Finance differences lead to trouble
New migrants face many challenges when first arriving in New Zealand, but sometimes their lives are made tougher by our assumptions about money.
Teremoana ‘‘Terry’’ Tangamaki is one such example.
He was raised in the Cook Islands by his grandparents and at the age of 27 he arrived in Porirua to meet his parents and siblings.
Neither he nor his family realised quite how differently the two countries approach money. Terry found out the hard way.
As he says, life in the Islands is about self sufficiency. You have your own land, you grow your own food, you have your own chickens, and you fish.
To pay for the few bills he had, he worked at the famed Palace Takeaways in Rarotonga. You have to make your own way there as only the very young and the very old are entitled to benefits.
When he arrived in New Zealand, he moved into a state house. He got a job. After a couple of years, Baycorp started knocking on his door.
He appreciates now that he was naive, but he really had no idea about how to pay bills. No one had actually sat him down and said, ‘‘if you sign up to Sky TV, you will get a monthly bill and the best way to pay it is set up a direct debit from your weekly pay’’.
Things got really out of hand following a heartbreaking split from his wife and child.
For a number of years he went on the benefit and, after paying for his board, any spare money would go on drinking, smoking and gambling.
It was only when he realised that his gambling meant he was taking money away from people who needed it – he would beg friends and family for money to cover him between pay cheques – that he stopped.
But the final straw came when he was again boarding with family.
‘‘My money was just going’’, he said.
Feeling completely out of control, he decided to do something about it and joined the Wesley Good Cents programme.
‘‘I challenge everyone to do this course,’’ he says. ‘‘You learn about yourself and what you are worth, in so many ways.’’
It also provides practical advice, he says.
For example, if you can’t make a bill payment, call the supplier and let them know and you can work something out.
Another thing he learned through the course is to save on bank fees, by using telephone banking rather than going into the branch. And setting up direct debits for all bills means a little can go a long way.
‘‘ I am now in control of my money, not the other way around.’’
This means he can now think about the future.
He has a savings plan in action – 10 per cent of what he earns goes into an account so that he and his children can go to the Islands to meet the family.
And, on his return, he plans to save enough to set up his own takeaway shop to rival the one in Raratonga.
To find out more about the Good Cents Course, contact Wesley Community Action on 04 237 7923.
Taking charge: After years struggling with bills and money from others, Teremoana Tangamaki has found ways to get educated about his finances and accumulate savings.