International experts on financial literacy were beamed in from across the globe for the Retirement Commission’s recent summit on Financial Literacy. We know that financial illiteracy is a big problem in New Zealand, but we are by no means the only country in the world struggling to educate people on how to use their money more effectively. The major difference, however, between New Zealand and the rest of the world is that we lack the commitment and resources from our Government to tackle this problem in a way that will really make a difference. The Retirement Commission is internationally recognized for its efforts in financial literacy despite a limited budget. Diana Crossan, Retirement Commissioner, in her opening address reminded the Government that more money is required to support financial literacy in schools if we really want to see an improvement in the personal financial well-being of Kiwis. While financial education is now part of the school curriculum, budget cuts in the education sector have meant a drastic reduction in the funding available to support it. Money habits are formed early in life and changing the attitudes and behaviours of young people is an effective way to change the financial literacy of the population over time.
In the UK, a recent initiative is the Money Advice Service, which brings free, unbiased financial advice to people online, over the phone and face to face across the country. Our Retirement Commission is able to provide people with information and resources, but is not able to give advice. Free advice is available from the Federation of Family Budgeting Services, however the public perception of this service is that it is somewhere you go when you are on the verge of financial ruin. What New Zealand needs is low cost, highly accessible advice for all.