Welcome to the Money Maven's Financial Blog

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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Wednesday, 5 February 2014


Why don't we develop good money habits - here are 10 simple habits for you to inculcate:
1. Start Early
As the old saying goes: The early bird catches the worm… or, in this case, gets to retire in style.  

2. Automate
Sett up recurring transfers on a regular basis from your bank account to your savings and investment accounts.

3. Maximise Contributions
The problem is that small efforts can lead to small results. You have to save like you mean it.

4. Never Carry Credit Card Balances
Revolving, high-interest debt is one of the biggest threats to your financial freedom.

 5. Live Like You’re Poor
Getting into the habit of spending minimally now will help you have a lot more later. The trick is adopting a “less is more” mentality. 

6. Avoid Temptation
The temptation to live large and beyond our means is all around us: TV, magazines, friends, family, colleagues, “the Joneses.” It is nearly impossible to escape the pressure to spend, spend and then spend some more. Force yourself to avoid negative financial influences

7. Be Goal-Oriented
Goals inspire us, motivate us and give us purpose. Many of us have common goals, such as paying off debt, buying a house and retiring by a certain age.

8. Get Educated
Successful investors take the time to study key financial concepts, learn the dos and don’ts and stay abreast of current trends.

9. Diversify Your Portfolio
Successful investors also know not to put all of their money eggs in one basket — or two baskets, for that matter. They spread their wealth across a variety of investments.

10. Spend Money to Make Money
It’s true that there’s a price to pay for wealth. The best way to protect yourself and get a step up on your financial goals is to first invest in a team of financial professionals. This means hiring a qualified and experienced financial advisor and accountant.

Everyday Money

Whether we realise it or not, how we were raised has a tremendous impact on how we make decisions as adults.

1. Your Parents Were Very Frugal

The behaviour: Whether they needed to keep a tight budget, were trying to teach you a lesson or were choosing to put themselves first financially, they seemed to deny you of everything you wanted as a kid.
The influence: You overspend to compensate.
The solution: Talk to your parents about the reasons for their choices. There may be more to their decision than you understood when you were young.

2. Your Parents Spoiled You
The behaviour: Perhaps your parents were deprived as children themselves, and in response, they chose to overspend on you.
The influence: You feel entitled to have a luxurious lifestyle.
The solution: Shift your sense of entitlement from having a lot of “stuff” now to having financial freedom later.

3. Your Parents Were Extremely Charitable
The behaviour: Perhaps they grew up poor or experienced some kind of trauma firsthand. In response, they chose to invest their time and money in causes that they were passionate about.
The influence: Your heart is in the right place, and so were your parents’. But you may give more money away than you can really afford to out of guilt or obligation.
The solution: Decide which causes are most important to you and make a charitable gift budget now that is within your means for next year.

4. Your Parents Never Taught You About Money
The behaviour: This is a very common problem and often due to the subconscious perpetuation of their own parents’ lack of financial education.
The influence: You are money foolish — and probably in a variety of ways, whether it is overspending, undersaving or avoiding investing and/or financial planning in general.
The solution: Get educated.

5. Your Parents Badmouthed the Stock Market
The behaviour: Whether they lived through the Great Depression, took a big hit during the 1987 or they have chosen to put their money in the safest place possible…under the bed.
The influence: You avoid investing in stocks altogether.
The solution: Be careful and strategic with your investing decisions. This means doing sufficient research and asking questions.

6. Your Parents Lived Large
The behaviour: Maybe they were compensating for being deprived as kids or they felt the need to keep up with the Joneses.
The influence: You live beyond your means, too.
The solution: If you can’t go as far as physically removing yourself from an environment that tempts you too much to overspend, then you need to put constraints in place to force yourself not to. That means setting up automatic transfers to save money you would otherwise spend and dedicating an account and debit card just for discretionary spending.

7. Your Mother Was Dependent
The behaviour: Whether she married one man of means or multiple men, your mum was taken care of and did not have to worry about money.
The influence: You too are expecting Prince Charming. Why should you have to struggle if your mum didn’t have to?
The solution: Wake up from this unrealistic fairytale! Stop waiting to be saved and instead, save yourself.

8. Your Parents Divorced
The behaviour: This is an unfortunate reality for so many families and a major contributor to all kinds of psychological issues in kids, including those that fuel poor money decisions.
The influence: You are determined to live happily ever after. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can also lead you to jump into marriage, buy a house and start a family prematurely or for the wrong reasons.
The solution: Make a commitment to always be financially independent even if you do marry or are already married. If you happen to significantly outearn your potential mate, you may also want to consider a prenuptial agreement as a practical, protective measure.


Just 1 per cent of the world's people own 65 times the assets of the poorest 3.5 billion people (BusinessDay, January 22).  This statistic has been quoted ad nauseum of late.

Without a concerted effort to tackle inequality, the cascade of privilege and disadvantage will continue down the generations, and equality of opportunity will be just a dream. However, this trend can be reversed quickly. There are clear examples of success. The US and Europe in the three decades after World War II reduced inequality while growing prosperous. Ghana's recent Petroleum Revenue Management Bill shows how targeted regulation can promote shared prosperity. Latin America has significantly reduced inequality in the past decade through progressive taxation, public services, social protection and decent work. Central to this progress have been popular politics that represent the majority, instead of being captured by a small minority.
These are issues for us in New Zealand, as well as for developing countries.

For example, New Zealand is lagging behind on wage equality, and international wage survey shows. A survey of 4350 people in four Asia-Pacific countries showed New Zealand had the widest pay discrepancy between men and women across company size and experience. Kiwi males earned 44 percent more than women in small businesses, 23 per cent more in medium-sized businesses and 18 percent more in corporates, the survey by human resources company Font showed. New Zealand men received larger bonuses than their female counterparts. The survey compared salaries based on company size, years of experience, gender and qualifications across the advertising, marketing, creative and multimedia sectors in New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. Female graduates earned almost $5000 more than men. Kiwi males went on to surpass women by 19 per cent at five years' experience and by 18 per cent at 10 years.

It is my view that addressing wealth inequality needs to start also with addressing income disparity and encouraging education. I would be interested to the gender balance of the 1% who own the wealth. Given property ownership for women is relatively recent (in historical terms) I am willing to bet we won't be well represented.

Sources: Fairfax Media

Who's counting?

Was delighted to learn the following, primarily because I am a secret counter; pegs, cars, steps, books - the list is endless:

Ancient Polynesian society kept tally with a refined number system.

Researchers have found  that before the arrival of Europeans, settlers on Mangareva Island developed a counting system, a hybrid of decimal and binary, to keep track of trade routes that spanned the tropics, from Hawaii in the north, to Pitcairn Island in the south.

Binary is the system of ones and zeros that computers use for calculations and memory storage and was envisaged by Gottfired Wilhelm Leibniz in the 18th century.

Norwegian scientists studied the records of European explorers in Polynesia and found they documented a number system that combined the best of binary and decimal.

The instinct to use numbers to label quantities is intrinsic in our nature.

Source: The Times

Musings and Amusings

Behavioral Resolutions for Behavioral Investors

The essence of being a psychologically aware investor is self-control. 

Uncertainty in a Modern World
Generally people make two sorts of investing mistakes. Firstly we make mistakes in analysis: we’re busily forecasting in a world in which the future is at best shrouded in uncertainty. We can’t possibly get all decisions correct. Secondly we make psychological mistakes: our minds betray us into making decisions in which the balance of probable outcomes lies against us. 
I Will Not Sell Winners To Buy Losers
Our number one stupid behavior is selling winners to buy losers. One of the most famous pieces of research ever done in the area, by Brad Barber and Terrance Odean, showed that overwhelmingly the stocks that internet traders sold went on to outperform the ones they purchased to replace them, an outcome of overconfidence.  
I Will Track My Returns
It’s a remarkable fact that most investors don’t know whether they’re making money or not. 
It can only be done through the simple expedient of keeping proper records. 
I Will Treat All Money As Equal
Our hatred of taking a loss and our unwillingness to track our returns means that we play mental games with our money. To be precise we allocate different sorts of money to different sorts of mental accounts, and we then use these accounts to hide away losses. 
I Will Not Listen To Fake Gods (or Experts)
In an uncertain world such as that of investing there’s not really much prospect of anyone getting short-term forecasting right on a regular basis. 
I Will Not Fall Victim To Temptation
We are all, to some extent, hobbled by our inability to stick to our resolutions. Real life keeps getting in the way. 
But There Is More To Life Than Money
Finally, though, remember that money does not make us happy. What we do with money can make us happy. Investing is a means to end. Just make sure you understand both the means and the end.
Read more about this in my book Money, Money, Money Ain't it Funny.
Source: Psy-Fi Blog

Finance & Investment

Too few Japanese companies are pushing for change, and even then usually at the behest of a foreign CEO. NISSAN is a good example, with Carlos Ghosn. The company’s hottest-selling car in Japan, the Nissan Note hatchback, is the result of a team led by a woman.

Now the government is getting in the game, and the gender issue has become a part of Abenomics, the Prime Minister’s push to revitalize the Japanese economy. In a recent speech to Wall Street, he declared that “If these women rise up, I believe Japan can achieve strong growth”.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is also recognizing the increasing power of women, reporting that “three out of every four big-ticket purchasing decisions are made by women alone or jointly with their husbands.”

Abe’s economic plan includes financial incentives for companies to promote women, expanded maternity leave, and increased day-care funding in an effort to get more women, especially mothers, back into the Japanese work force.

Japan needs more women working and more babies (yes, these two are mutually reinforcing) to counter an aging workforce and a flaccid economy. Japan may be the only OECD nation where the number of pets (25 million) exceeds the number of children (18 million under the age of 15).