A time to stay safe – and take stock

As New Zealand comes to terms with life at Level 4, we all face the prospect of a more restricted way of living for the foreseeable future.

First and foremost, it’s a time to take care of the mental wellbeing of you and your family. The New Zealand government has posted a page with helpful advice and resources on how you can look after the household during this time.

It’s also important to consider your financial circumstances because the Covid-19 pandemic is having an impact on everyone. Not only have the value of most investments and KiwiSavers taken a hit – the situation for workers and businesses has changed too.

Although this is an uncertain time, it provides a great opportunity to take stock of your finances, and make preparations to be in the best possible position for when lockdown rules are relaxed.

Managing your financial well being in 6 steps

1. Understand your position

If you are worried about job security and how that may affect your ability to pay bills, make mortgage repayments and buy the basics your family needs – find out if you are eligible for any of the financial help measures introduced by the government. This is the most up-to-date place to see the latest support initiatives. If you cannot find what you need or want further advice, call the government helplines on 0800 779 997 or 0800 22 66 57.

2. Take advantage of available help

Here are some of the financial measures which could help you:

-A Covid-19 Leave Payment – financial support if you’re sick, self-isolating, or caring for dependents who may be sick or self-isolating.

-Help with essential costs – including food, accommodation, utilities or medical costs.

-Wage subsidy – employers, contractors, sole traders and self-employed may qualify for a wage subsidy. For more detail on who is eligible and how to apply, visit the Work and Income website.

-Mortgage payment holiday – six-month mortgage payment holidays are available. Contact your provider for details.

-Guaranteed loans – the government is guaranteeing loans to eligible SME owners to help them through these difficult months. Contact your bank for more information.

-Tenant protection – the government has made it illegal for landlords to increase rent over the next six months or evict tenants (except in specific circumstances). You can find out more about the new landlord/tenant rules at tenancy.govt.nz.

3. Reassess your finances

This is a time of global economic change, so it’s important to look at how it’s affecting your personal finances. Get a good understanding of where you are financially by looking at all your incomings and outgoings. It may not all be bad news – for example, we’re all spending next to nothing on going out and impulse purchases. And look to see if there are other areas where you can make further savings. Reducing your spending to an absolute minimum will put you in a better position when lockdown is relaxed.

4. Review your debts

Rather than taking on new debts, this may be a time to take a close look at your existing debts. Can you find ways to reduce your repayments, lower the interest rate or cut the time it will take to pay off? A debt consolidation loan or refinance loan could help you achieve this by bringing your different debts together into one. It simplifies things as you only having one regular payment to budget for. You may also benefit from paying less interest with either a lower rate, or with a shorter time period to pay things off. Or you may be able to lower your monthly repayments by extending the term of the loan.

5. Decide if you need a little extra help

Under Level 4, financial institutions including Nectar are classified as essential businesses, and can therefore help you with your finances. All Nectar’s staff are operational and working remotely during this time. And because we’re a 100% digital online lender, we do not require face-to-face meetings with customers – so there’s no disruption to our service:

our platform is still approving loan applications

-approved loan applications are still being funded

-and you can still contact us by email, phone or through James our friendly bot.

6. Look positively to the future

Understanding your income, your expenses and debt repayments are the key to being able to successfully budget for the times ahead. Your plan shouldn’t just be about restricting spending – it’s there to help you reach your financial goals. It might be a plan to boost savings for tougher times, or simply to bring things under control so you can make sure bills are paid on time. It’s a good idea to check your plan at least once a month to see that you are on track. You can find some useful budgeting and goal-planning tools here. You are probably already seeing a big difference to your spending patterns. It’s harder to spend money – and there’s no doubt we’re spending less. Will you be able to continue some of these enforced habits when lock down is loosened?

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We hope this gives you a good starting point for taking stock of your financial position. It’s intended as a guide only – so we recommend you visit relevant websites and seek free financial counselling and advice. A good place to find budget advice in your area is the Family Services Directory. If you are worried you cannot meet a payment or a bill, it’s always best to let the provider or creditor know as soon as possible. These are extraordinary times and organisations are putting plans in place to help. If you’re impacted by COVID-19 and need additional assistance related to your Nectar account, please get in touch.

We wish you and those in your bubble well, and we want you to know that you’ll have our support in getting your finances in shape.