Tag Archives: rant

Call me mercenary, but…

More money, more options

There’s no nobility in poverty.

No romance in being broke.

No joy in struggle.

I really really really like being able to afford to:

  • Heat my home
  • Visit the dentist
  • Eat dinner out
  • Wear real leather
  • Buy 3-ply TP
  • Donate to charity

Call me mercenary, but in my life, money has directly correlated to quality of life and happiness without exception.

Literally every area of my life has improved thanks to money. Not saying I’m on a never-ending chase for more above everything else (especially since I hit the so-called ideal salary for happiness) but earning more is certainly a goal. As long as I can grow my income while maintaining enjoyment in what I do, why wouldn’t I?

Fewer dollars = fewer options. Life has only gotten easier as my income increased.

I eat better. I am healthier (because I live in a house that isn’t damp and cold). I have a reliable vehicle. Pets. I’m a hell of a lot less stressed and feel less vulnerable to the bottom falling out of my life.

When you’re going through a period of life that’s defined by scarcity, it’s incredibly stressful. You’re panicked and constantly worried, living on the edge. You make poorer decisions because you’re just not in the best frame of mind and/or have fewer choices available to you. You simply don’t think about the long term future because you have to focus on getting through today, tomorrow and maybe next week. How can you possibly think about retirement when you lack decent housing today?

Whatever the reasons for money being tight (and they can be oh-so-complex – acute, chronic, unfortunate, deliberate) the outcome is the same. And in the moment, that’s all that matters.

Money stress has a way of keeping you up at night, not to mention tainting your waking hours with its sneaky way of spilling into every moment. 

The first day in 2016 that I felt truly free from financial stress – for the first time in, oh, just about a full year – was amazing. There are no words for the lightness that brings.

I’ve spent far too much time in misery for lack of money. On the other hand, I’ve never been miserable with money.

I cannot relate to the ‘broke but happy’ brigade. YMMV.

I’ve lived through times where I’ve had enough, and times without enough – and I’d take the money every single time.

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?

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?

Things I want but just can’t have

Currently coveting...
By: Thomas Rousing

I would pay good money to get some stability in my life. Unfortunately, some things you just can’t buy. And the universe seems to enjoy pissing on me lately.

There’s some things you CAN buy though – or at least, that you should be able to. But I cannot find these anywhere in Auckland either!

Banh mi

Latest letdown: Viet Sandwich. I know there are still a couple more banh mi spots I haven’t hit up yet, but to be honest, I’ve hit all the ‘top’ ones that have been most recommended. With the closure of Mi Vietnamese, District 5 is probably my pick of the bunch right now.

Napoli pizza

Quite frankly, Sette Bello is just about as good as Dante’s (which in turn isn’t quite meeting my standards) and is both cheaper and more convenient to boot.

Burritos

Big, fat, juicy American burritos. Augh. Mad Mex gets pretty close, I suppose (but you need to pick the right filling). Everyone raves about Flying Burrito Brothers, but I went there on the weekend of my birthday and it was bland and expensive.

Black cardigan

I just want a nice, fitted, plain black cardi. Slim, not chunky. Not made of acrylic or polyester or other nasty crap. No frills, no fuss. Apparently this is asking too much. These cardis just aren’t in this season?

Black flats

Pretty much the same story here. I mean, there are some options, but I think it’s outrageous to charge close to $100 for a pair of ballet flats that aren’t even leather. The prices in NZ!

So that’s my Wednesday whinge. Feel free to get stuff off your chest too.

It’s not about what you DESERVE

It's not about what you DESERVE

The other day, I had to talk myself out of booking flights to Niue for next month. I tell ya, at less than $100 each one way, it was a tough call. After all, travel is my weakness.

Niue is one of the destinations on my bucket list, but ultimately it just isn’t the right time. Cheap flights are great, but accommodation is pricey (remote island, whoo! Niue tourism is pretty young still from what I can tell). And I’d like to go in whale watching season, which starts in July.

We already have a Japan trip later this year, T isn’t really in a position to take any time off, June will be busy at my job, and hello, recovering from a financial trainwreck. Niue is fairly close, I often see good package deals and I’m sure there will be more in the future.

But man, sometimes it’s hard to make the smart choice.

Don’t I deserve a break after a nightmare year?

If only life worked that way.

Doesn’t T deserve an awesome, secure, full time job?

Don’t I deserve a decent home to live in after enduring years of terrible rentals?

Hell fucking yes. But this ain’t the movies and people don’t always get what they deserve.  (It’s particularly galling when people around us have houses bought for them when/because they only have four grand banked or an unplanned kid on the way. That’s never going to happen for us.)

It goes both ways, too.

Did I really deserve to get paid more per hour to run around and stick up flyers at my first office job, compared to when I typed documents and made up invoices back at the office?

Did I really deserve double pay on weekend shifts at my first editorial job? (God bless unions.)

Did I really deserve not 1, not 2, but 3 dream jobs in a row?

But back to my original point. Much as I’d like to indulge in a tropical getaway right about now, working towards getting into a stable home where we can have a family and pets is way more important. EYES ON THE PRIZE.

When you get right down to it, we all deserve better – a better car, a better house, a better holiday – whatever does it for you. You deserve better. We all do.

That said, we also need to make savvy decisions about what and when we’re going to spend. The timing’s got to be right – otherwise we end up dissolving money in the near term and turning our backs on the opportunities we can take up for the long term.

– Sorted.org.nz

Wise words, right there. It’s hard to say no, but Future Me will be grateful for it.

What’s your ‘big prize’ right now?

Friday rant: Polyester, telcos and the world at large

Friday rant

Because we all need to let off some steam every once in a while.

How the hell is polyester so damn pervasive?

I’ve gotten a tad obsessed with fabrics lately (trying to send my eczema back to where it came from) and I’m so freaked out by how even expensive garments are made of this crap. I bought my first silk item recently, and also stumbled across a random  silk clothing shop downtown. Alas, it mainly sells weird, hippy, old lady type clothes – but it’s still fascinating to see and feel all the different manifestations of silk.

Vodafone NZ, seriously?

T has been on a Vodafone plan for years that no longer exists and was really good value (60 minutes, tons of texts, 3GB for about $40 a month). But now 2degrees has come out with some really competitive mobile plans (unlimited calls/texts and 2.5GB of data for $49 a month) and so we switched him over. The last Vodafone bill came through last week – $359. I wish I was kidding. Trying to get to the bottom of that.

Will we ever stop blaming the victim?

I already know the answer to that. I’m so disgusted. And embarrassed by my country.

Anything you want to get off your chest?

Wow. So much for paying professionals…

By: Gabriel

Man, I’ve dealt with some BS in my near decade of renting, but this has pushed me over the edge. Did I say agencies are better than private landlords? Whoops. I take that back.

That’s twice now the property manager has been an absolute twat upon moving out.

Last time around, dealing with them was a breeze throughout the entire tenancy … until our last afternoon. It was literally the day before we flew out of the country, leaving for 6 months. We waited, shivering, in our garage, as the rain started coming down, for the PM to show up for final inspection. Numerous calls to his phone went unanswered. Finally we gave up, placed the keys in the house and left. First thing in the morning, he starts trying to get in touch asking what happened – useless much? No, we are literally leaving the country TONIGHT, we do not have time to come back for a walkthrough – you will have to do it without us. We didn’t get our bond back until we returned to NZ, either – he never sent through the paperwork to me and I had to chase him for it when we came back to the country.

This time around, it was with an even bigger (and thus, ostensibly more professional) agency. Alas, they turned out to be douchebags pretty early on, and every time I thought it couldn’t get worse, it kept building until move-out. These guys instruct you to drop off the keys at the office, and then do the final inspection on their own rather than going through the house with you in person. Two days later we heard from them – outlining an absolute litany of basic complaints about cleaning. (The legal requirement is to leave a property ‘reasonably clean and tidy’, which translated to a pretty grey area. However, I can tell you never had an issue at ANY of the many places we’ve lived. We know how to mop a floor and scrub a shower.) They also conveniently ‘forgot’ that they had sold us the fridge upon move-in (for owner had wanted to get rid of it, probably as it was getting older) and more or less accused us of stealing it. Oh, and I’m not even going to go into the dramas they caused in trying to force us to move out earlier than our planned date.

I’ve been thinking a lot about power, and the imbalance of it in the renting market. I’ve already been incredibly stressed out for months on end, and this whole situation with the house has basically doubled my stress levels since the start of the year. I made the decision early on that my priority was getting the hell out of here with as little headache as possible, while knowing the agency was highly likely to make it a hassle based on their behaviour to date.

So often it’s a question of where you can afford the time/money to pursue a conflict. For example, they insisted on going ahead with hiring a cleaner anyway (end result: splitting the bill). As another example: it’s actually unlawful to have a clause in a lease requiring carpet cleaning at the end of the tenancy. However you’ll find these in many, many contracts. I know I have, and gone along with it because in a tight market it’s a miracle if you can get approved for a place at all.

And for bigger stuff … Do you really want to jeopardise your chances of ever getting another place to live, if you take something to the Tenancy Tribunal and have that associated with your name as public record (no matter what the result)?

Cannot wait to be off the renting hamster wheel.

The problem with intensification in Auckland

 

Quite simply, we stink at it.

A colleague mentioned to me the other day that she’d walked past a construction site in Ponsonby, where there used to be a row of townhouses – one of which she’d lived in for a few months.

“What’s happening here?” she asked one of the workers.

“The houses were leaky. They had to knock them all down,” was the reply.

My neighbourhood was one of the early pioneers of denser suburban living, with a few different apartment and townhouse developments. They’re flagships, really, and have been the subject of local housing studies.

I have lived in the two main complexes: in one of the apartments, and in two different townhouses – so three properties in total. All have had, or are going to be, reclad. Yep, leakers, or if you prefer, with “remedial issues”. None felt solidly constructed, built to last. Two out of three were cramped; all of them had a weird layout with bathrooms in the middle of the building, with no outside ventilation. And honestly, I wasn’t a big fan of the demographics they attracted.

I used to hope I could eventually buy around here. It ain’t happening. We have looooong since been priced out. Possibly we could afford a townhouse, but I wouldn’t want to buy a place that I wouldn’t be happy living in – and I already know what it would be like, having been there and done that. Plus, the body corps (and of course you have to take those fees into account!) have rules about everything from pets to hanging out laundry. It really would be the worst of both worlds.

Another new development, more or less around the corner, is in the works. I really hope they get it right. Plan the mixed-use aspects, don’t rush it, and for the love of god deliver quality residential construction and materials. We need to break the vicious cycle we’re in.

Will you be better off than your parents?

There’s been lots of talk about how our generation may be the first to be worse off than that of our parents. I’m fairly certain it’s going to be true in my case, and Christmas really cemented for me how huge that gap is.

I swear, I am going to lose it if I hear one more thing along the lines of how we should just buy a house. For the love of god. Anyone who keeps up with the news knows what’s going on, and the latest round of updated council valuations backs that up. My parents’ property is now worth more than 3x what they paid for it – and that’s just the council valuation, which around here is always less than actual market reality. Have incomes also tripled/quadrupled/etc? No, no they have not. I’m not saying it was easy back then, but it is a hell of a lot harder now. There is no way I will have a paid-off house by my 40s in Auckland.

It was a hard year for me and T, and while our family are experts in Not Talking About Things, it doesn’t take a genius or a mind reader to figure out that we’re still nowhere near a down payment, particularly when I VERY OBVIOUSLY shut down the idea of affording a house every time the topic comes up (which has been constantly since we got back to NZ).

Look, there are some things my parents went through that I will never understand. Leaving home and going to university in a strange new country. Being denied promotion outright because of my skin colour, in the country of my birth. Reaching the point of frustration in my marriage where I’m making inappropriate disclosures to my teenage daughter (that’s what professional therapists are for, guys).

Likewise, they won’t understand the lack of job security today, or what it’s like to enter the workforce during a global financial meltdown. And to be fair, I’m not immune either. A growing part of me sometimes just wants to scream ‘how have you gone on that many interviews yet still don’t have a job? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?’

Really, I only feel comfortable discussing successes with them, and there haven’t been any of those to report on in a long time. Maybe it’s a terrible reason to avoid my family, but it’s a sanity-saving defence mechanism.