The old site, that has helped many thousands of Kiwis sort their finances was known by its cartoon mouse that also graced our television screens for a few years. After 16 years the Sorted mouse has taken some of his own financial advice and decided to live life large in retirement. In his place is a simpler, easier to use visually appealing website.
Sorted.org.nz is a government initiative from the Commission for Financial Capability, which is charged with improving Kiwis financial wherewithal. It allows you to do useful things such as set financial goals, tackle your debt, find the best way to finance a car or get a mortgage, make the most of KiwiSaver, start investing, or find the right insurance cover. Here’s what we liked from our first look at the new site:
1. It’s simple but powerful. Personal finances are complex enough without being faced with a million things to do. What you can do on Sorted.org.nz is organised into: “Tackle my debt”, “Sort my money” and “See my future”.
2. Easy debt calculator. If you’re in lots of debt you may have stuck your head in the sand. People do recover from debt when they learn to change their ways. The Tackle my debt heading takes you straight to a calculator where you can enter details of your existing debt then toggle the amount you pay weekly, fortnight or monthly, to see how it affects the total you will pay and how long it will take you to pay your debt off. Knowledge is power.
3. The big bad budget calculator. The idea of budgeting is pretty scary for many people. But having a budget is the first step to a new financial you. The folks at Sorted have tried to make it simply by giving you buttons to click on rather than a whole pile of text. When explaining whether you rent or own, for example there are graphics of keys or a home to click on.
4. The budget is flexible. Unlike some simple tools Sorted.org.nz’s budget tool is flexible. Too often budget calculators expect you to be a round peg in a round hole. Life isn’t like that. You may do things that are out of the ordinary. You may not think “health and beauty” are one category. Or want to record alcohol separately to your supermarket shopping and entertainment costs. It has main sections such as Everyday expenses, Living expenses and Savings. Click on those sections and you’ll be taken to sub headings with suggested spending categories such as Sky TV, Christmas savings, Optician/Glasses, and motor vehicle breakdown cover. If you have an expense you want to separate out such as school fees you can add a new category or sub category. It’s all graphical, so easy to see what each section is all about.
5. The net worth calculator. How much do you actually own or owe? That’s what a net worth calculator tells you. Sometimes these calculators assume that people only have a home, investment property and KiwiSaver, or debt, debt and more debt. Fortunately this calculator does allow a bit more flexibility and has headings such as bonds/shares or managed funds, investment property, trusts and so on.
6. It covers the basics for the financially challenged. No everyone knows what “net worth” or how to budget. The site has basic introductions to these and many other aspects of retirement accessed through a drop-down menu from the homepage.
7. It works on a smartphone. Most of us want to manage our lives on the road. We might want to organise our lives in front of the TV. Or we may be waiting outside school for pickup or at the Air New Zealand lounge waiting for a delayed plane and think: “I should update my budget”. Don’t make the mistake I did and go looking for an app in the Play Store. It’s the same website as online optimised for smartphones and tablets. There is a button that adds a shortcut to your home screen. The new Sorted.org.nz was written with mobile devices in mind so works well on smartphones and tablets. In fact I actually have to say I preferred the smartphone version to the PC-based option.
In general I have to say that the layout of the new site and the online tools are great. I did find a few glitches where I received a blank screen. Newly launched websites often have teething problems and hopefully they’ll be sorted promptly. I’m told that some people’s browser settings block popups and this is a problem that is being fixed at the back end. If it happens to you, try refreshing the page or go into your browser settings and allow popups from Sorted. You could also try clearing the browser’s cache.