It's difficult to pin down when "mum and dad investors" first entered the political landscape, but they've been around for a while.
Governments use the term for transparently obvious reasons when state-owned assets go on the block - it's a lot more voter-friendly to sell shares to "ordinary Kiwis" than to foreign multi-nationals.
But those who watch the markets don't think there's a precedent for the way those mums and dads are going to be targeted when shares are floated in the four energy companies that are in the process of being partially privatised.
Mighty River Power is the first, with 49 per cent of its shares scheduled to go on sale late next month or in September.
The government is really pushing the "mum and dad investor" angle and there's going to be a big advertising campaign ahead of the share float, which ministers say is needed because most people don't understand what's going on.
The row that erupted this week is about whether the families being targeted can afford to buy shares, even if they wanted to.
Labour and the Greens don't think they can.
They're both citing Statistics NZ Data showing that in 2006 the average family had $1700 in the bank.
That's a bit out of date but it's the latest available figure, and opposition parties don't think there's been much change since then.
"Even if you round it out to $2000, it isn't a lot of money," says Labour's Clayton Cosgrove.
"Most families have to keep some cash around for when the car breaks down or when the kids get sick, they're not going to use it to play the sharemarket."
Greens co-leader Metiria Turei says most families have problems making ends meet and there's no way they're going to snap up energy company shares.
"Only the wealthy, who have received expensive tax cuts from National, will be in a position to buy these shares," she says.
Finance Minister Bill English thinks otherwise - he believes they'll know a good investment when they see one and will be eager to have a stake in the companies.
There's a lot riding on this because it's central to the campaign against asset sales that Labour and the Greens are going to run right through to the next election.
For the opposition parties, the best thing that can happen is most of the shares going offshore and fuelling their spectre of the country's electricity generation falling under foreign control.
They say this will happen even though the government will hold a 51 per cent shareholding in the companies.
Another good thing would be rocketing power prices, which they say is sure to happen as greedy investors demand huge profits.
If neither of those things happen, they're going to have egg on their faces.
The government is shoring up its position with plans to make the shares as attractive as they can to small investors, and it's signalling they'll be sold in packages worth $1000.
They're also saying the "mums and dads" will be at the front of the queue, but how that's going to be ensured isn't yet clear.
Labour and the Greens say there's no way small investors can be stopped from selling their shares if they get a foreign offer they can't refuse, and the government admits they're right.
It doesn't think that's going to happen but it can't sure, and that's why the price that's put on the shares is going to be a tricky decision.
The price has to be low enough to make them attractive, because a flop would be a political disaster, but it won't want it shooting up to levels where small investors sell them and grab a quick profit.
If the government loses round one of the asset sales fight, Labour and the Greens will be in "we told you so" territory.
If the government wins, one of the opposition's most powerful weapons is very likely to run out of ammunition.