Earlier this year I had one of my loans roll over (my mortgage is in 3 parts) and annoyingly, since interest rates had gone up since 2016, I wound up paying something like $20 a fortnight more. (Ish? I’m too lazy to go check.)
Such is life in NZ where we don’t have fixed rates for 30 years.
I refixed that loan for another year, and figured I’d look at a full refinance the same time next year when everything would come up for renewal.
But last month I refinanced it all to a new bank.
Why? So so much has been happening moneywise: a bit of which I actually can’t write about, the rest which I will get around to soon.
The main takeaway is, I’ll now be saving nearly $90 a fortnight, which is nothing to sniff at!
Between rates falling a bit in the past few months and the new bank offering a sharp deal, I start saving money right away. I got $3k cashback, which covered the break fees (just under $1000) and also the cash clawback.
The what?! Well, when I took out this mortgage back in 2016 they gave me $1200 in cash. Annoyingly, there was no paperwork outlining the conditions of this (I only have an email confirming the amount, nothing about the payback period). I would have assumed the clawback was proportional over time (as it is with the new bank – I made sure to get this down in an email this time), but no, they required the full cashback amount be paid back in full if I left early.
I’m slightly out of pocket right now due to the lawyer fees for the refinance process but the fortnightly savings will quickly make up for that.
I’ve also now been able to set up the floating part of the mortgage as offset, so the positive balances in my accounts will reduce the amount of interest charged on that part of the mortgage. It’s not a huge amount right now (a few grand offsetting $25k). But early next year I expect to have a much larger lump sum come in (a topic for another future post) and sit around for a little while – and that will be handy.
Ever been through a refinance? How’d you find the process?
You know you’ve come full circle when your spender partner doesn’t want to spend the money he’s been saving for a particular thing, on that particular thing.
I find it amusing, anyway.
How did we get here?
I’ve alluded before to how we have somewhat separate accounts (the mixed method really) and it’s working so much better compared to when I handled basically 100% of that stuff. Overall, money meetings/talks are now way less stressful and anchored in positivity more often than not.
That’s not to say it’s been effortless, especially at the beginning. But like with most things, getting into a groove starts with laying the groundwork.
Banish the cobwebs
Step one for us was getting back to ground zero. And that meant a little bit of individually reflecting and looking back before we could move forward.
Where are you now and why? What’s your role in the situation? Hopefully you’ve become aware of your own blind spots, tendencies, and yeah, mistakes. We’ve all made missteps at some point, some more serious than others. It takes two, rarely is one partner entirely faultless. Even if (ahem) you feel hugely slighted, if you’re committing to making this work, being the bigger person goes a long way initially. Have the grace to forgive yourself, forgive them and let the past go.
Forgetting may not be possible or desirable, but forgiving is necessary to make progress – if that’s what you want to do.
Pick the right time
Okay, so you want to actually talk money? Set up for success – timing is everything! It’s got to be a place and time where you’re both relaxed and have the headspace to give the topic your full attention. You wouldn’t want to hit your boss up for a big raise when they’ve just spent all day rushing from workshop to meeting to conference and are totally exhausted. Context matters.
So don’t force the money talks. They may (and probably will) initially kick up some complicated feelings and negative energy. Pushing and pushing for a conversation at that point is only going to lead to hurt feelings, taking things personally and wrongly perceiving things as an attack or criticism. Keep it short, know when to stop.
Back to basics
Don’t assume anything, especially if you’re the person who’s been doing it all. T literally did not know what we spent on most of our key expense categories, because it’s not something he’s all that interested in and thus I didn’t make an effort to involve him. But (duh) him not being across things at that basic level made it really hard to talk about money in any detail let alone our bigger goals for the future and what we might need to do to reach those.
Make it a conversation
Keep the dialogue going and try to avoid absolutes – you always, you never etc. Also bad: taking opposing stances on everything – you’re careless, you’re stingy, you’re too generous, you’re too obsessive.
Try and turn each point around and look for examples of contradictions – I bet you’ll find a few cases where you broke with the pattern. The time when you splurged randomly – why? The time when you saved for something and actually stuck to a plan – why? While we all have tendencies we naturally fall into and revert to, we’re also capable of acting out of character and understanding what drives that can be really insightful.
Speaking of ‘why’ … that’ll be the next step. Figuring out your goals and getting aligned behind them.
Take it slow
Don’t expect to see 100% eye-to-eye. This is totally natural. Resist the urge to nag and try to convince your partner that your way is the only way. Particularly if you’re paired up with a Rebel (Four Tendencies anyone?) that’s gonna land like a lead balloon.
Wishing for them to change (especially overnight…) does not work. Focus on what you CAN control, namely yourself: doing what you can and leading by example. Odds are that they’ll increasingly get onboard once the benefits start to become clearer under your steering. Or you may gradually come around more to your partner’s way of thinking and adjust your approach accordingly. For us, he’s moved a long way towards me on the spectrum, but I’ve also loosened up a little and shuffled his way a bit. And let’s be honest, it hasn’t hurt that our income’s gone up, meaning the purse strings are less tight – that’s a luxury that’s helped a lot in this regard.
Amazingly … it made a difference. I wouldn’t say it changed my core personality – I’m definitely still a realist, with the same sarcastic tongue and sense of humour – but it actually did wonders for my state of mind and made me a more pleasant person to be around.
Hell, I even changed my passwords like some say to do, so that your goal is front of mind each time you type it in.
Is it helping? Can’t hurt, I figure … there’s nothing to lose. At the very least, it reminds me of my goals multiple times a day.
Of course, not everything is within our control and shit happens. Positive thinking doesn’t mean burying your head in the sand and blinding yourself to reality.
But it can definitely shore up your ability to cope with setbacks and manage stress. I’ve found that opening up my mind like this has led to me to see more possibilities and think differently in order to succeed.
Balancing these viewpoints, I’ve come to realise that this is something I’ve basically always proclaimed to aspire to:
That was my reaction a few weeks ago when the first pay day of the year arrived … and I hadn’t been paid.
My mind immediately went into overdrive.
Where was the money? Was it just delayed due to the New Year public holidays? Had it not been processed by the finance team? What if I wasn’t going to get paid at all? What would this mean for cashflow for the next week, and the week after, and the week after, and the week after? I’d have to tap into savings, maybe take some from the house renovation fund …
And so on and so forth. Straight into the worst case scenario and all the disastrous consequences.
It’s so easy to spiral – but I managed to take a deep breath before spinning totally out of control and reassess.
I had enough in that account to pay the mortgage – priority numero uno.
Cash savings elsewhere would tide me over for all the other expenses.
And that was all I truly needed to think about right then and there.
No use immediately jumping to catastrophic conclusions and getting lost down the paths of endless what ifs.
Worrying isn’t always a bad thing, if you know when to stop
There’s the productive kind that leads to making contingency plans.
But then there’s needless stressing. It’s like picking a scab.
It serves no purpose whatsoever – aside, perhaps, from giving your mind something to do. And the only possible result is that you make yourself feel worse and worse as it drives you into a frenzy of fear and self pity (you know exactly what I’m talking about).
That’s unhelpful, unhealthy, and it’s something I’ve worked hard to cut out.
It doesn’t sound like much, but I was super proud of myself for catching myself in the act and nipping it in the bud.
Because as it turns out, my biggest downfall is my own hyperactive mind. Some might abuse substances, or food; my destructive behaviour manifests as compulsive, obsessive stressing.
Happy ending! The money came through sometime between then and the next time I checked back – which I refrained from doing until the next day. All that fretting would have been for nothing.
The urge to scratch that itch was strong, but every time I stamp it down it gets a little easier.
Rewiring your mind
Another example: several months ago I got a letter from the owner/landlord of the neighbouring property. They wanted to put up a new fence … and their estimate was over $6,000, or $3,000 for my half.
Now, a new fence is on the roadmap for us, and it’s something we wanted to get done as soon as possible. But not just yet (the kitchen comes first) and certainly not at that price. $3k for a fence was not in the budget any time soon.
I stressed out majorly about this. Raged, worried, spent ages researching the law and our obligations. Wrote back outlining my viewpoint and countering their proposal (which boiled down to, we do not currently have the funds or desire to do this right now).
Then it was just a matter of waiting. Time enough for me to review the situation with a clearer mind and reassure myself that even if this were to go ahead, I could absorb the expense. Sure, it would make a massive dent in my savings and postpone our kitchen project for who knows how long … but it wouldn’t ruin me.
Time passed and no response came, so: crisis averted. We can tackle the fence later when we’re in a position to do so.
And that was a huge exercise in resetting my emotional reactions, and a big leap forward for me. In fact, I think it was my biggest breakthrough in terms of stopping the spiral before it went too far.
Breaking the cycle
Since then, I’ve taught myself to allow less and less time to freak the fuck out, and more quickly move on to considering the options, and accepting the possible outcomes. Stop panicking. Stop spiralling. Stop freaking out about money.
Overwriting that thought pattern takes time, just like building any muscle or habit. Developing the self awareness and self control so that you can catch yourself before the worrying stops being productive and crosses over into self flagellation.
You’ve got to be able to recognise when you’re heading down that path, and make the choice to break the cycle right there.
It’ll do wonders for your happiness. Seriously, learning to not let my scarcity mindset drag me down is probably my favourite life hack ever.
For all the work I’ve been doing on money and mindset recently, I still struggle sometimes with it all.
The last few years have been awesome for my income growth and financial security.
And yet the thought keeps rearing its head: I don’t deserve this. How long can this last?
What I’m doing to counter these doubts:
Reminding myself there is room to grow
I know it’s possible to do so. Salary surveys and job listings out there prove it. As do people I’ve worked with who earn more. (Of course, this leads to another dangerous path that lies in the complete opposite direction – why don’t I already make that much?)
Remembering that me having less doesn’t make the world a better place somehow
The starving artist, nobility is poverty mindset dies hard, I guess. And it’s ridiculous. Me struggling would do nobody any good. I try to remember to give back by donating every month, as well as trying to somewhat regularly give blood, meet up with my mentee, and I’ve also recently joined a local nonprofit board. (Another trigger for imposter syndrome right there!)
Reviewing how far I’ve come
I’m horrible at tracking my accomplishments. But I recently updated my CV and LinkedIn (you don’t even want to know how long that took me) and when I’m feeling down on myself professionally, I look back at some of the stuff I’ve done for reassurance.
How do you cope when you feel like you don’t deserve what you’ve got?
But I do regret not asking for a raise earlier. The job that I held the longest? Prime opportunity! And sadly, a missed one.
3 (bad) reasons I didn’t push for more
I justified not asking for a raise or higher salary to myself for years. But you don’t get what you don’t ask for, and who doesn’t want more money?
I didn’t feel underpaid
I feel fortunate to have earned market rates. I never felt lowballed. I’ve never been through the wringer of learning that a co-worker made tons more money than me for doing the same job. And so I’ve never felt that particular burning motivation.
Sure, I felt I was getting fairly paid … but would more money have hurt? Definitely not.
And I think, in hindsight, there’s a fair chance I could’ve gotten more if I’d only asked.
Not having HR, not having reviews or any sort of structure around performance … none of that is a good excuse. But also…
I was scared to ask
Asserting myself doesn’t come naturally, and unlike my parents who have no shame in bargaining for a deal, I can’t even bring myself to haggle at markets where it’s expected.
And my anchor points, deep down, I think skew low (baselining off things like the hourly rates at my first part-time jobs, the low-paying field I then went into, what my parents earned when I was growing up etc).
I just wanted to fly under the radar and do a good job, in a dying industry. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. Ugh.
I thought it just seemed like a bad idea
Being employed in a industry struggling to make a profit, I felt lucky to have a job at all. I felt competent, but not outstanding.
I didn’t think that I had any concrete reasons to point to that proved why I deserved more; no ammo with which to back up a request for a raise.
The former may have been true, but what’s the worst that could have happened?
As for the latter, I’m pretty sure that was just imposter syndrome talking.
I can’t even tell you how searingly awkward it was to negotiate that first salary offer (err, and the next one…) and ask for that first raise. I wince when I recall them! But I was crazy proud of myself afterwards, not to mention a little bit richer.
Literally a couple of (painful, awkward) minutes could net you thousands more a year, and that compounds over time.
Their budgets are bigger than yours
A few grand might make a big difference in your life, but probably won’t affect their bottom line to the same degree. There’s usually some wiggle room, and you know what? Employers won’t be surprised if you negotiate – they expect you to advocate for yourself.
It sets a precedent for the future
Raises build on what’s come before. The more you earn now, the bigger those 2%, 3%, 5%, 10% bumps will be later on.
Raises aren’t a sure thing
You can’t count 100% on regular raises once you’re in. You’ve got the most leverage at the offer stage, so that’s the time to make the most of it.
Particularly when it requires a decision from you.
I first started investing on my own through RaboDirect’s managed funds, because I already had online savings and term deposits there. It was pretty easy to buy online, aside from the security layers required each time you log in that is! And after, I don’t know, 10 years or whatever, I guess there’s a bit of sentiment there.
Obviously nowadays we have a lot more choice as small-time retail investors, and more passive investing options. Case in point: I started investing through Smartshares last year. Granted, there are hardly any online capabilities there (quite frankly, I would have no idea at this stage how to go about selling my holdings) but that money’s for the long term so I’m okay with that.
Options for existing RaboDirect investors are to hang in there until March, when all our units would be sold and cashed out; or to transition over to InvestNow. That would mean giving consent for RaboDirect to facilitate the opening of an InvestNow account (as I don’t currently use InvestNow) and the eventual transfer of my investments over to that platform.
Pros of InvestNow seem to be low fees, access to Vanguard funds and a modern digital platform. That said, I might also need to investigate Superlife more closely (blogger The Smart and Lazy has done a quick comparison of some of Smartshares/Superlife/Simplicity/InvestNow here).
I suspect I’ll wind up doing that – path of least resistance, as well! – but if you’re in the same boat, I’d be curious as to what you’re thinking!
When it comes to money, there are a few intense emotions most of us experience at some point that paralyse us financially.
I’ve struggled with every single one of these feelings, and if there’s one thing those battles have taught me, it’s this: we are our own worst enemies.
The mind is a powerful, powerful thing and that cuts both ways. It’s up to us to harness that power and use it to our advantage.
Regret that you didn’t negotiate that salary. Regret for all the money you spent on things you didn’t care about. Regret for the money you wasted on deadbeat exes.
As hard as these regrets are to stomach, there’s only one way forward: Accepting the past, learning from those mistakes, and moving on. We all move through this process at our pace, but sooner is better, and healthier.
Fear of losing an income source, of some financial disaster striking, of the unknown in general.
Living in a state of constant tension and low-level panic SUCKS and it takes its toll.
That’s where a solid savings buffer and good insurance cover come in – knowing you’ve got those safety nets to fall back on. And so too does making contingency plans.
Some people don’t like to imagine the worst-case scenario, but I’m the kind who needs to confront my worst fears rather than hide from them – to ask myself questions like “Has it happened before? What are the odds of it happening? What would I do then?”
In lots of cases, the catastrophes we’ve conjured up in our lizard brains are over-exaggerated. They have never happened and are not likely to.
Guilt for all that you have now, all the privileges you’ve been blessed with … and the fact that yet you want more.
But you know what I’ve realised? It does nobody else any good for me to struggle, to not have what I want, to play the martyr.
By taking care of myself first and flourishing, I can then turn around and help others. Giving back is fantastic, once you can comfortably and safely do so from a solid position.
Each of these are ultimately useless emotions, and I’m personally done with wasting my time and headspace on them! Find out how to conquer all of these – and much more – in my new course, Money Groove.
I never envisioned myself as a high earner. And I’m still not. But somehow, I’ve found myself in the position of accidental breadwinner.
I had no interest in the typical commercial career paths (I was one of like three Asians in the journalism track of my degree). Zero interest in climbing the corporate ladder. Money was not a consideration for me when I was thinking about careers. I didn’t set out to earn heaps and I didn’t aspire to it. I embarked on a creative path and didn’t imagine veering from it.
And then, like so many other journalists, I left – for a new challenge, yes, but also for more financial security. I make decent though not crazy money, I enjoy my work and my life, and I can’t imagine any other way now.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. As it turned out, T happened to be unemployed at the point of each of my significant income increases. I suspect unconsciously this led to problems. We could survive (although not thrive) on my earnings alone. The more I made, the less urgency there was for him to contribute … until it all boiled over.
For a long time I kind of hoped he’d somehow land an epic job that would set us up for the future, take the pressure off me, let me sit back and relax for while (payback, if you like, for all I’d done for so long).
I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is unlikely, and that odds are I’ll continue to be the breadwinner. It’s a strange concept to accept, a new way to see myself, even though it’s been definitively true for many years now. But it is definitely no longer a temporary thing. It’s just how it’s going to be.
He landed a new job this year. I’m so proud of him. Stepped up of his own accord. He knew he needed to bring in more and set about changing that. #makingshithappen
The extra money certainly makes a difference. Here’s to thriving, not just surviving.
Our income differential is still massive though, and we’re not anticipating huge pay jumps that would change that equation. That’s fine.
Ultimately, we’re both people who never expected to make much money. People who never ever imagined earning, say, $60k. While I’ve broken through that barrier and more – I can’t and don’t necessarily expect the same for both of us. What I can count on is myself, and continuing on the quest to get paid well for doing work I love, or as close to it as possible.
Life has never been busier, and while I’m hanging out for Pak n Save to join the online supermarket shopping revolution (come on Foodstuffs!) I’ve cobbled together a routine in the meantime with a couple of other online retailers.
Finding quality, affordable meat has long been an issue for us. Supermarkets have been grim and uninspiring in this department, and even the butcher lately has been disappointing. Cue The Meat Box!
The Meat Box is a local operation (we still get handwritten thank you cards with every delivery) and we’ve found it offers really good value for us. The prices are reasonable and the quality is great. We usually order one of the Couples Boxes and occasionally make up a custom box of individual packed meat items. The downside is they only deliver Tuesday-Friday and the cutoff time is 7am the day prior to delivery – so basically, 2 nights before in reality (unless you enjoy ordering groceries immediately upon getting out of bed?)
North Island deliveries are $8, but there are special discounts from time to time sent out via email and Facebook. And you can get $10 off your first order by signing up for the newsletter!
Greenkart is another local operation that sells everything from meat and produce to dairy, packaged goods and personal care items. Not as extensive in range of products or brands offered as a supermarket, but possibly more so than your local dairy or corner shop. The weekly specials can be quite good too. Delivery charges range from $6 to free depending on how much you spend.
The best part is the flexibility. You can literally order on the same day at a pinch! They deliver every day, and offer delivery options in 3-hour slots (eg you can request delivery between 9am-12pm). I usually just place my order the day before.
Most relevant Facebook ad ever – so glad I saw it …I actually clicked and wound up eventually downloading the app! Yep, there is an app! Seriously. However, the interface for adding your credit card details is horrendous. I’m fairly tech savvy but it took me way too long to figure it out, and I nearly gave up. There’s a visual of a credit card and you have to tap the relevant parts on the fake card to enter your real digits, if that makes sense – complete with ‘flipping’ it over to enter your CVV number on the back.
Now they just need to keep building out their product range further (new stuff is frequently added, so they’re on to it).
However, I’m not in love with the interface (there’s no itemised pricing; to work out what something costs I had to add or remove it from the cart and see how the total cost changed) and they charge $6 for the chiller box, which they’re supposed to pick up the next time, and refund you … except the driver never did collect ours.)
Typically we still do a small supermarket run for things like milk, pet food, toiletries, cereal, pantry staples etc, but this lets us get in and out SO much quicker and reduces the mental load by a huge factor.
This is obviously not the route to go if you’re trying to shop for food as cheaply as possible – you’d need to be driving around to small fruit and veg/meat/ethnic/bulk buy shops – but at this stage in life it’s saving a ton of time and hassle.