Money smarts are chang­ing lives

Auckland City Harbour News - - OPINION -

Some days I just love my job.

I had one of those great days last week.

I was up on the 30th floor of the skyscrap­ing ANZ Tower in Auck­land’s swanky cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict with tears welling in my eyes.

I was there for the un­veil­ing of a re­port by an Auck­land Uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sor on how an ANZ bank-funded money skills course called Mon­ey­Minded was chang­ing lives.

Two women spoke about their per­sonal jour­neys from money dunces to ca­pa­ble money man­agers.

They were Ti­ti­rangi mother Mere­anna Smith and Ma­nurewa solo mum Chadley-Ann Ratu.

Both were ben­e­fi­cia­ries when they did Mon­ey­Minded and strug­gling to get by.

They were sub­sist­ing at the bot­tom end of our eco­nomic pile; no dif­fer­ent from oth­ers sent by Work and In­come to the Mon­ey­Minded course.

The pro­fes­sor’s study showed that 63 per cent on the course had no qual­i­fi­ca­tions. Most were sin­gle women, many with chil­dren. Only half had a sav­ings ac­count. Just 30 per cent had any cash set aside for emer­gen­cies; 20 per cent had debt to mo­bile shop­ping truck op­er­a­tors.

The house­hold in­comes of the vast ma­jor­ity were less than $25,000.

Th­ese two women were speak­ing to a room full of mon­eyed, pin-striped bank-ers. There were sev­eral MPs, the re­tire­ment com­mis­sioner and of course journos like me. An in­tim­i­dat­ing au­di­ence but they told their sto­ries with pride and con­fi­dence.

Mon­ey­Minded had been a cat­a­lyst for them.

They had re­sented be­ing sent to the course by Work and In­come but found their con­fi­dence there.

Both say they were able to plug their ‘‘spend­ing leaks’’, begin bud­get­ing and lay­ing aside money. From this start, they were able to kick on.

Smith trained to be a carer for in­tel­lec­tu­ally dis­abled adults and is now in her dream job.

Ratu is now a com­mu­nity ed­u­ca­tion worker.

Both de­scribed how their sta­ble fi­nan­cial lives and abil­ity to save and pros­per were giv­ing their chil­dren op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Ratu’s chil­dren are young but they have bank ac­counts now as well as a mum who can pro­vide for them and teach them how to pros­per.

Smith has been able to save to fund trips for her el­dest son to com­pete in a waka ama (out­rig­ger ca­noe rac­ing) com­pe­ti­tion in Australia, from which he re­turned with gold and sil­ver medals.

Regular read­ers of this col­umn will know that I be­lieve each gen­er­a­tion should strive to make the next gen­er­a­tion hap­pier, health­ier, wealth­ier and bet­ter-ed­u­cated than they were.

To me, that is the def­i­ni­tion of fam­ily suc­cess.

Th­ese women are proof that fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy can turn around lives. And they are proof that this can hap­pen rel­a­tively quickly.

There was more proof from the pro­fes­sor. He sur­veyed peo­ple who’d done Mon­ey­Minded with 82 per cent re­port­ing they now saved ev­ery week, up from 19 per cent be­fore the course.

Most re­ported sav­ing at least $10 a week, which is re­mark­able enough given 80 per cent had house­hold in­comes of be­tween $7000 and $25,000. Many man­aged to save more.

Stress lev­els were way down. Con­fi­dence was up. Th­ese were peo­ple on an up­ward track.

They were now bank cus­tomers, no longer easy pick­ings for dodgy lenders and mo­bile shop­ping trucks.

Eyes moist­ened when the two women spoke. Some eyes moist­ened more than oth­ers.

Frank Solomon, the man­ag­ing direc­tor of the Solomon Group which runs the course, ac­tu­ally did start cry­ing.

No­body minded. His busi­ness is chang­ing lives.

And even af­ter 40 years in ed­u­ca­tion, it still moves him.

Watch out for moth plant. It can quickly take over your gar­den.

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