Government agency’s mantra off thewall
I saw the most startling phrase on the wall of a Government agency.
Apologies to those who have a low tolerance for cuss words, but I have to tell you what it is, or this column will make no sense at all.
The phrase was: ‘‘Bitch, it ain’t on the list’’. I kid you not. What’s more, when I asked the head of the agency about it, she said she was thinking getting T-shirts printed sporting the phrase.
The agency was the Commission for Financial Capability (CFC). Its head is retirement commissioner Diane Maxwell.
Hers is the agency tasked with making us all smarter with money.
It runs Sorted, the country’s most useful personal finance
website, chock-full of mortgage, saving, KiwiSaver and get-out-ofdebt calculators.
It’s also involved in providing money education in workplaces and schools, and trying to get politicians to put in place sensible retirement income policies.
The phrase isn’t up in bold as some kind of gratuitous modern humour. It’s up there as the voice of an ordinary New Zealander.
It is a reminder that the CFC needs to speak a language ordinary New Zealanders understand.
Too often the language of government and money people is a jargon-filled patois only distantly related to everyday English.
Maxwell told me how the phrase came to be on the agency’s wall. It was the catch-cry of two women who did their shopping together. It was spoken when one discovered the other had sneaked something into her trolley that wasn’t on her shopping list, hence the ‘‘Bitch, it ain’t on the list’’.
It was their way of encouraging each other to stick to their tight shopping budgets.
We all know the wisdom of shopping to a list we have planned. It helps resist temptation in the supermarket where there are so many good things that are bad for our waists and our wealth. Meal-planning for those on tight budgets is essential, if there is ever going to be any money left over to save.
The phrase on the wall stands for all those people and families doing it hard but not pitying themselves, facing up to living within their means with good humour.
It stands for the ‘‘Little and often’’ message Maxwell repeats. Doing little things often is the key to changing money lives.
Save $10 a week, and one day there’s $500 in the account.
Join KiwiSaver, and one day there’s $50,000 there.
Put an extra $20 a week into the mortgage, and with thousands off the interest cost.
The CFC under Maxwell has changed a lot. It used to feel a bit like it was run by and for middleincome New Zealand.
It was awfully polite, very worthy, and its staff were not at all funny. They may not always have got out of the office to talk to people who start sentences with cuss words.
I’d be poorer for not having heard the phrase, though I think my wife might object if I tried to bring it into everyday usage at home.
I think many households have money mantras and phrases. What are yours? I’d love to hear them.
Doing little things often is the key to changing money lives. Save $10 a week, and one day there’s $500 in the account.
Shopping to a list helps avoid impulse purchases.