Pantry Door Savings Plan Smash 20 year Mortgage

2019-05-21T15:12:36+12:00 September 3rd, 2018|Categories: Client Stories|Comments Off on Pantry Door Savings Plan Smash 20 year Mortgage

We’ve all been there. That moment when your bank balance flashes up with insufficient funds and pay day seems a long way off. Plus, there is that niggling fear that a large payment is due to go out of your account today!

For Nicola Martelli, it was a Friday, end of term – end of the school year. Her husband Simon, Airborne Sensor Operator for the New Zealand Air Force had just gone overseas on deployment and something was very wrong with the bank accounts.

“We had one of our mortgages due to roll off, so we had made sure we had all the paperwork signed before Simon left. I logged on to internet banking thinking, right the new mortgage should be set to go and I looked at it and thought oh, these numbers don’t look right!

“I rang SurePlan at some crazy hour of the morning and the lovely receptionist answered and through tears I explained the situation and she said that the first person who walked in the door would get on to it,” says Nicola.

Ringing her financial adviser was the last thing she wanted to do but Nicola realised that she wouldn’t be able to pay for her children’s daycare and the holiday season was kicking off. Many phone calls back and forth with SurePlan ensued.

By 10.30am her financial advisers had it sorted.

“They were so overwhelmingly helpful. I thought, this problem is not mine to solve, I  know I am OK, I can breathe. For me it was like we were more than just a client, we were actually people and they cared about us.”

It as a moment of clarity for Nicola – they’d made the right decision to get financial help with SurePlan.


She and husband Simon had both grown up with parents who worked hard to earn and save.

So when the pair met, their financial outlooks were similar.

Maybe mutual hockey friends also knew Nicola and Simon would be kindred spirits on all fronts and this led to them meeting on a blind date in 2004.

Things happened fast for the young couple and in 2008 Simon popped the question and there was suddenly a wedding to organise in six months.

The humble beginnings of the Martellis pantry door savings plan began.

Simon says: “We thought, right we’re getting married so we need to save for that and then we’ll need to save for a house.”

Christchurch born Simon loves numbers, he has to – it’s a crucial part of his job. Get him on a laptop with a budgeting software programme and he looks too comfortable – almost like someone might look when their about to settle down to their favourite movie.

He’s been in the Air Force for 16 years following a boyhood passion to work with aircraft and is based at Whenuapai working on the Orions. In 2014 Simon was called up to Malaysia right after MH370 went missing and spent hours and hours, days and days staring out at an endless ocean in the hope of finding the missing aircraft.

“We would approach every day like, today’s the day we are going to find something.”

Sadly it never happened and his team returned back to New Zealand. The search is still ongoing four years later.

Meanwhile Nicola, who went to school on Auckland’s North Shore, trained as a primary school teacher. She is the one who spends a lot of time running the household because Simon’s often away.


“In the beginning we were living together in an Air Force house, it’s cheap accommodation but there is also a time limit,” she says.

Five years in heavily subsidised Air Force housing at the Whenuapai Air Base and then they were out on their own in the big bad Auckland housing market. The pantry door savings plan was in full swing.

Simon and Nicola like to see how their mortgage repayments are tracking so their plan is on A4 paper with graphs and dates that’s blue tacked to the back of their pantry door.  Every time they eat, they’re reminded of their financial goals.

Simon says: “In the beginning it was surprising how quickly we were able to save some money while still being disciplined and having an interesting life.”

He’s playing it down a little according to Nicola.

“It was really tough. We were in our early 20s and driving old cars. We had a small TV and we had to slowly buy furniture.

“We had bean bags and deck chairs as lounge furniture and we used the cardboard box from our microwave as our coffee table,” she says.

“Although, I do believe the lawn mower came first before the couch! “

“Gotta have a tidy property,” says Simon.

So no smashed avocado on toast for this couple, they were on a mission to save up for a house deposit.


Their days of living in cheap Air Force accommodation were up in 2009 so they bought their Massey home. A simple do-up but with interest rates at around 10% at the time, it was a stretch for the couple. Part of the reason behind the location for their home is that it had to be close to Whenuapai for when Simon is on call.

Nicola was able to get a teaching job at Marina View School nearby.

Their two children, Sam 8 and Zoe 6 came soon after the house and in between renovating, paying off the mortgage, life was ticking along – barely.

“We had two children in full time daycare, and it didn’t matter what we were doing or where we were tightening the belt, we just never seemed to be making the financial gains,” says Nicola.

A 20 year mortgage and living paycheck to paycheck was starting to take its toll and then the phone rang one cold winter’s night in 2013.

It was a telemarketing survey and here’s something you’ll almost never read; Simon admits he loves answering questions or helping with surveys when marketers randomly dial his phone number.

He sees them as opportunities rather than annoying calls interrupting family meal times.


This call related to budgeting and it culminated in Gareth Dormon, SurePlan’s Client Development Manager making a trip to their home one night a few weeks later to talk about their finances and what SurePlan could help them with.

At the heart of their conversation was the potential to restructure their mortgage. Initially, Gareth thought the Martellis might be able to shave 2-3 years off it with some simple changes.

“We were shocked because they were telling us stuff we didn’t know,” says Nicola. They had set up their mortgage to pay off the required interest sum, plus a little each fortnight off the principle.

Once SurePlan was onboard as their financial advisers, budgets and repayments were set up so that a further four years could come off the Martelli’s mortgage. Insurances and other payments they made were also put under the microscope.

The pantry door savings plan got a healthy injection of Martelli might as they knuckled down to pay off the house.

Who are SurePlan’s authorised financial advisors? Click here to read Mike Allen’s story


Fuelling their fire to pay it off was a wager Gareth Dormon from SurePlan offhandedly made around whether the couple would meet their mortgage repayment expectations.

“There was a discussion around us paying off our house. Gareth said he’d cook us dinner when we paid it off,” says Simon.

But as the Martellis were furiously paying off their mortgage, their next meeting with SurePlan’s Managing Director John Schell took an interesting turn.

“We didn’t want to be so budget tight that we couldn’t enjoy life but John asked us about our future plans and he mentioned retirement to us. SurePlan are good at making sure you can enjoy life and they told us they wanted us to make our money work harder.

“They looked at our financial situation in a way we hadn’t. We just looked at it like, how much we have to go (on paying off the mortgage)? SurePlan thought of it as how much of your house you already own.”


The glass half full approach has seen the Martellis recently purchase a rental property in Auckland’s Manurewa and it’s given them some thoughts around investing in a third house.

And in 2018, the Martellis stuck to their pantry door savings plan. It took them just 8 ½  years to pay off their home.

So Gareth, in case you are reading this, time to don your apron, shop for groceries and nip around to Simon and Nicola’s to repay that bet. Next Thursday, 8pm works for them.

If you think you could benefit from the same service that Nicola & Simon received, don’t hesitate to make contact with us or simply call 09 551 9071 during business hours.