"Money can't buy happiness" is one of those truisms that only applies if you've never been without money.
Money can buy food. A roof over your head. Security.
It may not buy happiness itself, but it can buy many of the ingredients you need to create that happiness.
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We do know that buying more "stuff" won't make you happy. That much is true.
But it seems that New Zealanders are already catching on to the ways that money can buy you happiness; as a tool to look after your family, to protect your place in the world, and the people you love within it.
The latest research from ANZ shows that priority is top of mind for many of us, particularly after the impacts of Covid-19.
In a survey they found that family is now the most important thing for most of us, with 68 per cent of people saying they define wealth as being able to buy what their family needs to survive.
What's holding us back from that? Well, 77 per cent of us feel that we could be doing better with our money.
Not surprising really. Life has a way of getting in the way, especially when we're all tired at the end of a long day.
To feel that they're doing better with money, the biggest priority for most New Zealanders is learning how to save or invest – in other words, grow their piece of the pie.
The next most popular area is wanting to pay off debt and mortgages – in other words, to cut what's holding us back.
Which, once again, I find very reassuring.
Firstly, those areas are indeed ones that can have a big impact on quality of life. New Zealanders are bang on for what they should be focusing on, even if they're not sure how to get there just yet.
The second piece of good news is that these are relatively simple areas to start making headway in.
Don't underestimate the value of changes that feel small.
Reading one chapter a week from a financial book. Listening to a podcast. Saving an extra $20 a week.
Little changes add up to a lot, and before you know it, you've built the confidence to investigate the investing many of us say we want to try.
You should have some understanding of shares before starting investing, but you certainly shouldn't feel like you need a financial degree before you get started.
Learning by doing is powerful, and the new online platforms mean you can test how it all works for as little as $5 a time.
Starting with small amounts is not only not pointless, it's actually (in my opinion) the perfect way to learn.
You get used to how the markets work, your small amount of money starts working for you immediately, and you don't feel the crushing weight of putting your life savings on the line.
You might learn in a book that it's normal for the sharemarket to go up and down, but it's entirely a different thing when you experience your first market dip with you own money on the line.
You're more likely to keep your head, and avoid a panic decision, if you've invested $200 rather than $20,000.
The same small steps approach can work for paying off debt.
There are various techniques for doing it, but underneath all of them is the need to make more than the minimum payment, so that you end up paying less money overall.
Time is money in the finance world. The longer you take to pay off debt, the more it will cost you in fees and interest.
Even an extra $20 a week can shave years off your total mortgage time.
That's because each dollar helps you win twice – you pay off that part of the mortgage, sure, but you also save all of the extra dollars that it would have cost you if you still owed it to the bank.
Google "online mortgage calculator" and see how much you could save with anywhere from an extra $20-$50 per week. You'll likely be surprised at the impact.
If you have a few different debts, then you can find your priorities using the avalanche and snowball methods.
Avalanche means you pick the debt with the highest interest rate, and focus all of your extra money on that.
Because the higher interest rate is costing you the most, paying it off faster will also save you the most.
If you were a robot, this would be the only way to pay off debts.
But because we're all very human, you also have the option of the snowball method.
You pick the smallest debt, and focus all of your extra attention on to that. You will clear that balance quickly, giving yourself a boost of motivation and reminding yourself that you can do this.
These smaller changes soon make a difference, giving you the feeling of self-control and progress with your money.
Even better, cutting debt and creating a cash and investments buffer gives you the type of security that helps you sleep at night, and be able to help your family when you need to.
Now that sounds like a recipe for happiness.
This column is general information only, and not individual financial advice.
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