By Amanda Morrall
1) Positive credit ratings
I came into possession of a Guardian Weekly last week, an indulgence which I'd forsaken a while ago in an attempt to save money. As I was catching up on the discovery of "walking trees" in the Amazon and mushrooms that actually eat polyurethane plastic, I was also shocked to learn that one of the top most frequently searched questions plugged into Google is "What is love?" I'm not sure what that says about humanity just something for you to contemplate as well. Interestingly, the other item searched with high frequency had to do with credit scores.
New Zealand's credit rating system is different from the U.S. and I expect the search engines weren't feeding off Kiwi inquiries. Nevertheless, there should be interest in this topic for New Zealanders as well. Why? Because as I've written before, last year we moved to a positive credit reporting system. Previously, it used to be that only poor financial behaviours were registered. For example, skipped or late payments, and debt defaulting. It protected would be lenders taking risks on borrowers who weren't good for it.
Under the new positive reporting system, consumers with a good track record for prompt payments and responsible financial behaviour are credited for their actions. This is important to the extent that consumers can leverage this bit of information in their favour when bargaining and negotiating with lenders, something we don't do enough of because we're just grateful someone is lending us money. We tend to forget how wealthy we'll make the lender over the long-term.
2) Celebrity fall
I'm not normally one for gossip but as it crosses the personal finance sphere, I had to grab this story today about the financial fall from grace for actress Martine McCutheon, star of Love Actually with British heartthrob Hugh Grant. McCutheon was apparently forced to declare bankruptcy recently despite what was surely a fat bank balance from her work as star on the Eastenders from age 18 on and commercials for Danone Yogurt along with a number of other money making opportunities. The Guardian carries the story here, minus the important details of how she ran into trouble.
3) Travel on a shoestring
After writing last week about my friend's mammoth bucket list, I've been working on my own. Given that I live at the bottom of the world now and have to travel to the other side of it to see my family from Canada, I've been rather conservative in my travel agenda. I've been encouraged to dream and think big so I have ended up with a rather long list now that reads like a James Bond novel. Obviously how you travel will dictate cost in no small way so for all your travel bugs out there, here's some advice on how to do it in a more affordable manner from GetRichSlowly.org.
4) Kids and money
For some time now my two children have had saving accounts with little booklets that were stored in the junk drawer somewhere and seldom looked at. In an attempt to make them more engaged and interested with their accounts, I decided to get them both on-line access and EFTPOS cards. Normally kids have to be at least 12 however with parental consent it's possible to do this at a younger age. Whilst they initially delighted in this grown-up privilege I'm not sure I have any Donald Trump juniors on my hands. Both have gone back to just being boys far more interested in Lego, Bionicles and MineCraft on the iPad. So time to re-engage. Lecturing is one thing, engagement is entirely another matter.
The financial website clubthrift.com offers 7 engaging and fun ways to teach kids about money here.
Budgeting isn't rocket science but very few people do it. At least that's what the research suggests. Why? Time, boredom, insecurity are usually at the top of the excuse list. For those experimenting with different processes and systems, here's more on the 50/30/20 plan via the blog plantingmoneyseeds.com.
Basically this approach encourages you to break down your after tax income into three where 50% goes to paying for your essentials, 30% for non-essentials and 20% for savings. If essentials (needs i.e. rent, power, food) take up 80% of income, obviously the non-essentials are going to be nil. The thinking here is that such a formula will you get thinking more seriously about the difference between wants and needs, which is never a bad thing in my humble opinion.