Richard Holden, Founder and Principal of Milestone in Christchurch shares some of his top tips.

“My other piece of advice, Copperfield” said Mr Micawber “You know, annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the God of day goes down upon the dreary scene, and in short you are forever floored. As I am” Wilkins Micawber (David Copperfield)

I started with this quote from a Charles Dickens novel, because I wanted to reflect on forty years of helping people find solutions to their financial problems and this quote, above all, sums it up.

Many of the social, relationship and psychological problems of this world would be greatly improved if a large swathe of people understood this piece of advice. In the modern context we have become addicted to debt and it is an addiction that our consumer society feeds unconscionably. It is a fundamental part of personal happiness to be financially secure and yet amongst such modern abundance we have a lot of misery.

As a financial planner I have seen the impact of clients coming to grips with this problem and getting on top of it. Here are some tips on creating financial security and building wealth, for young and old, that work:

Open a KiwiSaver account if you haven’t already. A no brainer if you are saving for a first home.

Build a buffer. Dedicate a percentage of your after-tax and KiwiSaver income to savings that you do not touch and then live off the rest of your income. Accelerate the process by putting all the items that you have bought and will never likely use in a garage sale, or on Trade me, (your aim is to accumulate three months net income).

Pay off your credit cards or consolidate the debt into your mortgage or a low interest loan. Then cut the credit cards up or literally put them on ice. (rationally this could be the first item; but we are not all Mr Spock, are we?)

Once you have accomplished the first three items continue saving that percentage of your income and pay down your mortgage debt or increase the size of your first home deposit.

Be patient. Enjoy the security of knowing that, if you lose your job, you hate your boss or have some other unforeseen financial blow, you have a buffer in place and are more in control of your own destiny.

Invest your money in buckets e.g. short term savings (to splurge on things like furniture or appliances), medium term savings (for an overseas trip) and long term savings (to retire early). Create as many buckets as you like.

Protect your assets including yourself against the “what ifs” of life. Think of the consequences for others as well as yourself and decide on the risk position you can manage and the risk that it’s prudent to transfer.

Do not rely on the State for support when things go wrong. Many people are trapped because of our social welfare system and while it is reassuring in the short term it is only meant to be temporary. The whole point of financial planning is self-reliance and personal responsibility.

Invest in yourself. Gaining better knowledge and qualifications can lead to higher income or give you the confidence to start your own business.

Do not worry about the markets. If you are diversified enough your KiwiSaver and long-term bucket funds will do just fine.

If you are retired and have accumulated funds, learn how to spend them over time unless you want to leave it all for someone else to spend instead.

Do not weaken your kids by helping them out too much. Let them appreciate the value of hard work, accomplishment, and thrift.

Never panic; the news is mostly bad because it sells better. The world is a far better place than it has ever been despite the doomsayers. Study your family history for proof of that.

Find a qualified financial adviser. We have a DIY culture where people think that they can save money by having a go themselves. The cost of time and money for good advice is a pittance compared to the cost of making stupid financial decisions.

It is a great privilege to have regularly met with my clients over the years and to have had them give me their trust and confidence. Through forty years together I have seen my clients grow financially and personally in achieving their goals.

The greatest thing that I have observed is the resilience and the natural goodness in people. Thank you for allowing me to be your guide.