"I think the Government needs to do more to ensure renting is an affordable, safe and secure option for people, and that healthy housing is available to all New Zealanders."
Julie Anne Genter, MP, Green Party.
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 an MP for nearly 10 years, Julie Anne Genter, who represents the Green Party, is the spokesperson for finance - along with transport, urban development, building and construction, infrastructure, Local Government, energy and COVID-19 response.
Referring to growth in house prices as "terrible" and "unsustainable", Julie Anne says the Government needs to do more to help renters.
Although some Kiwis have profited from property investment, New Zealand as a whole isn't going to become prosperous this way, she says.
As a homeowner with a mortgage who had some money saved, she wishes she'd discovered 'offset' mortgages sooner. Rather than earn interest separately, those savings could've been used to reduce her borrowing.
1. Are you a saver or a spender?
A bit of both.
I definitely make an effort to save, but I also balance that with spending on the things that are most important to me.
2. What was your biggest financial lesson, success or failure?
In late 2006, I bought a small unit with my [now] ex-partner in Morningside of Auckland for under $250,000.
Despite interest rates being fairly high, our mortgage was less than rent.
In mid-2008, I was really nervous about property prices being overvalued in Auckland. We sold it for a bit more than we bought it for and went back to renting.
In retrospect, that was not a great financial decision. Property prices in that area nearly tripled over the next 10 years (they did crash in some parts of the United States post-2008).
Ultimately, over the years I was still able to save and buy a family home, so I can't personally complain. But the unsustainable growth in house prices has been terrible and unfair for many people who are renting.
3. What do you know about money now that you wish you'd known sooner?
I only found out about offset mortgages relatively recently.
For a while, when I had a decent amount of savings in the bank, I could've put that in an offset mortgage to pay off more principal (incurring less interest).
4. A recent purchase you consider was great value for money?
I bought a long tail cargo e-bike late last year.
It can carry two kids (or an adult) on the back, and a full grocery shop. It costs next to nothing to run and maintain, it's free to park and it's the most reliable (and fun) way to commute to daycare and work in Wellington.
It's much less hassle than a car!
5. Many New Zealanders are focused on the housing shortage and property values - do you think this needs to change?
I think the Government needs to do more to ensure renting is an affordable, safe and secure option for people, and that healthy housing is available to all New Zealanders.
While property investment may have been lucrative for some people who bought earlier, it's not possible for our whole country to become more prosperous this way.
If we want to live in a society where everyone has a fair go and a decent life, encouraging personal investment in residential property through favourable tax treatment is something we as a community need to move away from.
6. What's your preferred form of investment and why?
I have KiwiSaver for retirement savings.
I used a lot of my savings to buy our family home two years ago. When it comes to shares, I tend to be overly conservative.
For any additional savings I've needed to access in the short-to-medium term, I've used a term deposit. But with very low-interest rates, I should probably re-evaluate that.
7. What's your best saving tip?
Set a goal (even a small one). Set up an automatic transfer of some of your pay into a separate savings account the day you get paid.
8. What's the best money advice someone's ever given you?
Break down your weekly spending into categories and see if there are little things adding up that are less important to you than other goals.
Doing that analysis when I was about 30 helped me make some changes that made it much easier for me to meet my savings goals.
The views expressed in this article are personal and are not professional financial advice.