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Money Maven Blog by Sheryl Sutherland, Authorised Financial Adviser and Director of The Financial Strategies Group

Recommended Reading

Recommended Reading by Sheryl Sutherland: Girls Just Want to Have Fund$ - Every Women’s Guide to Financial Independence, Money, Money, Money Ain't it Funny - How to Wire your Brain for Wealth, and Smart Money - How to structure your New Zealand business or investments and pay less tax.

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Monday, 7 January 2008


Why have calls to lift the retirement age been so firmly rejected by the government. Sixty five now is a lot different to sixty five, fifty years ago. We are healthier and we live longer. Both Labour and National say there is enough funding but I have to say I am sceptical. It's not just superannuation costs it's costs of health care and housing which need to be considered. The financial burden of an aging population is a major concern.

Britain, Germany & Denmark have all raised the retirement age to 67.

It's clear to me both parties are afraid to take a stand on this issue for fear of losing votes. In fact I would love to see a political party take a stand on a whole raft of issues! Why are politicians so specious. The average New Zealander is I think a lot smarter than political parties realise.

Everyday Money

There is a high level of concern at the affordability of property for first home buyers. One report claimed that 83% of income is needed - the home loan affordability index showed that the average New Zealand worker on a single income now cannot afford to buy an average house, even with a 20% deposit in any region in the country. The index was created by Fairfax of media fame and as we know headlines are not always what they seem (see Finance & Investments for more on this). A good discussion paper on the house price bubble is at http://www.brentwheeler.com/

I think that a tax break or some form of government financial help would be a great support for first home buyers - meddling with interest rates will not address the problem. Tax breaks or incentives will cause for less damage to the economy.

And if you are not a first home buyer but an investor the next big thing is the moon - yes folks its true - moon prices are skyrocketing; the cost of buying an acre of the moons surface has risen 40% since the 1st of January 2007. Germans are in the lead, owing most of the surface with Swedes, English and Poles next.


Ability to understand mathematical concepts has long been thought to be a particularly human skill - one we need to learn but a recent report from US researchers claims that Chimps performed as well as university students at mental addition. The researchers claim the study shows the importance of language which allows for counting and more advanced calculations.

The term Monkey Brain may no longer be an insult! Oh and in case you were worried all participants were rewarded for participation in the study - soft drink for the chimps and a beer for the students.

Finance & Investment

Headlines are not always what they seem. It always pays to analyse and question declarations made by the media. Lets examine a recent pronouncement on the Australian sharemarket - up just under 14% so far this year. Good you say? Well lets examine this result; take BHP out of the equation and the index (the ASX 200) is up just under 8% - 40% of the share market's performance.

Take out these resource stocks. Fortescue, Woodside & Newcrest and the market is only up 4.7%. In fact if we take out the top 20 point issues from the ASX and the market would have fallen 0.4% this year. But wait there is more, it can get worse, the 20 bottom performing issues have fallen on average of 36%.

Read Money, Money, Money Ain't it Funny to learn about framing and how we perceive financial figures and how ignorance of math effects out financial decisions.


I have long held the view that women are essential to our economy, and to the global economy. It appalls and amazes me that this is not recognised. Two dissapointing stories in the media recently:

Here in NZ the mercislessley efficient drive to reduce the cost of birth - our children are our future economic prosperity and will support our aging population. Women (mothers) are also of value in two ways; firstly we train and educate the next generation of producers and in our homes generally do the work of several professionals - chauffeur, educators, cook, cleaner, child care expert - the list goes on.

Read more in Marilyn Warings "Counting for Nothing."

In the Congo where the recent wars have killed more people than any war since World War II. Members of renegade units are gang raping thousands of women, and making sex slaves of others, branding, maiming and mutilating victims. A United Nations peacekeeping force deployed in Eastern Congo was supposed to have protected the regions civilians; the failure of the force to protect women has been in part because of a veil of silence that surrounds what is occurring. Women have no say in the decision making that drives the conflict and have no access to political and economic power in a society that considers them of scant value.

Who's Counting?

Michael Cullen is counting. He is counting the extra 1.7 billion dollars he has collected from tax payers. Each of us have paid more than $500 extra in personal taxes in 1999. In fact the money has been primarily collected from 150,000 people who have moved in to the top tax bracket of 39c in the dollar ("bracket creep" if you want the jargon).
I am counting on Labour honouring its 1999 promise that only 5% of taxpayers should be paying 39c in the dollar - the equivalent of an income of $79,000.

But then counting on politicians honour us probably not wise.