From fund manager to farmer
Anders Crofoot is Federated Farmers' forestry spokesman and the owner of the scenic Castlepoint station in the Wairarapa. But in a former life, Crofoot was analysing data and monitoring performance for a New York offshore funds manager.
Both Anders and his wife came from farming families, but Anders did a double degree in psychology and computer science before eventually ending up in financial services.
It was his wife's dream to come to New Zealand, where she had family ties. "We were on a family farm there . . . but we were an hour north from New York City and the city was just sprawling out."
In 1998, they decided to swap their small farm with "six-storey apartment blocks at the bottom of the hill" for a 3700ha station in New Zealand.
Have you found any differences in attitudes towards money between New Zealand and America?
Not in any meaningful way. I think rural areas are pretty similar the same the world over. Certainly around parts of New York, there is a far greater tendency to be ostentatiously wealthy, one of the things I wasn't particularly attracted to and didn't want to raise children with those sorts of values.
How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?
I'd say early on it was earning money to buy things you wanted, saving up to buy a bicycle and things like that. Finances were reasonably tight . . . I'd say a certain amount was passed on from parents, probably the more sophisticated stuff was learned later in life.
What advice would you give a child about making money?
Probably the best way to make money is doing something that you enjoy doing . . . One of the things we enjoy about farming is, we're doing what we love doing. We might make better financial returns somewhere else but if you don't like doing it, I don't really see the point. Follow your dreams and chances are if you're passionate about it, you'll figure out a way to get by.
What's the biggest lie people tell about money?
People have so many attitudes towards it that it's hard to make a generalisation. Having lots of disposable income doesn't necessarily make you any happier. When you have more money it makes some things easier but it actually introduces other difficulties.
What was the best investment you ever made?
Probably buying farm land in New Zealand. We happened to hit a good time when land prices in the United States were high, they were low in New Zealand . . . a number of things all wrapped into one.
Do you have a biggest investment mistake?
In terms of equity investment disasters, it was what seemed like a pretty good deal and I didn't keep a close enough eye on it, and got taken to the cleaners by fraud.
How do you sum up your feelings towards spending? Risk taker or non-Lotto ticket buyer?
I don't buy Lotto tickets but that's because I studied statistics! I have a reasonable appetite for risk but what some people see as risky, if you have enough understanding, it doesn't appear risky. There would be some people who would have said buying farm land in New Zealand was hugely risky.
Do you trust the money men, which you've had some insight into?
I actually think, yes, most of them are trustworthy. But if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When dealing with a lot of money managers, I was always sceptical of their first year's performance because very often you'd have someone who spent years working for someone else and they'd accumulated a bunch of really good ideas that their company wouldn't take on. And very often they were good ideas . . . but I was always tempted when looking at someone's performance over three or four years to chuck their first year performance out. Because that was when the lifetime of good ideas all got implemented and the question was, could they carry on?
Being informed and being sceptical are quite healthy traits.
- Sunday Star Times
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