New Zealanders could significantly improve their financial literacy levels, which would in turn have a positive impact on their financial wellbeing.
Financial literacy is defined as an individual’s ability to understand financial concepts and use that understanding to make informed decisions regarding planning, saving, and investment.
Financial literacy levels differ demographically and are often lower in specific pockets of the population. Age is a significant factor which impacts on financial literacy levels, with school-aged children often receiving little to no financial education. This fuels the cycle of poor financial literacy, as individuals enter adulthood and full-time employment without the necessary skills to manage financial decisions.
The first step in improving the financial literacy levels of New Zealanders is raising awareness about the importance of developing knowledge and positive behaviours to manage money and make smart decisions.
An example of an initiative raising awareness of financial literacy is Closing the Gap, a New Zealand group I'm part of which was formed with the goal of educating women on investment and encouraging them to actively manage their money. Through workshops and online content, Closing the Gap is actively raising awareness of the persistent gender investment gap, as well as prompting women to take action and invest.
Empower the individual
The next step is to facilitate an individual’s ability to develop their financial knowledge. Deloitte recognises the importance of financial literacy in the education of children, and the importance of developing financial knowledge at a young age. Deloitte Grow is a free programme run in high schools for year 11 and 12 students to educate them on the importance of money and challenging them to apply knowledge and skills to ‘grow’ the money they begin with.
The goal of the program is three fold; to develop skills and increase knowledge on the concept of money growth, increase interest and understanding about business and entrepreneurship, and to positively influence financial behaviour and decision-making. Each student begins with $5 and is encouraged to use their creativity, imagination, experience, knowledge, skills and experience to grow their initial ‘investment’ as much as possible in 4 weeks. At the beginning of the challenge, students are aligned with a Deloitte professional who meets with the students weekly to guide students through the process and coach them in developing the necessary financial behaviours.
Financial capability in business
The importance of empowering the individual applies to businesses too, who can play a key role in supporting and enabling employees and clients to upskill financially. By taking action to raise awareness and encouraging financial education, businesses can facilitate the improvement financial knowledge and independence of a wide range of stakeholders.
The more an individual knows about money, the more they can begin to think about the bigger picture, considering things like how to save towards a house or retirement, what assets to invest in, and the difference between good debt and bad debt. Individuals have a wealth of resources at their disposal, from formal financial advice to using online sources. It all starts with being aware of the problem, and then taking action independently to improve.