Govern­ment agency’s mantra off the­wall

I saw the most star­tling phrase on the wall of a Govern­ment agency.

The Tribune (NZ) - - GARDENING - ROB STOCK rob.stock@fair­fax­me­dia.co.nz

Apolo­gies to those who have a low tol­er­ance for cuss words, but I have to tell you what it is, or this col­umn will make no sense at all.

The phrase was: ‘‘Bitch, it ain’t on the list’’. I kid you not. What’s more, when I asked the head of the agency about it, she said she was think­ing get­ting T-shirts printed sport­ing the phrase.

The agency was the Com­mis­sion for Fi­nan­cial Ca­pa­bil­ity (CFC). Its head is re­tire­ment com­mis­sioner Diane Maxwell.

Hers is the agency tasked with mak­ing us all smarter with money.

It runs Sorted, the coun­try’s most use­ful per­sonal fi­nance

web­site, chock-full of mort­gage, sav­ing, Ki­wiSaver and get-out-ofdebt cal­cu­la­tors.

It’s also in­volved in pro­vid­ing money education in work­places and schools, and try­ing to get politi­cians to put in place sen­si­ble re­tire­ment in­come poli­cies.

The phrase isn’t up in bold as some kind of gra­tu­itous mod­ern hu­mour. It’s up there as the voice of an or­di­nary New Zealan­der.

It is a re­minder that the CFC needs to speak a lan­guage or­di­nary New Zealan­ders un­der­stand.

Too of­ten the lan­guage of govern­ment and money peo­ple is a jar­gon-filled pa­tois only dis­tantly re­lated to ev­ery­day English.

Maxwell told me how the phrase came to be on the agency’s wall. It was the catch-cry of two women who did their shop­ping to­gether. It was spo­ken when one dis­cov­ered the other had sneaked some­thing into her trol­ley that wasn’t on her shop­ping list, hence the ‘‘Bitch, it ain’t on the list’’.

It was their way of en­cour­ag­ing each other to stick to their tight shop­ping bud­gets.

We all know the wis­dom of shop­ping to a list we have planned. It helps re­sist temp­ta­tion in the su­per­mar­ket where there are so many good things that are bad for our waists and our wealth. Meal-plan­ning for those on tight bud­gets is es­sen­tial, if there is ever go­ing to be any money left over to save.

The phrase on the wall stands for all those peo­ple and fam­i­lies do­ing it hard but not pity­ing them­selves, fac­ing up to liv­ing within their means with good hu­mour.

It stands for the ‘‘Lit­tle and of­ten’’ mes­sage Maxwell re­peats. Do­ing lit­tle things of­ten is the key to chang­ing money lives.

Save $10 a week, and one day there’s $500 in the ac­count.

Join Ki­wiSaver, and one day there’s $50,000 there.

Put an ex­tra $20 a week into the mort­gage, and with thou­sands off the in­ter­est cost.

The CFC un­der Maxwell has changed a lot. It used to feel a bit like it was run by and for mid­dlein­come New Zealand.

It was aw­fully po­lite, very wor­thy, and its staff were not at all funny. They may not al­ways have got out of the of­fice to talk to peo­ple who start sen­tences with cuss words.

I’d be poorer for not hav­ing heard the phrase, though I think my wife might ob­ject if I tried to bring it into ev­ery­day us­age at home.

I think many house­holds have money mantras and phrases. What are yours? I’d love to hear them.

Do­ing lit­tle things of­ten is the key to chang­ing money lives. Save $10 a week, and one day there’s $500 in the ac­count.

PHOTO: /123RF.COM

Shop­ping to a list helps avoid im­pulse pur­chases.

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