It’s Money Week, and we’re talking to well-known New Zealanders about their financial lives and the lessons they've learned over the years.
We continue the conversation with former CFO of Fonterra Co-operative, Jonathan Mason, who opens up about what money means to him, his best investments, and some of the missteps along the way.
What were your parents like with money and what effect do you think it’s had on your financial habits?
As children, my parents lived through the Great Depression and were always focused on savings and disliked debt.
What was your first job and how much did it pay?
I worked for Chemical Bank in New York City in their International Economics Department for $14,500/year.
What was your best financial decision or purchase?
I stopped by a New York City apartment complex, filled out an application for an apartment rental, left New York City for 10 years, came back and because there was a 10 year wait for rent controlled apartments, my name was now on the top of the list so I walked into a beautiful apartment that only cost $150/week, $650/week below the market rate.
What was your worst financial decision or purchase?
We lost money twice on US real estate--between 2006 and 2010, when US house prices dropped 30%.
Has there been a time in your life when you didn’t know how you were going to pay the bills?
I lived hand to mouth during my first job and in graduate school.
What does financial freedom look like to you?
Having enough money to not worry about being unemployed.
What’s been the most difficult lesson you have learned about money?
When the market drops, the debt balance doesn’t and leverage can quickly wipe out an equity position.
What plans do you have for saving for retirement?
I started planning 30 years ago by putting 25% of my income into savings.
What financial advice would you give to your younger self?
Save enough to have financial freedom by the time I’m 55 years old.
You come into a surprise $100,000 windfall tomorrow. What do you do with it?
Invest in Westpac Kiwisaver account. Assuming an investment of 60% in equities and 40% in bonds and a 7% annual return, if you don’t touch it for 30 years, it’ll be worth about $800,000.