The Retirement Commission is changing its name at the end of the month to the Commission for Financial Literacy and Retirement Income.
“The name never worked. People think we are about helping old people, so we need to be much more clear about what we do,” says retirement commissioner Diane Crosson.
By the time someone retires it’s probably too late for much of the work the commission does. Its aim is to ensure as people move out of the workforce, they have built up sufficient assets, savings and entitlements.
Crosson says start with sorted.org, “the best free independent financial literacy website in the world.
“It is systematic. It takes you through setting goals for savings, budgeting, managing debt, retirement savings.”
About a third of the New Zealand population use the site, and there are free Sorted booklets available for those who can’t or won’t go online.
Crosson is also pushing for more to be taught in schools so young people don’t get into debt and spending traps.
At this year’s national Financial Literacy Summit she asked the government to reconsider its funding cuts in the area. “We believe teaching kids about money now will result in higher savings and lower debt levels in the future,” she said.
Young people are a target in the commission’s current “dumb debt” campaign, warning them about the high costs of credit cards, hire purchase and buying cars with finance.
The Ministry of Education supplies curriculum advice on financial literacy modules for years one to 10, and the commission working with the Young Enterprise Trust and the Open Polytechnic has developed teaching resources for years 11 to 13.
There’s more advice on the website of the New Zealand Network for Financial Literacy, another commission initiative funded by the Investment Savings and Insurance Association, the New Zealand Bankers’ Association and workplace Savings NZ.
The banks are also getting in on the act. The BNZ is working with Plunket on advice for young families, ASB has a schools’ programme, and ANZ partners with the commission to survey New Zealanders’ financial knowledge every four years. Sean Carroll, the chair of the National Strategy Advisory Group on Financial Literacy, says the worldwide economic downturn and finance company collapses in New Zealand have created a “teachable moment” where people are receptive to learning how to manage their money well. www.sorted.org www.financialliteracy.org.nz