New Zealand Money Month Q&A: Frances Cook, Investments Editor for BusinessDesk NZ

Frances Cook is a reformed financial hot mess who now saves others from her money mistakes. She is a best-selling author, a columnist, a speaker and podcaster. Priding herself on clear, non-judgmental communication, Frances knows how to balance giving you the information you need while making sure you don't fall asleep.

Icebreaker! Buy Now Pay Later — yay or nay?

Hard nay. If you could see the documents these companies use to sell their services to businesses, you’d know why. They pride themselves on getting customers to spend more than they would otherwise, because it plays into the money psychology of feeling like a smaller purchase. It’s borderline predatory.

What’s your approach to managing money?

I’m a bit loosey-goosey to be honest! I like a simple system — bills on autopay, savings and investments on autopay for the day after payday, and then a chunk of money left for spending. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

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

I think the best thing is to simply treat it like a normal part of life. One day I might listen to a money podcast; the next it’s celebrity gossip. Take away the judgement, do the best you can, move on with life. If you beat yourself over the head trying to be perfect, of course you’ll hate thinking about money.

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

It’s so important to have a goal. You will never save money just because you ‘should’, and want to be ‘good’. It needs to be for something. Currently, my big goal is becoming mortgage-free, and investing for financial independence.

Where do you get your financial knowledge from?

I’m very lucky to get to speak to experts from across the money world on a daily basis, as part of my job. It’s hard not to absorb a few things in that situation!

What do you love spending money on?

Food. Clothes. Time with friends and family. Anything that hits serotonin in the brain, I’m there.

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

Investing in myself, and my own knowledge. Once you know more about the money world, you can see the easy changes that can make a big difference.

Have you ever experienced financial difficulties?

Absolutely. Growing up my family went through times of feast and famine, which is quite destabilizing. My student years, and early years of my career, were pretty lean times. It was only once I got serious on educating myself about money that I could see some of the patterns that were holding me back, and make the changes that have seen me become financially stable.

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

Start where you are, with what you have. We all start at a different place and have different obstacles, that can make it difficult for us. Those obstacles are real. But it’s also true that there’s usually something we can do to make our life better, even if it’s just knowing where to go to get some help, or changing some KiwiSaver settings. Look at the situation in front of you, and decide what the biggest priority is. Then just focus on getting that one thing sorted.

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

The laser kiwi. National treasure at this point.

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.

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