Me and My Money: Dr Pushpa Wood, Massey University

Pushpa Wood
Dr Pushpa Wood, director of the Massey University financial education and research centre says age and culture affect attitudes to money. Photo credit: Supplied.

"On our university campus, I see students spending money on lunch, coffee, snacks and flavoured water, day-in, day-out. 

"Although I'm on a reasonably good salary, I think twice before spending $10 or $15 on my lunch.

"For me, buying lunch is a treat, not a daily necessity."

Dr Pushpa Wood, director, Massey University Financial Education and Research Centre.

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 regular feature that investigates Kiwi attitudes towards money and what drives the choices they make. 

As a saver raised to value every dollar, for Pushpa Wood buying lunch is a treat - not a necessity. Many university students spend money on lunch and drinks daily, she says, highlighting how age can affect attitudes towards money.

Culture also plays a part: some men see their role as provider and don't share money worries with their partner, Wood says. To resolve stress and achieve goals, more open money conversations need to happen.

1. Are you a saver or a spender?

A saver. 

It was drummed into me from childhood that even if I had one piece of bread on my plate, I must save half for tomorrow! 

This childhood lesson has served me really well and helped me develop good money habits.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t spend - far from it! I enjoy spending, but most of the time, it's planned.

2. What's been your biggest financial lesson, success or failure?

A success was at the beginning of 1999, when I decided I wasn’t going into the next century with mortgage debt on my head. 

I had a serious discussion with my bank manager, reorganised my mortgage and increased the payment amount to focus on paying it off. 

The family had to cut down on a few things, but the sacrifice was worth it!

3. What differences do you see in how young millennials view money, compared to Gen X?

The key difference I see is around attitudes to money.

Although I see a lot of exceptions, many millennials see money as a commodity that they're entitled to use as they wish, when they wish and how they wish. On our university campus, I see students spending money on lunch, coffee, snacks and flavoured water, day in, day out. 

Although I'm on a reasonably good salary, I think twice before spending $10 or $15 on my lunch. I know I can bring a cheaper - and nutritious - lunch from home. 

For me, buying lunch is a treat, not a daily necessity. However, that requires planning, careful shopping and preparing.

But I do witness young people with a list, doing their shopping on a budget. I'd just like to see more of these examples in the cafeteria!

4. Do partners talk enough about money?

In my experience, we're still not very open and comfortable with 'money talk'.

We need to normalise the 'money conversation' and keep it simple and real. In my view, culture plays an important role.

I've worked with couples in the community where the male partner sees it as his responsibility to provide. Some will do this without discussing the stress they're under, as they see it as a weakness to share 'money worries' with their partner.

Sometimes, talking about money is a catch-22, as the stress level in a relationship makes people feel uncomfortable bringing up money issues. On the other hand, it's the money issues that give rise to stress in a relationship!

The more we normalise the conversation about money, the easier it will be to work together to achieve our goals.

5. Give an example of a recent purchase you consider was value for money?

As most of my purchases are planned, they're generally value for money. 

For example, I've been thinking about replacing two pairs of trousers that I've used for the past four years or so. 

After considerable thought and checking out the sales, I decided to replace the two of them with one high-quality pair. They're slightly more expensive than I usually spend.

I expect they'll last me a while and being black, will work with most of my clothes. And they still work out cheaper than buying two pairs!

6. If you had spare money to invest, what would you invest in and why?

I'm a very conservative investor and don't like taking much risk with money. 

Before investing, I consider the risks. I'm really fanatical about where my money is invested: yes I consider returns but more importantly, I consider whether the investment is ethical.

Lately, I'm looking at sustainable finance and restorative investments for community development.

7. Does having more money increase happiness?

Having money may make life comfortable, but it doesn't necessarily increase happiness. 

Happiness is a state of mind. I've seen some of the poorest people with the most generous spirit. I've also seen some of the richest people with very mean spirits who are lacking inner happiness.

8. The best money advice someone's ever given you?

At a very young age, I was told, 'If you respect money, money will respect you'. 

Money is just a means to achieve what you want. Use it wisely and respectfully and never compromise your values to earn it.

The views expressed in this article are personal and are not professional financial advice.