Can we become better financial citizens? The idea for this article came from a young person who has next to no money, but still puts 10 per cent of every dollar earned into a charity account.
Giving to charity isn't unusual of course. Even for those on low incomes. And nor is altruism/philanthropy the only aspect of becoming a better financial citizen. Every decision we make with our financial resources can be turned around for good.
The overarching concept of being a better financial citizen is nicely categorised by Sorted.org.nz's Tom Hartmann. He refers to "stewardship" of your money. That's the idea our money and other resources should be managed sustainably to help ourselves and others and ensure that less harm is done as a result of our use of those resources.
Sharing with others less fortunate than ourselves is of course one of the most obvious ways to be a better financial citizen. That can be giving your time, your money, or sometimes donating things you own.
Being better financial citizens is something that looms large in the thinking of Perpetual Guardian's Andrew Barnes and Charlotte Lockhart, who point out that you don't need to be wealthy. Giving 20c from every $2, or giving your time at the football club's sausage sizzle are both examples. Plenty of Kiwis use payroll giving, where their donations are deducted each payday.
Outside of the office, Barns and Lockhart, who describe themselves as entrepreneurs and philanthropists. give some of their wealth to good causes. But not just any good cause.
Better financial citizenship in this way requires thought. For example, Lockhart ponders the phenomenon of Givealittle, where individuals with needs seek money direct from donors.
She wonders whether money might be better spent donating to charities that support people in need. This should ensure a greater impact through a coordinated response.
The four-day week being promoted by Perpetual Guardian would enable more Kiwis to give their time to charity, she adds.
Other ways to become a better financial citizen include:
Good financial citizens choose their banks, KiwiSaver, insurers, and other financial providers carefully to ensure the most good and the least harm is done. Think beyond just keeping the fees down when you invest, says Hartmann. It's all well and good to choose "ethical" investments. You could go one step further and choose providers that do good rather than just avoiding those whose products do bad.
Pay your taxes
Hartmann points out that being a better financial citizen also includes how we engage with the government and pay our taxes. This contributes to the good of society.
Hartmann doesn't want to promote one company, but he suggested taking a locally owned Zoomy rideshare rather than the overseas multinational Uber.
Think of the of the environment
A comment that appears regularly on the Zero Waste in NZ! Facebook group is we don't need a few people living the ethical life perfectly. We need hundreds, thousands and millions, doing it imperfectly, but each making a small difference. An example is buying a single sustainably sourced Untouched World T-shirt instead of five from a fast-fashion outlet.
Budget for good
It ensures you're not spending too much in unnecessary areas and knowing where your dollars are going. Sue Eggels from Christians Against Poverty, which provides budgeting advice and runs financial literacy courses, says being in control of your money and not having your finances control you is an essential part of being a good financial citizen.
Be kinder to yourself
We might be by borrowing too much, be too generous with family or not spend anything on ourselves. Being kind to yourself includes saving up rainy day money and contributing to your retirement savings. Don't spend your future earnings (borrow) before you receive that money, says Hartmann. If you're from the rare breed of Kiwi who spends zero on themselves, being kind might be budgeting a small sum of "me money".