Finding gold when it’s dark and cold.

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The midwinter blues are real. The calendar confirms it.

We’re now well into June, and Kiwis have returned to work after the last long weekend until October. Unless you’re lucky enough to be planning some fun in the snow or a break somewhere tropical, for most of us, the next four months of winter are often a grind.

It can be hard keeping your spirits up – and focusing on achieving your long-term goals – when the days are wet, dark and cold. So how do you hang onto your passion for life and stay in the best mental shape? Here’s a tip from my mentor Dr Fred Grosse.

Dr Fred tells us to focus on our ‘10s.’ That’s shorthand for the little things we can do to make every day a ‘10 out of 10 day.’

It’s about making time for the simple, life-giving activities that provide pleasure every day. If you love animals, make sure you play with your cat or take the dog for a walk. If you need the endorphin boost of exercise, make the gym a regular habit. Love music? Pick up that guitar, lift the lid on the piano or make sure you get your daily dose via Spotify.

Don’t let anything get in the way. Find time for life’s simple pleasures – whether it’s the humorous tweets from a comedian who makes you smile or a great coffee from your favourite barista.

Your daily 10s shouldn’t cost a lot – in fact they can be free. Most of all, they should be things that are special to you. I personally love cleaning my mountain bike after a muddy weekend ride. (That reminds me – time I got back on it!)

So what are your 10s? Why not write out a list of 10 things you can do on a daily basis?

By making each day a ’10 out of 10 day’ you’ll be building up a store of positive energy to help you find gold in the dark winter months and stay on track to achieving your life goals.

Once your 10s are part of your daily routine it’s time to go to the next level, with fortnightly, six-monthly and annual treats and targets. These can really unlock the magic. I’ll share these insights with you next time.

Would you like to find out more or work with Sue as a mentor to help achieve your goals?  Get in touch.


3 ways to help your kids into property (and 1 mistake to avoid)

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It’s natural to want your children to do well in life, and that could mean helping them onto the first rung of the property ladder. I see this with many of my clients. So what are the best ways you can give them a leg up?

1. Start a secret savings account in their name.

It doesn’t have to be totally secret but it should be an account they have no access to. The earlier you start, the better.

When my nephews and nieces were babies I opened accounts in their names and – here’s the kicker – set up Automatic Payments of $1 per week into each account. On birthdays and Christmases I added another $100. It doesn’t seem much but over the decades compound interest works its magic. The goal is to have a lump sum ready by the time they’re thinking about buying a home.

It takes a bit of discipline but if you use APs, as I suggest, you’ll never have to give it a moment’s thought. If you worry it might be used as a slush fund, simply set up the account in joint names with someone you trust, such as a grandparent. You will keep each other honest.

On a side note, I am saddened when I see young children given large sums of cash for birthdays or Christmas with no guidance on managing it. They don’t understand money so it will likely be frittered on a whim. Why not give them a bank account and teach them effective saving habits?

2. Be smart with student loans.

Student loans are totally interest-free. This tempts some young people to load up with debt on the never-never. Well-meaning parents may offer to pay off the loan on graduation. My advice is simple – don’t.

Instead, encourage them to make regular payments off their interest-free loan. While they’re doing it, you should set aside the same amount of money in an interest-earning account. After graduation you can gift them this sum as a first home deposit.

The student is still incentivised to pass exams but not to go overboard with student debt. Meanwhile you’re earning interest on their behalf, which should result in a larger sum when it’s needed for a first home.

3. Let them inherit early.

If you’ve done well in life you might want to provide your children with an ‘early inheritance.’ Instead of waiting until you pass away and leave an estate, they can access some capital now to buy a first home.

This can be a great way to help the next generation, and it’s something I see many of my Asian clients doing. They often have an inter-generational view of wealth, and the idea of ‘paying it forward’ can make all the difference.

The caveat is obvious – don’t strain your own finances. ‘Inheriting early’ should be for families that already have a significant capital base. If you’re still paying off your own home, don’t dip into the equity or load yourself up with a bigger mortgage just yet.

4. Don’t be lax – see a lawyer.

Finally, a mistake to avoid at all costs. If you decide to release capital or guarantee a loan for your son or daughter, make sure you sign a binding legal agreement. Pay a lawyer to draft something that protects your child if things go pear-shaped.

Sadly, relationships break up and bankruptcies happen. You need peace of mind that the money you provided won’t disappear into the back pocket of the soon-to-be ex.

We all want the next generation to do well. We just have to be smart about how we help them.
Want to help your kids get on the property ladder, or get onto it yourself? Get in touch.


Ignore the media. They’re in the entertainment business

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Oh dear. The Generation Wars have started up again. A few weeks ago we read about Gary Lin and his opinion that young would-be property purchasers should stop moaning, join the army and knuckle down.

Then a chorus of opposing voices jumped in, explaining why Gary was wrong. This futile argy-bargy only proves that first-time buyers have become a political punching bag.

It’s time to put away the boxing gloves. The newspapers, TV stations and social media sites are only interested in controversy. If you’re a 20-something looking to get on the property ladder – or if you’re the parent of one – it’s not helpful. Here’s what you should do instead.

First of all, ignore the media. They use property stories as sensationalist click-bait. They are not particularly interested in giving you insights on the best route to home ownership in today’s climate.

Secondly, focus on your own goals. If your vision includes property ownership, there are some smart steps you can take.

I advise first-time buyers to break down their goal into achievable chunks. Let’s say you want to live on the North Shore. Don’t set your sights on Takapuna as your first goal. Look at the other Shore suburbs that might be within your reach. What about Glenfield or Birkdale?

Then look at the kind of property that’s right for you. Are you someone who loves wielding a drill and paintbrush? Look for a do-up. If you’re not that handy, don’t despair. Your route to home ownership may involve a unit or flat.

Could you go halves with a sibling, another relative or a BFF? Consider it. You already know each other well, which reduces the risk of a wealth-endangering personality clash.

Next, you’ll probably need a 20% deposit. The key to this is the same as it’s always been: focus. You have a KiwiSaver account (of course), so that will help. But don’t stop there – set up a separate savings account. Calculate how much you will need for a deposit, and then pay a fixed sum into savings each month. Set up an Automatic Payment from your bank.

My advice is to direct these savings into a different bank from your usual one, to give yourself more options. When funding is tight banks prefer to look after existing customers, so be one of those.

Saving that 20% deposit may take seven to ten years. That is exactly how long it took when I started saving for my first property. I hate to use the phrase “back in my day”, but back in my day, that’s how it worked. The good news is that it still works.

Last but not least – let’s all encourage first time buyers!

Every generation has faced challenges, so let’s lay off the millennials. If you’re the parent of a 20-something, perhaps you could add $10 on top of every $50 they save. I have some more suggestions for parents who want to help their offspring into property ownership, which I will share with you next month.

Want to help your kids get on the property ladder, or get onto it yourself? Get in touch.


Silicon Valley, here I come.

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When this email hits your inbox I will be getting ready to network with some of San Francisco’s brainiest inventors and investors. I have been invited to take part in Google’s Cloud Next conference.

It’s exciting, and more than a little bit surreal. And it all started when I had a Eureka moment a few months ago.

I shared my bright idea with a friend who happens to be a strategist. He then talked to someone who knows the ins and outs of technology. Connections were activated, and all of a sudden we’re heading to California to meet some big names in the digital world.

Who knows – we could be sitting on the next Xero or Uber. Or perhaps nothing will come of it. But right now we have the opportunity to get Silicon Valley on board with our venture, and that’s exciting.

As well as being an incredible adventure, this episode has reminded me of the importance of acting on ideas.

How many time have you had an intriguing idea, and then the voice in your head pipes up and says, “Don’t be silly!” That’s one way to guarantee it will come to nothing.

Or perhaps you’ve hugged your ideas to yourself, afraid to share them with others? That can be a big mistake. As someone once told me, it’s better to have 50% of something than 100% of nothing.

Interestingly enough, I find young people understand this. They think in terms of collaboration and start-ups. They’re energised by the possibility of changing the world, and they embrace its possibilities with an open mind and open heart.

I hope you feel inspired to act on your own ideas and share them with the talented people around you. Who knows what great things you might achieve?


You’ve achieved your goal. Now what?

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How was your Christmas? Mine was a bit dull.

I could blame the December weather, which certainly wasn’t anything to get excited about. But the truth is I found myself feeling a bit deflated after the thrill of trekking to Base Camp at Mt Everest in October.

I’d achieved my 2017 travel goal, and the aftermath was an anticlimax.

Reflecting on this, I remembered something our expedition leader Mike Allsop had mentioned. He said the slopes of Everest are littered with the bodies of those who reached the peak – but then either died at the summit or on the way back down. All their efforts had been focused on reaching the summit. They forgot to plan for what came next.

This applies to much of life, not just lofty things like mountain climbing. I know someone who has had the goal of completing a leaky building remediation project. This horribly expensive process took 10 years but he eventually reached a successful outcome. Now he’s relieved to have completed the project, but not quite sure what to do next.

The ‘what comes next syndrome’ can apply to anything that consumes our attention and efforts. It might be raising children, completing a university degree, creating and selling a business, or even paying off your mortgage. It’s one reason the All Blacks are now encouraged to build skills and gain qualifications for life after rugby. Your current passion may be incredibly exciting and worthwhile, but the nature of goals is that they’re eventually achieved. You need a plan for the next stage.

Have you made the same mistake as me? Putting so much effort into an exciting short-term objective that you neglected to build a vision beyond it? There can be only one solution: go back to fundamentals, and ask yourself what is really important to you now. Then set some new goals.

Thank goodness I’m off to Sydney soon for one of my regular catch-ups with my mentor, Dr Fred Grosse. We’ll be focusing on what to do after you achieve your goals. I’ll let you know what comes next.


The most exhilarating thing I discovered at Mt. Everest? Kindness.

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Last time I wrote to you I was shivering at Base Camp, 5,364 metres above sea level. I was expecting some discomfort at this altitude. What I wasn’t expecting was the extreme, bone-penetrating cold.

Temperatures sank to minus 14 degrees at night, and we were sleeping in unheated lodges and tents. I learned to stow the next day’s clothes in my sleeping bag at night where they would be warmed by body heat, so getting dressed in the morning was slightly less of an ordeal.

Everything is harder and takes longer in these conditions. You become much more vulnerable and dependent on others. That’s why I was warmed and cheered beyond belief by the happy, caring attitude of the Nepalese Sherpas who were such an integral part of our expedition.

Their practical help, always delivered with a smile, reminded me that positivity is the best way of coping with harsh conditions. Every night they would hand out drinking bottles filled with hot water so we didn’t have to drink icy cold water in the freezing night. And this attitude was not just limited to the employees – it’s woven throughout the Sherpa culture.

I learned that even under extreme conditions there’s always something you can do to make things a little better. One highlight was handing out woollen New Zealand beanies, complete with silver fern, to 36 kids at Pangbouche School. It felt good to give something back to this community, which lives permanently in the extreme Himalayan conditions. I brought 50 beanies in my baggage – thank goodness for compression packs – and was pleased to see them worn with such pride and appreciation.

Back home in Auckland, I find that just about any problem is a ‘first world problem’ by comparison. We are so lucky, and have so much. It’s something I’ll remember long after my memories of Himalayan ice have faded.

Something else that takes the chill away is the advent of summer. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to a relaxing Christmas in Auckland, with some mountain biking treks around Woodhill Forest. Bevan and his family will be enjoying a well-earned break at Whangamata so say ‘Gidday’ if you see them at the beach.

This time of year is also a great time to set new goals for 2017.

What is it that you want to achieve next year? I encourage you to come up with a stretch goal, whether it’s getting back into education, training for a sports event or learning to play the harp. Do that thing you’ve always wanted to do – and do it for yourself. You’ll find that everyone around you benefits when you are happy and fulfilled in a project.

Do share your goals too – I’d love to hear what you’re up to.



Greetings from Base Camp, Mt Everest

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When this email lands in your inbox, I will be 5,360 metres above sea level, breathing the thin air at Base Camp in Nepal.

‘Peak experiences’ aren’t always metaphorical.  In my case I’ve had a passion for far away places since my childhood growing up in Christchurch with no extended family.  A friend’s grandmother took an interest in me and gave me an atlas – perhaps she had noticed my curiosity about geography.  I don’t recall why but I’ve never looked back.

At 15 I booked my first solo holiday, flying to Australia on a three week holiday that I had saved up and paid for.  Since then my travels have just grown more and more adventurous.  I’ve been mountain biking in Mongolia, skiing in Norway and now, trekking in the Himalayas.

I set this trip as my goal when I heard Mike Allsop (Google him) give a TED talk in Auckland two years ago.  He has climbed Everest and regularly returns there.  He mentioned that he had taken his children to Base Camp – one of his kids was just seven years old at the time.  “Well,” I thought, ” if a seven year old can do it, so can I!”

In July this year I saw Mike speak again, this time at a conference.  At the end of the presentation he mentioned he had one space left on his next Himalayan trip.  As he left the stage I was mentally packing my bags and the vacancy was filled that night.  I won’t be tackling the peak, but just making it to Base Camp feels amazing in itself.

To my mind, this proves that opportunities present themselves all the time.  As we’ve explored in previous editions of this newsletter, there’s a simple process to making the most of them:

  • Ask yourself what kind of life you want?  Focusing on this will help you work out what your goals should be.
  • Write down your goals and check them regularly.
  • Be open to opportunity (as I was when Mike spoke about his forthcoming Himalayan trip).
  • Just do it!

If you believe that ‘yes is more fun than no’, ask yourself what opportunity are you going to grab with both hands?


Your only real wealth is health.

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You can have a portfolio of investment properties, an overstuffed bank account and a house full of expensive toys, but if you don’t have good health, you’re not well off.

We all know this on some level – but how seriously do we take it?

I certainly didn’t for decades, working long hours and taking very little exercise, but in learning how to define and achieve my personal goals, I’ve become increasingly aware of the importance of health. And I’m not alone in this. My mentor, Dr Fred Grosse, is always asking about my wellbeing whenever we have one of our regular catch ups.

So what are the practical steps we can take to optimise health? Here are some things I’ve learned on my journey.

My first tip is to break the habit of being reactive. We tend to regard good health as a default setting and only pay attention when something goes wrong. A smarter approach is to have regular check ups with your trusted health professionals. One of my friends avoided seeing the dentist for years, only to end up in A&E, followed by a week in hospital, when an undiagnosed abscess led to blood poisoning.

Interestingly, some health insurers have seen the light. The new Healthy By Sovereign policy rewards you for having regular check ups and taking an online health assessment. Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

My second piece of advice is to find the exercise habit that works for you . If you know me well, you will know that I avoid the gym but I love music. With Spotify streaming great tunes it’s a joy to go running in the morning. Its a 10/10 start to my day.

Of late I have been using my wind trainer, out running, and walking, as I aim to hopefully get fitter ready for a 3 week adventure in Nepal and then on to base camp later this month.

You may move to the beat of a different drummer. Perhaps you love the group energy of a class, the pleasure of dancing, or the satisfaction of pushing beyond what you thought were your physical limits. I know someone who is turning his fascination with Japanese culture into a goal to walk the 88 Temple Pilgrimage Trail on the island of Shikoku. How awesome would that be? A goal like that would certainly get me moving. Just do whatever works for you.

The funny thing is that paying attention to your health often has a flow on effect to your wealth. You save on avoidable expenses – I have lost count of the loan top ups arranged for clients facing a huge dental surgery bill caused by long term neglect. You will also have reserves of energy and positivity to focus on your investment or career goals.

So what do you do to maintain good health? What are the tips and practices you’d recommend? I’d love to hear your stories.


Why high earners can’t retire.

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Recently I took part in a financial seminar. The presenter asked the 25 people the room a simple question: how many of us could afford to retire right now and live off their passive income.

Only three people put up their hands.

I was one of them and I know for a fact that I had one of the lowest incomes in the group. Many attendees earned very good salaries or owned successful businesses, but were unable to get off the financial treadmill. Why should this be?

If you’ve ever played Robert Kiyosaki’s Cashflow Game you will have an inkling. I call it ‘Monopoly on Steroids’ because it teaches many lessons about wealth. After playing the game many times I was able to predict that the person on the lowest income would invariably get out of the rat race first and win the game.

This is because low earners are forced to live within their means. They don’t develop a ‘spending lifestyle’. They minimise unnecessary expenses which is the first step to success.

The second step is to find investments that deliver income and then maximise the revenue you earn from them. Low earners who follow this path will end up retiring with more income than those who have enjoyed a lavish salary.

I can confirm this from my own experience. Newly divorced in my early 30s, I was left with just a block of downmarket flats in Christchurch with the minimum equity required to keep them. I was still an employee at the time, and to save costs I was flatting with a guy who has become a lifelong friend. By buying income producing assets I was able to start laying the foundations for financial independence.

Next I sat down and asked: what’s my financial goal? I decided on a dollar amount of annual income I wanted in retirement and calculated the number of rental properties I would need to generate that.

From then on my property purchases were based on the numbers. I looked at rental yield and the value I could add and worked out how much I would offer. Sentiment played no part.

This is a strategy you can follow for any income producing asset, be it residential property, commercial property, shares or a business. First put a dollar figure on the outcome you desire 10, 20 or 30 years from now. Then look for assets that can help you achieve your goal and only buy them if the numbers work.

The idea is to be in the happy position of raising your hand if anyone asks whether you have enough passive income to retire with the lifestyle you want.

Would you like to work with Sue on defining and achieving your wealth goals? . Get in touch.


Why goals matter and how to achieve them.

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Buying property is a goal many people have. I’m lucky to be able to help them achieve it and it’s one of the most satisfying parts of my job.

I’ve also seen the flipside – how relationship break ups can take people backwards. They find themselves dealing with new financial and personal challenges. This can be a critical turning point with the opportunity to take decisions that ensure success in the long term.

So we can all agree that goals are important. The question is how do you find the ones that matter to you? And most importantly, how do you achieve them? Here’s what works for me.

My first suggestion is to write down your goals. This makes them real. It brings them into the foreground of your mind.

But here’s where I depart from the accepted wisdom. Don’t pin your list of goals to the wall and focus on them. Put the list away. Then write a new list in a few months’ time. And keep on writing new lists.

Over time you’ll find that certain themes emerge. And one day – bingo! You’ll know its time to act on that desire that keeps manifesting itself.

I had to laugh when talking to a client recently about this. I pulled out my diary from 10 years ago and checked an old list of goals. There they were – visit Bhutan and learn to plan the piano. Well, last year I went to Bhutan and this year I started piano lessons with a lovely 23 year old who has to listen to my fumbled renditions of Jingle Bells. I have no natural talent for the instrument but I’ve always had the desire and 2016 is the year when I’m acting on it.

By writing regular lists but not being too rigid about time frames we can free ourselves up. It stretches us to try things we can’t currently do but takes away the grim determination that sometimes gets in the way.

Growth is fun. Goals are fun. So make sure you have fun achieving them.

Would you like to work with Sue on defining and achieving your life goals? . Get in touch.