New Zealand Money Month Q&A: Dean Anderson, Chief Executive of Kernel

After spending five years as Head of Product at a large ETF provider where he was involved in creating, launching, and developing index funds, Dean saw there was an opportunity to create better options for investors. Taking a fresh approach to the investment sector, he created Kernel — a personal finance platform where innovation meets investment.

Icebreaker! Buy Now Pay Later — yay or nay?


BNPL is preying on our desire for instant gratification, luring us into temptation by enabling us to buy things without the upfront hard work of actually saving for them. While a lot of people won’t get hurt with fees, many quickly find themselves caught in a surprising trap — which can impact things like buying a home. 

So, while those flashy deals and discounts can be seductive, remember, it’s not just free money. Future you might end up singing the “Regret Song” if you don’t manage your spending wisely.

A quick shoutout to the Australian neo bank, Up, who launched a great alternative — “May Buy”. Effectively, the same installments, but at the end you get given the choice to decide whether you actually really still want that item or whether keeping the cash is better.

What’s your approach to managing money?

I’ve got multiple accounts set up, each with a special job. First up, the “Core Items” bucket takes care of all the essentials — bills, groceries, and all that. It makes sure I stay on top of my needs without any surprises.

Next comes the “Treat Yourself” bucket! But with a set limit, it ensures I can treat myself without going overboard — no guilt, no financial stress, just pure enjoyment! 

The real magic though is automation. I’ve got these buckets set up to automatically catch my income, pay bills, and take care of my life admin. No more stressing about where my cash is going — it’s all sorted! 

Of course it doesn’t just stop with spending, it’s investing too! With good money automation, I can automate a regular investment plan to ensure things are set up for me down the line.  

Do you do anything special to keep engaged with your money?

The less engagement, the better. Money is a stressful topic for many and the idea of budgets, making ends meet, saving for tomorrow, etc can quickly become overwhelming. 

Rather than making money engaging in itself, the discipline that comes from good automation and bucketing will help most Kiwis feel on top of their money. You’ll then be more confident and feel less stress when thinking about money, meaning when you do need to engage it is an easy conversation. 

How important are financial goals and do you have any you’re working towards?

I have a lot of goals, but I wouldn’t think of them just as ‘financial’ goals. These are things that I aspire to — they could be things like milestones I want to reach with the impact Kernel can have for Kiwis and their money goals, or even life goals such as buying a home. Seven years ago when I moved to Auckland, not knowing anything about the city, I started renting and have enjoyed that flexibility, especially when growing Kernel, but current savings are for a plan to some point down the line look to buy a house again. 

Where do you get your financial knowledge from?

Like 99% of Kiwis, I grew up in a home that didn’t discuss finances. I had a rough sense of how my mum was working to balance ends meet, plus being a part-time solo parent. However, growing up, I was in the same boat as a lot of other people — money talk just didn’t happen! I caught glimpses of my mom working her magic to make ends meet, juggling it all like a pro, even as a part-time solo parent. But beyond that, financial knowledge was like an unsolved riddle, waiting for me to crack it.

Fast forward, most of my financial knowledge came from study combined with life and work experience — which teaches you plenty of lessons! 

Of course, this is a topic that I am incredibly passionate about and is one of the reasons why I built Kernel. With Kernel, we’re on a mission to help more Kiwis openly tackle their financial goals. We’re not holding back; we’re bringing money talk to a whole new level, where financial dreams become reality.

So here’s to cracking the code, embracing the money journey, and unleashing the financial superhero within!

What do you love spending money on?

I’m all about experiences vs materialistic items. I’d much rather spend money on a nice night out with my partner or friends, enjoying some great local food, compared to say having an interest in the latest car or clothes. 

To me, money is the ultimate passport to freedom — it opens up a world of choices on how we spend our time. And let’s be real, time is the most precious treasure we’ve got! 

What has been the best investment you’ve ever made?

Over the years I’ve saved, dabbled in stocks (learned my lesson and quickly got set on the power of index fund investing), renovated homes, and of course started Kernel. 

Starting Kernel has been the best investment, not for the usual financial reasons, but because it has enabled me to do something every day that I am incredibly passionate about. I now get to earn an income while working alongside an amazing team who share the same fire in their hearts. We’re a power-packed squad, making a real difference in the lives of tens of thousands of Kiwis!

Have you ever experienced financial difficulties?

Of course! It is never a straight line, and for a long period of time, you always feel like you are just making ends meet. Somehow, you do make them meet and you keep learning and keep taking small steps forward, with a few backward, and over time you start to look back and realize how far you’ve actually come. 

In those early days, like investing, those small little steps don’t feel like they are having any effect. But eventually, they do add up, and over time by pushing for career progressing, saving, and keeping on top of costs, you find you’ve got to a point where you have significantly more choices. 

Those moments when you feel like you have control will be different for everyone. For me, the moment when I finally felt like I was getting ahead was the moment when I didn’t feel like I had to stick to a strict budget at the supermarket — to me, that was choice and freedom. I could spend on some luxuries and not feel guilty. 

What advice would you give someone just starting out with their finances?

Create habits. As small as they may be, starting those small regular habits such as paying bills early, and putting aside a small investment each week, will get you into the rhythm.

Over time, you can then start to align those habits with your goals, think about increasing your savings and investments, and take bigger steps. But don’t feel like you have to take a giant leap on day one. These small habits will build into the lifelong traits that will get you toward each of your financial goals. 

What’s the silliest thing you would put on a new design for the $100 note?

An extra 0. 

This interview is part of New Zealand Money Month 2023. NZMM is coordinated by trusted personal finance resource Sorted, in partnership with the financial capability community, and it involves events all around the country to encourage New Zealanders to talk about money and develop greater financial capability. To further the conversation about money we got in touch with some of our pals in the personal finance space to get their perspectives on their own finances.

Related articles

Why More Than Just Fees Matter With Investing
“Free” platforms and websites can be tempting when you’re looking to invest and make every cent count. But what is it really costing you? Dean Anderson, CEO of Kernel Wealth, shares why you should take more than just the price into consideration when choosing your mechanism for investing.
Top Three Kiwi-Owned Personal Finance Apps That I Use
Us Kiwis are well known for our ingenuity! New Zealand is lucky to have such a deep pool of innovation, especially in fintech. Rachel details her favorite Kiwi-owned finance apps, and how she’s used them to create a living ecosystem for all aspects of her financial management.
20 Investing Terms That Everyone Should Know
If you’re new to investing, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of jargon that’s thrown at you. While it can seem daunting, it’s important to gain an understanding of some of the basics to help build a strong knowledge foundation. Here are some of the most important investing terms that you should learn.