Young Ngai Tahu ahead of the pack on savings

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Young Ngai Tahu people generally have better financial behaviours than others of their age, the survey showed.
Young Ngai Tahu people generally have better financial behaviours than others of their age, the survey showed.

Young people from Ngai Tahu are more likely to be saving for retirement and are more wary of debt than other Kiwis their age, a study has found.

The reason appears to be a savings scheme started by the iwi seven years ago - one year ahead of KiwiSaver's launch.

As part of a two-decade longitudinal study, the Financial Education and Research Centre has surveyed 300 New Zealanders aged between 18 and 22-years old.

Fifty of those surveyed were from Ngai Tahu, a Maori iwi from the South Island.

The study found some key similarities existed between Ngai Tahu and other young people, such as a reliance on parents for money advice.

However, young Ngai Tahu were more likely to have retirement savings other than Kiwisaver and were also more likely to have attended financial management classes at school, and to have found those classes helpful.

Dr Claire Matthews - who carried out the study with fellow Massey University academic Jeff Stangl - pointed to the importance of a savings scheme run by Ngai Tahu.

Young people from the iwi were found to have positive views about the Whai Rawa scheme, which was introduced in 2006.

"In particular, many see Whai Rawa as likely to be a major contributor to their retirement savings," said Matthews.

Whai Rawa is a medium to long-term savings scheme aimed at building the wealth of Ngai Tahu, which can be joined alongside KiwiSaver.

Ngai Tahu people can join the scheme at any age and the iwi matches contributions from members at 4:1 for children and 1:1 for adult members, up to a maximum of $200 per annum.

All operating costs, other than investment fees, are met by the iwi and the scheme invests in a conservative fund managed by Mercer.

Andrew Scott, Whai Rawa programme manager, said one-third of the iwi was signed up to the scheme, including 60 per cent of under-16-year olds.

People could leave their savings for retirement (from age 55) or withdraw them for home purchases and tertiary education, Scott said.

"We're finding it's encouraging them to take on tertiary study after school. There are strong benefits (of Whai Rawa)."

Members can also withdraw in certain special circumstance, normally serious hardship.

Scott said the findings of the study were "a positive result" for the iwi.

"We are always looking for new ways to assist our people improve their wellbeing."

Matthews said the report formed a valuable base-line on the tribe's financial literacy and would be useful for Ngai Tahu in the long-term.

One less impressive finding of the study was that some young Ngai Tahu were content to pay only the minimum on their credit cards.

"We can see from our research that young Ngai Tahu, like other young people, do try to avoid credit cards where possible and are wary of credit card debt, however, preliminary results also show us that some young Ngai Tahu are less likely to place importance on repaying their monthly accounts in full compared to others in the study," Matthews said.

The Financial Education and Research Centre - a joint venture between Massey and Westpac - will re-interview the group every five years for the next 20 years, to discuss their financial habits.

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