Money bat­tle for ‘bet­ter’


I’ve had my eye on a lovely, shiny ‘‘poi­sons’’ cabi­net for the garage for months. My poi­sons, tox­ins and nox­ious sub­stances are stored out of reach of the kids in a large plas­tic crate.

How much bet­ter the garage would look, if they were stored in a shiny cabi­net.

Bet­ter. Ev­ery­body strug­gles with bet­ter be­cause it is so hard to tell false bet­ter from real bet­ter.

Deep down, I know the shiny cabi­net isn’t worth it.

The amount of ‘‘bet­ter’’ I will get for my $300 just isn’t enough.

Peo­ple are hard-wired to want bet­ter.

We want to im­prove our lots in life, and our liv­ing spa­ces.

It’s a force that drives us to strive, and to shop, of­ten reck­lessly.

It can prove toxic to per­sonal fi­nances. The false forms of bet­ter are all about us.

In its most ex­treme form, it is lu­di­crous.

I read re­cently about the launch of de­signer nap­pies so hip­sters’ ba­bies can look as hip­ster as their par­ents.

Of­ten, it doesn’t seem so out­right silly.

Bet­ter is putting wa­ter­proof speak­ers in the shower. It’s up­grad­ing the car ev­ery three years.

It’s mag-wheels. It’s a new car stereo. It’s re­fus­ing to drink the free cof­fee in the of­fice kitchen and in­stead treat­ing your­self to cafe cof­fee each day.

It’s an­other pair of shoes. It’s the pa­leo diet. It’s the un­nec­es­sary ex­tra present at Christ­mas. It’s the mag­a­zine-ready home. It’s a $45 hair­cut. It’s a bar­ber shave. It’s the 22nd Beanie Boo your daugh­ter owns.

Un­de­ni­ably, bet­ter-look­ing nap­pies make for mildly more eye-friendly ba­bies.

There is a mod­est bet­ter­ment from be­ing able to hear Sia sing Chan­de­lier in the shower than try­ing to hit the top notes your­self.

But there is an­other form of bet­ter.

Ac­tu­ally, it is a bet­ter form of bet­ter. It’s called sav­ings.

Hav­ing money is bet­ter than not hav­ing any.

Hav­ing a debt-free home is bet­ter than hav­ing a mort­gaged one.

Hav­ing the choice to work less, re­tire early or tell your boss you won’t do some­thing un­eth­i­cal, is bet­ter than the al­ter­na­tive.

The false forms of bet­ter can eas­ily crowd out the bet­ter forms of bet­ter.

Now to tips for dis­tin­guish­ing false bet­ter from real bet­ter.

I’m not go­ing to pre­tend I have all the an­swers. I’m prone to putting off buy­ing some­thing un­til it is well over­due.

I once went a year be­fore re­plac­ing a bro­ken fridge, though in my de­fence it was be­fore the kids were born. I get called mean some­times (hor­ror).

In my hum­ble opin­ion, real bet­ter has these char­ac­ter­is­tics.

It brings a deep, calm­ing hap­pi­ness rather than a shop­ping-thrill kind of rush.

It doesn’t rob you of fu­ture com­fort, sta­bil­ity and choice.

It’s about keep­ing up with your plan, not your neigh­bours.

And each year ends with you wealth­ier and closer to in­de­pen­dence than you started it. Last week’s $925,000 pay­out to David Bain end­ing up hav­ing an Alice in Won­der­land level of ab­sur­dity to it. If Bain sup­pos­edly failed to meet the re­quired thresh­old of in­no­cence, the gov­ern­ment cer­tainly failed to meet the thresh­old of com­pe­tence in its han­dling of the case.

De­spite 13 years of wrong­ful im­pris­on­ment, Bain was deemed to de­serve zero com­pen­sa­tion from the state. Re­port­edly, this was be­cause he couldn’t prove him­self ‘in­no­cent be­yond rea­son­able doubt’. To many ob­servers, this seemed a heavy bur­den to place on some­one who has been ex­on­er­ated by the courts.

For­tu­nately, this wasn’t the end of the story. Ul­ti­mately, Bain has re­ceived nearly a mil­lion dol­lars in com­pen­sa­tion be­cause of the state’s de­lay in de­cid­ing that he was in­el­i­gi­ble for com­pen­sa­tion.

As logic, it was a bit like the old Grou­cho Marx gag about not want­ing to be a mem­ber of a club that wanted him as a mem­ber.

Amid the wel­ter of com­ment last week, Act Party leader David Sey­mour seemed dead right in say­ing that New Zealand needs to revisit how it deals with these kind of last re­sort cases.

‘‘There needs to be some­thing bet­ter,’’ Sey­mour sug­gested, ‘‘than one or two in­di­vid­u­als in Cabi­net ex­er­cis­ing what ap­pears to be their own per­sonal pref­er­ences, shop­ping for one ju­di­cial re­view af­ter an­other.’’

Well put. Much of the blame for the costly de­lay has to be laid at the feet of for­mer Jus­tice Min­is­ter Ju­dith Collins, who re­fused to ac­cept the find­ings of the ini­tial ‘in­de­pen­dent’ re­view that she had com­mis­sioned, shopped around for a more po­lit­i­cally palat­able out­come, and then handed the whole mess over to Amy Adams, her hap­less suc­ces­sor as Jus­tice Min­is­ter.

Ar­guably, a be­lated find­ing of

Your money

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