my offer that would dazzle the sellers and help secure my bid … but this didn’t happen. In the end it had no bearing on the situation, and it was only money that talked.

Getting the call to say I’d gotten the house was pretty surreal. Then came a congratulatory text from the agent, and a bit of emoji-heavy banter back and forth.

Sealing the deal

Forget Stressville, now we’re in Stress City.

Hurrah for long weekends. On Auckland Anniversary, I went in to sign the sale and purchase agreement and organise to pay the deposit. The contract was a super daunting document in some ways and yet so underwhelming in others. It wasn’t totally unfamiliar to me, as the agent for the very first house I went to actually gave us an S&P agreement to take away. Then the contract was sent to the broker and lawyer, and the wheels set in motion for the next phase.

Working through the conditions

No rest for the wicked.

The agent provided a LIM report, so I just had to confirm finance and organise a building inspection. Seriously – the longest five working days of my life. And as if I didn’t have enough on my plate already, I had to contend with daily calls/texts from the agent nagging me for updates and reminding me about all the backup offers on the table. Duuuude.

More paperwork than you’ve ever dreamed of

So much you could drown in it, if the papercuts didn’t kill you first.

KiwiSaver first home withdrawal forms.

More bank forms (including a terrifyingly huge number called Priority Sum. I’d never heard of it. Still couldn’t explain it to you, really. Thank god for Google).

Confirming mortgage structure and interest rates.

Getting house insurance.

And income/life insurance.

Organising account setup with the new bank.

The land transfer form.

More bank forms (these ones signed in person at the lawyer’s office) and title form.

Waiting for the vendor’s lawyer to send through the final settlement statement with sum to settle.

A minor panic when it came time to transfer the balance to the trust account, and the lawyer’s deposit slip seemed to have some extra digits at the end of the bank account – as if my nerves weren’t already shot enough!

(I accept no responsibility for any inaccuracies in the naming of the documents listed above.)

Settlement day

AKA the most nerve wracking day of all.

My lawyer had told me not to worry if I didn’t hear anything from her during the day. That would probably be a bad thing – it means something’s gone wrong. Just hang tight.

The first person I heard from was the agent. About 11.30, he texted saying they had the all clear to give me the keys, and could he drop them off to my office? (Um, YES.)

A couple hours later the lawyer emailed to wrap things up. And boom, hello homeownership.

* * *

A garden, a dog, compost, chickens (well, eventually). Farms and bush around the corner, the beaches not too much further.

This is everything I have been dreaming of.

Link love (the I-just-bought-a-house edition)

NZ Muse link loveThat is all.

(I also: Packed a bag and went to stay with my parents. Then had to move all of my stuff out for real, into storage, because our flat broke up when our head flatmate/tenant/leaseholder decided to leave. Delivered a massive project at work that has been in progress since I started there. Ran an 8.4km race without training for it. Let’s just say been a manic few months.)

This week’s links

On tough choices, blind spots, and the men in our lives

Powerful women and the men who love them

Life gets shitty, so save your money

The secret to being happy at work

The everloving quest to control our lives

How to make difficult decisions

What your dreams are telling you about your life

How to choose a career path

Fighting to save a marriage

How to make time for friends when your schedule is tight

Money lessons for our daughters

So many good reads this week, as you can see, but this was one of my favourites – the author of the Fuck Off Fund piece is back, this time talking Suck It Skills:

“Here’s how I finally got more money and more power: I found something more valuable to give in return.

Money is a kind of power: the power to pay your bills, the power to move around at will, the power to feed oneself. And power — political power, authority, money — costs something to gain.”

Hopes and dreams? No thanks, I’m too old for that crap

Sometime I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast

Hope is a cruel thing.

I understand that sometimes it’s needed in order to survive. When there’s nothing else at all to pull you through.

But I’m not a fan of it at all.

I like sure things. Certainty. Probably because there’s been a distinct drought of that good stuff lately.

Every time I’ve allowed myself to dare to hope, those hopes are swiftly dashed.

“How do you people live like this? Day after day, just hoping people are gonna do what you want.”

I love this quote (by Kilgrave) from Jessica Jones. It’s stuck with me ever since.

Not so long ago, I used to be a dreamer. Now I’m the coldest, hardest, steeliest bitch. Got no time nor use for imaginings, only what is.

“The rest of us are just walking around, trying not to be disappointed with the way that our lives turned out.”

This melancholy line from Skeleton Twins (highly recommended, a solid movie with standout performances from usually comic actors) had me literally frozen in place, holding my breath as it washed over me. That is not what I want for myself. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple of years, and that is far, far too long.

One cannot subsist on hope alone. But finally, I’m on the very cusp of achieving something I’ve dreamed about for so long.  It’s hard to believe, and it feels so surreal.

Link love (the TMI edition)

So far, Project Me First (2016) is going well.

I find it fascinating – from a dispassionate, observational perspective – to see the effects of stress ebb and flow, manifesting physically. Eczema, fatigue, the crimson tide … they’re a surprisingly reliable barometer. (I’d also bet my blood pressure has been on a wild rollercoaster, not unlike the stock markets.)

This week’s links

Control and codependency – on struggle in relationships

You can’t read/watch/do everything

Lies my anxiety told me

You’re an impostor but so am I

Beating the employment blues

Taking a sabbatical – the best call ever

Kesha and feminism

Luck vs smarts

The price of politeness

Questions to ask before changing careers

Living off the grid

Travelling while married

I still don’t get contouring…

What’s your price?

The best money I’ve spent lately

Bliss - calming sunset

I’ve got half a rambly post brewing about how much I love money and how much better it makes life. But you’ll probably get the idea if I just tell you about the best things I’ve bought in the last few months.

New bras

I’ve seriously had a total awakening on this front (look out for a whole post on this in the future)!

Electric toothbrush

Game changer. Life changer. My mouth is so much happier.

Decent shoes

My feet are just too damn sweaty for synthetics.

Link love (the gluttony edition)

NZ Muse Link love

It’s been far, far too long since I wrote about food. It may be some time longer, but for now i must share a few new finds:

Kampung Style, Glen Eden
– good homey Malaysian food, up on the train station platform

Divino, Parnell – a humble cafe/restaurant with surprisingly great Italian dishes (thanks to the blog commenter who recommended it!)

Baduzzi, Wynyard Quarter – crayfish meatballs – that is all.

This week’s links

The Toast’s Mallory Ortberg talks about money!

How to actually wear everything in your closet

Planning your career for babies

When you don’t want to stay home with kids

Do good work and the money will come – if you have enough followers

The one thing ruining your relationship

Freedom from frugality

Life is short, etc

And a few highlights from this great Dear Artist linkup:

Vocation =/= exploitation

It’s not the struggle that’s interesting

Creativity is your greatest asset