Director’s thoughtpiece: Hanging on for Dear Life – Is this high interest rate environment stressing you out?

Hanging on for dear life

“Hanging on for deal life” is a saying of desperation…right? Actually, it’s a statement of how precious life is. You see, it was coined by someone hanging off a cliff about to fall to their death…and in that moment, that moment when they are on the precipice of departing this mortal coil, they suddenly realised how precious life is.

Are you hanging on for dear life financially at the moment? Do you know someone who might be? I know there will be at least one person reading this that does – so this one is for you, or your friend or family member who might benefit from it.


Release valve

We all need release valves. I do the washing in my house –3 kids – one is a runner, one a rower, one a pole vaulter and I am an elite multi-sport athlete (…not). So plenty of washing…every day. It’s ok most of the time until one of them forgets about the 5-day backlog. Can you imagine 5 days’ worth of sweaty rowing gear? I may have been known to throw the odd garment in the pool.

Make sure you have somewhere or someone you can unload your stress to. As an Authorised Financial Advisor, I think I ‘earn’ my money more in a downturn. It’s now that a client will say they think it’s the right time to sell. ‘Why is that?’ I ask – ‘well because my wife/ husband is losing the plot about the increased interest expense and life is not worth the stress’…is often the underlying reason.

I am independent. I don’t have to live in the house with them…I am not emotionally charged by their situation. And what’s great is that usually, because I am not stressed about their situation I can see a different view…I can often see solutions. But even without solutions, it’s important to lighten the load by sharing. Please don’t be a tough Kiwi – share it.


Laugh at it

No…I am not an elite multi-sport athlete, but I like to tell the kids I am, to see their eyes roll into the back of their heads. And then once we scoop the clothes out of the pool we can all have a laugh. Once you’ve shared it, step back and have a laugh. The cost of iceberg lettuce is $6 on a bad day…really? Back in my day, my Mum could feed a family of 7 for $6. OK, so the mince wasn’t necessarily Angus Beef…and I had to top up with a few slices of toast afterward. To me that is funny.

Today’s stress will be tomorrow’s humour. When my parents first got married the banks wouldn’t lend money. They got a first mortgage from their solicitor and a 2nd mortgage from their solicitor’s client. Painful at the time I am sure…but kind of funny in an odd way now.

So – get like the All-Black Damien MacKenzie and smile. Laughing and even smiling releases endorphins which are great for performance.


Own it  

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote The Gulag Archipelago. He was thrown into the Gulag for criticizing Stalin. Instead of blaming the system, he reflected on how his actions led to him serving an 8-year prison sentence.

Owning it gives you agency. It leads to you being able to take control. Understanding how you got to where you are enables you to see how you might be able to get out.

It might be painful, you might have to face up to character flaws that need fixing. It might require you to apologise to people, it might require you to human up and simply attack something you fear. Apparently, most people live their lives in fear…fear of what people think, fear of failure, fear of commitment. I wake up fearing things every morning – worrying what might happen – and every morning I have to put my big boy pants on and tell fear to take a hike. OK, so some days I run around in shorts all day long scared of shadows…but we all have bad days.


Grow it

The ability to deal with financial pressure is a muscle you make stronger by exercising it. At Erskine Owen, we are responsible for managing multiple commercial properties on behalf of investors who have entrusted us with their hard-earned money. It’s one thing to do it for yourself – but knowing you are the custodian of peoples hard earned savings brings a whole other level of responsibility, concern, and stress. I don’t think we could be doing this if it hadn’t been for the years of experience of managing our own portfolio and advising clients.

When we started this business over 15 years ago I sold an accounting practice to do it. I told my wife we’d be retired in 2 years. We launched in January 2007, at the same time bought two rentals, we were renovating our house and costs were growing and our second child was due. The GFC hit and everyone thought the world was going to end and no one wanted to engage our services. During that phase, I felt like I was hanging on for dear life. Now I can see that I was simply trying to hold on to this precious life.

So if this phase of the property cycle is bringing stress, see it as an opportunity to grow your ability to manage financial pressure.


This Too Shall Pass

It won’t last! No matter how bad it is…it won’t last! It’s OK to feel crap…cause you are human – we all are. The pursuit of happiness is BS. Pursue purpose. When you are purposeful then you have a reason to weather the storms. Perhaps it is time to revisit the purpose of your debt or investment. IF you’ve taken on debt…if you did it just to have a bag of gold you can count…you probably won’t be seeing the point of things. But if you did it to create equity for a deposit on a home for each of your children – then that’s a good thing to quietly remind yourself of…seeing your kids being able to get on the property ladder and prosper.

If you are on a mission, you get like David Goggins – you tape up your damaged feet, you pee out the blood from the system and you keep going to the finish line. Everyone has dark moments…everyone.


Get Curious – Explore the Options

Leonardo da Vinci was a great painter because he was incredibly curious. He’d spend nights going into the morgue to dissect cadavers and understand the relationship between muscles. Perhaps that is why Mona Lisa always seems to stare at you.

When we are stressed our vision tends to narrow. We can’t see solutions that are often right in front of us. That’s why sharing your problem, laughing, and owning it are important precursors… it’s very hard to be curious when you have your monkey brain whirring, you are full of doom and gloom and you are blaming the world, Adrian Orr, Grant Robertson, or whoever for your predicament.

But that’s not you – you’ve breathed, shared, smiled, taken ownership. Righto – so what options are there? Don’t ask ‘why God why?’ ask ‘how, God, how?’.  I get ideas in a number of ways…on a  long run while training for an elite competition, reading the biography of a successful person, or meditating (I can do at least 2 minutes now). As many an elite performance coach will tell you…it is the subconscious mind that does a lot of the real problem-solving…have you ever struggled to solve a problem – but the next morning you have a light bulb moment? That’s the subconscious mind.



Sometimes life can seem pretty painful and pointless – financial pressure can be especially insidious. If I could speak to my 30-year-old self launching into business my message would be ‘it’s going to be be OK – it will work out – don’t worry. ‘ So instead of hanging on for dear life – just let go and grasp hold of the preciousness of life.

Please contact me if you need someone to discuss your financial challenges…in confidence.

We’ll shortly be sending a follow up article on Practical Financial Strategies for this phase of the property cycle.