This article was published on 10 December 2005. Some information may be out of date.


  • $29,000 rental in Gore not the thing for a risk-averse man.
  • More on tax on a second job.

QI am in my early 40s, married with no children, and my wife and I both work. We have a house with a mortgage, and a savings account of approximately $185,000.

As I fall into the category of preferring low risk I have concluded that having all these funds in a bank account is best for me.

With Kiwibank offering 6.8 per cent calculated daily, paid monthly, compounding and with no fees I could not resist having it all sit there just ticking over.

All higher risk investments bring their list of possible woes but possible bigger returns. Frankly, I may not be doing as well as I thought, so hopefully you might be able to give me a few pointers as to what better avenues I could look at.

Your mention a couple of weeks ago of a house just outside Gore for approximately $29,000 was certainly of interest.

I must admit, however, that having the above amount roll over every month, allowing me to withdraw any interest to spend for the month if I so choose or to leave it there to tally up for next month, is something that allows for both long-term investment at a low risk while providing immediate funds I can either spend or leave.

AJust about the last investment I would recommend for someone who is risk averse is a $29,000 house near Gore.

I assume you would rent out the property. And rental properties are riskier than many people realise.

In your case, you would presumably buy without a mortgage, which considerably lowers the risk. You’re not going to get caught in a cash flow crisis and have to sell when prices are down.

Still, unless you happen to live near Gore, you’ll be a long-distance landlord. That means either hiring a property manager, which will eat into your returns, or putting up with a lot of hassle trying to run things from afar.

Of more importance, though, are your prospects of getting good long-term tenants and of eventually selling the property at a gain.

I know nothing about the house. But its location and price tag suggest that reliable would-be tenants won’t be clambering to rent it.

What about capital gain? Surely, at such a low price, a gain must be inevitable?

Don’t be so certain. A seller who is asking only $29,000 must realise that potential buyers won’t foresee big growth prospects, once they’ve inspected the property and the local economy. Otherwise, they would be willing to pay more, and the seller would ask more.

If you were desperate to house a family, and had work in the area, that house might be a goer as cheap accommodation. But there’s no way it’s a low-risk investment.

Fortunately, there’s a great alternative for you. Put most of your savings — keeping a bit aside to come and go on — into paying off your mortgage faster than you have to.

Let’s say your mortgage interest rate is 8 per cent. If you repay $160,000, you avoid paying 8 per cent on that money. That amounts to the same thing as earning 8 per cent on it, and there’s no tax.

That’s far better than the 6.8 per cent you are currently getting, which will be reduced to 5.4 or 4.6 or 4.1 per cent after tax, depending on your tax bracket.

Paying lots off the mortgage is a move that could find you much better off in your retirement. It’s the ultimate low-risk “investment”. And you should be able to set it up so that you can get the money back out again if you need it.

Note that if you have a fixed-rate mortgage you might face a penalty if you repay it early. But discuss this with your lender. In these times of rising interest rates, lenders sometimes waive those penalties. They are happy to get the money back so they can lend it out to someone else at a higher rate.

If you can’t get out of the penalty and it’s a large one, leave the money in term deposits until the fixed-rate term ends, and then pay off the loan.

What if your mortgage is less than $160,000? Pay it off, and with the rest of your money consider buying several investment grade corporate bonds.

They are quite similar to term deposits, but are slightly riskier and pay somewhat higher returns. A stockbroker can help you buy low-risk ones.

And keep saving the money you have been putting into the mortgage — perhaps by buying more bonds.

QIn your replies to the first two questions last week, about tax paid on second jobs, you mention that they “do, in fact, end up being taxed the same as if you earned all the money in one job”. However, you neglect to mention the time value of money aspect of the questions.

Even if I will get a lump sum back at the end of the year, I am paying more tax right now — leaving me with less cash to earn savings interest on, or more if I need to borrow at high mortgage or credit card rates.

Either way the money that I get at the end of the year doesn’t take into account the interest that I could have accumulated (or not needed to pay) throughout the year.

For those on limited incomes working a second job is often done to help cover the monthly bills, and not having the cash from the work immediately available takes away some of the intended purpose/benefit of working that job.

I would be curious to know how much money the tax department makes in interest earnings from funds that it has to refund at the end of each year. (Although really there’s no good answer. If they make money it highlights the additional “hidden interest tax” taken from New Zealanders, and if they make nothing then they’re foolish for not taking advantage of potential earnings and allowing for an easing of other taxes.)

How about just being honest about it and adding interest to tax refunds?

AInland Revenue says it would take quite some time to come up with a total on the interest it earns — if such a calculation is even possible.

The department did, though, respond to your suggestion about adding interest to refunds.

“While interest is not paid to taxpayers on overpaid PAYE (pay as you earn taxes), interest is not charged on underpaid PAYE until any underpaid amount becomes due,” says a spokesperson.

“So if at the end of the tax year (usually 31 March) a person has short-paid PAYE on all their income, that short payment is not due until the following February — some 10 months later — and no interest is charged over that period.”

She also noted, “If PAYE is over-paid, Inland Revenue returns that overpayment within a maximum of six weeks of the tax return being filed or a personal tax summary being confirmed.”

That sounds reasonable to me. While we all love to hate Inland Revenue, don’t forget that its broad policies are set by politicians. And they don’t want to appear to be ripping off the public.

On your first point, I didn’t go into the time value of money last week because my answer was already getting too complicated for a Saturday morning read. I would rather readers grasped the main point than felt so bamboozled that they grasped nothing!

And, while the time value of money is hugely important over long periods, it’s not all that big a deal if you get a refund each year.

Let’s say you are over-taxed by $50 a week, so your refund is $2600. If you had, instead, received that $50 each week and saved it at 4 per cent, after tax, you would accumulate $2651 in a year. You’re $51 better off.

As you say, you might have put that money into repaying a mortgage faster. At a mortgage rate of 9 per cent, paying an extra $50 a week would take $2,713 off the mortgage, versus $2,600 if you used a refund at the end of the year. But that’s still not a big difference.

Admittedly, if you used the money to pay off a 19 per cent credit card debt, it’s more significant. It would reduce your debt by $2,835, compared with $2,600. That $235 is worth having.

Funnily enough though, when I lived in the US, where it was pretty easy to alter tax withholding, lots of people preferred a refund over lower tax through the year.

They thought of it as forced saving, even though it effectively earned negative interest. I suspect many New Zealanders would feel the same way.

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Mary Holm is a freelance journalist, a director of Financial Services Complaints Ltd (FSCL), a seminar presenter and a bestselling author on personal finance. From 2011 to 2019 she was a founding director of the Financial Markets Authority. Her opinions are personal, and do not reflect the position of any organisation in which she holds office. Mary’s advice is of a general nature, and she is not responsible for any loss that any reader may suffer from following it. Send questions to [email protected] or click here. Letters should not exceed 200 words. We won’t publish your name. Please provide a (preferably daytime) phone number. Unfortunately, Mary cannot answer all questions, correspond directly with readers, or give financial advice.