I have been writing about personal finance in columns for the Herald family of newspapers for 15 years. A lot has changed in that time, although the basics of budgeting, spending within your means and investing still stands.
1. You don't need all that stuff. Things that didn't exist 15 years ago such as iPhones and Nespresso machines are seen as essentials. It cuts into savings and forces us to buy larger houses to accommodate everything.
2. Run from hard sell. The worst hard sell I experienced in New Zealand as an undercover journalist was from Blue Chip Financial Services and Youi Insurance. The red flags were blindingly obvious, but Kiwis want to believe what they're being told.
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3. Save little and often. Even low-income KiwiSavers have built up thousands of dollars of savings for the first time in their lives by contributing a little each month. Sharesies allows you to invest a few dollars each month.
4. Markets go down as well as up. Never trust a salesperson using graphs that only go upwards. I've seen too many over the years.
5. Look for solutions not excuses. The term "excusitis" was introduced to me by author Lisa Dudson a decade back. It's really common for people to look for excuses why they can't do something. I always try to look for solutions.
6. Don't envy your neighbours. I first heard Warren Buffett's saying "Only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked" in the early 2000s. It is so true. Some of the people I know who live the most opulent lives have no savings.
7. New Zealand is the Wild West. I first used the Wild West analogy about financial services in 2005. By 2014 it was a bit better, but when I wrote another take on the Wild West analogy a staff member from one of the regulators shouted in my face. Literally. A one-word answer in 2019, for lack of space, is "ANZ".
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8. Reflect. I learn more from personal experience as well as the feedback from readers. Even the "you stupid moronic journalist" emails add to the mix.
9. Own your mistakes. We all make mistakes. They can be a great learning tool if we accept them. One of my children just frittered away $700 of money earmarked for savings. The learnings from that mistake will be worth big bucks over the years.
10. Budget. The big bad budget works. Call it a spending plan if you like. Apps make it easier. A great idea I've picked up in the past couple of years is, if you can't budget at least pick three areas of your expenditure to set limits on.
11. Be honest with yourself. I upset my then-editor in 2016 by suggesting Kiwis are dishonest by lumping alcohol and other luxuries as "groceries" in their budgets. More honest would be adding this spend to your entertainment budget. That's one of the many examples where we aren't honest with ourselves.
12. Teach your children well. Children who don't learn young about money will be a financial drain and worry their parents for years to come. Set rules and give them their own money to spend. Once it's gone, it's gone.
13. Don't take investing advice from your mates. We all know someone who shows off about their investing prowess. Three months or six months returns do not make an investor to learn from. What's more, they might be trying to justify their own actions.
14. Diversify. Over the past 15 years too many Kiwis have lost their life savings through finance company investments, dodgy property investment companies, and scams. No one should have all their money in one basket.
15. Plan for the unexpected. Have income/medical/mortgage/home insurance to cover you rather than going cap in hand to Givealittle.