Your house is not an ATM
Just chuck it on the mortgage.
That’s what home-owning Kiwis do when they want to buy consumer goods that they can’t really, truthfully afford.
Most of us love the latest model phone, flash laptops, TVs, newer cars, designer kitchens and bathrooms and lots of bling.
What’s changed over the past 25 years for the average red-blooded Kiwi is that we’re using our homes like ATM machines, says Mark Lister head of private wealth research at Craigs Investment Partners.
We roll our consumer spending into the mortgage because we can.
The banks’ willingness to let us extend the mortgage means we get away with it.
The ATM approach to our homes represents a major behavioural sea change since the 1980s.
We can go to the bank and extend our mortgages to cover almost any spending we wish.
Lister says many people can’t really afford the consumer goods they’re buying but give into temptation due to the wealth effect of rising house prices.
Financial adviser Steve Morris, of SW Morris & Associates, points out that revolving mortgages allow us to dip into home equity without even going to the bank to ask for more money.
Morris says nine out of 10 of his clients who have revolving credit mortgages misuse them. One client even bought a $60,000 boat that way.
We’re short-sighted and don’t really think how we’ll survive financially when we put our feet up for good.
NZ Super payments are based on the premise that most Kiwis will own their home mortgage free by age 65.
What’s more, KiwiSaver was designed to be drip-fed throughout retirement to supplement the meagre NZ Super.
The problem is that we’re in effect borrowing the KiwiSaver pay out before we receive it.
Just look across the Tasman. Mortgage application forms ask how much Aussie Super the borrower has.
The banks make the assumption that this will be used to pay off the mortgage come retirement.
The more I think about the ramifications of this, the sicker I feel.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that the number of retirees withdrawing their super in lump sums has more than doubled in a decade.
Anyone who thinks all this debt is essential should take fewer drugs.
According to News Corp, in Australia 26 per cent of those withdrawals were funnelled into the home, 13 per cent paid for a holiday and 12 per cent were paying down debts.
We’re just as good as the Aussies at building up that debt.
Mortgage broker Jeff Royle, of iLender, sees clients doing it day in, day out.
“They slap [consumer spending] on the mortgage over 20 years.
“The bank says ‘it’s serviceable’ and the client goes ‘yip-te-do’.
“They think, ‘I was paying $1500 a month instalments and now I’m paying $600.”
Royle has just settled a mortgage for a couple in their 30s who had $104,000 worth of what he calls “crap debt” spent on holidays and consumer goods.
If banks are lending on the assumption it will be paid off with the KiwiSaver lump sum at age 65, the individual is back to square one of eking out a lot of retirement years on a very low income, which could get lower if governments of the day so desires.
The credit culture means that people are also reaching retirement with consumer debt ranging from HP to car and personal loans, which will have to be paid off somehow.
Anyone who thinks all this debt is essential should take fewer hallucinogenic drugs.
When putting a car or other more expensive spending such as home renovations on the mortgage, borrow that portion of the money over a shorter period, says David Boyle general manager investor education at the Commission for Financial Capability.
If, for example, you’re borrowing $50,000 to buy consumer goods or refinance the debt off credit cards, pay that chunk off sooner. That’s less harmful than paying it off over 20, 25 or 30 years.
Boyle points out that if he added $50,000 to his mortgage over five years, the total interest paid would be $7,655 at 5.8 per cent.
Borrowed over 10 years, the interest on the same $50,000 would be $15,948 and over 20 years, it’s $34,675.
“That’s around two-thirds of the original cost of the car,” he says. “Crazy; not forgetting by that time the cars value is now $1000 if you are lucky.
Even better, try to become more aware of the long-term implications of what and how you’re borrowing.
The final word goes to Lister, who says something refreshing, or even revolutionary for 21st-century New Zealand.
“Rather than using the lowest interest rates in 50 years to rack up more debt, people should think about upping their mortgage payments to smash that debt away while the interest costs are low. Better to make hay while the sun shines.”