"Change is possible," said the airport carpark vending machine.

Was this a personal motivational message or a downbeat election slogan issued on behalf of the Labour Party?

I couldn't tell.

And then the penny dropped.


Given the context, it shouldn't have taken me so long to figure out the machine was simply reassuring long-term carparkers it wouldn't take all their cash.

But words are tricky, so are numbers: when you put them both together in financial education literature the confusion ratio doubles - or does it go up exponentially?

Either way, financial literacy - a major theme of the recent Workplace Savings NZ conference - is tough going.

For Workplace Savings, which represents KiwiSaver schemes, super funds (a dwindling membership base) and associated service providers, the financial literacy issue is looming larger these days. In particular, the new requirement that the nine default KiwiSaver providers have to educate members - somehow - on investment choice is pushing the discussion along.

But the role of the financial industry generally in educating consumers is up for debate.

As the KPMG report highlighted here this week says: "With financial literacy remaining low across the globe, the industry may be expected to provide better advice, information, education and support as investors seek to better manage their personal finances."

As most Workplace Savings speakers declared, technology should be able to solve a large part of the problem. (For example, check out SavvyKiwi, a soon-to-be launched online service designed to help KiwiSaver members make better choices - or any choice.)

However, the Workplace Savings consensus was that a government organisation should also serve as the 'hub' for delivering independent financial literature.


In New Zealand, that's sorted, sort of. The sorted website is just one subsidiary of the Commission for Financial Literacy and Retirement Income (CFLRI).

What is CFLRI? It's difficult to say (and pointless to acromynise). Both these problems will soon be addressed in a renaming ceremony but CFLRI has more substantial work afoot.

In her speech the to Workplace Savings crowd, Dianne Maxwell, CFLRI retirement commissioner, laid out the organisation's plans to engage with 'ordinary New Zealanders' in financial matters, as detailed in its Statement of Intent.

"The game changer is in what people do with the information they have, and how we understand, and remove, the barriers to change," the CFLRI statement says.

Change is possible.

But don't expect too much change from any airport carpark vending machine, no matter how full of good advice it is.