Talk Money with Tony Field – September 25, 2015


It is an age old question. Does money make you happy?

The latest Sovereign Wellbeing Index provides some insights. Its 2015 wealth and wellbeing in New Zealand report indicates that "it is not how much you earn, but rather what you do with it that counts when establishing the relationship between wealth and wellbeing".

There is no doubt that income is important. The report, which surveyed 10,012 adults, found that those with a household income of more than $100,000 were 2.8 times more likely to rate highly for wellbeing than people whose household income was less than $30,000.

But a more important factor in determining people's happiness was their ability to comfortably live within their means on whatever income they do earn.

People living comfortably within their means on their present income were 11.8 times more likely to be in the top wellbeing group than those finding it very difficult on their present income.

Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed reported that their household income was adequate. The remaining 32.7 percent said their household income was inadequate.

The groups who believed they had adequate income included people earning more than $100,000; adults not in the labour force aged 65 and over and young couples (18 -3 4).

The survey was conducted by AUT's Human Potential Centre.

The prevalence of wellbeing was highest among adults not in the labour force (65+), despite this group having a low median household income (39.7 percent).

"Income still plays an important role in determining overall wellbeing; however the research is showing effective money management, whether you're earning a little or a lot, can influence high levels of wellbeing," says AUT's professor Grant Schofield.

"For example, more than 40 per cent of people with a combined household income of just $30,000 still reported finding this level of income to be adequate."

The next highest prevalence of wellbeing was reported by adults without children (aged 55+), and couples with older children (33.6 percent and 30.1 percent respectively).

The prevalence of wellbeing was lowest among young singles (aged 18-34), sole parents with older children, and sole parents with young children (14.9 percent, 16.4 percent and 18.7 percent, respectively).

The survey asked where people rated themselves on a society ladder, where 0 ir bottom and 10 is the top.

Around 15 percent of people rated themselves towards the top of society.

More employed people rated themselves toward the top than did people who were unemployed (16.2 percent and 6.4 percent respectively). This perhaps ties in with international research that suggests employment not only generates income but gives many people a sense of purpose and boosts their self-esteem.

Despite concern about the high cost of living in Auckland, the authors say that no significant regional differences appeared in the survey in terms of how people viewed income adequacy.

But the report did find that there was a difference between how Aucklanders and some other regions viewed their own status within society. The rest of the North Island and Cantabrians were "significantly" less likely to rate themselves towards the top of society than those living in New Auckland.

The inaugural 2013 Sovereign Wellbeing Index found five other important factors that improved wellbeing:

1. Socially connecting with others

2. Giving time and resources to others

3. Appreciating and taking notice of our surroundings

4. Learning new things

5. Being physically active.

Those who featured in the top 25 percent in the wellbeing indicators were also likely to be non-smokers and exercisers, and have healthier diets and weights.

A concern in both the 2013 and 2015 reports was New Zealand's low ranking in international wellbeing rankings.

Comparable data drawn from the 2012 European Social Survey found that over 90 percent of people living in Denmark and Norway were coping or living comfortably on their present income. That compares to 67.3 percent in New Zealand.

New Zealand ranked 19th in the list of 30 countries.

The top 10 included Denmark (95.1 percent), Norway (92.8), Switzerland (89.0), Netherlands (88.7), Sweden (8.7), Finland (87), Germany (86.6), Iceland (84.7), France (82.9) and United Kingdom (82).

The full report is available here.

The New Zealand dollar is more than 1 percent higher today against most major currencies.

It was trading at 63.55 US cents around 8am, up 1.27 percent from yesterday.

The Kiwi was 90.44 Australian cents, up 0.95 percent.

It was 1.26 percent higher against the Pound, trading at 41.68 pence.

The Kiwi was 1 percent higher against the Yen, at 76.26.

It was 0.89 percent higher against the Euro at 56.62.

Wall Street lost ground, ahead of a speech by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. She was due to speak after the closing bell.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 0.31 percent, at 16279.

The broader S&P500 slipped 0.34 percent to 1932.

The NASDAQ fell 0.38 percent to 4734.

European indexes finished lower, dragged down by the auto sector and mining companies.

Germany's DAX fell 1.92 percent, despite a new survey showing business sentiment has risen.

The CAC 40 lost 1.93 percent and the London FTSE slipped 1.17 percent.

The FTSE has a lot of mining companies and those stocks have been falling due to low commodity prices and the growing concern about the Chinese economy.

VW finished more than 3 percent lower after Germany's Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said that VW's emissions test manipulation took place in both the United States and in Europe.

West Texas crude oil rose 1.3 percent to US$45.05.

Gold rallied 1.8 percent to US$1151 an ounce.

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