I'm a big one for exercise. Running, walking, cycling, yoga, gym, whatever, just moving is good for your body and mind.
Researchers at Yale and Oxford Universities found that regular exercise instils greater well-being than more money in your bank account. Read more about that in Business Insider here.
I'm the last to advise against a gym membership, but I would say this.
If you aren't going, you're not getting the benefit, and therefore, it is a waste of money. Gym memberships usually cost $25 a week. That's about the cost of a single drop-in session if permitted. So if you're only going 1-3 x a month, you're not getting your money's worth, even if you feel good post-work for those brief times. If you're a sporadic gym bunny, it is far better to pay as you go. Gyms would far prefer you didn't and don't often have this option but some of them do. So find the right fit. Yoga classes tend to offer concessions cards and the more you buy, the cheaper each class becomes. It's a good incentive to keep going, so long as they don't expire!
But back to the gym...If you don't know what you're paying, you aren't paying close enough attention to your finances.
This week, I was chatting with a friend about money, and she was lamenting the cost of her daughter's gym membership, which she covers. I have zero issues with the bank of mum and dad, and I do the same for one of my sprogs. It's good for their mental well-being, they are super fit kids, and they've encouraged many of their friends to take up fitness because of their impressive beach bods. It's a good investment in your kids' future and mental well-being.
On top of that goodness, research has also found that if you have the discipline to exercise regularly, it acts like a keystone habit that encourages good outcomes, including better grades, better jobs, and savings. This is detailed by Charles DuHigg in The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. It's a fabulous read. I highly recommend it if you're trying to reset in 2022.
What surprised me about the gym convo, was my friend said it cost $50 a week! I told her she must surely be confused and that the payments were more likely fortnightly. I double-checked my fees at the same gym to confirm that. She was adamant that $50 was withdrawn weekly for one membership, so I encouraged her to phone the gym ASAP or find a cheaper gym. Sure enough, she reported the next day that they were over-billing her. They fixed it up and said a refund was on its way.
I'm glad we had that chat, as she might have otherwise been paying way more than she needed to for a long time, when that money could have been repurposed to things like debt repayment.
During our talk, it also came out that she was paying for two separate insurance schemes that effectively covered the same thing. It appeared that she had been over-sold on the same type of insurance. That is not the usual problem most Kiwis have, one of the most under-insured OECD countries.
As inflation bites hard and interest rates rise, making your money work harder for you is crucial. Complacency in personal finance, and procrastination, are twin enemies you need to defeat to get ahead.
An easy thing to do, to ward off these financial faux-pas is to print off three months' worth of bank statements, categorise all your spending and scrutinise what is coming out regularly. So many services work on a subscription basis these days. That's handy in some ways and helpful too for those businesses, but they might have outlived their usefulness in your life.
You may have noticed insurance, utility bills, and other automated payments having increased recently without realising it because you didn't read the email warnings. In looking closer, you might have found charges for other extraneous services or stuff you didn't buy, an increasingly common problem with cyber-crimes. I once saw a series of small repeating payments on my Uber account. They were barely detectable because they were so tiny, but they added up. I had to cancel my card and reset the account.
The point is, if you don't pay attention, you have no idea what you are paying. Now more than ever, you can't afford to have your head in the sand.
Keeping your finances fighting fit requires time, attention and discipline, not unlike the gym. But unlike deadlifts and bench presses, you don't need to be that strong. You mainly need to care enough to look.
I imagine PTs would argue you don't need to be that strong to lift weights, given it's an incremental build up. Fair enough.
Like most things, consistency is the key here and strength will be the natural outcome whether it's muscle you are flexing or your financial habit.
The content of this article is purely informational and should not be construed as personalised financial advice. Seek a registered financial advisor if you require personalised advice.
If you live in New Zealand, and haven't already set up a MY IR account via Inland Revenue, do so immediately.
As well as being able to keep track of your income, taxes paid, and KiwiSaver (yes you can track all that via your KiwiSaver provider as well), you can also now easily claim your deductions for charitable donations.
If you don't give to charity, there are plenty of good reasons to do so. If you can't afford it, set a new goal for yourself in 2002 to be in a position to do so. If you didn't already know, you can claim back 33.333% of any charitable donation you make, and that includes those "voluntary" payments you make to school if you have kiddies.
It used to be that to get this money back, you would have to download, print, complete and post a IR526 form to get that money back. In the last few years, the IRD has gone through a massive upgrade to its systems. It is now super easy to file your claims online. It literally takes a few minutes. With all these efficiencies, you can expect to get your money back (straight into your nominated account) within days.
Here's how you'll do it in 7 easy steps:
1) Gather all your charitable tax donations and receipts in one place for easy reference.
2) Register an account with IR or login in.
3) Click on the section that says: Donation Tax Credit
4) Click Enter tax donation receipts
5) Click Add a receipt (see image below for the screen you'll be greeted by).
6) Fill out the details of your donation from your tax receipt. If you didn't get one, ask the organisation to provide one. You will 100% need this information.
7) Upload the receipt where it says receipt attachments and complete the other fields remaining and then submit! Voila. It really is that easy.
If you don't want the money returned to you, (yes there are such people) you can donate it back to the charity. That's a nice choice but most people will want the money back.
This week alone I have filed more than $1,000 in donations and expect to receive back more than $300. Some have already landed in my account which is nice.
Yes it's a luxury to be able to give and I have been practising regular giving for more than a decade. For everything you give, you also receive, and this goes far beyond money.
Now what are you waiting for?!
It's easy to look at all the things that are going wrong during a pandemic and want to drown yourself in some online retail therapy or a supersize order from Super Liquor, but try your best not to go there.
While it's understandable to feel helpless, hopeless and paralysed to do anything other than binge watch Netflix, Neon or both, being under house arrest also has some advantages.
Spending more time with loved ones, being forced to confront those unwanted but satisfying household tasks like cleaning the garage or closet are obvious ones.
Assuming Covid-19 has not killed off your income, you'll also find this is an excellent time to get your financial act together and save some money too.
All up (factoring in the ferry, bus and car use), takeaways, dining out, and the odd retail splurge, I'm saving at least $600-800 a month. It's only been two weeks in lockdown so far, so I expect I'll be at $1,000, but the time we're out of Level 4.
I'm already a queen of automation, but I'm reviewing my savings allocations into my investments and my son's KiwiSaver accounts. I'm sure they'll appreciate my efforts one day!
Here are some simple steps you can do as well to take advantage of your lockdown savings and or the extra time you have on your hands.
1) Review your overall financial position adding up your debts, savings, and assets.
2) If there is any scope for doing so, consider paying down outstanding debt by upping your contributions or through a lump sum payment, assuming you don't get penalised for it.
3) Look at what your KiwiSaver contribution settings are (3%, 4%, 6%, 8% or 10%) and find out how much you're on track to save by age 65. TIP, You can find this figure on your annual KiwiSaver statement as they include that projection now among the data breakdown.
4) If your KiwiSaver is looking good (i.e. you're in the right fund for your circumstances, making decent returns and not overpaying your fund manager, consider opening up an investment fund. There are numerous investment platforms to get started. Look for one that has low fees that have good UX, with good investment options. Make sure you understand what you're investing in and, notably, whether you can afford it. If you're confused with all the options, check out MoneyHub's comparison site.
5) Plan. If you don't know where you're going, you're not likely to make much progress. Take this time to reflect on your broader goals, why you want to achieve them and what you need to do to get there. It's easy to muddle along in life without having firm, fixed plans, but this is not a good strategy for finances.
Be ambitious but realistic about what you hope to achieve. If you need support, ask for it.
In this digital era, there are more resources than you can imagine. Don't use time or lack of knowledge as an excuse not to take the first step toward improving your financial nous.
Have confidence and enjoy the process. Growing your wealth is a multi-faceted endeavour. It's bigger than your KiwiSaver or your investment account. It's daily spending, self-development, education, attitude and concrete actions all working together in harmony.
Visit amandamorrall.com for more tips on wealth, abundance and happiness.
A few years ago, I was the victim of identity theft.
It's taken me about five years to write about it, such was the horror.
Like other crimes, victims often feel they are to blame. My situation wasn't any different. Although lives weren't lost in this particular crime, a lot of money was, including IP, and 15 years worth of cherished digital memories when my computer memory was wiped clear by an "expert" who didn't know how to do a backup properly.
For years, I felt I was to blame. I didn't take two-factor authentication seriously when I shoud have. I thought phising scams were only perpetrated on weak, vulnerable, twits who fall for Nigerian prince money scams.
None of these are true, except perhaps my naivety in thinking that people have better things to do other than phising.
Someone unknown to me, managed to commandeer my gmail account, pour through emails looking for financially sensitive information,contacts whom they could potentially exploit and anything that was remotely convertible into money and or the potential to earn money. I was prevented from seeing these exchanges as they had blocked contacts.
At the time, I had a line of credit through a foreign bank. They managed to forge my signature and execute a total withdrawal of the maximum available with the bank manager responsible, never contacting me once over the phone to verify. In this case $30,000 vanished.
The same perpetuators took over my blog and website, the domaine and content, and starting selling cheap sportswear off the back of it. Although I didn't fully appreciate how much traffic I had at the time and the value of that traffic, it was stolen. Trying to get it back would have been an expensive and futile legal exercise so I didn't bother and abandoned the fight, and blog for years. Such was the impact of the crime.
These same criminals tried to then steal from family members, by writing to them, from my account (without me knowing) and asking for money. Luckily, they didn't fall for it.
This all occured in the early days of 2FV (two factor verification) and when I naively thought you could only be a victim of identity theft if you left your unlocked laptop or phone out with no passwords. How naive I was.
The crime was so insidious, an IT friend of mine, suggested it must have been perpetrated by someone I knew but no one I know would ever go so far as to sink this low.
I have long since reconciled this mess (well kinda) but am sharing the story as a reminder to guard that which is precious, (and I'm not just talking about money and houses). Make sure your email can't be hacked, that everything of value online is secure and don't doubt for a second that internet crimes do exist and it's not just grannies getting fleeced. Both my partner and I have experienced bank card skimming and related loss of funds in addition to the incident I have described above.
Take all the precautions you are advised to when it comes to identity and financial security, and hold close to you all that you value. You don't know what you have until it's gone and some things are unrecoverable.
Cliche but true, you are what you eat, your thoughts dictate your reality and your daily habits define you.
The human body is a sophisticated bit of machinery in its ability to convert food into energy, fat and or waste so you don't become a banana after eating a banana. But as all of us know too well, the image staring back at us in the mirror is a frank reflection of consumption and exercise habits entrenched over time.
Money isn't that much different.
Whether you're skinny, fat or somewhere in between, your PBMI (personal bank mass index) can't be blamed on bad genes only your accumulated patterns of behaviour.
The mistake so many people make when it comes to money is thinking that it is something foreign and separate from who they are and what they do.
"I'm bad with money." "I don't get money." "I don't know where I go wrong." I've heard all the excuses and what unites them tends to be a deflection of personal responsibility.
Money is closer than you think. It is an extension of you; all of you. Your thoughts, your behaviours and daily habits.
It's a scary realisation for some because they're forced to accept that they are personally responsible for their actions. Yes there are some occasions in life when you lose your wallet, you're robbed or make a bad investment decision because you didn't have all the information at your fingertips. But even then, we usually have some part to play in what led us there in the first place.
A more constructive approach to the realisation that you and only you are responsible for your financial health, is that you have the opportunity to do things differently and to effect better outcomes.
It starts with reflection. An examination of where you are now in time, and how you got to be there, and what resources you have to make improvements or changes.
No matter where you find yourself, there is always space and opportunity for improvement. Progress is seldom lightening speed. It starts with motivating goals and aspirations that are executed with slow, progressive, measured steps. No radical crash course diets, rather a gentle introduction of the financial equivalent of fruits and veggies. They may include things like:
Traps to avoid inlcude:
All that you are, everything that you do, will either work for or against it, depending on your perception AND execution.
In the Hindu religion, there are approximately 33 million Gods. They come in many forms including flowers, insects, animals and larger than life characters with the power to destroy and create.
I can't say I'm familiar with even a fraction of them but one which has a prominent place on my wall, and in my life is Ganesh; the great remover of obstacles.
In the Hindu pantheon, Ganesha is the elephant-headed son of Shiva, one of the three most important deities along with his consort, the goddess Parvati. Known as the remover of obstacles, Ganesh is considered a bestower of good fortune, prosperity, and health. If you've been to Bali or India, you'll be familiar with Ganesh.
You can read more about this enchanting god and his story at chopra.com here.
In the context of achieving our goals, Ganesh has much to teach us.
While we may wish for this great God to emerge from the heavens and erase all the things we believe to stand in the way of what we desire, Ganesh is only as powerful as you'll allow. Why?
Because obtaining those things requires an act of mortal intervention as much as as Act of God.
At a very human level, it is the doors of perception that stand in the way of us achieving our goals. The key to unlocking those doors is gaining insight into our deeply engrained or else habitual patterns of thought that prevent possibility and importantly action.
If invoking Ganesh through recitation of his mantra, is the antidote to unhelpful thoughts and patterns, great. Faith will go a long way in this regard. But for the more skeptical, over thinkers among us, having a conscious understanding, awareness and acceptance of those mental traps, is what will ultimately free us and subsequently unlock some of those doors.
Yes in some cases there are literally external obstacles that lie in our path; finances, opportunity, competition, distance, however they tend to be logistics.
The greater barriers to success tend to be the mental ones including fear, denial, self-sabotating thoughts, unconscious patterns of thinking and behaviours that are simply conducive to achieving your goals. Effectively, this mental psycho-drama just clouds your vision. Like a dirty window, our mind needs clearing.
Exercise, yoga, meditation, nature, honest conversations with friends and mentors, are all good solvents in this regard. They help to clear the clutter and shine a light on our blind spots.
Ganesh is a bit like window cleaner I suppose; he's an agent of removal.
But as any good window washer will know, clarity isn't achieved without the expenditure of actual effort to wipe away the grime.
It's natural to wish for short-cuts and magic to bulldoze those external and internal roadblocks.
If Ganesh's superpower is just that, then he's a god worth worshipping.
"Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha"
Recite it 20 times, then go for a run, walk or yoga class and ask yourself some hard questions about what's really stopping you from achieving what you want.
Flow is about more than cash flow. It is about life flow. Each of us creates our greatest wealth when we are in our own personal flow. - Roger Hamilton
There’s a reoccurring theme running through my life that goes something like this: “let go.” Go with the flow might be another way of stating it.
I hear myself uttering the words whilst teaching yoga, I repeat them to myself silently when I feel myself stiffening with stress or disappointment at something not going the way I’d planned and observe the process in nature and watch with wonder and envy at the ease of flow in its purest state.
A great quote came my way yesterday by spiritualist/writer Byron Katie.
“Nothing comes ahead of its time, and nothing ever happened that didn’t need to happen.”
It’s a reassuring thought amid the uncertainty and confusion of life and during those times when we are plagued with the whys, and whens and hows and grating impatience at things not happening in the time frame that we want or expect.
Last week I wrote about overcoming self limiting thinking and self-doubt. I think that mountain is possibly more challenging than Everest. Mental mind traps are the greatest obstacles to success. It’s not lack of money, or shortage of time, or x, y, z that holds most of us back. It’s fear standing in the way of you realising your full potential, and your dreams.
I’m still climbing that mountain and here’s the depressing news: Unless you are fully enlightened (and not many are) that journey never ends. You either give up and give into the herd mentality and behaviour or you keep climbing, deflecting those toxic thoughts as soon as they come your way. It gets easier and easier to defeat them when your awareness of them grows.
My BF has a lot of original ideas. He’s one of those idea junkies. He also has a lot of one-liners that he enjoys tossing around; some good, some bad but they still evoke a smile or at the very least a smirk.
One that I never tire of hearing even though I hear it a lot is “No ask, no get.” We haven’t known each other too long but I assume he’s asked a lot over the years, because he has always seems to get his way. Not only does he have a lot of stuff but he always seems to rope people in doing stuff for him, usually free.
Amanda is a personal finance expert who draws on Eastern wisdom to help you grow your wealth and wellbeing. Money Matters was published in 2013 by Penguin Random House in NZ.