Labour’s Student Loan Calculator

July 28th, 2005 at 12:09 pm by David Farrar

I have been checking the output of Labour’s student loan calculator and my initial findings are that it appears to be seriously incorrect. I understand that the calculator has not been put together by Treasury, IRD or Ministry of Education, but by Party staff. I call on to release the formulas the calculator uses.

Here are examples of where it appears to be wildly wrong:

They claim that someone with a \$15,000 loan balance who earns \$34,300, and stays earning that much would take 25.5 years to repay their loan and have interest of \$11,891. Plug it in and you will see.

If one goes to sorted.org.nz and plug in a \$15,000 loan balance and \$34,300 income it says it is paid off in 12 years 4 months and interest is \$6,805 in today’s dollars.

So Labour’s calculator is claiming it will take 25 years instead of 12 under current policy. This is not a small error – this is almost electoral fraud. Now sorted.org is a neutral site from the Retirement Commissioner so I trust their calculator more.

We can go to the IRD calculator also which will tell you the repayments on \$34,300 income and \$15,000 loan will be \$1771.20 a year. Now even if one totally ignores the fact that you may get interest writeoff, a simple calculation of 7% interest on \$15000 shows inital interest of \$1050 in the first year vs repayments of \$1,771 shows the loan paid off in 14 years approx, not 25.

Here is another example. Say a \$15,000 loan balance and annual salary of \$27,000 growing by 2% per annum. Labour’s calculator says it will take 40 years to repay and interest of \$27,693.

The Retirement Commissioner says 18 years 7 months and interest of \$10,417. I plugged in a salary today of \$27,000 and income in five years of \$29,800 based on 2% growth.

I am happy for someone to point out if my comparisons and calculations are wrong and that Labour’s calculator is more correct than the Retirement Commissioner’s and IRD’s. The best thing would be to get Treasury and IRD to verify Labour’s calculator. They should so so immediately.

UPDATE: Bill English and his staff have also been checking out the calculator and have found Labour’s calculator out by 30% to 50%. Unless Labour can provide proof that their sums are accurate, their credibility will be zero.

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60 Responses to “Labour’s Student Loan Calculator”

1. johnie () says:

What has all this got to do with the fact that those with student loans will pay NO INTEREST under labour’s policy?

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2. David Farrar () says:

Johnie – if concepts like truth and accuracy mean nothing to you, there is no helping you.

100,000 people have been told by Labour they will benefit by xx,000 if they vote Labour or will get their loan paid off y years earlier.

Now if that information is false, there will be serious consequences for Labour.

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3. Mike Collins () says:

I agree wholeheartedly with DPF on this one.

I knew that this calculator was wrong. I have said so on a number of places. Great work DPF for bringing it to attention.

String them up.

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4. kowhaikiwi () says:

Johnie this tends to suggest that Labour has pulled this together in a fairly rushed fashion and not got advice from officials like Treasury, IRD or Ministry of Education – if it had then surely these sorts of errors wouldn have been picked up. So their calculator is wrong and various commentators are saying Labour’s costings are way too low – all of which seems to suggest this has all been done in a rush using the back of an envelope. I do not want these guys in charge of the cheque book when it is my money they are spending.

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Where do you you send a formal complaint? Electoral Commission, Commerce Commission, Serious Fraud office? Local Sewerage Works?

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DPF,

Keep up the good work!

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Well done David. Excellent work.

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8. Tony () says:

I just did my calculation, and the calculation was almost exactly the same (paying \$16,400 interest on the Sorted calculator, \$17,000 on the Labour calculator). The is a note on the left had side of the Labour calculator which talks about interst, inflation and salary assumptions…

Of course, it’s National’s job to try to damage this very very popular policy in any way they can…

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9. Aaron Bhatnagar () says:

Well done David – I think you have just caused Labour some serious stress.

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10. Mike Collins () says:

Even if in the small print assumptions are made of the 7% interest Labour still is painting an inaccurate picture.

I could make all the assumptions in the world an let people know about them. What I couldn’t do was pass it off as fact.

As Jordan Carter even said on the previous post – we need to factor in interest writeoffs for graduates. Well a good place to start would have been Labour’s calculator.

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11. David Farrar () says:

Tom – just because it is accurate for some does not change the fact if it is inaccurate for many others. A calculator should eb accurate for all scenarios. That is why it is a calculator.

This is not to do with damaging the policy – this is to do with false information. Are you really saying that a party should be able to use false info and not be challenged?

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12. Tony () says:

I just went and did exactly what you said David, \$15000 loan, and \$34,300 income and got quite differnt results from you. At 2% salary growth, the Sorted and Labour calculator are exactly the same. Of course, because it depends what you put in as salary growth…

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13. gatoh () says:

God forbid that I defend Labour & it’s policies but how can Labours costings on this policy be “way too low” yet at the same time National are telling us students will not be saving as much as they think?

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14. S Heath () says:

David, David, David.

You do not understand. In Helengrad we use ‘New Math’. Something that did not exist when you went to private school in the 1950′s.

Also the best people at NZQA put this together and it was reviewed by all the NCEA policy people at a recent hui.

I mean come on, if H1 and H2 say something it is true. We all know it, why fight it? We will be having strong words with the Retirement Commission on their obvious errors.

PS Say hi to your american policy writers for us, we must catch up for a cocktail after our 4th election win!

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15. Dim () says:

I’ve tried a couple of different calculations using nice round numbers – \$100,000 loan, \$100,000 income increasing by 10% per year – there seems to be a discrepency of about 10%. I can’t get the differences anywhere near the National Parties 50%.

Seems that Labour aren’t the only people who can’t get their sums right.

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16. dim () says:

Incidentally, the formula is in the page source code – it’s under the onreclick event.

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17. Dim () says:

I’ve tried a couple of different calculations using nice round numbers – \$100,000 loan, \$100,000 income increasing by 10% per year – there seems to be a discrepency of about 10%. I can’t get the differences anywhere near the National Parties 50%.

Seems that Labour aren’t the only people who can’t get their sums right.

Incidentally, the formula is in the page source code – it’s under the onreclick event.

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18. Peter () says:

Labour’s loan calculation seems to be correct – the problem with the calculations by DPF et al is that they don’t account for the CPI indexation in the student loan repayment threshold. This makes a huge difference, especially if your salary is low (closer to the threshold). To get sensible results from the calculator you also need to index your salary to inflation.

If you look at the IRD website you can see how the repayment threshold changes over time:

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19. weizguy () says:

There are bound to be assumptions written into each of the calculators. Any calculator is just an estimate.

I would like to see the differences in the programming, it would certainly be interesting to see what kind of assumtions each made…

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20. Craig Ranapia () says:

Tony –

Well, it was Helen Clark who said this election is all about leadership, credibility and trust.

Well, I notice you’ve failed to rebutt the substantive criticisms just attacked DPF personally. Now, nobody is going to be surprised that Labour will set the assumptions of the calculator on its own website to give the most favourable results possible. But really… there’s a not so fine line between spinning and being outright deceptive.

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21. Blu () says:

oh my god

Ok, so I am a student, but I just did the calculations with expected numbers, assuming no income increase (which is obviously a big assumption to make), and according to the sorted calculator, I will pay off my loan in about 24 years. According to Labour’s calculator I will NEVER pay off my loan!!

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22. weizguy () says:

Incidentally, I just calculated a \$40K loan starting at \$38K per year.

The IRD calulator tells me it will take 35 years with \$161,570.08 interest while Labour’s tells me it will take 30 years at \$60,892 interest. Seems that it’s IRD that is overestimating now…?

But, as always, it’s a Labour conspiracy.

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23. Peter Grooby () says:

OK Dim, yep the ‘formula’ is on the web page source code. I count myself somewhat compute/maths savvy , but a block of code like :

“nt385_sum=Math.max(Math.max(Number.NEGATIVE_INFINITY,tmp384),tmp383);var sumcnt385_cnt=2;arr2xR4R48[19][0]=(max(0,sumcnt385_sum,sumcnt385_cnt,eecm5));arr2xS4S48[19][0]=(((((arr2xR4R48[18][0])==(0)))?(0):(((((arr2xR4R48[19][0])==(0)))?(((arr2xR4R48[18][0])/(arr2xI23I23[0][0]))):(1)))));arr2xQ4Q48[20][0]=(min(2,Number.POSITIVE_INFINITY,0,eecm78));var tmp370=(((arr2xR4R48[19][0])-(arr2xI24I24[0][0])));var ”

etc going on for several pages is a trifle on the impenetrable side. I am glad to see they differentiate between positive and negative infinity though…

Pete

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24. Cathy () says:

It obviously needs to be independently audited outside the blogs, media and both parties.

Can SOMEONE please get on to this as it is a huge credibility issue.

If Labour can’t even design a calculator for student loans, what the hell are they doing with the Budget figures?

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25. dim () says:

Ha! Sorry Peter – I didn’t have word wrap on so I didn’t see how big the formula was.

NEGATIVE_INFINITY is some fiddly Javascript property.

Cathy – I believe Treasury works out the budget figures.

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26. Tony () says:

Jordan has done a very good post on this. He called the retirement commission and found out what their assumptions are…

You’ll find that if you put 2.5% salary growth into the Labour calculator you will get almost exactly the same results as the sorted calculator (which ads in a 2.5% inflation assumtion).

Nothing like a few facts to put an end to an attempt to damage a popular policy!

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27. tim barclay () says:

They would have carried on telling lie after lie after lie about the savings until they were caught out. So in a great rush they announce what they call an “error”. This has all the hallmarks of a rushed policy release without the involvement of Treasury. Of course there will be no Treasury report on costings etc. The are arch highwaymen with taxpayers money. They deserve to burn in hell for this.

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28. Jordan () says:

Dear David,

The only person whose credibility is at stake this afternoon is yours.

Your post says that what Labour is doing is tantamount to electoral fraud.

That is a disgusting, false and repugnant allegation.

The simple fact is that you never bothered to go and check what the assumptions were behind the Sorted.Org.Nz calculator. I have, and the matter is therefore clarified on my blog.

The IRD calculator is somewhat inpenetrable but suffers from not taking into account adjustments to the threshold where repayments kick in.

I call on you to withdraw your allegation of fraud, and acknowledge the mistake you have made here.

Kind regards

Jordan Carter

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29. tim barclay () says:

Don’t back down David. The Labour Party particularly Mallard are congenital liers and the public know it.

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30. Sally () says:

DPF

You asked for Labour to come clean with their assumptions and they have (see Mallard press release).

You’ve asked why the Labour calculator is different from the others, and you’ve been told. Sorted is different because they express everything in constant 2005 dollars rather than nominal dollars (as I understand it), and IRD is different because it makes a rigid set of assumptions about zero salary growth etc.

I now call on you to either say why Labour’s assumptions are “fradulant” and wrong (which is presumably why you asked for them), or to withdraw your accusations.

I agree with Jordan. A refusal on your part to put up or shut up at this stage is very dangerous for your credibility, given the seriousness of your claims (and, by the way, the kneejerk claims of Mr English).

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31. Jordan () says:

You may be happy perpetrating lies, Tim, but I doubt very much that David is.

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32. Paul () says:

I hope Labour isn’t using the same calculator to cost the “policy”. It suspect its the same one they used to calculate our Kyoto “credit”! Are they just no good with numbers or something?

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33. tim barclay = lol () says:
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34. Cathy () says:

Dim

Treasury may work the numbers but Cullen manipulates them how he pleases. Plenty of evidence of that.

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35. tim barclay () says:

Jordan, Mallard is a lier, the public know it, you know it and for no other reason when he said National is being controlled by Washington. His credibility is shot to pieces and now he lies about the cost savings for student loans. This man is in charge of billions of dollars of tax payer’s money, he is a gonner Jordan.

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36. The Masked Marvell () says:

The IRD calculator gives the right repayment rate (as you’d hope). Someone in DPF’s example situation is not entitled to an interest write off.

The sorted calculator is totally wrong. I don’t know what they did to blow out so badly, but it’s pretty bad.

The Labour calculator is using a simplified model and is slightly wrong. However, this will be close to correct unless you have an increase in your salary of less that 2%. Those of us with eyes will have seen the instructions on the website tell you not to plug such a value into the formula. If you ignore this instruction (like DPF appears to have done) and therefore get garbage out of the calculator, you shouldn’t really be surprised.

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37. The Masked Marvell () says:

The IRD calculator gives the right repayment rate (as you’d hope). Someone in DPF’s example situation is not entitled to an interest write off.

The sorted calculator is totally wrong. I don’t know what they did to blow out so badly, but it’s pretty bad.

The Labour calculator is using a simplified model and is slightly wrong. However, this will be close to correct unless you have an increase in your salary of less that 2%. Those of us with eyes will have seen the instructions on the website tell you not to plug such a value into the formula. If you ignore this instruction (like DPF appears to have done) and therefore get garbage out of the calculator, you shouldn’t really be surprised.

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38. The Masked Marvell () says:

The IRD calculator gives the right repayment rate (as you’d hope). Someone in DPF’s example situation is not entitled to an interest write off.

The sorted calculator is totally wrong. I don’t know what they did to blow out so badly, but it’s pretty bad.

The Labour calculator is using a simplified model and is slightly wrong. However, this will be close to correct unless you have an increase in your salary of less that 2%. Those of us with eyes will have seen the instructions on the website tell you not to plug such a value into the formula. If you ignore this instruction (like DPF appears to have done) and therefore get garbage out of the calculator, you shouldn’t really be surprised.

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39. Cathy () says:

“Your post says that what Labour is doing is tantamount to electoral fraud”.

Hate to go all precise on you but David actually wrote:

“So Labour’s calculator is claiming it will take 25 years instead of 12 under current policy. This is not a small error – this is ALMOST electoral fraud. Now sorted.org is a neutral site from the Retirement Commissioner so I trust their calculator more”.

Therefore on analytics he did not actually accuse anyone of fraud. Indeed the opposite, because he inferred that even if his allegation was totally true it would only ALMOST be electoral fraud.

But language can indeed be frightening for those who do not carefully read every word then base even more allegations on their incorrect conclusion.

In other words David there is no need to apologise on this point.

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40. Jordan () says:

Cathy, I never knew you were related to Bill Clinton. Nice fact to file away.

Marvel – the interest writeoff depends on your income. As long as your repayments are twice the interest you accrue, then you get no writeoffs. If your payments are not that high, then you get some interest writeoff. You’d assume the IRD calculator gets this right. I’m not sure why you think the Sorted one is wrong.

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Stands to reason the calculator must be wrong. They couldn’t count for Kyoto, they fell on their arse over the budget, they couldn’t count Wananga dollars, they still can’t count the number of Maoris they’ve turned of so what’s a mere calculator or two. Oh yes the Dickhead of the Weak is weizguy for this gem of Loose Labour Logic. “Any calculator is just an estimate.” Student loan borrowers take note. When the euphoria wears off you will be consoled to know it was just an estimate and was never intended to be relied upon. Bugger!

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42. David Farrar () says:

The key thing is Labour is refusing to have their calculator tested. This is crucial, and that would solve the issue.

The Labour calculator claims that someone with a \$15,000 loan balance who earns \$34,300, and stays earning that much would take 25.5 years to repay their loan. Even taking into account the threshold increasing by inflation, this just still looks to be miles out.

If inflation is 3% the threshold goes up by around \$500 a year. This means one would be repaying \$50 less in the first year and \$100 less in the second year. That is not enough to change it from 14 years to 25 years to be repaid.

Labour have invented this policy in a matter of days, they have not costed it with officials and their calculator has not been audited. They need to show that a \$15,000 loan will take 25 years to pay off for someone who stays on a \$34,300 income. I can not see how it is possible.

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43. Archon () says:

DPF,

I don’t think this is a big issue. The Labour calculator does say to assume 2%. If you do, it gives you figures close to the IRD and sorted calculators.

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44. Stephen Cooper () says:

It is very interesting to see DPF doesn’t have the guts to admit he got over excited about the prospect of making a hit on Labour.

Still expect Ana Samways to reprint DPF’s claims verbatim.

Hysteria has reached every level of the opposition, with even level heads like Bill English rushing to judgement without bothering to check their own facts.

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45. Jim Chamberlain () says:

Dear Dr Mary English

I have an embarrasing ailment and therefore I hope you can give me your advice.

I have a pair of shoelaces wedged in my rectum and am finding it difficult to move about. I think I should offer a replacement shoe to the person who inflicted this on me as I would like to smooth things over.

Now my question is this: what size does Bill take?

Yours obsequiously
David P F

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46. Sham 69 () says:

Go DPF !, Go the power of bloggers !

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47. Kimble () says:

Hang on, lets see if I have got this straight.

We assume,
salary stays at \$34300
compulsory repayment cuts in at \$16558
compulsory repayment increases by inflation each year
inflation is 3%
the minimum payment is 10% of the income over \$16558
interest is 7%
payments are fortnightly

If this is all correct, then after 25 years the cut in point would have increased from \$16558 to \$34732. The minimum payments have been decreasing throughout the term. Note: in the last year the minimum payment is \$3 a fortnight.

If anything, what is causing the loan to take so long to pay off is the incresing cut in point and the decreasing minimum payments. If the payments stayed the same through out the entire loan, the term would be 13 years and total interest would be \$7300.

If the minimum payment was restricted to a minimum of \$25 per fortnight the term would be 21.5 years and the interest would be \$10229.

A student loan term of 25 years, is hardly realistic, but technically it is possible with the figures you have provided.

Incidently, if a lumpsum payment was made at the end of the first year of \$2000, (inflation and wage growth at 2.5%) the term and interest would fall from 10.69 years and \$6411 to just over 9 years and \$4768. So a single payment of \$2000, will save you \$1600 in the long run. If we assume a discount rate of 7%, then the present value of that saving is \$880. So in effect you would be making a payment of \$2000 today, and recieving a benefit of \$880 in todays dollars.

Without any interest, however, this incentive does not exist. The loan would be paid of in 7and a half years at a cost to the tax payer of over \$4000.

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48. Sally () says:

Kimble said: “If anything, what is causing the loan to take so long to pay off is the incresing cut in point and the decreasing minimum payments. ”

Kimble is exactly right, and that is why it is a really silly scenario to say that a person’s earnings in nominal dollars will stay the same forever (which both Bill English’s and DPF’s examples do). There are two reasons their salaries will increase (1) they become more senior; (2) all salaries rise as inflation kicks in.

More than that, I have shown on DPF’s own spreadsheets (see two other threads on this) exactly where his spreadsheets are wrong. I then corrected them for him, giving him the same results as Labour.

Again, I call on DPF to withdraw his false allegations that were based on unrealistic scenarios and incorrect spreadsheets.

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49. David Farrar () says:

Sally my spreadsheets are not wrong. I am the *only* one showing the calculations and the assumptions.

I totally reject that ongoing inflation of 2.8% is realistic. And it produces scare mongering scenarios of 26 years to pay off a modest \$15,000 loan.

Labour should list on their calculator all their assumptions, so people can see them.

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50. TheProphet () says:

Interesting to see what squirms out from under rocks to defend this ill thought out Labour policy.
I love election time.

Allah protect us.

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51. Sally () says:

DPF said: “I totally reject that ongoing inflation of 2.8% is realistic. And it produces scare mongering scenarios of 26 years to pay off a modest \$15,000 loan.”

Oh, the irony. DPF has spent all day talking about a scenario where a person’s salary, in nominal dollars, never grows – not even by a dollar. Not for forty years. And now he complains about unrealistic scenarios! Ha!

And he further complains about using unrealistic scenarios for the purpose of scaremongering. That is what DPF and Bill English have been doing all through the day!

Why did Labour assume inflation would be 2.8%? Because inflation **is** 2.8%! If labour had assumed anything else, they would have been criticised for that, too.

Hell, if you wanted you could design a calculator that allowed the user to predict year-by-year inflation rates over the term of their loan; crystal ball-gaze about what other interest the government would charge over the next few decades; factor in uneven growth of their salary; allow them to include breaks from working because of children; and so on. But then everybody would be complaining that it was too complicated. The calculator as labour have it is pretty darn good, and the more people have scrutinised it today, the better is has performed.

The inflation scenario used in Labour’s calculator is realistic because is really is the situation we have today. The salary situation DPF and Bill English use, on the other hand, is not realistic for anybody.

This day has fallen in badly around DPF and the National party.

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52. Paul () says:

DPF, Assumptions should be highlighted, and explained, indeed there should be a political equivalent to Securities Act. Try misleading the investing public with that sort of conduct with a prospectus and see how far you get. The calculator stunt by Labour has potentially mislead 10% of the nation.

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53. Tony () says:

Now that independent finance people have looked at Labour’s calculator and said it is ok, do you want to back down David? http://www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?c_id=1&ObjectID=10338098 and on the tv news last night also.

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54. Kimble () says:

The main thing I dont like about labours calculator is that it only considers the costs to the student.

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The whole calculator business is a croc fulla shit based on loopy theory. How about a reality check. On a salary of \$34,300 you apply 25% of gross salary to loan repayment. That’s what a conservative bank will permit for home borrowing. Some will permit 30%. So you apply \$715 per month to your loan principal and interest. The bloody loan is gone in less than two years. Get real lefties. Pay your loan off before you buy your house. Just like I did thirty years ago. A bribe is a bribe is a bribe. Enjoy your lead in the polls while it lasts because it will dissappear very quickly once people have time to think.

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56. dim () says:

How intriuging that Adolf seems to have taken out a student loan several decades before they were intoduced.

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57. Pete () says:

Mmm who do you trust more on this issue?
Bill English and David or independant finance experts?

From the New Zealand Herald
“A senior lecturer in Massey University’s department of finance, banking and property, Claire Matthews, said Labour’s calculator was fairly accurate and “within the ballpark” of other calculators.

“My overall assessment is it might not be 100 per cent accurate but it’s not grossly misleading.

“Once you start comparing figures like that you can basically make it show whatever you want by changing those variables. There are so many variables.”

TVNZ Jul 28, 2005
Independent experts who studied the numbers said neither Labour or the IRD was wrong, they just used different assumptions. These were about how the loans were actually paid off, either weekly of yearly, and how wage growth and inflation will affect the loan.

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Dim, if you want to spend your life being a dimwitted sarcastic prick, I don’t really misd. My parents had to go into hock to help me through uni. I worked to pay them back. Now piss off and get back under your rock.

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59. dim () says:

Adolf – you should have taken advantage of the universal student allowances that were available to all tertiary students back then. Much better than a loan.

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60. Kimble () says:

What no apology, dim? Thats not like you.

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