An insurance story with a happy ending? Amanda Morrall on how not to get ripped off by your insurance company
In the financial media, it’s good sport to slag insurers. Let’s face it, they’re easy targets.
We pay, and we pay and we pay… and then when we make a claim, they tear it to pieces with loopholes and exemptions written in microprint on the back page of page 10 and we’re left high and dry, and still paying. Okay, yes there are exceptions and there were some happy stories to come out of Christchurch, although they were more like War and Peace length epics by the time the pay outs were made.
So what am I on about this week and why?
Last week at the dinner table my financial philosophy (see about me) was challenged by my two sons, ages 10 and 11.
I’m not sure how it came up but one of them (probably the eldest who aspires to be the next Donald Trump) said it was nonsense that money doesn’t make you happy. “Of course money makes you happier mum, look at all the stuff it can buy you and places you can visit when you have lots of it! You can’t do all that fun stuff when you’re poor.”
When I turned to son No.2 for backup, he took big brother’s position, which is rare. Given both are obsessed with super cars right now, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. If they won the lottery tomorrow, and were old enough to drive, they’d rush out to buy their favourite racing cars and live happily ever after, so profound is their love for super cars. I had to concede the point. Yes, money can buy happiness but there’s a big BUT to follow. They won’t get it until they’re adults.
This week I was approached by a friend looking for some advice on money matters. I had to emphasise the fact that I am not an authorised financial advisor (AFA). Why should they or you care whether or not I am an AFA? Because new rules introduced in the last few years specify that any professional giving you personalised advice has to be authorised to do so. What this means in plain English is they have passed certain tests and meet criteria laid out by regulators with the Financial Markets Authority. Previously, anyone could call themselves a financial advisor, regardless of their background, qualifications and experience. New Zealand was the wild west of the financial services sector. Thankfully, there are now rules and system in place meant to restore confidence to the financial advisory sector and to raise the bar in general.
Amanda on blessings in disguise; Defining success; the power of words and honey money; working for love.
Following last week’s confessional blog, I decided this week (I have good intentions for once a week blogging now) to shower you with some link love.
Other bloggers will know well the virtues of link love. Outbound links to other writer’s good work offers some karma kickbacks. By generating traffic for others looking to build their readership, you in turn create some of your own. i.e. You follow me, I’ll follow you.
I’m not a Catholic, a Buddhist rather, but I feel like I need to start this blog as though I were going to confession:
Please forgive me. It’s been five long months in between blogs.
This is what happens when you’re not on a deadline! It’s also what happens when you are trying to find a linear route through a dense and confusing forest of seemingly conflicting paths. Eventually we arrive where we are meant to be long before we make the realisation that we’re there.
I can remember very clearly my first serious speed wobble. I must have been about six or seven years old. I was flying down a very big hill on my bicycle on one of my dad’s signature all day excursions. I wasn’t wearing a helmet (you didn’t back in the ’70s) and my brakes were the reverse peddle variety i.e. not very effective. As I lost control of the handle bars and the front tire began to veer back and forth in ever widening loops, I could anticipate the crash. It was awful. I sailed over the bike onto the asphalt, scraping knees and elbows, and seriously bruising my child sized ego. It was a small miracle I wasn’t tossed into oncoming traffic and that I didn’t sustain a brain injury. I can’t say I remained calm, but I do remember carrying on. I didn’t want to miss out on the zoo visit.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across the words above on sandwiches boards outside flower shops, in magazine articles, at yoga studios where I’ve practiced or random places you’d least expect. The universe was trying to send me a message. It’s funny, though I desperately wanted to believe it was possible, the cynic in me put up mental road blocks. My internal thoughts would read something like this: “Yeah, it’s a great ideal but come on how many people are living that dream?” I’d imagine for a moment what it might feel like then rush back to my desk and try to make peace with the life that I’d chosen to lead but wasn’t very happy with.
Sometimes in life you have to take chances. Normally I don’t leave much to chance even though I do take risks. For example, I moved to New Zealand from Canada without a place to live, without a job, and basically without the foggiest idea about what I was getting myself into. Oh, and I came with two small children. Amid a beautiful backdrop, I endured the break up of my marriage, an earthquake, more episodes of lice than I care to remember, a broken heart, a run-over cat, and enough house shifts to fill an address book. On the bright side, I grew personally and professionally, saw some amazing sights, travelled beyond our borders and developed a network of amazing friends, yogis and professional contacts. Bonus: I also became a published author. Perspective is often difficult but on balance the good in all likelihood outweighed the bad. In fact, if I had to write out a list, I’m positive the pros would outnumber the cons, even if the con side was an emotional juggernaut.
This year I have decided to boycott Christmas. Well not entirely. I’ll buy something for the children but as we’re off to see family overseas our presence is their present. I expect they’ll think me Grinchy but given my occupation I think they’ll understand. I never did get the whole Christmas consumer blow-out. It was great as a kid when the magic of Christmas was still in the air but as an adult I found it all a bit much. My mother would get hugely stressed out by the pressure of having to celebrate a perfect Christmas, I’d get a headache dealing with traffic, crowds and trying to find suitable gifts because I’d invariably left it to the last minute and then there was the awkwardness of receiving gifts from someone you didn’t buy for it. This year I’m dispensing with all that business. I’ll be celebrating on a beach in Maui with my Canadian family most of whom I haven’t seen in two years. Bonus, one of my best friends will be there with her two kids.
January 2013 will mark the start of a brave new journey for Amanda Morrall as I transition into the world of self-employment. It is said the journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step so if you’re reading this you are witnessing the tentative first tip-toe into the unknown. Because I have other stuff cooking at the moment, this site won’t get going in earnest until next year but come back and visit me periodically as you never know what you’ll find. As I explained in the About section, my plan with this website is to fuse my twin passions for journalism and yoga in hopes of offering you a unique blend of personal finance that focuses on well-being as much as money.
Amanda Morrall is a New Zealand based personal finance expert. Her first book Money Matters was published in 2013 by Penguin Random House in NZ.