You've been meaning to do something about your finances forever. Sound familiar? Now may be the time to launch the new financial you.
New Zealand's first ever Money Week, beginning tomorrow, has been timed with the start of spring. There are numerous events to attend, all listed on moneyweek.org.nz.
The week, co-ordinated by the Commission for Financial Literacy and Retirement Income, is designed to inspire Kiwis to take steps to manage their everyday money better.
The commission wants us all to:
* Set short, medium and long-term financial goals
* Make a money plan to ensure we are living within our means and can save towards our goals
* Pay off debt faster using the surpluses identified in the money plan
* Repay our mortgages faster if we have no consumer debt
* Review our insurances
* Invest in KiwiSaver or other retirement savings schemes.
In Auckland there are a number of public Money Week seminars and workshops. For example, Craigs Investment Partners has a women's wealth seminar as well as general investor basics workshops. The New Zealand Federation of Family Budgeting Services has a world cafe workshop.
Learning about money doesn't have to be dull. There are some interesting events planned, such as the Kaitaia Family Budgeting Service's guess the groceries competition. The person whose guess is nearest to the dollar value of the basket of groceries from the local Pak 'n' Save supermarket wins the lot.
Instead of outlining the events, here are some organisations that can help you with your financial spring clean:
Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). The CAB is an information clearing house. It can help people directly with financial problems or point them to third-party organisations for help. The CAB helps people get the information they need to solve problems, which can include personal financial problems, says Kerry Dalton, the bureau's chief executive. People who call into a CAB office may have more than one problem. If the problems can't be solved at the CAB the person will be referred to other agencies. They may, for example, be going through a divorce and need counselling, legal assistance, benefits, budgeting advice and possibly a food bank. The CAB's range of services include:
* Specialist welfare clinics to ensure that people are receiving their full entitlements.
* Employment services such as CV clinics, careers counselling and interview preparation.
* Consumer services including advice about cancelling contracts, buying and selling cars, loans, going guarantor and scams.
* Tax clinics for people with tax issues. www.cab.org.nz
New Zealand Federation of Family Budgeting Services. The federation is an umbrella organisation for more than 150 community budgeting services nationwide. The services are all slightly different, but usually help clients prepare budgets and may be able to negotiate with creditors on their behalf. Some deliver budgeting help only. Others such as the Salvation Army offer multiple services from the same location. Fronting up for face-to-face budgeting advice can be humiliating. As a result the federation also offers a telephone budgeting advice service on 0800 BUDGETLINE (0508 283 438). www.familybudgeting.org.nz
Sorted.org.nz. I would hope all readers have heard of Sorted.org.nz. The Commission for Financial Literacy and Retirement Income's consumer website is packed with useful information and planning tools. One very useful one is a "money plan", or budget that is very easy to complete and is designed to get people started on their spring clean. www.sorted.org.nz
Relationships Aotearoa. The link between Relationships Aotearoa (formerly Relationship Services) and personal finance may not be an obvious one. But if a couple isn't on the same page financially the relationship can be strained. Counselling at Relationships Aotearoa isn't free. It costs $90 a session unless the couple qualifies for free counselling sessions funded by the Family Court. Counselling can help couples solve their financial issues. www.relationshipsaotearoa.org.nz
Financial advisers. As a general rule financial advisers will produce a financial plan and give advice about investing in shares, bonds, managed funds and KiwiSaver. Many manage their clients' investment portfolios on their behalf. Good advisers are concerned for the client's whole financial position and will often spend more time and energy with a client building a relationship than the mere sale of products requires.
Some financial advisers offer other services such as insurance or family trust advice. Or they might refer clients to other professionals. The Institute of Financial Advisers website enables searches for specific guidance on subjects such as KiwiSaver, debt reduction, tax advice and estate planning.
It is also possible to find an insurance adviser using the same search tool. These advisers specialise in personal insurances, such as life, critical illness, and income protection cover. Advisers' services are often "free" because it is common for them to be paid by commission. ifa.org.nz
Mortgage brokers. Mortgage brokers earn a commission by connecting clients with suitable lenders. Some mortgage brokers are simply transactional. Others view their clients more holistically, ensuring repeat business. They may work with a client for months or sometimes even years to help them qualify for a mortgage. The Professional Advisers Association website has a mortgage broker search.
Community law centres. Financial problems and legal problems are often intertwined. Yet when someone is in financial trouble, they can't necessarily afford to pay for a private lawyer. Community law centres provide free legal information and advice over the phone or face to face.
For people who meet eligibility criteria it may be possible to get free representation in court and at tribunals. The centres can also offer mediation to solve legal problems for those who can't afford to pay for legal services.
Robyn Martin, manager of the Otara Community Law Centre, says her lawyers often work with people who have loan-related problems and defaults. Sometimes a relatively small debt has spiralled out of control. www.communitylaw.org.nz/
Christians Against Poverty (CAP). Basic money management courses are few and far between in New Zealand. CAP Money is a three-session course that teaches people budgeting skills and a simple, cash-based money management system. The courses are offered through churches across the country. Attendance is open to anyone, not just the church's congregation. www.capnz.org
Debtors Anonymous. Most people have heard of the hugely successful Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and its 12-step programme. Over the years AA has had a number of successful offshoots including Debtors Anonymous (DA).
A spokesman for the Auckland chapter says members come because they suffer from compulsive "debting", spending, or under-earning. DA appeals to people who work best in groups and can benefit in a supportive atmosphere.
In the first weeks as they start to "right the ship" attendees will be encouraged to cut up their credit cards and to keep a spending diary. They are then given tasks to complete each week, which attack the problem bit by bit.
The group's spokesman says DA members are often professional people such as lawyers, doctors and even sometimes accountants, who have expertise to share as well as their own problems to solve. www.debtorsanonymous.org.au
Tenants Protection Association. Tenants find themselves in a financial pickle all too often. If the problem relates to the property and/or landlord, they can seek advice from their local Tenants Protection Association. There are associations in Auckland, Palmerston North and Christchurch. The Department of Building and Housing also has tenancy helplines that can provide unbiased advice to both tenants and landlords. The Tenants Protection Association (Auckland) can be contacted on (09) 360 1473.
Young Enterprise Trust. If readers' children have a chance to participate in any of the Young Enterprise Trust's programmes in their school, encourage them to. The programmes teach both enterprise and personal financial literacy. www.yetrust.co.nz
A number of government organisations also offer financial help. Inland Revenue, Work & Income, Careers New Zealand, ACC, Insolvency and Trustee Service, Housing NZ, Ministry of Justice and others have helplines and services. There is also the Banking Ombudsman, Insurance & Savings Ombudsman and other dispute resolution services.