1. Home
  2.  / New year, new me? Giving my finances a ‘zhush up’ for 2024
New year, new me? Giving my finances a ‘zhush up’ for 2024

New year, new me? Giving my finances a ‘zhush up’ for 2024

As we run headfirst into 2024 it can be a great idea to briefly stop, take stock of where you’re at financially and make a plan for the coming year, writes Liv Lewis-Long.

20 March 2024

Those golden years of retirement can seem SO far away and out of reach that it’s easy to put off thinking about them, let alone planning smartly. But there are several little things you can do that could mean a much bigger nest egg for the time when you can finally take a step back, relax and board the retirement train.

I recently sat down and came up with a list of my top three resolutions when it comes to levelling up my finances in 2024, and decided that sharing them might help keep me accountable!

Resolution 1: Boosting my KiwiSaver contributions

So, I’ve put the bare minimum into my KiwiSaver account for a long time now, aka three per cent. To be fair, this is because we’ve been prioritising paying down our mortgage as aggressively as possible since buying our first home five years ago.

It’s a strategy which has served us well, and where our balance is at now is something we’re super proud of. But working towards financial freedom is more than just reducing debt for me; it’s also about increasing my future savings.

This year, I’m committing to increasing my KiwiSaver contributions by just one per cent, up to four per cent. Doesn’t sound like much, but with the magic of compounding returns, it could mean significantly more in my KiwiSaver account by the time I get to 65 (only a scary 27 years away now). Using the sorted.org KiwiSaver calculator (which takes inflation into account) and plugging in my numbers, I can see that leaving my contributions at 3 per cent generates a projected balance of $672,000 by retirement, assuming I stay in an aggressive fund.

But if I raise my contributions to four per cent, I could end up with over $751,000 at 65. That’s an almost $80,000 difference - which is like an extra year of retirement fun, right? And just to provide a couple more impressive numbers using the sorted tool, six per cent for me could mean $909,000, and 10 per cent spits out a whopping $1,223,000. It’s worth having a play - and a think about what you can afford to contribute.

Resolution 2: Diversify my investments further

It feels kinda like New Zealand is a property market with an economy tacked on, rather than the other way around. Kiwis have always been obsessed with property, and I’m no exception. Over the last couple of years my husband and I have been building our property portfolio, believing it’s a sure way to huge gains and a future passive income. I mean, have you seen the trajectory of property prices over the last decade!

But working for Simplicity for the past 18 months has started to reshape my narrative. Property is just one of many asset classes with growth potential, and that classic saying “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” applies here. There’s no guarantee the property market will continue its astounding growth into the future; in fact I think that would be pretty unsustainable, given current housing affordability.

So, while we are likely to continue our “buy and hold” strategy and keep the rentals we’ve got now, this year I’m diversifying my portfolio more. For me, that means a low-cost, highly diversified index fund that I regularly contribute to (via automated transactions, of course). But there are lots of options. It can be nice to align your investments with what you believe in and are comfortable with, whether that be cars, art, particular sectors of the stock market, property, or all of them.

It’s just about making sure you are diversifying your portfolio, spreading those eggs out to spread your risk.

Resolution 3: Get better at budgeting and reviewing

It’s time to get super honest. I’m terrible at thinking about, or setting, any kind of budget or spending limitations. We’re lucky to be a DINK household. And with that comes potentially a little more “freedom” in spending our disposable income, with no dependents to worry about. But here's the kicker: when you don’t “need” to restrict your spending, it's surprisingly easy to let those little expenses add up without realising.

What’s one more drink or meal out? Well, a lot, actually. I took a little deep dive into just our food and booze spend over the last quarter of 2023, and it was shocking (I’m a little too embarrassed to share here). Getting better at budgeting isn’t just about saving money; it’s about understanding where your hard-earned cash is going and whether it’s ALL worth it. So, I’ve started to pull together a super simple spreadsheet that tracks our income vs expenses, and I’m going to force my hubby to sit down with me to discuss how we reign it in, with a little better planning.

We have a joint bank account plus our own individual ones, so I envisage that we’ll “pay ourselves” a particular amount each month that’s ours to spend as we like - fun money. Then we’ll have a joint food and alcohol weekly budget that serves to reign in those unnecessary splurges, just a little.

There’s also loads of great, simple budgeting apps that can make it more fun and less of a chore to start your own budgeting journey.

So, there we have it. No giant leaps this year, but a couple of simple tweaks to our finances that I think could make significant headway to my goal of financial freedom by 55. I’m a firm believer that financial planning doesn’t need to scare nor consume you. It’s about understanding where you’re at, ensuring you have some solid financial foundations in place and then perhaps a little “zhush up” each year to make sure you’re still on track to meet your goals (whether they remain the same, or evolve over time).

Disclaimer: The information provided, and opinions expressed in this article are intended for general guidance only and not personalised to you. These materials do not take into account your particular financial situation or goals and are not financial advice or a recommendation.  Information is current at the time of writing, and subject to change without notice.

Informed Investor's content comes from sources that Informed Investor magazine considers accurate, but we do not guarantee its accuracy. Charts in Informed Investor are visually indicative, not exact. The content of Informed Investor is intended as general information only, and you use it at your own risk.