Money smarts are changing lives
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.