Someone once asked me, “You know those columns you write – do you do everything you write about?” Answer: no. Most times I write about things I’m struggling with or learning. Preaching to myself as it were.

And so it with this topic: money. Or rather, the lack of it and what to do about it!

The obvious thing to do – for single parents on low incomes – is to budget. But the more I think about that, I think, “So what.” So what if I manage to shave $10 off my grocery bill? So what if I reduce my petrol consumption from $25 a week to $22?

The thing is, simply tightening the budget does nothing to change your long-term situation, get you off the benefit or reduce your workload.

Living frugally is only part of the answer if you actually want to get somewhere in life. It’s what you do with the money you save in the process that can really make a difference.

Getting ahead

In Rich Dad, Poor Dad (TechPress Inc.), Robert Kiyosaki says that to truly get ahead, you need to acquire income-producing assets. There are several different types: businesses which eventually do not require your presence, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, income-generating real estate, royalties from intellectual property such as music, books, patents; and anything else that appreciates or produces income.

Now, you’re probably about to give up in disgust. How can a single parent accumulate assets like that?

Romana Banuelos is someone who did it. At 16, the Mexican-born woman was raising two children on her own. She was poverty-stricken and unqualified, but dreamed of a better life.

She headed for Los Angeles, where she found work washing dishes and making tortillas. She managed to save $500, which she used to buy her own tortilla machine.

With much hard work, Romana built up the largest Mexican wholesale food business in the world. She was eventually handpicked by Dwight D. Eisenhower to become the 37th United States Treasurer.

Closer to home, take Aucklander Colyn Devereux-Kay. A single mother with two children, she started a business making perfumed potpourri with just $800 capital.

“I took boarders into the house and got a part-time job so that I didn’t need to use $800 on food and basics,” she says.

A year and a half later, the business – Les Floralies – was turning over a million dollars per annum. Colyn then became the first ever woman chairperson of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, giving business advice to others.

“I meet a lot of women who have ideas and creativity, but not the business skills. All they need to do is get help with that side of it – and there is now an enormous amount of free help available. I tell single mothers to get advice, make a business plan and go for it.”

Overcoming fear

Fear is what stops most people from stepping out. Take me, for example. I’ve got two money-making ideas at the moment: one is a book I want to write and the other is a product. So far I have done nothing about developing either idea, paralysed by the fear of failure.

But it’s possible to change the way we think and overcome that fear. One of the keys is to input new thoughts through motivational tapes and books. At the moment, whenever I’m in the car, I listen to some tapes I’ve borrowed by motivational speaker Zig Ziglar.

At the same time, start looking around for ideas. Or maybe, like me you’ve already got ideas, but never developed them. Start dreaming about what’s possible.

What about the sharemarket, another ‘income-producing asset.’ Impossible for a beneficiary? In most cases, yes, given high broker fees and the fact that you need lump sums of money. But financial columnist Mary Holm recommends a sharemarket programme for people with no savings and little income. It’s called START, run by stockbrokers ABN AMRO Craigs. You can start with nothing and drip feed whatever sum you like every month – even as little as $10.

The money is invested either in NZ or global shares; the fees are low and you can pull your money out at any time (unlike most superannuation schemes or unit trusts.)

Such a small amount per month doesn’t sound like it’s worth it – but it is. And it beats doing nothing about your long-term financial future, which is exactly what I’m doing now.

Outside the square

Thinking big – and outside the square – is scary. But so is the thought of getting to the end of your life and never having a go. Of being on the benefit for years… and then getting a job where you only just manage to make ends meet.

Of course, you first need to find that extra $10 a week, for example, to start putting any income-producing ideas into place. Romana Banuelos and Colyn Devereux-Kay both needed a few hundred dollars seed capital. That’s where budgeting comes in.

They also worked hard. It is nigh on impossible to put aside any money just on a benefit. And getting some sort of job is a tough call for many single Mums, balancing the need for money with the desire to be home raising the kids. Part-time work is probably a good compromise.

But once you get some extra money coming in, take some time to think about what you’ll do with it. I’m sure Romana Banuelos could have spent that $500 on much-needed clothes or food or school fees. She chose, instead, to invest long-term in her future.

Useful Websites

Consumer NZ’s website regarding KiwiSaver, mortgage interest rates, term deposit rates, and credit card rates


Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki

This website provides some interesting reading material.  Apparently the mission of Robert Kiyosaki is to “raise the financial well-being of humanity” – take a look.


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Sandi Paterson is a freelance journalist based in Tauranga. She lives in a 1950's bach with her daughter, a grumpy cat, and a budgie who sits on her computer when she writes. This article appeared originally in Little Treasures magazine.

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Charlotte Clark

Who ever wrote this article has no experience with poverty or being on the benefit or getting off it. Useless article


Thanks for your comment Charlotte, if this article can provide even better advice just let us know. What can we add to improve it in your opinion?


Thank you for this much needed advice. I am a single mom stuck in poverty trying very hard to use all resources to get a student loan and become finacially independent. Your advice has really opened my mind to new posibilities. Thank you again for giving us single moms hope that we can make our dreams come true

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