Advice for Money Week


Money week is upon us again so ex­pect a lot of advice to come your way.

To me, Money Week, which starts on Septem­ber 5, is a bit like Father’s Day.

It’s nice to get a bit of ex­tra at­ten­tion, but it doesn’t feel spe­cial.

When you’ve got chil­dren who make you proud, ev­ery day is Father’s Day.

Sim­i­larly, ev­ery week is Money Week when your job is writ­ing about money.

Money Week does have a use though, and it is sim­i­lar to the use many peo­ple put birthdays, Christ­mas and New Year to.

Dates on the cal­en­dar can pro­vide mo­ments to judge our progress.

I no longer get ex­cited about my birth­day (you don’t when you’re 45) but it’s a day on which I take stock, and judge my achieve­ments and fail­ures in the pre­vi­ous 12 months in the life of Rob. Ditto New Year’s Day. Some of the mus­ing is mon­eyre­lated, though lately the nag­ging sense I should have fin­ished that best-sell­ing novel has been grow­ing.

A once-a-year date to fo­cus on your fi­nan­cial progress isn’t a bad thing.

You could use Money Week, your birth­day, New Year’s Day, any darned date you choose.

Keep­ing track helps keep us fo­cused.

As­pi­ra­tions will range from the mod­est to the grandiose.

For most peo­ple the fo­cus will be two or three as­pects of their money lives:

One: How rich they are as mea­sured by their net worth (value of as­sets mi­nus amount owed in debt).

Most peo­ple’s as­set wealth is made up of two el­e­ments. The eq­uity in prop­erty, and their Ki­wiSaver/re­tire­ment sav­ings.

You will note I do not in­clude the value of their ‘‘stuff’’. Stuff just makes you feel rich rather than sig­ni­fy­ing real wealth.

Debt mostly means the mort­gage and con­sumer debt like credit cards.

Two: Their sense of fi­nan­cial re­silience.

A sur­vey by in­surer Cigna shows four in 10 peo­ple who lose their job will run out of money to pay their bills within one month.

One month? That’s ter­ri­ble. There has to be a bet­ter way to live.

Add in those who could man­age for ‘‘a few months’’ and six in 10 peo­ple lack any mean­ing­ful fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity.

Those are shock­ing fig­ures. We are peo­ple tee­ter­ing on the edge of in­sol­vency.

Three: How se­cure their in­come is, whether em­ployed, or self-em­ployed.

As a wage slave, I have tra­di­tion­ally fo­cused on killing the mort­gage and sav­ing/in­vest­ing.

I haven’t had con­sumer debt in 20 years, and feel blessed for it.

I gave my­self the lib­erty of sav­ing at the same time as go­ing hell for leather at the mort­gage be­cause I was will­ing to both sac­ri­fice some of the lux­u­ries of life as well as pay­ing the price for not be­ing among the six in 10 who’d be ef­fec­tively bust within a few weeks of los­ing their job.

Choose a date, any date, Money Week, if you like, and make it your date for check­ing on your progress, and set­ting goals for the com­ing year. If you are any­thing like me, you will know what you need to work on. Ac­cess to health care can be a po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic de­ci­sion, as much as a med­i­cal one. Un­met need is rife within the pub­lic health sys­tem, high burnout rates are be­ing recorded among med­i­cal staff, and – re­port­edly – most of the coun­try’s district health boards are op­er­at­ing in the red, to the tune of $54 mil­lion of DHB debt over­all, na­tion­wide. Hardly an ideal back­drop as New Zealand as­sesses its abil­ity to pur­chase the new gen­er­a­tion of ul­tra-ex­pen­sive ‘bi­o­log­ics’ drugs, which are com­ing to mar­ket just as the baby boomer gen­er­a­tion hits the age brack­ets as­so­ci­ated with an in­creased risk of can­cer.

The new anti-can­cer drugs – Keytruda and Op­divo have be­come house­hold names – cost well into six fig­ures per pa­tient an­nu­ally. Ear­lier this year, pa­tients with melanomas cam­paigned pub­licly for ac­cess to these drugs. Even­tu­ally, Phar­mac (and the min­is­ters hold­ing the purse strings) de­cided to pro­vide state fund­ing only to those pa­tients with ad­vanced skin can­cer.

Last week, lung can­cer pa­tients found them­selves in ex­actly the same po­si­tion, of hav­ing to mount a very pub­lic – and highly po­lit­i­cal – cam­paign to qual­ify for sim­i­lar state fund­ing of their treat­ments. Mean­while, equally ex­pen­sive drugs (and stem cell treat­ments) for mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis are hov­er­ing on the hori­zon.

All these drugs of­fer life chang­ing – and in some cases, life sav­ing – re­lief to peo­ple in des­per­ate need. Phar­mac is the meat in the sand­wich, caught be­tween ris­ing pub­lic de­mand for sky-high ex­pen­sive treat­ments on one hand, and Bee­hive-driven

Your money Talk­ing pol­i­tics

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