Me and My Money: Blair Vernon

AMP chief executive  Blair Vernon
Blair Vernon, chief executive of AMP shares his views on saving and investing. Photo credit: Supplied.

"Value for money isn't the price you pay: it's the enjoyment you receive.

"Saving is much easier once you're really clear on your current spending. 

"If you aren't tracking that against a budget, it's all a bit of a mystery."

Blair Vernon, chief executive, AMP Services (NZ) Ltd.

Money. It's the driving factor behind many life choices, but is it the be-all and end-all?

'Me and My Money' is a weekly feature that investigates Kiwi attitudes towards money and what drives the choices they make.

Newshub spoke to Blair Vernon, chief executive of financial services provider AMP, about choosing fun activities to increase fitness, measuring value by enjoyment and how being in control of money removes stress.

What's an example of a goal that you've set for 2020?

My personal goal for 2020 is to improve my fitness through fun activities: it's unfortunate that fitness and wellbeing can often feel like a chore. 

For me, enjoyable activities are mountain biking, skateboarding and snowboarding. 

I'm determined to make time to pursue all of them to find that 'sweet spot' [where] fitness and wellbeing is sustainable because it's enjoyable.

Are you a saver or a spender?

Both. If you plan and prioritise setting money aside for the things that really matter, you can spend what's left over without feeling guilty. 

I'm conscious of debt, so I make sure that spending is from a well-organised budget - something I've only moved to in recent years. 

You need a new dishwasher.  Are you mainly driven by quality, price or both?

Quality. It might cost a bit more, but I always aim for the best quality my budget can afford. 

Appliances seem to be an area where quality pays off in the long run.

Give an example of a recent purchase that you consider was great value for money:

I bought some outdoor chairs from a wonderful home store in Matakana: they're simple, functional and have made the pleasure of sitting in the garden reading a book a thoroughly relaxing experience. 

I think value for money isn't the price you pay: it's the enjoyment you receive.

Have your buying habits changed from in-store to online?

It's a bit of a mix, but some things remain in-store for me.

I buy plenty online: clothes, wine, electronics and the like, but some things I prefer [buying] in-store: hardware and DIY for instance.

You can't beat a trip to the hardware store to mingle amongst all the stuff - that's a classic weekend activity for me.

If you had spare money to invest, what would you invest in?

I invest in shares directly and indirectly through KiwiSaver. 

I'm too busy to get sidetracked with the hassles that can come from property, especially residential. 

I prefer the flexibility and liquidity of equities and managed fund investments. 

What was your last impulse or 'fritter' purchase and how did you feel about it afterwards?

I bought a new electric skateboard on the day it launched in the US a fortnight ago, without being able to try it or read any reviews. 

For me, skateboarding is a fundamental part of my mental health and wellbeing. I'm rationalising the spend as an 'investment' in happiness.

Does having more money increase happiness?

I'd say no. 

But, there's peace of mind in knowing that money has been set aside to take care of the important things, like saving for retirement or paying the bills: that's a good feeling. 

Being in control of your money can remove stress - that's why I budget carefully and advocate it as the fundamental step in any financial plan.

What are your golden rules for saving money?

Have a realistic plan and budget you can stick to. 

That way, you can stay on track and achieve your goals. 

Saving is much easier once you're really clear on your current spending. If you aren't tracking that against a budget, it's all a bit of a mystery.

How much cash do you have on you right now?

$20 - especially handy at the weekend farmer's market, given not everyone accepts EFTPOS or credit cards.