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Christmas Tidings; Money and marriage; Hitting the career cul de sac; 14 tips for buying life insurance; The long-term outlook for commodities

Christmas Tidings; Money and marriage; Hitting the career cul de sac; 14 tips for buying life insurance; The long-term outlook for commodities

By Amanda Morrall

1) Christmas tidings and savings

I'm working remotely from Christchurch this week. On the drive in from the airport an unusual sight caught my eye and it wasn't a blown up building or swimming pool sized pothole.

It was a Christmas tree twinkling away in a retail shop that was still standing. Still seems a long way off to me and thus far from mind however retailers are warming us up.

I'm a Christmas scrooge so they have their work cut out for me.

According to a Dun and Bradstreet consumer survey many others will also be pulling back this year. Nearly half of all consumers interviewed indicated they'd be using their savings to pay for additional expenses at Christmas.

I know this is bad news for retailers who normally rely on the last minute credit card splurges to boost their bottomlines however it may be regarded as good news that Kiwis are adopting a more cautious approach to spending at this auspicious time of year. See more here in Gareth's report.

In the spirit of savings, here's some tips from Forbes Money Builder on how to plan ahead.

2) Money and marriage

The couples I know who have the strongest marriages tend to be the most unlikely ones.  More often than not it's those with the least money. 

According to this piece by Time magazine, one of the most toxic combinations in marriage is two money-minded individuals. Here's an excerpt.

Researchers surveyed a nationwide sample of more than 1,700 couples, asking them, among other questions, to rate how true this statement was: Money and things have never been important to me. Those who disagreed with the statement (i.e., scored high on materialism) tended to score low on questions that tested emotional maturity and responsiveness to their partners.

"Materialism was also linked to less effective communication, higher levels of negative conflict, lower relationship satisfaction and less marriage stability," says lead author Jason Carroll, a social science researcher at BYU.

3) Hitting a career cul de sac

Ever get the feeling you're that Bill Murray character in the movie Ground Hog Day, reliving the same day over and over again?

Seth Godin, writing about job limitations and fulfillment, calls it the "career cul de sac.'' He suggests when you hit it, it's probably time to move on. However, Godin also talks about dips and how in pushing through a dip, you can emerge ten times stronger. 

How do you know when you've hit the cul de sac or simply in a dip and under what circumstances should you move on? offers some suggestions based on Godin's research and findings.

4) Life insurance

I consider myself so well organised that I have a will and also life insurance. I used a lawyer for the former and a broker for the latter and trust that in using their professional expertise I have my ducks in a row.

Cantabrians have learned the hard way the devil is in the detail particularly with insurance. Here's 14 tips from on how to go about buying a life insurance policy.

5) Commodities cycle

Commodities prices have plunged in recent months (something in the order of 35%) however investment guru Jim Rogers sees a long-term upside for those who remain invested. (See Guardian business story here for more.)

With currencies being debased and Governments printing money like mad, he reckon commodities, including water, will be the place to be invested.

Onwards and upwards, according to investment guru Jim Rogers: "Commodities are the best place to be. Silver, rice, metals, natural gas or soya – it doesn't really matter, you've got to be in real assets at a time when currencies are being debased and governments are printing money."

Rogers says we have been in a commodities bull run since 1999 and the underlying trend is for prices to head north. But how can he say that when there are growing fears that the global economy is heading for a downturn? "As in any market, there will be corrections from time to time. The drivers of commodity prices are the emerging economies, particularly China."

But supply patterns are telling us something too, according to Rogers. "We've got supply shortages, and they are getting worse. There haven't been any gigantic oil finds since the 1960s and the International Atomic Energy Agency is telling people that reserves of oil are in steady decline.

"There hasn't been a lead smelter built in the US since 1969; the average age of farmers in America is 58, which tells us agricultural land could soon be neglected because not enough people are going into farming.

"Exports of gold from South Africa will decline because most of the mines there are very old and not enough new ones are coming on stream."

He is even bullish about water, but warns that people need to tread with care: "I would not suggest you own water, because if you do, when things get really bad the politicians will sneer and say 'You filthy, horrible capitalist, you are making money off people's God-given right to water.' If you are lucky, they will hang you in the city square.

"But if you can solve the water problems, they will build a monument to you in the city square and you will be extremely rich."

Some water stats which explain why?

  • More than two-thirds of the world is surrounded by water; however, 97 per cent of this is ocean. Only 3 per cent is freshwater, of which only a tiny fraction is available for us to drink.
  • The average distance that someone in Africa and Asia walks to collect water is six kilometres.
  • The World Health Organisation estimates that one in six people – nearly one billion of us – don't have access to safe water.
  • At least 50 litres per person per day is what is recommended for basic water needs. In water-scarce areas, the average person has access to less than 10 litres per day.

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