By Amanda Morrall
1) Smoke and mirrors
On a recent trip abroad, I had occasion to undertake an undercover assignment: my neighbour asked me to buy some duty-free smokes. Don't shoot me but I obliged her. It's her only vice.
As I haven't purchased cigarettes in 20 years, I didn't realise what a mission it was today. It damn near took me 10 minutes to find them until I realised they were staring me in the face. More accurately, I was the one who was being started at by two beefy guards stationed in front of highly secured no-go zone where the cigarettes were kept in locked white closets with signs and posters plastered with warnings about death, dying and smoking. My heart was pounding as I did the walk of shame into the secret smoking chamber where I meekly placed my order half expecting to be interrogated.
When I think back to high school where there was an allocated outdoor smoking area (on site), the whole experience seems bizarre. And yet with the NZ Government determined to make the country smoke-free by 2025, it's little wonder buying tobacco has become so taboo.
Will all these restrictions and the ever growing tax grab on tobacco have the effect of stamping the filthy habit out or merely foster a black market for it? This post-budget report from BusinessDesk suggests the latter.
On the subject of naughty stuff, here's a sideline budding writers with a Mills and Boons bent might want to contemplate: a trade in E-erotic books which are pulsating with profits. According to this Wall Street Journal story, one in three romance books were sold in the e-book format last year underscoring the public's growing appetite for racy little numbers that can be discretely read on the bus with a tablet.
I might have to contemplate a change in themes for my second book.
National's 2012 "zero budget" has been described as under whelming (BusinessDay's Jazial Crossley reports on the tax changes here). On the whole I would agree the budget was a bit of bore. However, reading between the lines I think there was a strong message for New Zealanders who are being pulled in all directions as the Government scrambles to return to surplus in 2014-15.
To me the Government's removal of tax breaks, even thin one's for working students, reveals a not so quiet desperation that signals the beginning of the end of safety nets, supports and rebates. While KiwiSaver subsidies are safe for now, it's hard to believe (in the absence of an economic miracle for NZ Ltd) that they are long-term sustainable. The writing is on the wall and it's everyone for themselves in the savings department. Don't expect anyone to save for you and don't expect that 3% of salary is going to cut it either. Triple that and you'll be closer to the recommended norm internationally.
4) How much do you need?
The Government and the savings industry are working on a plan to help New Zealanders determine how much they'll need in retirement and to figure out how to bridge any potential shortfalls. We can expect some interesting material on this front in August.
With some thoughtful consideration and planning, most individuals will be able to figure this out on their own, taking stock of their assets, liabilities, current savings levels and giving some thought to what kind of lifestyle they want in retirement.
Here's a calculator that may be of benefit. It shows you how much KiwiSaver will cost you and how much you can expect to save given different contribution savings levels.
According to the latest KiwiSaver Sentiment Index, released by Mercer, the majority of New Zealanders are contributing either 2% of salary (41%) or 4% of salary (44%), while only 6% are putting away 8% of their salary.
5) Grow your business
Post GFC, second jobs and sidelines businesses have grown in popularity as both a means of getting rid of debt and increasing savings.
This article from yahoofinance looks at some considerations around making the most of your business.