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Walking the walk this Matariki

Posted to Blog on 26-06-2017

By Alexander Stevens, Manukura Manager

Alexander Stevens CFFC

My job at the Commission involves engaging with our Māori communities across the country to find ways people and whānau can save towards retirement. Every year many New Zealanders make new year’s resolutions to change something in their lives. Whether it is saving money, stopping smoking or eating better we often find that without the right motivation, vision and support our goals pretty soon are put in the ‘too hard’ basket. 

Living in New Zealand allows us to celebrate a range of new year dates, not just at the start of the year – there are Chinese and Thai new years and, of course, Matariki. If you, like me, are waiting for the stars to be aligned for your ambitious goals now is your moment.

Matariki is the name of the cluster of stars that are seen in mid-winter and for many Māori iwi and hapū are considered to be the New Year. It signals not only the start of year but also a new season to prepare your environment for your goals. Fortunately, Matariki has just begun.

Last year in June when I joined the Commission I felt a need to get my own financial kumara patch sorted. This was my motivation to set some goals and see them through for the next Matariki in 2017.

I reasoned I could not talk the talk if I could not walk the walk. At times this was easier said than done: I had two credit cards, a personal loan, my car was financed and in the background was a student loan that was slowly being paid.

The mountain of debt was huge, but not all of it bad. A lot of it has enabled me to get ahead. A student loan for example has allowed me to specialise in being a health professional and counsellor. I then completed two masters focusing on Māori health and wellbeing, which enabled me to have a higher income with new doors and career paths opening in front of me. The debt associated with my career was worth the investment. My credit cards on the other hand, not so much.

I had acquired a sizeable debt thanks to those credit cards and would pay the minimum payment required each month. In text language, BRB stands for “Be right back” but for me it was “Bills are back” and there was no LOL involved. Rather, my credit card debt slowly and surely got bigger and became an unwanted friend who would bug me once a month. Combined with a loan for a car, which I had taken out to enable me to get to work, and what you have people is a mixture of debts working for and against me. A change was needed.

Big goals like these require clear vision, support from people and actively practicing financial capability. This has not been easy. Walking past shops and ignoring things that shout out “buy me!” has been a practice of willpower and finding new walking paths to get to work was needed. I blocked emails from stores saying “we have not seen you in a while” trying to tempt me with discounts and points on cards. For the first couple of months it was hard and all-consuming, but soon enough regular payments became the norm and eventually I stopped thinking about the money I didn’t have, but rather the money I would soon have.

These steps have created milestones. I paid off and cancelled one of my credit cards last year (with my friend who walked with me to the bank to make sure I did). My second credit card has been reduced to a balance of $2k from its original 20k availability and in June my car will be paid off and all mine. Next June my student loan will have been paid off.

This is not so much a feel-good story but rather a journey of having reached this new year completing my old goals and now starting some new ones, like saving for a house and starting KiwiSaver.

To celebrate Matariki, I encourage you to take steps towards your debts by checking out our Sorted ‘Making sense of cents’ videos. These can help you see what you can do with your finances now and towards retirement. This is not the end of my financial capability journey, in fact it’s the beginning, with the weeds cleared out of my financial kumara patch I look forward to seeing new growth coming through this year. Mauriora!

 

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