Tag Archives: reflections

Finding our financial footing (again)

Finding financial balance with your partner

If there’s one thing I wish my parents had taught me about relationships, it’s the importance of financial compatibility.

Instead, the one lesson they imparted was the importance of genetic testing early on – you know, to ensure we didn’t have any horrible nasties lurking in our cells that might pass on to our kids, when combined with the other person’s DNA.

(I didn’t really take that one on board – not when I was 16, and not when I was older, either.)

High up among the criteria for a suitable prospective partner, according to How To Be An Adult In Relationships author David Richo, is this:

Has no disability with respect to money (e.g., cannot earn, spend, share, save, lend, contribute, receive)

Isn’t this just the most perfect phrase? I’ve never seen it articulated quite so well.

I still think there’s value in different styles. Here’s a really nice way to look at it.

When you think about it, a spender in a relationship is really working on improving your quality of life right now. Savers, on the other hand, are improving your quality of life in the future.

I’ve got a lot of priceless memories; fun experiences I would have missed out on otherwise for sure.

Savers can complement spenders, but it’s certainly not always easy.

I honestly believe we would have well and truly found our groove a long time ago, had multiple bouts of unemployment not derailed things so badly.

Lately we’ve been finding our way again, working toward a workable financial equilibrium.

As it stands now, what I see happening is a rebuilding of trust. Proving that we are both pulling our weight, adequately protecting our income through insurance, so we can work together towards a shared future.

I wish it were the kind of thing that could be done with the flick of a switch, in the blink of an eye, but it’s a process.

5 things I’ve learned from surviving a marriage crisis

The best relationship advice I can give

After more than 10 years in a generally happy union, I recently realised that – like Jon Snow – I knew nothing.

Nothing at all.

I once read that good marriages begin after the first gigantic crisis. When you begin again, in spite of everything, and work to make it through the anger and fear and sadness.

Separately, the wise and inimitable Alain de Botton has said that pessimism offers a solution to a lot of the pressures around relationships. Romanticism is unhelpful, and makes a lot of what we go through in marriage seem exceptional and appalling.

Depressing as those two paragraphs may sound, I think they ring with truth.

There are five main things this crisis taught me. Here is what I’ve learned.

Love is a verb

Don’t just tell me you love me; show me through your actions.

So many of our habits and behaviours towards our partners are manipulative

Whether we realise it or not. Awareness is the first step.

Do not tolerate sustained unhappiness in a relationship

Don’t put up with it now, hoping that it will improve eventually, if you have no inkling at all for when that might be. Think about how long you could stick it out if nothing changed – a month? Six months? A year?

Never set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm

There is no glory in martyrdom. This isn’t a social movement; this is your life. Your happiness is what’s at stake.

We are flawed

All of us. So very deeply. This is something we must accept if we are to move forward.

There it is – the best relationship advice I have to give. Have you been through a relationship crisis, and has it taught you anything new?

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.

What I believe about money

3 things I believe about money

I spend a lot of time thinking about money, between work and my own personal interests neuroses. Here are some conclusions I’ve recently reached.

I don’t believe in hopes and wishesBut I do believe in setting your sights on a target. 

I work at the exact organisation I once imagined would be an ideal place for me, in a newly created role that perfectly suits my skill set, at the salary I was determined to reach.

There’s something to be said for knowing where you want to go – how else will you be able to get there?

I believe in plans. But I also believe in taking little leaps of faith.

The two biggest financial decisions I’ve ever made – taking a six month leave to travel, buying a house – were not airtight. The general plans were pretty rock solid; I’d been working toward them for awhile.

But I didn’t have quite enough saved by the time we left the country. I was pretty confident I could make it up while freelancing on the road (and I did, almost to the dollar…) and at the worst, I knew I had a job to come back to.

And in many ways I bought a house at the worst time, my accounts having been decimated due to circumstances beyond my control. But I felt secure in my job and was earning a reasonable income, and a down payment that met requirements.

Life is fickle and while we can – and should – do our best to plan and prepare, nothing is ever 100%.

I believe your pay is not necessarily reflective of your worth.  But I believe in negotiating for what you believe you’re worth.

As above, I honestly never thought I’d earn what I’m making now. If I’d stayed in journalism, I wouldn’t be. But out of it, my skills are marketable enough to justify what seem like insane pay rates in comparison. (Not that these go all that far in NZ or Auckland, or impress mortgage brokers, but it’s a huge step up from before.) I look back on the jobs I’ve done and the call centre and hospitality work I once did was so much harder and so poorly compensated.

Whatever you do for work, do it to the best of your ability, and remember that nobody else will fight as hard for your best financial interests.

What do you believe about money?

Disease Called Debt

Money is no substitute for love, but love is no substitute for money either

Love vs money - NZ Muse

You can’t buy love. Spend your way to affection. Substitute stuff for time and attention. Paper over the cracks with lavish offerings.

You can’t live on love. All the love in the world won’t keep you out of debt, secure a stable home, put food on the table.

You need both. Love AND money.

I used to think love was the most important thing ever. The real world has taught me otherwise. Love is not all you need. Love does not conquer all. Love alone, unfortunately, is a poor substitute for the basic necessities in life.

The partners we choose for ourselves play such an integral role in our financial situation. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about where I am today and the choices that got me here.

Where I am today has been shaped by a lot of things beyond my control. But I made choices that set these things in motion. I may not have thought about it or realised it back then but now I have a much better understanding of why I made them.

Even if it’s a bit of a hard pill to swallow, these are the facts. My relationship and circumstances now are a strong reflection of the choices that I’ve made to date.  In trying to escape the shortcomings of my childhood, I gravitated towards certain traits, not realising what the trade-off would be or appreciating the value of what I did have.

I’ve come to terms with my tendencies as an enabler and the impact of this. I’m cognisant of how this has informed my decisions in the past and I know I need to be alert going forward to ensure I don’t make the same mistakes again.

I now know what I need, what I cannot stand for, and have a clear picture of what the balance between love and money should look like in my life.

“The goal of a relationship,” writes John Armstrong, in How To Worry Less About Money, “is that both people flourish together. And because money is a crucial ingredient in flourishing, it is a crucial ingredient in marriage.”

Disease Called Debt

I used to be afraid of debt. Now I understand how to use it to my advantage


I was super lucky to sidestep the burden of student loans. Thank you, scholarship! I’m getting to the age where a few people are starting to clear their student debt, but I’d say the majority are still paying theirs back.

I’ve always been debt averse. I’ve never really bought anything I couldn’t afford, and have avoided going into consumer debt.

(Granted, I have carried a balance on my credit card during some of the super fun times of unemployment and being down to one income. Paying that interest sucked – they were small balances of a couple grand but still. That shit stressed me out.)

Using debt to get ahead

We paid for all our cars in cash. But unfortunately that never turned out too well for us, because we couldn’t afford very good vehicles.

For this car I took out a loan and paid it down aggressively, eventually pulling from savings to pay it off  in full 9 months in. This saved so much stress and at the end of it we have a reliable paid off car that should have years left in it (touch wood).

And after years of enduring substandard NZ rentals, I have bought a house of my own and am already enjoying the benefits. The peace of mind that comes with the stability of owning is priceless; I am finally able to own a dog; and I’ve noticed my health is better now I have a warmer, drier home environment. This means I can be more productive – not to mention be taken more seriously as a professional when I don’t have a constantly literally dripping nose through winter and sniffles year round.

I don’t expect interest rates to stay this low so I’m directing extra money to the mortgage where I can – early repayments at this stage have a massive impact on the long term total cost.  Reaching retirement with a paid-off home will be a big win.

Going into debt as a calculated move has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’d probably be better off had I done so sooner.

Debt is debt and I still hate it – but money is a tool and debt can be too, done right.

In an ideal world nobody would ever need to borrow money (and we’d have 0% unemployment, poverty, homelessness etc…).

Sadly, that’s not the world we live in – and if we do need to borrow money then the key is to do it wisely.

Share the Wealth Sunday

A mantra for 28 (or any birthday, really)

6 life lessons I've learned the hard way

You are (probably) a good person who deserves happiness. Do right by yourself, always.

It greatly helps to master the art of not giving a fuck. We all have a limited number to give, and you don’t want to waste yours unnecessarily.

Know your priorities. Stay true to them. Everything falls into place from there.

When you feel stuck and there is a clear way out, no matter how difficult that path may be, start walking in that direction.

Listen to your body. It will tell you when enough is enough.

Life is messy and grey; people are fallible and complicated. So forgive yourself, for the past and for all the screw ups that lie ahead.

I think I have financial PTSD

I think I have financial PTSD

I woke up the other day with a sinking feeling in my stomach.

There’s still this deep seated fear buried inside that things are going to fall apart.

Nothing specific, just the thought that this is too good to last – the house, two incomes, the dog. Somehow, I’m going to lose it all and it’s going to be taken away.

If there is such a thing as financial PTSD, I think I have it.

From money troubles to money worries

As I work to rebuild from the past couple years and improve my  financial wellness, I imagine my emotional well-being will too.

In How To Worry Less About Money, John Armstrong draws a distinction between money troubles (urgent, immediate, pressing) and money worries (emotional, complex).

Going from worrying about the day-to-day and the immediate future to worrying about the distant future is a nice change. I mean, it’s still a worry, but it’s a hell of a lot less stressful.

When you know you’re making ends meet you have the ability to actually be future-oriented – and that’s the only way to really get ahead financially. To figure out where to put your money to work the best for you.

All I can do is wait it out, I imagine. Acknowledge (or ignore) those fears as they rear their heads. Slay them with logic, or contempt. Only time, and money, will heal.

Have you ever felt this way after coming off the back of a financially stressful time?

Disease Called Debt

How To Worry Less About Money: 3 things I took away

The most refreshing thing about How to Worry Less About Money is the author’s unflinching observation of how money affects relationships. In this book, John Armstrong relates this back to his own marriage.

“My own experience is that money worries can cause terrible conflicts in relationships. I fear I have damaged Helen’s life by not making more money. And there are stylistic clashes: I like being lavish; she’s much more restrained. For instance, I like the idea of going to fancy restaurants; she prefers the modest family-run place round the corner, or chicken soup at home. (And this is all the harder to deal with because our earnings point in the opposite directions to these personal tastes).”
Well, I’m the Helen in my life, and I can vouch for the fact that I have felt resentful many a time. I wish that weren’t true, but I am human, and perhaps not always a very good one. This is us, down to a T, especially the incongruence between tastes and earnings.  I would be curious to hear Helen’s viewpoint.

Money and marriage

Armstrong points out that in the world of Jane Austen, having enough money is taken very seriously (and rightly so!) as a necessary condition of happy marriage. Money reduces the fragility of a relationship, and makes people more relaxed. Money buys luxury, privacy and  stimulation. Money is for some people an aphrodisiac.

All of these things resonate so hard (perhaps not exactly the last one, but financial stress is a huge turn off and therefore lack of money is definitely a turn off).

Alas, there are no true solutions offered up, despite the practical promise offered in the title. This is a philosophical read about how we think about money, relate to it, the space it occupies in our minds and lives.

It’s a book about money worries, as opposed to money troubles.

Money troubles vs money worries

Money troubles, Armstrong contends, are urgent. They call for direct action and can only be resolved in one of two ways: either you gain access to more money or you go without something else.

Money worries, conversely, are about imagination and motions, not just what is happening now. Money worries often say more about the worrier than the world. They’re about what’s going on in your head not just in your bank account.

The meaning of money

When you strip money right back to the fundamentals, it is just a resource – a means of exchange.

“In other words money is an instrument … Ultimately the task in life is to translate efforts and activities that are inherently worthwhile into possessions and experiences that are themselves of lasting and true value.

“That is the ideal money cycle. Our relationship with money becomes unhealthy when we remove it from this cycle. That happens when we stop seeing money as potential possessions and experiences – but rather see possessions and experiences as potential money.”

We’re all bombarded these days with the reminder to DO WHAT YOU LOVE. Armstrong acknowledges that we need to make enough money to meet our needs and we also need to do things that help us make sense of who we are and contribute to collective good.

You can escape by not caring about meaning. And you can escape by not caring about having much money.  But a lot of people care about both.”

* * *

If you know roughly what to expect going in, this is a great read. I related to so much of it, I was constantly nodding along and found myself bookmarking what seemed like every other page.

If you’ve read it, what did you think?

Share the Wealth Sunday

Compromise where you can – and where you can’t, don’t

Compromise where you can - and where you can't, don't

Who would’ve thought that the latest Captain America movie could spawn such wisdom?

To live in this world is to compromise. And to be in a relationship is to compromise.

I kept reaching my limit … or so I thought.

And then I would push through. Just a little longer, I would think. Surely things will change. This can’t continue indefinitely.

For better and for worse, right?

But when something or someone is the sole source of your stress and there is no sign of it changing – it’s time to reevaluate. Be kind to yourself, first and foremost.

You may not know where your true limits lie. I know I didn’t. And that epiphany may wind up coming from elsewhere.

In my case, I was physically falling apart – in rather obvious ways. That’s when I knew I had to draw a line. That was something I could not compromise on.

Listen to your body, because it doesn’t lie.

I may have had to learn the hard way, but now I know where I can and cannot compromise.