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"I just feel so helpless": Middle-income Kiwis struggle with crushing cost-of-living

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Thu, 16 May 2024, 2:08pm
Photo / Getty
Photo / Getty

"I just feel so helpless": Middle-income Kiwis struggle with crushing cost-of-living

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Thu, 16 May 2024, 2:08pm

Finances are tough for many Kiwis at the moment, with costs skyrocketing across the board. 

Mortgages are going up, as is inflation, food costs, gas, and electricity. Banks are expecting the value of “bad mortgage debt” to increase by 40% by the end of 2024, and around 90% of the country’s fixed mortgage debt has an interest rate about 4%. 

An estimated 40,000 people had their power cut in 2023 due to unpaid bills, and one in five had trouble paying their monthly bill on time. 

Much like low earners, middle-income taxpayers are living paycheque to paycheque, struggling to keep up with increasing costs amidst calls for more taxpayer funded benefits.  

Donna, a caller on Kerre Woodham Mornings, is one such taxpayer. Her yearly income is around $90,000, which she said becomes only $70,000 after tax and over half of which then goes towards her mortgage. 

“I can’t go to my boss and just say, ‘hey, give me a pay rise’ more than once a year,” she told Kerre. 

“And even then, I’m lucky, you know, if it happens.” 

Her income goes not only to her mortgage and her general living expenses, but also to rates and life insurance, to ensure she has some stability should she become disabled. 

“I’m 57, so I’m nowhere near getting a benefit, and all these extras that the government uses taxpayers’ money for don’t go to people like me.” 

“I’m not saying they should,” Donna explained. 

“I’m just saying I can’t afford any more.” 

It’s becoming more and more difficult to build up a decent financial safety net, as any spare money can quickly get sucked up by unexpected costs that would be minor or inconsequential in any other situation. 

Donna said that she used to have three months' worth of looking forward in savings, but now she’s literally living paycheque to paycheque. 

“I hurt my back three and a half weeks ago and I have a regular appointment to see the doctor this week, and I couldn’t afford to go any earlier,” she told Kerre. 

While the appointments are only $20, that’s $20 of an already dwindling supply as all of her payments went out the night before.  

“I mean, I get it.” 

“I try to help people, you know, if I see someone who’s sitting on the street, even if I can just give them a smile and say’ hello, how are you?’ I try to do that,” she continued, mentioning that she buys people sandwiches when she can, but can’t do much more than she already does. 

“I don’t get any extra help, and I’m not asking for it,” she reiterates. 

“Everyone’s going on about these, what’s happening with this coalition with giving tax back very shortly, you know what? I need it.” 

“I need that $20 a fortnight that I’m going to get.” 

While it’s only a small amount, Donna said she’s tired of hearing politicians fight when people are struggling to survive.  

"I live in South Auckland and they’re all... it’s all around me and it’s just, no one... I don’t know what else to say. I don’t know what else to do or how to stop it.” 

“I just feel so helpless.” 


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