NZ tops Asia-Pacific region for money skills

By Ben Chapman-Smith

New Zealanders are apparently the most financially literate in the Asia-Pacific region.
New Zealanders are apparently the most financially literate in the Asia-Pacific region.

New Zealanders are the most money-savvy people in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the latest financial literacy survey.

MasterCard asked 12,000 from 27 countries about their level of understanding in three areas - basic money management skills, investment knowledge and financial planning.

New Zealand topped the region with an overall score on the financial literacy index of 74 points, up from 73 last year.

The country's closest rivals were Singapore (72 points), and Taiwan, Australia and Hong Kong, all with 71 points.

Of the three components, Kiwis came first for their overall basic money management skills, which includes day-to-day budgeting, keeping up with bills and setting money aside for big purchases. Australia was second in this area.

New Zealanders were further down the list for their financial planning skills, in 13th place, and were 4th in the region for their understanding of financial investment.

Albert Naffah, country manager for MasterCard NZ, said Kiwis were thinking about their financial futures and actively managing their money.

"These results are a positive sign that New Zealanders are taking responsibility for understanding their financial positions," he said.

"This is welcome news on the back of the six-year anniversary of KiwiSaver, which has had a strong uptake from New Zealanders since its inception and will have helped to kick-start many Kiwis retirement savings habits."

Naffah said the tough economic times had driven home the importance of sound budgeting.

Another major survey carried out this year found New Zealanders had little problem grasping key financial concepts but were struggling to put their knowledge into action.

The Financial Knowledge and Behaviour Survey ranked Kiwis highly for their level of financial literacy compared to other OECD countries.

But while 85 per cent of Kiwis understood what a budget was and 73 per cent believed having a budget was beneficial, only 61 per cent actually had one in place.

Similarly, 91 per cent believed it was important to have a will but only 59 per cent had drawn one up.

Sean Hughes, the outgoing Financial Markets Authority chief executive, has in the past referred to New Zealand's levels of financial literacy as "appalling".

Diane Maxwell, the newly appointed Retirement Commissioner, is hot on the topic of raising financial literacy among women.

Maxwell says women are often caught up in how they feel about making a financial decision while men have their calculators out doing the numbers.

More than half of the 2.1 million people signed up to KiwiSaver are female but some research has suggested women's nest eggs may be as much as 30 per cent behind their male counterparts.

The MasterCard Index of Financial Literacy survey was conducted between April and May this year. This was the third survey since 2010.

In New Zealand, 500 participants aged between 18 and 64-years old were surveyed.

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