Nervous About Your Finances? Fearful Of A Recession? Financial Planner Shares Her Advice

Nervous About Your Finances? Fearful Of A Recession? Financial Planner Nadine Higgins Shares Her Advice 

While the threat of a global recession looms large, it’s no wonder that a lot of Kiwis are starting to think and worry about how this might affect our economy, and each of us as individuals.. But just how worried should we be? And what should we be doing now as we face an uncertain financial future? Should we be preparing for a worst case scenario?

To take some of the fear out of the equation, we’re talking to Nadine Higgins from Enable.Me about what we can put in place now to weather a crisis!

You have the chance to see if every day when people come into Enable.Me with real concerns about the future, what are you seeing? 

We spent the better part of two years freaking out about the pandemic and during this time interest rates were cut really low. Governments gave us lots of money to get by, so now this is almost the hangover from that. We can leave our homes and go out into the world but now we’re worried we might not be able to afford to do it, because interest rates are going up really fast. The price of everything feels like it’s on the rise. 

You read headlines – every second day a recession is coming, we’re in a bear market – and it’s really easy to get overwhelmed! When clients come in, they’re asking us all of those questions, but I guess the benefit they have is we encourage them to only look at this as working to a long term plan. 

We’re able to kind of hold them back and say, let’s take a breath! Let’s remind ourselves what it is we’re trying to do here. What is the problem we’re trying to solve? Or what is the goal we’re trying to achieve? And in general, it’s over the long term. What is happening today and tomorrow and next week shouldn’t distract us from what the end goal is, but of course, we’re humans and we are freaked out about the stuff that we’re reading. We are kind of hard wired to go, what can I do to avoid losing money? Versus what can I do to make myself money! 

We do a lot of globalising right? So all of a sudden, you lose a job, or one thing drops off and you’re like, ‘that’s it, I’m going to be out on the street!’. I think that’s one of the big things when it comes to health – we get a lot of advice from the wrong places. Maybe Tik Tok is not the best place to go to for nutrition advice, right? I think that there’s something in there around financial advice as well.  

That’s a really good point, because so many of us are looking for short term hacks, which is what you see on Tik Tok, right? There’s only so much that you can convey in a short space of time. But really, we should be looking at the fundamentals. Once you get those in place, then you can set yourself up to work to a plan and start setting goals and measuring milestones. 

When you do that, you feel in control and that puts you in the mindset to be able to tune out the noise. Otherwise, you’re more likely to be reactive when you’re stressed – you go into that fight or flight mode. So even though on Tik Tok they tell you ‘buy in the dip, buy low, sell high’, well… that’s great in theory, but what happens in practice is, you experience FOMO when the market is rising, so you buy something after the price has already risen and when the market is falling you panic and sell! That is the exact opposite strategy of one that’s going to make you money.

There’s so much common sense in it, but of course when you’re in the middle of that situation, it’s a tough thing to make the right decision, because emotion is so wound up in it. I think now, people are so emotive about looking after themselves, and money is a way that we in many ways support ourselves. How do we at least try and remove emotion? 

Money is inherently emotional, which is why it’s never as simple as buy low, sell high, right? We have to work to our own risk profile and the things that are going to wake us up at night in a cold sweat if something happens. If you’re really that stressed, then you probably need someone to hold your hand because you really don’t make good decisions when you’re panicking. 

You kind of need that sounding board to say, “hold up! Let’s go back to what we’re actually trying to achieve here”. The other thing to call out would be if you need to sell now – because in a falling market, it’s only really a problem if you need to sell. If you don’t need to, then sit tight and ride it out. Most of us are actually buyers because we’re putting a little bit of money in, every month or every payday, into our KiwiSaver and that’s getting invested. Because the markets are down, the prices we’re paying for the things we’re investing in, are actually cheaper. So it’s a good time to be a buyer. You have to remind yourself that actually, you’re probably a buyer, but if you do need to sell now, I’d be questioning why, who told you to get so invested in shares? 

If you had a really short-term horizon, you’ve either had no advice, or you’ve had some bad advice, but if you do need to sell now, you need to understand, well, what are the implications of selling now, so that you can be at peace with that, but also looking at what can you do to offset any losses you’re going to make.

I’m interested in you Nadine, the person here, for a minute because we are in such unprecedented times. Every six months, we look at the world and it’s like, “where are we?!?” It seems to have happened so quickly, for you so much of what’s gone on, you haven’t experienced before. So how do you keep a level head? What are the things that you do in those moments where you go, “Well, I’m not sure what to do here”. How do you set yourself up to make the best decision?

It’s interesting. I feel like a lot of the things we’re seeing now, I’ve seen from a theoretical point of view before, because I was a business reporter during the Global Financial Crisis. But I was also really young at that point, so I didn’t have money invested – I didn’t have a mortgage to pay. Whereas now I have all of those things and it directly impacts me. 

I find some solace in the numbers, because I want to know if my mortgage, for example, rolls off the great rate that I locked in a year ago, how much more am I going to pay? What does that actually mean to me? And is it a deal breaker, or is there some other lever that I can pull to make that more comfortable? 

I just think knowledge is power and it’s that sense of not knowing in volatile times, what’s going to happen next. So if I focus on the things that I can control, then that helps give me peace. I’m a worrywart by nature, so I’m the person who’s waking up in the middle of the night fretting about the “what ifs”,  so I like to get everything down on paper, so I can figure out what I can do about it. I want to be able to take action, because inaction makes me uncomfortable. But of course, sometimes the best action to take is to do nothing.

It’s such a unique perspective that you have even working in broadcasting, where it is a confidence game, but also you get to meet so many different people and so many different people with different levels of risk. So, as you’ve studied New Zealanders, as a broadcaster, and now with the work you’re doing with Enable.Me, what’s the one thing you think that we could all do a little more of?

This sounds very self-interested but honestly New Zealanders, compared to other countries, don’t seek a lot of financial advice. They think they have to be rich to benefit from having someone give them an opinion on how they’re doing and how they could do it better. But you don’t have to be! We see people who are just starting out and I see the benefits of that every day. 

Don’t overlook the impact of small things, because people think budgeting and actually watching your dollars and cents is only something you do if you’re poor, but actually, if it’s something you don’t do, that’s a really quick way to end up poor! As you earn more, you still should remain invested in your own personal finances. So many people check out because they just don’t want to have to worry about it, but no one is going to care as much about your finances as you do. So, if you don’t care, then who will?

Well, we are coming full circle on this conversation one of the things you can really feel, is things catching fire in this country. All of a sudden it feels like everyone is talking about this recession and I think that it’s important to pump the brakes, and get a little bit of perspective. So with that in mind, as we kind of finish, it’s an interesting time right now how do we look at the future as something that we should be really excited by?

Well, sometimes putting things in a historical perspective helps. Everyone’s been going on and on about the bear market at the moment. Just know that there have been, I think, 17 bear markets in the past 100 years. And every time, the market has recovered to be above those levels. So just because we’re in one right now, doesn’t mean that this is forever – nothing lasts forever! So as long as you have a strategy that’s fit for purpose that isn’t going to put you under stress and have you waking in the night, then this too shall pass.

Such a great sentiment to finish! We appreciate you giving some time and I think helping people just calm and breathe a little bit when it comes to their finances. What are the things that you want to give gratitude to?

I have so much to be grateful for. My husband and I are going through IVF at the moment and so I’m really grateful for science. I’m also really grateful for him because it’s a bit of a lonely road and I’m just grateful that he’s here to hold my hand through it.

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