We earned 40 per cent less than we do now, house prices were "only" five times the average wage, and England won the Rugby World Cup.
But those were the proverbial good old days, according to the latest Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll, with most people saying they were better off in 2003 than now.
The poll asked 1000 voters for their views on life now, compared with 10 years ago.
And the snapshot makes for grim reading: More than half (54.1 per cent) say New Zealand was a better place to live in 2003 than now. Almost 12 per cent were undecided or could not say.
The downturn in the feel-good factor is closely aligned to financial wellbeing, with the global crisis and subsequent economic downturn affecting many respondents' outlook on life.
Negativity rose sharply among those actively looking for employment (58.2 per cent) or not in paid employment (62.4 per cent). While respondents earning more than $200,000 were more satisfied - 51.9 per cent believe New Zealand is a better place in 2013 - only 26.7 per cent of those earning less than $50,000 had a similar view.
Women were far more negative, with 57.6 per cent preferring life in 2003, compared with 50.4 per cent of men.
Age was also an influence: 58.3 per cent of over-65s were happier 10 years ago, dropping to 43 per cent of under-30s.
NZ First voters were most dissatisfied (almost 80 per cent believed life was better in 2003), while National supporters were at the other end of the scale. Almost 60 per cent of Labour voters preferred 2003 - when their party was in government, led by Helen Clark.
Back then, the average wage was $34,600 - 40.2 per cent less than today's $48,500.
However, the gain at face value has been quashed, with the cost of living rising considerably over the decade.
On average, milk costs 11 per cent more and a loaf of bread 34 per cent, a portion of fish and chips has risen by more than 44 per cent, and a glass of beer by almost three-quarters.
The cost of buying a car has soared by 16.7 per cent, while fuel is more than 100 per cent pricier, with petrol now selling at well over $2 a litre.
In 2003, the median house price was five times annual earnings. Now it is almost eight times the average salary.
Labour leader David Shearer was living in Jerusalem, as head of the UN's Humanitarian Office. He returned in 2009 because he believed New Zealand offered children a good upbringing.
"That's still the case," he says.
"The issue is once they grow up. What are the opportunities for jobs, or getting into your own house? I'm always optimistic for the country [but] . . . wages haven't moved very much in the last four or five years. People's jobs are very uncertain, they are worried about their jobs. We have to make some big changes."
Prime Minister John Key's office did not respond to a request for comment.
- The Dominion Post
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