Judging the CPA Australia Big Break project yesterday provided a timely opportunity to see young financially literate Kiwis in action.

Four teams of commerce students, four smart presentations analysing the charity Make A Wish Foundation. How does a charity get more money when times are tough and the competition for charitable dollars is tougher than ever? It wasn't an easy brief.

The competition was a Dragon's Den style event, the standard of entries was impressive and the winner - University of Canterbury's Pip Widdon - will represent New Zealand in a final round of competition across the Tasman.

It was timely because next week is Money Week.


It is the inaugural attempt by the government-funded Commission for Financial Literacy and Retirement Income to put a week-long spotlight on investment education.

As a cause of the week it might sound a bit hard-nosed but it is something we need to embrace if we want to improve our investment track record as a nation.

As the finance company debacle of the last decade proved, even a well-educated generation of investors can be caught out by the misrepresentation of financial risk - particularly in an environment where the abnormal has become normal - as the world's attitude to lending and borrowing had become by about 2007.

And financial literacy is not just about being investment savvy. It is about how New Zealanders think about making money from the outset.

The younger we start our kids thinking about how wealth is created the more likely they are to consider business and entrepreneurship as a career option.

The nation actually has a better track record on entrepreneurship than we give ourselves credit for.

But if we want to do better than living off our natural advantages and transform the economy for the better then we are going to have to keep punching above our weight and create more than our fair share of high-value export companies.

We have to do more than our fair share because experience has shown that a large percentage of successful New Zealand start-ups will be snapped up by overseas investors. Sometimes they retain a New Zealand base and sometimes they don't.


The harsh reality of the global market place is that New Zealand probably has to generate twice the number of successful start-ups it would otherwise need if they all followed the likes of Xero and kept their head office based here.

But that's life, and if we keep churning out smart students like the ones that set their minds to boosting the performance of Make A Wish then we won't go too far wrong.

For the record all the presenters in the Big Break Project were focused on developing "apps" to help Make A Wish plug into the rise of smartphones and social media trends. Clearly that's where the buzz is for young people thinking about entrepreneurship.

It might be easy to be cynical about the "gold rush" nature of new technology trends. In business schools the world over thousands upon thousands of young people will be buzzing about creating a killer mobile app and making a $100 million selling it to Facebook or Google. Few will succeed but that isn't really the point.

The technology and the hot ticket product will evolve and change but the greater the pool of young New Zealanders that are engaged in thinking about this sort of thing the greater the number that will go on to succeed at business.

It all starts with dreams and the vision to do something.

After that there is plenty of creativity and hard work required, but unless we get kids dreaming about doing business in the first place the rest will not follow.

So that is an opportunity to be seized in Money Week.

During the week we are going hear plenty about sensible investing, assessing risk and saving for retirement.

These things are important to protect a generation from financial failure.

But they can be daunting and distant topics for youthful minds, we also need to capture imaginations and encourage kids to dream about creating wealth.