Sometimes it seems like no matter how much money you earn, it's never enough. It was reported recently that even some households earning $150,000 a year say they don't have enough money coming in to cover their costs. For someone who's existing on the pension or minimum wage, that probably seems mad.
But I think there's one key aspect of most people's financial lives that's to blame for the squeeze — and it's not an inability to budget or spending. It's over our heads.
House prices have rocketed in recent years, and if you weren't in the market before they took off, it makes a big difference to how much money you need to survive.
Someone on the pension with a paid-off house might now be in a position where they can feel more comfortable than someone earning $150,000 with a big mortgage and a few kids to wrangle.
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About 40 per cent of new mortgage borrowers take out loans that are five times their annual income or more. A typical first-home mortgage is more than $400,000 — and more in some centres. That's a lot of debt to start out life with and to have to commit to servicing for the next couple of decades.
Any consideration of "why we weren't not coping" needs to factor in our outgoings and consider that those earning decent incomes may still not be living lavish lifestyles.
If you are facing into a big mortgage, there are a few things you can do to help.
Consider splitting the loan across several fixed terms so that it doesn't all come up to refix at the same time. This reduces the chance of interest rate shock.
Increase your mortgage repayments when you get a pay rise. This means you get rid of the debt more quickly but there's no pain in the extra payment because it's not money you were used to having anyway.
Get in touch with your bank if your circumstances change and it will be hard for you to make your repayments. A bank can sometimes set up a holiday from repayments or an interest-only period to enable you to get back on your feet if you hit trouble.
• Jeremy Tauri is an associate at Plus Chartered Accountants.