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.

The Financial Strategies Group

We think for ourselves and make unique recommendations. We only recommend investments and insurances that are in the best interest of our clients.

The Financial Strategies Group

Most of us spend 40 years working to secure our financial future; the most important investment you can make is to purchase appropriate financial planning advice.

Contact us for a review of your investments and insurances.

Begin to experience the serenity that accompanies financial responsibility and integrity: email sheryl@strategies.co.nz, call 0800 64MONEY or visit our website http://www.strategies.co.nz

Friday, 15 July 2016


Women 'still held back in workplace'

If you're a woman in New Zealand chances are you'll have a good education, but that won't neccessarily bring you better job opportunities. "Women are gaining qualifications at a greater rate than men but their skills are not being translated into greater opportunities," the report said.

"Division of labour still sees women doing the majority of unpaid domestic work, and in paid employment you've got gender diversion hierarchically across industries. The normal way that work is organised is a way that's set up fro men, not for women."

Educated women found it difficult to move up the career ladder when they were still expected to play a traditional role at home, Massey University management expert Dr Suze Wilson explained.

It was "trending down slowly," according to the report, with women getting a median of $21.23 to a man's $24.07.

"Blind recruiting" was an example of a method that could be used, Women's Minister Louise Upston said. "You imagine looking at CVs that don't have names, don't have ages, don't have 'married with three children' and applications stacked up by your skills and abilities, [the application] becomes free of bias."

Source: The Press

Everyday Money

The gender pay gap persists almost everywhere
On average women earn 18% less than men, according to analysis by Korn Ferry Hay Group, a consulting firm which looked at more than 8m employees in 33 countries.

In Britain, more than four decades after the equal pay act was introduced, the headline difference between men and women’s pay is still high.

Women only make up around a third of senior management roles there. Workers at the same level but in different companies still face an average pay gap of over 9%.The United Arab Emirates, on the other hand, has a reverse pay gap. Women at the same level, company and function actually earn 2% more than their male counterparts. This is partly because fewer women participate in the labour force, and those that do tend to have higher levels of education.

Source: The Economist


'Pink tax' angers women from New York to London. 

It's called the "pink tax." The same products have very different price tags, depending on which gender they are meant for. 

Take shampoos as an example. A recent study by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs found that haircare products for women cost on average 48% more than the same items meant for men.
It found that female razors are 11% more expensive than men's. Jeans cost 10% more. Even toys marketed to little girls are 11% pricier compared to those for boys. 

Women around the world are up in arms about the issue, accusing retailers of "sexist pricing." 

British pharmacy chain Boots was forced to cut prices of some items this week after an online campaign called on the company to stop the unfair pricing. 

The petition showed that identical Boots-branded cream cost £9.99 ($14.50) for women and £7.29 ($10.60) for men. The razors in question were priced at £2.29 ($3.30) for a package of eight women's razors and £1.49 ($2.20) for a pack of 10 men's razors. 

Source: CNN Money

Who's counting?

6 Fascinating Mind Tricks That Help You Save Money

Psych Yourself Rich 
Putting money aside seems pretty straightforward. But, seeing as the average personal-savings rate is just 5.7 percent (compared to 11 percent two decades ago), it’s definitely easier said than done. “We like to think of ourselves as rational when it comes to finances, but our decisions are shaped by psychological and emotional triggers,” says financial behaviorist Jacquette M. Timmons. 

Focus on Why You Want to Save — Not Just How
If you want to sock away more cash, coming up with specific ways to accomplish your goal sounds like a smart idea, right? But a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research counteracts that notion. It found that people who honed in on the reasons why they wanted to put aside money (so you’ll be able to go on that safari you’ve always dreamed of, afford to buy your own home or retire comfortably) saved more than participants who concentrated on developing specific techniques for how they’d cut back — say, by going shopping less often.  

Harness Your Power 
The more powerful you feel before making a financial decision, the more money you’ll stash, according to research from Stanford University. Before sitting down with your financial advisor or heading on a shopping trip, think back to a time in your life when you felt on top of the world. Maybe you successfully asked for a raise, scored a promotion or even spoke up about an issue important to you. “People who feel powerful use saving money as a means to maintain their current state of power,” concluded the study authors. 

Put It In Writing
Here’s one tiny tweak that can make a huge difference in whether or not you achieve savings success: Rather than just thinking about your savings goals, jot them down. Research from Gail Matthews, PhD, of Dominican University found that people who wrote down their goals were significantly more successful at achieving them than those who simply pondered them. Sixty-one percent of the “writers” accomplished their objectives, compared to only 43 percent of the “thinkers.”  

Make Saving Pleasurable (Seriously!) 
Cutting back, spending less, being frugal…yeah, doesn’t sound like a heck of a lot of fun, does it? “We associate saving money with feelings of deprivation, with having to pass up things that we love,” explains Timmons. “And that doesn’t give us much impetus to follow through.”

So, try to make the blah process as enjoyable as possible and you’ll be galvanized to stash more cash. Begin by creating a monthly ritual for evaluating your savings that you might actually look forward to. Slip into cozy slippers, light a few candles and pour yourself a cup of tea for example. While we’re at it, try to go through your investments at the same time and place — say, the last Sunday of the month at your kitchen table — rather than doing it on the fly.  

Plan a Money Date 
It’s temptingly easy to put off your savings goals when you only have yourself to answer to.  But Matthews’ research shows that people are much more likely to follow through if there’s someone else holding them accountable: A whopping 76 percent of study participants who submitted weekly progress reports to a supportive friend were successful.  

Source: Daily Worth

Finance & Investments

Here are three common myths about women and money — happily debunked. 

The Stereotype: Women Are More Risk Averse

Many studies have found statistically significant differences in how men and women view risk. But economists and pundits have a habit of extrapolating those findings into the broad-brush statement that "women are more risk averse than men."

Clearly, this isn't universally true. As economist Julie Nelson pointed out, "just one example of a cautious man and a bold woman disproves it."

The Reality: Some Women Are Big Risk-Takers

At least one group of women seem to be greater risk-takers than their peers: those who earn more than $200,000.

A recent Spectrem Group survey of about 400 high-earning women found more than half (54 percent) said they were willing to take a significant risk to earn a higher return on their portfolios. Compare that to just one-third (32 percent) of all other affluent investors who said the same thing. The high-earning women were also more likely to own higher-risk investments, including commodities, hedge funds, and venture capital, than their affluent peers.

The Stereotype: Women Are Less Knowledgeable About Investing

Numerous studies have shown that women tend to be less financially knowledgeable than men (although financial literacy in both sexes is abysmally low, both in the U.S. and abroad). Women are also more likely than men to say they're ignorant about finances.

But many women may know more than they think. In one study of financial literacy in eight countries, women were less likely to correctly answer a question about diversification

The Reality: Some Women Know a Lot
High-income women once again buck the trend. Spectrem's study found 75 percent said that they were very or fairly knowledgeable about financial products or investments, compared to 68 percent of all other affluent investors.

The Stereotype: Women Are Less Interested in Investing

If you buy the notion that women are scared of risk and lack confidence in their financial knowledge, it makes sense that we would be less likely than men to be actively engaged in investing and more likely to hand off those responsibilities to someone else.

The Reality: Some Women Are More Hands-On
The gap disappears when high-income women are compared to their peers: 43 percent of the women in Spectrem's study said they enjoyed investing and liked to be actively involved in the day-to-day management of their finances. That compared to 38 percent of other affluent investors who said they enjoyed investing and 42 percent who wanted to stay involved day to day.

Source: Dailyworth

Musings & Amusings

Unclouded vision

Forecasting is a talent. Luckily it can be learned.

Human beings cannot resist trying to scry the future. If soothsaying is not the oldest profession, it is certainly one of them.

The Chinese had the I-Ching; the Romans peered at the entrails of sacrificed animals. These days, anyone wanting to know what the future holds can consult everything from telephone psychics to intelligence agencies, bookies, futures markets and media pundits. Their record is far from perfect. But it is difficult to say just how imperfect: for all the importance people attach to forecasting, hardly anyone bothers to keep score.

Superforecasters are clever, on average, but by no means geniuses. More important than sheer intelligence was mental attitude. Borrowing from Sir Isaiah Berlin, a Latvian-born British philosopher, Mr Tetlock divides people into two categories: hedgehogs, whose understanding of the world depends on one or two big ideas, and foxes, who think the world is too complicated to boil down into a single slogan. Superforecasters are drawn exclusively from the ranks of the foxes.

Humility in the face of a complex world makes superforecasters subtle thinkers. They tend to be comfortable with numbers and statistical concepts such as “regression to the mean” (which essentially says that most of the time things are pretty normal, so any large deviation is likely to be followed by a shift back towards normality).

But superforecasters do have a healthy appetite for information, a willingness to revisit their predictions in light of new data, and the ability to synthesise material from sources with very different outlooks on the world. They think in fine gradations.

Most important is what Mr Tetlock calls a “growth mindset”: a mix of determination, self-reflection and willingness to learn from one’s mistakes. The best forecasters were less interested in whether they were right or wrong than in why they were right or wrong. They were always looking for ways to improve their performance. In other words, prediction is not only possible, it is teachable.

Talk of growth mindsets, statistical fluency and a complicated world may sound dry and technical. It is not. Mr Tetlock’s thesis is that politics and human affairs are not inscrutable mysteries. Instead, they are a bit like weather forecasting, where short-term predictions are possible and reasonably accurate.

Source: The Economist

Saturday, 20 February 2016


Sabotaging Yourself Without Knowing It

Change Your Mindset
Putting yourself down directly is the most destructive negative mental habit people have, This habit is hard to break,  because negative self-talk evolves into an automatic impulse for many. Women in particular get into the habit of downplaying our accomplishments to others (and ourselves), becoming overly self-effacing.

Doubting Yourself
When you lack self-confidence, you end up doubting your potential and your abilities. This may stop you from applying for a job, asking for a (deserved) raise or taking on more responsibility at work.
Try to turn your doubts into opportunities for teachable moments. Accomplishing tasks that feel daunting will eventually boost your confidence.

Comparing Yourself to Others
Whenever we judge other people we submerge ourselves in a toxic pool of false assumptions and negativity.
Remember that what you see from the outside is likely never the full picture into someone else's life. 

Decision-Making Out of Fear
Fear is hard-wired into our central nervous system and in many ways serves us well. Fear can also paralyse us into playing it too safe — to the point that we might miss out on opportunities to accomplish our dreams (or even our short-term goals).

To reframe your decision-making process, zero in on what's keeping you from taking a leap in life, whether career-wise or personally.

Feeling Isolated
Be wary of spending too much time on your computer, in chat rooms and so on. Make sure you schedule some time with a friend at least once a week. 

Source: Dailyworth


Global Financial Literacy

Suppose you put $100 in a savings account that earns 10% interest each year. After five years how much will you have? That was a question posed in a multiple-choice quiz (completed by 150,000 people in 144 countries) by Standard & Poor’s, a rating agency. The answers proferred were "less than $150", "exactly $150" and "more than $150". The intention was to test whether respondents understood compound interest, in addition to basic mathematics. Alas, not that many did: just one-third of them answered three out of five similar multiple-choice questions correctly. Scandinavians are the most financially literate: 70% were able to answer three questions correctly; the corresponding figure for Angolans and Albanians was 15%. While education plays a large role in determining financial literacy, the link with GDP per person is remarkably strong, too (see chart).

Previous research has shown that it can be difficult to drum in financial know-how at a young age. Instead, it is gained through experience. In developed countries, knowledge follows a U-shaped curve, with middle-aged adults performing better in financial-literacy surveys than both the young and the old (who, through a combination of cognitive impairment and less education, do worse). In developing countries, financial literacy is better among the young, who have typically received more schooling.
The survey, the largest of its kind, demonstrates a striking gender divide in financial literacy. In 93 countries, the gap in correct answers between men and women was more than five percentage points. In Canada, 77% of men answered three questions correctly; the corresponding figure for women was just 60%. Women's lack of knowledge might well be explained by the deferring of financial decision-making to their husbands. But worryingly, the gender gap persists among well-educated single women too. When it comes to financial decision-making, many countries appear to be stuck in a 1960s time warp.

Source: The Economist

Musings & Amusings

Can’t say I was a fan of Leaning In so loved Lucy Kellaway’s comments (didn’t read the whole book I confess):

Stop leaning in at once. It isn’t a comfortable position to adopt, and I’m not at all surprised to hear that after 18 months you are suffering in body and soul. Forget Sheryl Sandberg and try my three easy rules for leaning out which I have been perfecting for the past quarter of a century.

1. Never ever go to any evening events for work unless you think they would be a) enjoyable, b) useful in a specific way, or c) not going would do you harm. In my experience so few things fall into any of the categories; it means only turning up to things once or twice a year. This has the advantage that when you do present yourself you are such a novelty that everyone will want to talk to you. It’s called scarcity value. Choke off the supply of yourself, and watch the price go up.

2. Try to work out what you are measured on. If you are a fund manager, presumably you are measured on whether you make any money for your clients. This isn’t directly related to the amount of time you spend, so do it as well as you can — and then go home.

3. Stop caring quite so much. That doesn’t mean performing worse, it means worrying less. This is one of the main advantages of having children. They are a reminder that work only matters up to a point. Most mothers get this wrong by feeling full of guilt — when they are in one sphere they look over their shoulders worrying about what they aren’t doing in the other.

Source: Financial Times

Everyday Money

Setting Aside Shame and Blame in Financial Decisions

Shame fails at changing behaviour, it can also trigger the very mistakes we’re trying to avoid. Shame is something we internalise, and we capture it with a statement like, “I’m a bad person.” With guilt, we focus on the action and say, “I made a mistake. That’s really dumb.” In other words, we make shame about us, but guilt is about the event.

Think about the last money conversation you may have had with a spouse or partner. Imagine there was a financial “event,” and with the benefit of hindsight, you label that event a mistake. What happens next has probably happened to all of us at least once. One or both of you may have shamed and blamed the other for the mistake. One couple I know experienced such an event, and I have watched them shame and blame each other for the last decade. 

So to help you stick to the rule, I want you grab a hat and a Sharpie. No, really. Grab an actual hat and a Sharpie. Maybe one of those trucker hats with an oversize crown. Then, across the front, write, “No shame. No blame.” Every time you talk about money, wear your hat.

Source: NY Times

Who's Counting?

8 Ways Women's Lives Have Changed For The Better Since 2005

  1. More women have access to higher quality health care.
  2. Women's representation in politics is higher than it's ever been.
  3. Same sex marriage is legal
  4. Women’s equality in the workplace has improved – along with our ability to fight for it.
  5. The entertainment industry finally started to recognise that women are consumers of pop culture, want to see our experiences represented, and are pretty good at telling those stories for ourselves.
  6. Young, single women caught up to their male peers in some professions.
  7. We see more and more women at the top of their fields, actively paving the way for the next generation.
  8. Women's voices and experiences are better represented in the media - especially online - bringing new weight to the term "lady blog."

Friday, 19 February 2016

Finance & Investments

The key component of personal finance is financial planning, which is a dynamic process that requires regular monitoring and reevaluation. In general, it involves five steps:

1. Assessment: A person's financial situation is assessed by compiling simplified versions of financial statements including balance sheets and income statements. A personal balance sheet lists the values of personal assets (e.g., car, house, clothes, stocks, bank account), along with personal liabilities (e.g., credit card debt, bank loan, mortgage). A personal income statement lists personal income and expenses.
2. Goal setting: Having multiple goals is common, including a mix of short- and long-term goals. For example, a long-term goal would be to "retire at age 65 with a personal net worth of $1,000,000," while a short-term goal would be to "save up for a new computer in the next month." Setting financial goals helps to direct financial planning. Goal setting is done with an objective to meet specific financial requirements.
3. Plan creation: The financial plan details how to accomplish the goals. It could include, for example, reducing unnecessary expenses, increasing the employment income, or investing in the stock market.
4. Execution: Execution of a financial plan often requires discipline and perseverance. Many people obtain assistance from professionals such as accountants, financial planners, investment advisers, and lawyers.
5. Monitoring and reassessment: As time passes, the financial plan is monitored for possible adjustments or reassessments.

Areas of focus
The six key areas of personal financial planning are:
1. Financial position
2. Adequate protection
3. Tax planning
4. Investment and accumulation goals
5. Retirement planning
6. Estate planning

Yes, I know I’ve written about this before but it is always worth repeating. More on this topic in “Girls Just Want to Have Fund$,” “Money, Money, Money Ain’t it Funny” and “Smart Money” available now as ebooks.

Who's Counting?

Why Swedish men take so much paternity leave

ALONG with its Nordic neighbours, Sweden features near the top of most gender-equality rankings. The World Economic Forum rates it as having one of the narrowest gender gaps in the world. But Sweden is not only a good place to be a woman: it also appears to be an idyll for new dads. Close to 90% of Swedish fathers take paternity leave.

Forty years ago Sweden became the first country in the world to introduce a gender-neutral paid parental-leave allowance. But the policy was hardly a hit with dads: in the scheme's first year men took only 0.5% of all paid parental leave. Today they take a quarter of it. One reason is that the scheme has become more generous, with the number of paid leave days for the first child being bumped up from 180 to 480. But it has also been tweaked to encourage a more equal sharing of the allowance. In 1995 the first so-called "daddy month" was introduced. Under this reform, families in which each parent took at least one month of leave received an additional month to add to their total allowance. The policy was expanded in 2002 so that if the mother and father each took at least two months' leave, the family would get two extra months. Policies similar to the Swedish "daddy months" have been introduced in other countries. Germany amended its parental-leave scheme in 2007 along Swedish lines.

Since Swedish men started to take more responsibility for child rearing, women have seen both their incomes and levels of self-reported happiness increase. Paying dads to change nappies and hang out at playgrounds, in other words, seems to benefit the whole family.

Source: The Economist


Club rules keep women out of the network

A week ago Lady Judge, the newly appointed chairman of the Institute of Directors, held an unusual party. 

The room at the London club’s grand headquarters in Pall Mall was filled with the great and the good(ish): over champagne and canap├ęs, the UK home secretary and the head of the Royal Mail hobnobbed with a former Lord Mayor of London and other senior figures in business and politics. Nothing out of the ordinary, one might think. London’s establishment loves to get together, and gatherings such as this do much to oil the wheels of power. 

But what was almost unprecedented for an occasion of this sort was that the room was entirely full of women.

Those at the Garrick Club opposed to women members have come up with a range of explanations for why they do not want to share their space, some more feeble than others. Among the lamest is the excuse put forward by several that the Garrick provides a welcome respite for men who otherwise could not resist showing off to impress women — “an innate male characteristic”, as one told The Independent, “whether you are a bird or an animal”. Pity the men who are forced to exhaust themselves with such displays.

Source: Financial Times