Prioritise emergency savings instead of paying off debt, BusinessDesk's Frances Cook says

  • 13/02/2024

An expert says Kiwis should prioritise paying into an emergency savings account instead of paying off outstanding credit card debts. 

It comes as details on the future trajectory of inflation will be released by the Reserve Bank (RBNZ) on Tuesday. 

In the past few days, ANZ has warned of economic conditions further deteriorating - with indications two further rate hikes were on the cards. 

With that in mind, BusinessDesk investments editor Frances Cook outlined multiple things people could do to weather the storm. 

"First thing's first is to not beat yourself up," Cook told AM on Tuesday. 

"The first thing I'd say is, obviously you have to make your minimum payments on the debt - you don't want to get behind on those - but I actually think, for most people, building up $1000 little emergency fund is the next step from that." 

So, $1000 is a good start, but what's the ideal amount of savings to have for a rainy day? 

"A good rule of thumb is about three months of your core costs - so anything that you couldn't skip out on," Cook explained. 

"If you're freelance or self-employed, some people go six months." 

Frances Cook.
Frances Cook. Photo credit: AM

The comments come as a leading economist warned on Tuesday New Zealand's finances weren't out of the woods and future rate hikes were a very real possibility. 

Previously, future official cash rate hikes were deemed unlikely by the RBNZ - but has since become more hawkish in its stance. 

While post-COVID labour shortages have eased, New Zealand is still grappling with high domestic inflation.  

Last week, official data showed New Zealand's unemployment rate only increased slightly in the December quarter. 

Finance Minister Nicola Willis has said the Government was prioritising bringing inflation under control and rebuilding the economy. 

"The last Government's mismanagement of the economy and the Crown's finances has left a legacy of high inflation, reduced spending power for New Zealanders and wasteful expenditure," Willis said on Monday. 

"This Coalition Government is focusing on putting more money in people's pockets, delivering better value for public money and enabling private enterprise."