Tag Archives: money

All else being equal – wouldn’t you rather have the money?

Wouldn't you rather have the money?

Money can’t buy everything, it’s true.

But when going through hard times for whatever reason, I know I’d rather not add financial stress to the fire.

Seriously: would you rather be suffering while broke or suffering while  financially secure? It’s a no brainer.

Going through a separation or divorce? Imagine adding the constant stress of struggling to pay the day to day bills, on top of all that.

Going through health issues? Wouldn’t you want the option of the best treatment money can buy?

Hard times are hard enough without having to worry about finances. Having money reduces that burden; shrinks the heap.

All the health and marital woes I’ve gone through stem directly from financial stress and struggle. The one thing I was grateful for during that time was that at least I wasn’t trying to do it on a journalist’s salary at that point. Literally every problem I’ve been saddled with in adulthood could have been solved with money in one way or another. (Yes, I’ve been fortunate in that regard, and I do acknowledge this.)

To everyone who says that the hardest experiences they’ve gone through were when they actually had plenty of money (subtext: and it didn’t do me a damn bit of good!), here’s an honest question for you. I ask: would you rather have endured those shitty times WITHOUT the money?

Of course you would give up the money to make the Bad Thing go away, that’s a given. But that’s not the question here; it’s not would you rather be free of the Bad Thing and in exchange go back to being broke? The question is, if the Bad Thing was unavoidable, would you prefer to deal with the crisis while being financially stable … or not?

Take life insurance, for example. It can’t make up for the loss of a loved one, but it can alleviate or eliminate major worries during an already difficult time.

It’s incredibly freeing to not have to make decisions solely based on the dollars and cents. To have the option of thinking about overall value, rather than just the bottom line.

Life is expensive. Having money means having choices.

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, Disease Called Debt and Frame to Freedom*

How’d she manage to pull off buying a house? (blood sacrifice and dark magic, duh)

How I bought a house in Auckland on a single income

It’s too easy, for those of us who have somehow managed to scrape into the hallowed ranks of Auckland homeowners, to fall into the trap of blaming everyone else for their own poor financial choices and unrealistic expectations.

I’m determined not to do that.

I know that simply cutting back takeaways is not going to get you into a house.

I know that rents keep rising; when I was at university $350 a week got you a three bedroom rental in the humble suburb where I grew up, and today it gets you a one bedroom.

I know that prices and incomes are all out of whack, and yet, the way things are here, it generally makes sense to buy if you can.

Basic housing – dry, warm, healthy, affordable even – is a luxury in Auckland and it shouldn’t be. Renters are treated as second class citizens in every way. The quality of rental housing is abhorrent. There’s no stability. I note without pleasure (okay, maybe a LITTLE grim pleasure) that relatively well-off media commentator types who once often spoke out about what a waste of money it was to buy a house have now started families and oh, promptly gone and purchased property to live in.

I’ve put off writing more about the nitty gritty of buying my house – the financials, that is.

In a way, I feel like I haven’t truly earned it. And maybe more importantly, I’m nervous about the inevitable judgement that’s going to come my way.

Do I owe anybody any details? No. But might transparency benefit someone else out there? Maybe. And if the struggling house hunters who opened up about their finances for the Herald’s Home Truths series can do it, I probably should too.

Here it is.

Based on my pre-approval, I set out to buy a property $500k or less, using the Welcome Home Loan scheme (allows first home buyers to get in with 10% deposit, subject to other conditions). The majority of my deposit came from my KiwiSaver. (It’s never been affording mortgage payments that poses an issue, but rather the down payment.)

At this point I was temporarily staying with my parents, and they were helping me house hunt. There wasn’t a lot in my price range at all, let alone properties that were actually fit for residence. The two places in my budget that I wanted to make an offer on (though I was pipped to the post on those) … let’s say my dear mum wasn’t very impressed with the properties.

But as I told them: beggars can’t be choosers, and I’m a beggar in this market. My criteria is whatever I can afford, and within that, whatever I think I can live with. I was prepared to compromise on various things as required – basically anything, although not everything. Slim pickings weren’t necessarily a negative. I’m chronically indecisive so a narrow range of options was actually a good thing for me.

They also offered to help out, moneywise. I was very appreciative of the offer – and also very reluctant to accept it. My preference was to buy within my original budget, on my own steam, but together we started looking at some more expensive properties as well.

The more we looked, the more it made sense. The phrase ‘cutting off your nose to spite your face’ comes to mind.

The prospect of them topping up my buying power went against my core principle of Doing Things On My Own. And yet they genuinely wanted to. Rather you pay us than the bank! It would mean a better house – still absolutely in entry level territory, but more liveable and better located. And importantly, potentially a forever home. I’ve moved so, so much while renting and it has been exponentially more soul destroying each time. I always wanted to buy a house and then never move again if at all possible. I just can’t imagine dealing with the stress of moving PLUS throwing the logistical headache of both selling and buying into the mix. Obviously people do it all the time, but I can tell you right now that climbing the property ladder is not for me.

The final price for my house was $595k, so with them making up the difference, means I owe them close to $100k. A little less than that now, after a few months of repayments.

So in the end, I didn’t take a Welcome Home loan, just a regular one – but it worked out for the best. As a result, the rest of the loan process was a lot simpler and shorter (less paperwork). And I didn’t get the $5k government HomeStart grant, but that would basically have been cancelled out by the Housing NZ premium applied to the WHL anyway. Turns out that’s a bit of a wash as a single income home buyer…

Withdrawing KiwiSaver money for my first (and hopefully last) home puts a major dent in my retirement savings, it’s true. But I’m comfortable with that choice, having pondered it for a couple of years, and still being young with time on my side. Saving for the future is important – but so is having a stable and healthy living environment in the present. (One word: mushrooms.) And while I don’t see my home as an investment, having a paid-off house will be a huge benefit come retirement. There’s a lot of talk right now about how Generation Rent will be at a disadvantage in this regard, and for good reason. Having discussed this with people at work who know much more about finance, mortgages and the economy in NZ than I do, I feel confident in this decision being the right one for me.

Probably more painful – emotionally anyway – is the fact that I accepted family help. Now I’m just like basically every other Auckland homeowner my age. Even as a loan rather than a gift … this makes me one of those awful privileged millennials tapping into the Bank of Mum and Dad. Let me tell you, that stings.

But pride ain’t everything, and I’ve said before that I wouldn’t look a gift horse like this in the mouth should it cross my path. I’m happy (understatement: DELIRIOUSLY HAPPY) and apparently so are they. A win-win, I suppose. Heck, for health reasons alone, I can tell you it has been so, so worth it already! I rub rosehip oil into my stress scars each night (from the chronic eczema that literally evaporated once I moved into my house) and I know I made the right choice. I pinch myself most days, wondering if this is actually my life, and feel so grateful to be here.

It’s bloody expensive to live well

Living well is expensive - it takes a lot of money just to get by

Who says money can’t buy happiness? Life is expensive. A basic life – at least in NZ – is expensive, and a good life even more so.

Money buys a place to call home

It’s an incredible feeling to know I never have to move again unless I want to – as long as I keep paying.

It’s an equally incredible feeling to wake up and NOT start sneezing immediately, every single day. I no longer dread middle-of-the-night awakenings (for whatever reason) because I’m not automatically going to be a huge snotty mess. To have the whole house be the same temperature. To not have condensation on the windows.

I bow to you, mighty HRV system. You cost practically nothing to run overnight and yet make such a huge difference.

My physical health (not to mention my mental health) has been boosted legions by owning my own home. Money has literally bought me better health.

Money buys a way to get around

Having a reliable vehicle is so important, particularly in a one car household. Buying cheapo cars has never worked in our favour; taking out a car loan turned out to be a wise choice. Spending more for a car that will last is not indulgent; it’s rational.

Money buys decent clothing

Having bras that fit is crazy awesome but it’s definitely not the cheapest. Quality ethical clothing, ditto – and I must confess I don’t actually make this a huge priority. I hope I’m doing a little to help by thrift shopping as much as possible. And I might add to this, other items that touch the skin – namely, bed linen, good sheets are a must!

Money buys real food

I love my carbs. Yet I know I really need to eat more fruits and veg. But they’re so much more expensive (as are nuts, seriously)! A loaf of bread or a bag of pasta gets you so much further than the equivalent spend on apples or tomatoes. And don’t even get me started on the cost of good cheese and meat. Yeah, I’m a glutton.

I was watching the mini series Chef’s Table recently. It was a joy to see the artisan growers the top chefs source from, and just how much thought and love goes into developing those amazingly flavourful, organic crops – but it ain’t cheap, for obvious reasons. The plan is to grow more of my own, but I’m never going to be completely self sufficient.

And you know what, quality dog food isn’t the cheap stuff, either. I don’t think the preservative and grain laden kibble is the best for my girl, and I’m pretty certain she gets more hyperactive after eating it.

Money buys getaways

I love travel, but NZ is just so darn isolated. My hostel days are past me, and I’ve never been into camping. But that’s okay, because I love my home and I’m nesting hard; I’m totally happy to be a hermit for the foreseeable future.

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.

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.

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.

COMMENCE STRESS AND WAITING.

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.

SO EXHAUSTING.

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.

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.