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Sage advice only gets better with age

3 November 2022

Stuff your dad (or in this case my mum) would say

It was pretty much a year ago to the day that my mum passed away at the age of 95. She was kind, thoughtful, tried to see the good in everyone and was incredibly independent right up to her last days, living in her own home and looking after herself.

Without knowing it, there were a number of old sayings, and proverbs that she would call out at different times of my life. Many really made no sense to me at all, until they started ringing in the back of my mind when a real-life example would be facing me.

With the many changes we have all experienced over the past three years or so, it might feel like the world is very different. But there’s plenty that remains the same as it has been over the hundreds of generations that came before us. Proverbs and old sayings were a way each generation could pass on a piece of wisdom (even before writing and books became the norm) so hopefully the next generation could learn from those before them. The key with a piece of sage advice was that you must apply it.

So, as a nod to my mum, I thought I would highlight and unpick some of the ones that she told me in my youth. Hopefully there are one or two that might just help your financial wellbeing.

A stitch in time saves nine

Mum brought this little banger out regularly, whenever she could see I was putting off something and then paying the price for leaving it too late and creating a truckload more work for me to fix.  If we apply this to putting off getting insurance for your car or house, or any other asset you might have, it is likely to be Murphy’s law that something happens, and you end up paying or even losing that asset you worked really hard to get in the first place. It could also apply to investing for your retirement years. The longer you put it off, the gnarlier the outcome generally. The key message is if you need to fix something, don’t muck around, just get on with it.

Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves

It took me a while as a kid to understand this one.  I used to spend much of my time looking for the 10, 20, and 50 cent coins that would fall out of my dad’s pockets when he fell asleep on the couch. But it had nothing to do with that. The key message was that if you are a careful about your spending then those savings could go towards building up your long-term savings and investments.  Mum always had a shopping list and a budget to work to. This gives you the framework to not only manage the spending you have today but also plan what you can save for tomorrow.

If you don’t have your health, you have nothing

As a kid, teenager and young adult, I really didn’t think about this too much.  I was very lucky. I played a lot of sport, had very little illness or injuries, and pretty much was able to eat and drink what I liked. Now well into my 50s I understand what she meant, especially after playing tennis on a Saturday and then trying to get out of bed on the Sunday.  Investment is not only about money. Investing in yourself, by keeping active both physically and mentally, will help you enjoy the benefits of having some wealth to spend in your latter years. Another way to look at this, and something Mum would say, is if you don’t use it you will lose it and she was bang on with that one.

A fool and his money are soon parted or, in other words, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is

Over the centuries there have always been those who have tried to scam others for their own gain. Nothing has really changed, other than the complexity with which they are now doing it.  Much is said about preying on the vulnerable and the old, however this is not always the case – anyone can be scammed if they’re not careful. So be as diligent as you possibly can around the use of your passwords, online activity and surprise wins. There are people who spend their waking hours trying to take the hard-earned money out of someone else’s pocket, so try to make sure it’s not out of yours.

If you can’t afford it, wait until you can

In the old days you pretty much had to follow this advice, unless you got a hire purchase agreement that, over time, would most likely cost twice as much as you originally paid. We now have incredible access to credit and at a significant cost - just read the small print (if you can) on most agreements with credit card providers, unsecured personal loans, any of the buy now pay later schemes, and, worst of all, the payday lenders and retail trucks that prey amongst our most vulnerable communities.  If you can mange to do without until you can save the money, that is generally the best option. 

When you get paid save a little and spend a little

Others put it as ‘pay yourself first before you pay anyone else’.  The great thing that every Kiwi living in New Zealand has access to is KiwiSaver, which will do this for you without you even thinking. This is because your contribution and your employer’s comes out of your pay before anyone else can get their hands on it. It is so easy to get started and the sooner you do the greater the rewards will be, especially if you are saving for your first home or your retirement years. 

Save for a rainy day

It’s a nicer way of saying that if something hits the fan you are going to be far better off if you have some savings to help pay for and manage that unexpected event. If you don’t, then you go back to the proverb ‘if you can’t afford it, wait until you can’ and that is not a very good outcome at all. We know, through a number of studies that have come out this year, that many Kiwis do not have enough savings to last them a month.  So, if you lose your job, or fall ill, or have an accident or repair that is essential, having a buffer to help mange those highs and lows that life throws at us is really important. A good rule of thumb is to build up three months’ salary or wages.

And last but not least:

If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all

This has nothing to do with money or financial wellbeing but it was something that Mum would say to me and my mates when I was a kid.  It still stands true today, as well as the classic ‘you should treat others the same way you would want to be treated yourself’. It never ceased to amaze me when I was a kid how Mum would strike up a conversation with anyone when I had to go shopping with her. It was so embarrassing, yet I always remembered how it made that person feel, whether if it was the check out person at the supermarket or the local pharmacist. For someone to take the time to say hello and make them smile, the value can’t be under-estimated and, weirdly I have continued that wonderful trait and embarrassed my children while making someone else smile, and still do today. It generally is a lovely thing to do and, best of all, costs nothing.

Disclaimer: David Boyle is Head of Sales and Marketing at Mint Asset Management Limited. The above article is intended to provide information and does not purport to give investment advice.

Mint Asset Management is the issuer of the Mint Asset Management Funds. Download a copy of the product disclosure statement .

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