If you had Sam and Jules Lotu-Iiga’s backstory sitting in front of you, it wouldn’t provide any clues that they could use financial advice.
They’ve worked hard in life and are enjoying the fruits of their labour.
Both attended top New Zealand high schools and both excelled in their chosen professions. They’ve raised a beautiful family and have achieved a lot in their lives.
Sam has been a lawyer, investment banker, consultant, councillor, Cabinet Minister and straight out of leftfield, he chaired New Zealand’s Table Tennis Association. There’s plenty of things one can achieve in life and chances are, Sam’s done it.
You can bet he knows a bit about money too, he has lived in the rollercoaster world of public office and can probably hold his own when it comes to talking about ping pong.
So why did this 40 something Onehunga couple happen upon a SurePlan online advertisement one day and make an important call that’s changed their lives?
First off, there aren’t any hard and fast rules on who needs financial advice. Just because you have money doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to make it work best for you. There is no shame in wanting to improve your situation.
And you can always do better, says Sam.
At this stage it would be wise to flag a warning: Reading any further might make you feel a little like your life is a bit underwhelming. Bear with us, the Lotu-Iiga’s are a fantastic story.
Sam is an alumni of Auckland Grammar, learning and growing in a competitive school with the ex-All Black Sir John Graham at the helm. No surprises, Sam went on to play competitive rugby, completed a B.Com/LLB at the University of Auckland, and furthered his studies by doing his Master’s on Economics. All his hard work paid off when he became a solicitor at the law firm Russell McVeagh.
Meanwhile, his future wife was schooled just around the corner at Epsom Girls Grammar, studied Arts at the University of Auckland and went on to have a wonderful career in HR, working at places such as Stamford Plaza, The Body Shop and Coca Cola Amatil.
There’s an element of serendipity as to how they would eventually marry. Jules and Sam both grew up in Auckland. Their paths crossed when they were young because Jules’ cousins lived on the same street as Sam’s family and they attended the same church in the 1980s.
Sam actually asked Jules to the movies on a teenage date but was turned down flat because he was too old.
A lot of water passed under the bridge before they would finally reconnect. How they met again, 17 years later, is now a bone of contention for the couple – debate centres around who asked whom out first. Sam cheekily insists the tables turned and Jules did all the chasing this time around while Jules reckons it was Sam doing all the asking.
Either way, they’re soulmates and happily continue on life’s journey together.
You may recognise Sam from his public life – you might have even seen him on the news. He was the MP for Maungakiekie and a former Cabinet Minister.
He left law for a life in London working as a banker, studying at the prestigious Cambridge University then moved into the Australian financial world, working at MacQuarie Bank in Sydney.
Eventually Sam moved back to New Zealand where his work life took a 180 degree turn. In 2007 he became a Auckland City councillor and then turned his sights on a seat in parliament.
He got the National nod to run for the Maungakiekie electorate and in 2008 after a successful campaign, Sam won the electorate. With his background, it wasn’t surprising he was put on both the Commerce and the Finance and Expenditure Committees. But that’s not where he feels, after nine years in office, he really made his mark.
“We doubled the number of learning places in prisons, improved Pasifika education success rates, and created more opportunities for employment – I was really proud of that,” he says.
And as Associate Health Minister Sam did his best to reduce the harmful effects of smoking in New Zealand.
“Dare I say it, and it sounds a bit odd for a National Party MP, but I raised taxes on tobacco which had a hugely positive impact on smoking rates across the country.”
Both Sam and Jules become very animated when they talk about their impact on the world.
FOR THE LOVE OF SPORT
It wouldn’t be overstating the fact that they are model Kiwi citizens in both work and play. They have a strong Christian faith that is woven into a life of active community involvement.
The fire in Sam’s belly is simple – sport. It’s a family joke that he supports a team in just about every sporting code. His own personal sport CV includes playing for the New Zealand Barbarians, The University of Cambridge Blues, and later in life, chairing Table Tennis NZ. And just because Sam believes in putting something back into the sport he loves, he’s also helped coach the Auckland U14 rugby team.
The key is diversity. One minute Sam could be wowing a crowd playing darts, next he’s running a marathon(he has done three) to raise money for Riding for the Disabled.
“Sport is really important , it’s a part of who we are, it’s a strong part of New Zealand’s social fabric,” he says. Currently Sam fills yet another role outside his day job – advising New Zealand Rugby.
Jules and Sam are also stalwart supporters of the Warriors and it takes a very patient, glass half full couple to come back season after season for that team.
Life has been good for the Lotu-Iigas, so it was inevitable that they eventually decided to have kids.
“I know it sounds corny but I feel like my biggest success has been my children. You can always go back to work, have a career and I’ve worked for some interesting, dynamic companies with wonderful people,” says Jules.
“Work will always be there, but with your children, you only get a short period of time to get it right. You want to make sure they grow up to be good people.”
At this point, you can really tell they are a solid team.
BUILDING A HOME
They have three children, Hope – their daughter, is now seven and Luka, a boy, is aged two. Sadly, their first daughter, Samaria, passed away as a baby.
“Sam has worked really hard so I could be a stay-at-home mum. I really like to cook and Sam loves to eat so we have a marriage made in heaven,” says Jules.
In 2017 Sam moved on from politics. He has now taken up a role in the education sector, as Deputy Chief Executive, Pasifika at the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT).
And that kick-started a period of change for the Lotu-Iigas.
“I think back to times in our lives when we were just living for the moment. There was travel, spending time with friends and you are less inclined to think long term,” says Sam.
“As you mature there are greater responsibilities, kids come along and then looming up on the horizon is the long term goal of retiring. We’ve done well but we realised we had to think long term.”
“One of the hardest conversations you can have in your marriage is about money”
THE RIGHT ADVICE
And then they saw that Facebook advertisement for SurePlan.
We were going in the right direction but we didn’t really have a comprehensive plan, we just assumed we’d get there when we got there,” says Sam.
According to Jules, she was like an ostrich with its head in the sand.
“I left Sam to deal with the money side of things. I was at home with the kids just dealing with things day to day, sometimes on an hour by hour basis, “ she says.
“One of the hardest conversations you can have in your marriage is money.”
But they did have that conversation and decided to see SurePlan.
The couple admit they were financially secure but we could always do more, they’re proud to have been able to give some of their money away to various charities over the years.
“We just got to a point in 2017 where we needed professional help. It’s easy to look at your life but not critique it “ says Jules.
Sam puts it all down to knowing he could be better disciplined with money. He saw SurePlan, and its advisors, as a way to develop a more strategic approach to their financial planning.
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It’s also been a key time for the Lotu-Iigas, they’re looking to buy a permanent family home as they just sold their previous house. And while they’ve done some smaller trips as a family – they’ve got grand plans to head off on a big OE with their kids at some stage in the future.
Sam mentions Disneyland as one of the places he would like to take his family and kids, and trips like that need a lot of planning.
They now say that bringing SurePlan into their lives has given them better clarity over their financial priorities and decisions.
“It’s made us ask ourselves: ‘How do you want to live your life and how do you want to get there?” Sam says. “I’m also no longer that ostrich with its head in the sand,” says Jules.
Sam reckons they are still a work in progress. “I still want to get more disciplined. Once we have a home, our ability to be more disciplined around expenses means we will be more comfortable.”
“SurePlan has created helpful clarity around finances and that has a huge impact on your social well-being, family life and long term goals,” he says.
We would like to thank Sam & Jules for telling their story and letting us into their lives. SurePlan has helped hundreds of Auckland Families just like the Lotu-Iiga’s in transforming their financial health so they can do things with their lives they wouldn’t otherwise have done. If you think you would benefit from Financial Planning, please don’t hesitate and book a free consultation here.