Money strat­egy that checks out

North Shore Times - - OUT & ABOUT - ROB STOCK

I met one check­out op­er­a­tor with his eyes on higher things.

There’s been a flurry of chat­ter around the as­pi­ra­tions of check­out op­er­a­tors.

It started when Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern de­manded to know when Bill English had lost his am­bi­tion for New Zealan­ders, gush­ing that a check­out op­er­a­tor could go on to study at univer­sity and be prime min­is­ter.

I don’t think my Count­down check­out op­er­a­tor was aim­ing quite that high, but he did have a plan that will take him to good places, and keep the costs down.

He was a Univer­sity of Auck­land engi­neer­ing stu­dent, and we had a cou­ple of min­utes to chat while we waited for a su­per­vi­sor to come and au­tho­rise my booze pur­chase.

Stu­dent loans are a mixed bless­ing to hu­man­ity, but a fact of life. This young man planned to keep his as low as he hu­manly could, which will give him a head start once he joins the work­force.

Here’s what I liked about his


❚ In ev­ery­thing, have a plan

❚ Aim to keep bor­row­ing down ❚ Ed­u­ca­tion is king

ed­u­ca­tion money plan.

1. His ed­u­ca­tion was in a good sub­ject.

Pur­su­ing a ca­reer for love is all very well, and in­deed it can be ex­tremely re­ward­ing. Harry Pot­ter cre­ator JK Rowl­ing, for ex­am­ple, did clas­sics at Exeter Univer­sity. I mean, clas­sics? Not ex­actly an ed­u­ca­tion geared to­wards a modern ca­reer, was it? And yet, she’s now richer than the Queen. But a surer route to the good things in life (sta­bil­ity, home own­er­ship, sav­ings, over­seas hol­i­days, well-ed­u­cated chil­dren, etc) is to get qual­i­fied in a ‘‘core’’ pro­fes­sion that pays over the av­er­age. That’s not to say ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion is the only route to get there. An ap­pren­tice­ship pro­vides a good ca­reer path too. Ca­reers NZ ranks civil engi­neer­ing as one of the higher-paid pro­fes­sions. 2. He was liv­ing at ‘‘home’’. Be­ing from Hamil­ton, he faced big costs study­ing in Auck­land. Halls are $400 a week, he told me. I checked. Not quite, but they still add up to roughly $10,000-$15,000 a year. He was lodg­ing with ex­tended fam­ily. He paid board,

‘‘I know liv­ing at home while study­ing can feel like miss­ing out, but the fi­nan­cial re­wards are huge.’’

but it was a gen­er­ously low rate. Good for his ex­tended fam­ily. I know liv­ing at home while study­ing can feel like miss­ing out, but the fi­nan­cial re­wards are huge. Liv­ing costs, not univer­sity fees are the big­gest cost flat­ting stu­dents face.

3. He was work­ing.

Earn­ing makes a lot of sense when study­ing as ev­ery dol­lar earned is a dol­lar that doesn’t need to be bor­rowed, or chipped in by your par­ents. But it does crimp your style. When I was at univer­sity (study­ing a ‘‘love’’ not a pro­fes­sion, I might add), I did work. Bar­man, scaf­folder, labourer, bike ware­house man, fac­tory care­taker. I rather en­joyed all of them, bar­ring one life-threat­en­ing run-in with psy­chos in one rather rough pub. The main rea­son I worked, in those pre-fees days, was to fund life­style, and keep my Ford Fi­esta’s tank from run­ning dry. 4. Be­ing ‘‘open’’ to chat­ting. The fab­u­lous thing about chat­ting to all kinds of folk is that you get to learn a lot about how other peo­ple live their lives. That gives you an ad­van­tage. It jogs you out of your nor­mal thought pat­terns, and gives you tips you can use to get ahead. In this case, how­ever, the shar­ing went the other way, pro­vid­ing money tips all fam­i­lies with chil­dren look­ing to higher ed­u­ca­tion can learn from.


Count­down check­out worker’s time at the till is pay­ing for his engi­neer­ing de­gree.

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