Into 2014

2013 Review

1. Get more bad-ass at programming, more programming on my own projects, learning new technologies and techniques, and learning from the masters.

Yeah… well I guess I’ve learnt a lot. Wouldn’t say I’m any *better*, I just know how to use more technologies. Still getting some “flak” at work, but mainly because of constantly changing requirements/scope which makes the old design look ridiculous in the light of the new software requirements…

2. Get a qualification or two (Microsoft certification), and then start applying for senior development positions.

Nope… I started learning for the HTML5/JavaScript certificate, and I’m 50% there. Cancelled my exam in January because I thought I wouldn’t make it. Plus I’m thinking of a career change.

3. After a year, we’re going to start looking at the housing market, hopefully by this time it will have cooled down, and not gone into crazy bubble territory.

Nope… Market has gone insane and there’s no chance of us sinking $400k+ into a 3 bedroom shack. Our rent is less than the amount of interest we’d pay on a mortgage like that, plus it’s considerably overvalued, so any correction would be leveraged down to biblical proportions.

2014 Goals

On that note, let me outline my goals for 2014.

1. Spending much less time reading news, blogs and forums posts. My goal for January is no news at all (Newspaper, online or TV), and I’m only reading the blogs that I’m subscribed to. I’m hoping I’ll use the time for more productive activities.

2. Consider a career change into software QA. I used to be a hot shot QA a few years back, before I moved into software development. I thought at the time that development was my real “passion”. The first few years, I was relieved at having nice projects to work with, not being crunched at the end of the software life cycle, and the status of being a developer. It was a lot less monotonous developing than testing software.

Now after a few years in, I’ve noticed a distinct lack of passion in my work, I’m lagging behind my peers in skill and knowledge, and just feeling generally like a washed out developer.

Here in sunny (at the moment) New Zealand, QA resources get paid about 20% more than developers on average, so moving into QA would be both a boon to my wallet, as well as a potential boost to my confidence and happiness.
I think that the lower stress, lower pressure to be creative might be better for my nerves. I want to see if I’m more passionate about being a great Tester.

3. Wake up earlier in the morning – during the week I force myself out of bed at 6:30, sometimes 7, to get to work by about 8 – 8:30. On weekends, I generally sleep in until 9, I just can’t get myself out of bed before that. I hate the waste of 4+ hours on the weekend that I could be doing something, even just reading.

4. Start reading more – there are so many books I want to read, but because of items 1 and 3, I haven’t had much “time” to do so. Hopefully I will now!

Not really a goal, but I’ll be helping my husband get a job now that his studies haven’t panned out, and hopefully he’ll be happy for a few years before he starts burning out again. Ah, the joys of working in IT!


1. Spend less time reading news, blogs, forum posts.

2. Consider a career in QA – apply for a few jobs, read a few books, see how it goes.

3. Get up earlier on the weekends, at least 7AM.

4. Read more non-fiction and fiction books, 1 fiction a month and 1 non-fiction every 2 weeks.


Why are we obsessed about houses?

I’ve been pondering this question for the last couple of days.  I’m starting to think that it’s a combination of massive social pressure, and our own human delusions.

For instance, I read an article recently where a journalist made a very reasonable argument about why she was happy to have sold their house, relieved to be renting, and why.  The comments were mainly frothy mouthed internet trolls repeating the same old “houses are an investment” lines.
It makes me wonder what’s driving people to blinding only accept “the Truth” – that it should be everybody’s ultimate life goal, to own their own house, and to spend the rest of their lives paying the mortgage, and “upsizing” every 10 years or so.

Firstly, the financial reasons.  The main argument is that renting is “throwing money down the toilet”, and that paying $1500 a month on a mortgage is far better than $1500 in rent.  This argument is a bit of a misdirection – they are not comparing apples to apples.  A $1500 a month rent is probably for a nice 3 bedroom house.  The $1500 a month mortgage might be for a unit or apartment.  Depends on where you live of course.  In my case, $1500 gets you the house rental, and $1500 a month mortgage a dingy, shed of a multi-family unit, that’s leaky and uninsulated.  Chances are it’s in a dodgy area as well.  Houses here are ridiculously overpriced, obviously that’s not the case as much in the US anymore.

But even if you do manage to find a fair comparison, what about rates/taxes?  What about maintenance?  The inflation lifestyle that drives you to buy more furniture for your new house, that encourages you to build on, renovate or modernise, under the mistaken impression that it’s adding capital value to your house.  It may do so, it may not…

Secondly, the happiness/contentment reason.
Studies have shown that home owners aren’t even happier than renters.  I’ll have to find that one sometime tomorrow when it’s not almost midnight.  But a study showed that when income and age are taken into account (since increased income increases happiness to a point), home owners weren’t happier – in fact, they experienced more “unhappy”/depressing moments during the day than renters.  And bizarrely, they spent more time on housework.

Thirdly, the social reason – my own theory. I think that since it is socially accepted to always buy a house and raise your family, most people try and buy a house at some stage of their life (or are saving up to do so). The ones that are paying off their house are seen as successful. The ones that do not, are “generally” bad at saving money, or have run into debt or other personal problems. They are the reckless ones, the youngsters living the high life, wasting all their money on themselves. The logical fallacy is then made that people without mortgages are therefore irresponsible, reckless spendthrifts. Just the immediate image you may see of a “dirty, careless renter” vs a “white picket fence, mortgage owner” shows the social biases we may have.

I personally would love to own my own home, however I have reasoned that it won’t make me happier (it may make me unhappy), it does not financially make sense. And now I’m just getting tired of having it shoved down my throat all the time. I’m getting to the point where I’m making a point of *not* buying a home, just to go against the grain of “common sense”.

Ah, and the best part of renting vs owning a home – no unforeseen expenses (Landlord takes care of breakages/natural disaster accidents etc). And freedom to move whenever you want – good job opportunities elsewhere, or the local job market dries up, or say an earthquake wipes out your city – no problem!

To conclude, owning a house will not automatically make you happy.  It will probably encourage you to spend more.  And it might not even be financially the best option compared to renting.

So why all the froth in the mouth?

Never trust your brain to make the best financial decisions

So I had a bit of an epiphany today, which I’m sure I’m had before over the same topic, but this time it really sank in.

It happened while I was reading this interesting post about your subconscious brain, and how investing decisions, for most people, are made to secure their social status rather than for good financial reasons – I don’t think you invest the way you think you invest.

For the past year I have been somewhat obsessed with planning on buying a house. Last year we simply didn’t have enough for the deposit which fortunately stopped us from buying a very beautiful but far too expensive house. This year we’re in the middle of a rental contract until 2014, so again it is stopping me from rushing in. I’ve been struggling to understand why I’ve been so interested in doing so, when the previous year I couldn’t care less, and actually preferred the freedom of not having a house. Now I’ve realised the problem – everyone around me owns one or more houses, the general consensus is owning a house is “the best investment eva!11!”, and renting is a dead-end road to nowheresville.  One colleague in particular has been a big source of my subconsciousness monkey going bananas (hehehe) – “Oh you should rather get a house now, than save up for a deposit.  There’s no way you can catch up with savings the way the market is rising every year.  Better to get what you can now.”  “Oh yes, I’m buying a house for my son [What??], but the auctions are completely crazy.  It’s really difficult to find a house at a decent price nowadays.  The Asian investors are really pumping the prices up.”  “Why waste money on rent when you could be paying towards a house”

So a bit of context into why buying a house would not be in our best interests here in New Zealand :

  1. Housing prices are crazy at the moment, like “Just before it hit the fan in the US” crazy.  As in “house prices can never go down!”, and “Get into the market before you lose out, otherwise you’ll never be able to afford it!” crazy.  Housing is so unaffordable the government is starting to think about taking steps to cool it down somewhat.  Our country’s personal debt is getting staggering, even if the government’s debt is fairly decent at the moment.
  2. There is also a bit of a housing shortage in Auckland at the moment, so the good houses are not only expensive but also get snapped up really quickly*
  3. It all tastes a bit like a bubble’s in the air about to burst. Banks are competing against each other to offer the lowest mortgage rate, and the lowest deposit required.  100% mortgages aren’t that difficult to acquire.
  4. Mortgage rates aren’t that great anyway – with good credit you can get 4.99% for a 2 year fixed loan if you have a big enough deposit.  5.7% to 6% for a floating term is more common.  In the US, I know you can get much longer fixed term periods for a lot lower interest rate.
  5. Rent isn’t too bad at the moment.  It’s crazy compared to other countries, but compared to housing prices, and it hasn’t risen too much.**
  6. We’re not sure what our future holds. We may stay in New Zealand for a few years to get our permanent residency, and then move on to Australia for a few years.  Or we may take a stab in Europe, or maybe even a low-living-cost but politically stable 3rd world country.  Or we may want to move to the South Island where living is easy and the winters are freezing 🙂  My husband is thinking about changing career track since he’s feeling bored and frustrated at work.  Buying a house would at worst be dangerous, at best a huge ball-and-chains keeping us in a city we might not want to stay in for very long.

I’ve been justifying that I want a house, thinking that it will give me the stability I crave, or some sense of belonging.  Or I feel that with a house, I’d finally get around to doing some gardening and start a veggy patch.  But to be honest, I haven’t had the willpower to do so now, I’m not going to start when I’m in my own house.  I’m really hating “wasting” money on rent, but I was happy before to pay for the housing “service” without the hassle.  And that financial stability we’re currently enjoying, may go down the tubes if the mortgage rates skyrocket and house prices plummet.  Buying at the top of the market will make me a very unhappy little camper.  Watching prices go up even more…. well I’d probably just shake my head and continue plugging my money into the stock market.

So every time that inner subconscious boss wants me to look at houses again, or badgers me to calculate yet again how much “better” it would be to own a house, I’m going to stick to the reasons above for why it’s not such a good idea for us to buy into the housing market at this point in time.  It really is school all over again, and once again I *don’t* have the latest Docs that my friends are all wearing, and everything within me wants to fix that so I’m with the “in crowd” again.  Thanks subconscious brain!

* As an example of the crazy market, we went to an open home at a 2 bedroom unit today – it’s been nicely renovated and newly painted, but it’s in a complex of really dumpy units.  And the occupants seemed loud and not very happy, and had a faint air of desperation around them.  Trash littered the lawn, along with occupants’ discarded and rusting junk.  The estate agent said they already have an offer for $225, 000 from the previous day!  Someone wanted it badly enough, to pay that sort of money.  And this is not in the best suburb, not the worst, but definitely not great and a busy 30 minute drive from the CBD.

**  We’re paying $415 a week for a large 3 bedroom house in a nice neighbourhood (not the super fancy expensive suburbs, but average), that has an estimated value of $390, 000 (CV value), but in this market would probably go for up to $450, 000.  That makes a Price-to-rent ratio of 21, putting it into a “much better to rent than buy” .

Who will I be in 10 years time

Still on the Dan Gilbert bandwagon, I’ve been pondering this article tonight and wondering where I’ll be in 10 years time.

“Middle-aged people — like me — often look back on our teenage selves with some mixture of amusement and chagrin.  What we never seem to realize is that our future selves will look back and think the very same thing about us. At every age we think we’re having the last laugh, and at every age we’re wrong.”

— Daniel Gilbert

Looking back on my life, 10 years ago I was in my last year of a Biomedical Science degree, dating my future husband, looking forward to a future in my home country South Africa.  I had gained so much more self confidence during my degree, I loved the course and was excelling at it.  But looking forward to my perceived future career, I was having major doubts.  The feedback from the lecturers was that graduates would file into low wage laboratories around South Africa, and most would decide to rather continue studying to do Honours and Masters.  The feeling I got, was that you had to complete another year or two to get any useful experience.  The lab vacancies had many applicants, and affirmative action was heavily in place, favouring black and Indian applicants over the non-pigmented variety of human.  Even some of my Indian friends were considering another two or three years at a Technikon, to get a more hands-on course and hopefully better chances of securing a job.

Right, so to cut a long story short, I though to hell with this, I’m going to try something else for a year and see how it goes.  Turns out it was the best decision I ever made.

I signed up for a bit of an “elitist” programming course.  It was ridiculously expensive, but fortunately funded by my Grandfather’s generous education funds for me (I whipped through University mostly with scholarships).  Thank goodness I didn’t have a study loan from the BSc to drag me down.  The course was very well run, with a knowledgeable lecturer, and at the time put me in a great position to get into programming.  I entered the workforce as a “QA” with no experience, and clawed my way into a development team, again with little experience, but having studied a second University programming course part time.

So what did my 21 year old self know about the future?  Darned little I’m afraid.

Didn’t know she was not going to head off into Biomedical science, but into computer programming.  Didn’t know she was going to land a lucrative job at one of the most drool-worthy IT companies in Durban.  Didn’t know she would get married at 27 to her University sweetheart.  Didn’t know most of her friends would goof off overseas.  Didn’t know that she should would decide in 2011 that she would much rather work in a first world country, and successfully plan and execute a fairly risky move to New Zealand!  This coming from a 18 year old that didn’t want to study away from home, because she’d miss her family too much!

Other than that, life hasn’t changed too much.  Was briefly addicted to an online multiplayer game, which I think set back my career quite badly.  Got into horse riding enthusiastically for a few years – that was a surprise.  Started investing in the stock market in 2003 and rode it all the way up, lost some money on some ridiculous stock picking, and made a mistake in investing in a South African Retirement Annuity, which I will now lose 20% of because of the Retirement Annuity company sharks taking their “early surrender fee” (I’m not even kidding, this is legal! And was somehow signed into my contract back when I signed it as a tender and naive 23 year old!)

So what do I have in store for myself in the next 10 years?  Well, planning on getting my career on track to become a better software developer.  And planning on a few overseas trips while we’re young and restless.  And trying to save like mad so we can retire in 12 years time.

And maybe when I get there, I won’t even want to stop working?  Or perhaps I would have started my own company? 

What makes us happy

I am re-reading Dan Gilbert’s excellent Stumbling on Happiness.  I was actually quite surprised to find out that he’s a full on academic, working as Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, and has a long list of Journal articles and psychology textbooks to his name.  That’s because this book is a really great read, his writing style is very charming, and the ideas accessible.  I just assumed he was another journalist that investigated and compiled these clever ideas from other individuals.  Turns out I should really read the author biographies too!

Stumbling on Happiness explores the limitations of our human minds when it comes to estimating how happy we will be with future occurrences, and how that leads us to mistakes when making choices today.  Like deciding to become a lawyer, because you think you’ll be happy with all that money, and then it turns out that you’re desperately unhappy anyway.  Or in my case, charging into a BSc in Biomedical Science, and on completion deciding that actually, I’d rather be programming….

Happiness has a base level, and we tend to revert to that level no matter what happens – good or bad.  The paraplegic is basically as happy as the Lotto Winners (For various reasons: humans rationalise unhappy outcomes to make them more acceptable, and more freedom of choice can actually make you unhappy in the case of the Lotto winner with suddenly increased purchasing power).

Unfortunately the book is not a self-help guide on how to become more happy, it just points out the flaws in what you *think* will make you happy in the future.

His Ted Talk is also very informative, he explains that we have a “psychological immune system”, which tends to produce artificial happiness.  This is the real deal, even if it was manufactured by our brain, since we can’t tell the difference!  He shows an example where participants were asked to rank various Monet prints, from their least to most favourite print.  They were then offered to take a print to keep, from either their 3rd or 4th favourite option.  When asked several days/weeks later to repeat the ranking, the print they chose went from 3rd favourite to 2nd favourite, and number 4 went down a ranking to number 5.  In other words, their brain decided the print that they chose was actually much nicer, and the one they didn’t choose was favoured less. This is the “artificial” happiness that the brain creates.

A second example shown is a study where photography students were allowed to choose between 2 photographs to keep, the other one going towards their “course results”.  One group was allowed to change their mind over the next few days and swap, the other group was not allowed; the students were told the photograph was being sent immediately to central headquarters.  Evaluations several days/weeks later showed that the students who could change their mind were significantly unhappy about their photograph, and the students who couldn’t were overall very happy with their choice.

Another highly interesting and amusing Ted Talk by Mr Gilbert, is “Why we make bad decisions“:

It starts with this equation : Expected value = Odds of gain x Value of gain

Sounds simple, except that we are terrible at estimating the odds, and the value of a choice.  He gives some reasons why we make errors in estimating the odds of gain – for example, unusual events come quickly to mind because of their rarity, so disasters seem more probable to happen, than something ordinary like dying of asthma or drowning.  The Lotto is another example of making bad estimations – we see all the winners and think there is a chance for us to win as well, when the odds are fantastically small.

For errors in estimating value – one of the reasons we make mistakes, is because value is compared to the past instead of the possible.  The act of comparing changes how we perceive something’s value.  For example, the comparison made when choosing between items at the store, based on prices, will not really impact our enjoyment when we’re actually using the item.  Comparing eating french fries with eating cake, makes you think that you’ll enjoy the fries less, than if you compare eating Fries to eating spam.  But when the act of eating fries is actually measured, both groups enjoy the fries equally.  So the experience doesn’t change, but the prediction of how much you will enjoy something changes depending on what you’re comparing it with. It explains the strange phenomenon of why people are blissfully ignorant of high investment fees in their portfolios, up to 2 or 3% but will go to a lot of trouble to clip coupons to save a few cents.  Or why we keep going on camping trip holidays, thinking that we will thoroughly enjoy them, only to be disappointed when yet again, we are bitten by sand flies, burnt by the sun, eaten by ants, and freeze during the night.

To finish off, I’ll leave you with this thought : our brains evolved in a very different environment than we exist in today – we lived in small communities, and our daily priority was hunting, eating and reproducing.  We now live in a global environment, with huge “monkey spheres”, and our immediate needs for most first world citizens, is very easily met through steady employment.  No wonder we are such an unsatisfied lot!

More on Stumbling on Happiness in later posts, once I’ve read through it again!

2013 Goals and planning for the future

So I’m a bit late for any New Years Resolutions unfortunately, I’ve never really made those – it’s not like anyone actually goes through with them right?  What I would like to do this year, is get a bit more upskilled in my profession.

A bit of History

I’ve always been an above average, competitive person.  At school I was in fierce competition with my best friend and rival for the Dux award (top scholar), and missed it by 0.5%!  I was top of the class at University and graduated “summa cum laude”.  I went straight from University (BSc in BioMedical Science) to a 1 year software programming course, where I of course had to be top of the class again 😉

I took to programming like a duck to water, it was as obvious and straight-forward to me as breathing.  Nothing like the BioMed practical work where I had to follow instructions carefully and had to study very hard to remember the work.

Anyway, from there I got a job in a great company in their software testing department, and over a few years moved into a team management role and then into their development team as a C++ (programming language) junior developer.

Current Work

At the moment I’m in a C# role (A different programming language to the one above), and even though I have about 5 years development experience I still feel like a “junior developer” in terms of ability.  My main problem is that I’ve always maintained big, complex systems, or added functionality to an existing system, and haven’t done my new design and greenfield work myself.  I hardly did any personal projects, not having any motivation to do so.  I used to be happy and felt competent in my field (8 years domain knowledge, so I had a ton of information up my sleeve), so was happy to just chug along.

With this new C# job, it’s a completely new product, new design and development, with a language that I’m competent in, but by no means very good.  It makes me deeply unhappy to feel like I’m the underdog in the team, just trying to keep my head above water when they start getting into design patterns, examining my code or discussing performance strategies.  I’m not the type of person to just “get the job done”, it must be “the very best job” or it will keep me up at night.  Yes, I am quite a stressed person at times 🙂

Goals for 2013

So my goal for this year is to finally kick my butt into reading a few excellent books on programming, and to do some personal projects.

One project I have started planning for, is a retirement planning application that you can record your assets and investments in, input your estimated ROI, and see what future nest-egg you can save up for yourself in present-day values.  It will have functionality to be able to enter your yearly savings (with an estimated yearly increase), and I also want to add features where you can see what effect a future event could have on your assets – buying a mortgage for example, or a stock market crash, or high inflation.

Books that I’d like to read this month – Code Complete by Steve McConnell, and How to Design Programs – Matthias Felleisen et al (Available for free online here).

I realised today that I spend way too much time reading blogs, forums, posting messages and just generally mucking about on the Internet.  This is not time learning anything useful, just reading people’s comments.  It counts as “entertainment”, like watching TV.  I’d much rather be more productive with my time developing skills that will add to my paycheck, so I’ll be cutting down on these activities, maybe one hour a day maximum reading on the Internet instead of browsing the entire evening away.

Plans for the Future

So we are saving around 50% of our paycheck, and expenses include $21580 on renting a nice house.  Obviously with such a high rental, we’re thinking about purchasing sometime soon – we’re just saving up a decent deposit so that we don’t need to spend a fortune on mortgage interest.  We’re currently living on one of our paychecks and saving the other.  We have some investments in a few different stock markets around the world, and cash savings in a money market at 3.15% after tax. [Update October – Husband has taken some time off from working to do some studying and destress from a very bad situation at his previous job. So we’re now actually living on a single paycheck, and saving about 20% right now. We’ve scaled back on expenses as much as possible!]

With the 50% savings rate, we’ll need about 12-15 years of savings before we can retire early.  I don’t think we can cut back expenses any further without sinking money heavily into a property, so I’m looking at increasing my salary.  As a software developer, I think I can improve a lot here, maybe get up to 20% more for now, and in a few years up to 50%.  Like I said, what’s currently holding me back is only my laziness, I can easily pick up new concepts and programming languages, but I need more experience and hands-on experimentation to make more progress.

So to summarise :

  1. Get more bad-ass at programming, more programming on my own projects, learning new technologies and techniques, and learning from the masters.
  2. Get a qualification or two (Microsoft certification), and then start applying for senior development positions.
  3. After a year, we’re going to start looking at the housing market, hopefully by this time it will have cooled down, and not gone into crazy bubble territory.  (It only  had a little dip in 2009 and is starting to creep up again, but is highly unaffordable compared to median salary).  This will help with the high rental expenses at the moment.
  4. More salary + Less expenses means we might be able to shave off a few years on TTR (Time to Retire), I’m happy to continue for a while longer, but the DH is hating work at the moment and is eyeing retirement like a bull on red cloth.

Investing from New Zealand

Disclaimer : I’m not a financial adviser, this is just my opinion, don’t hold me accountable should you follow anything I say and lose money etc etc.

So we recently moved to New Zealand, that’s a huge blog post just by itself.  But I thought I’d share what we’ve discovered so far about investing from here.  Actually, this post was originally “Investing in New Zealand”, when I realized that wasn’t quite accurate…

Love affair with property

Firstly, New Zealanders love their property.  The New Zealand stock market is quite small and the top 20 biggest stocks has no less than 3 Property Investment companies.  The property market in Auckland is a bit ridiculous at the moment.  There are daily headlines in the New Zealand Herald about the “unaffordability” of housing in New Zealand, and “what the government should be doing about it”.  Banks are fighting each other tooth and claw to give away mortgages.  Credit is easy, no-interest and 100% mortgages are even easier.  It’s like the USA housing crash never happened, or we reckon that since we’re an island we’re all good. (Don’t you know that the housing shortage will mean prices can never go down??  Where have I heard that before….).

Australia to the rescue!

So we had a look at Big Brother Australia – a much bigger stock market, more options, and Vanguard.  Yes my fellow Australasians, it’s available in a very convenient location.

For our broker, we decided to go with ASB Securities, since they only charge a trading fee not the percentage fee that DirectBroking carves out of your entire portfolio.

Through them, we’ve purchased NZ index Smartshares FONZ, the iShares ASX 200 index, and more recently the Vanguard ETFs that’s available through the ASX.    Smartshares was our first foray into the New Zealand stock market, but has a rather nasty expense fee.

Foreign Income what?

Note that overseas investments are subject to the “Foreign Investment Fund” tax, which is some ridiculous government scheme to try get around the fact that some overseas shares don’t pay out dividends.  It’s a flat tax based on 5% of your starting portfolio at the beginning of the year, if your investments grew by 5% or more, so worst case scenario 30% (our tax bracket) of 5% of the entire overseas portfolio.  Australian and New Zealand stocks are excluded, which is why sadly we probably won’t be investing too much overseas….  There is a $50000 limit – if you have less than this invested overseas, you don’t need to worry about it.

Dividend payouts

Ok, so you’ve opened a investment broker account in New Zealand, you’ve phoned them up to order yourself some Vanguard shares, and now you’re eagerly awaiting the money.  Not so fast!  Your job is not done yet… Vanguard at best might send you an Australian cheque with any dividend payouts (Vanguard doesn’t have a re-investment scheme for some ETFs offered on the ASX).  At worst they might keep it until you get your stuff sorted out…  The cheque is not a great option – ANZ charges us $15 to cash an international cheque…  This was only a $50 dividend by the way, so we were not very impressed.

Solution?  Open an Australian bank account!  Apparently it’s easy as!  (As long as you are going to Australia some time soon….)  Cue hilarious scene where we go to the bank with the necessary documents to identify ourselves, get fobbed off to the Australian branch, who phones us, and tells us to go back into the New Zealand branch with the *same* documents to identify ourselves.  We are still trying to get the bank account opened – apparently it will be easier to schedule a holiday to Australia, that’s what all the New Zealanders do apparently (Or just eat the cheque fees without realising what a compound effect it will have on their savings)


Good luck with your investments, and remember to diversify and play it safe 🙂