Covid-19 has given many Kiwis a sharp reality check on their finances.
For new Retirement Commissioner Jane Wrightson, it has been a crash course in how under-prepared people are to lose their income or face financial hardship.
Wrightson, a former chief executive of New Zealand On Air, was a surprise appointment to the role in November last year.
She stepped into the job in early February - six weeks before the country was plunged into a lockdown which saw scores of people asked to take pay cuts, others left without an income and many worried about what their future held.
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"In the first week of lockdown the calls we fielded were amazing," Wrightson says. And not in a good way.
"They were saying people were taking money out of their KiwiSaver accounts, and to stop it.
"They were convinced the Government was taking money out of their [KiwiSaver] account."
What was actually happening was a major global sharemarket meltdown which hit its worst point around the time the New Zealand lockdown began.
Kiwis watched in horror as their KiwiSaver account balances slumped and thousands of dollars dropped off their nest-eggs.
It was a sharp lesson for many that the retirement savings vehicle is an investment fund - not a savings account - and that the value of its investments can go down as well as up.
Balances have bounced back since then, but not before an estimated $1.4 billion worth of investment money was switched into conservative funds - making paper losses into real ones.
Wrightson says other calls the commission received were from people desperate to get some or all of their money out of KiwiSaver or to find out how to take a mortgage holiday.
"They were saying I need to get all my money out now."
Research by the Commission For Financial Capability, which Wrightson heads in her role, found 10 per cent of people had already missed a rent or mortgage payment and 34 per cent were facing financial difficulties.
"You could absolutely understand the panic - it showed you how fragile the financial resilience is in the country - we don't have buffers - which is a huge issue for all of us.
"I know people will say it is all very well for you to say that, the point is we absolutely understand the problems. It is about low income and high debt, and those are the conversations we need to be having with Government and with each other."
The Government received a lot of blow-back from businesses over increasing the minimum wage on April 1, but Wrightson is adamant it had to happen.
"It was still the right thing to do."
And she says the quick response to give people the wage subsidy was "astonishing".
But it hasn't solved the wider issues many New Zealanders have over a lack of financial resilience, with nothing set aside for rainy days.
For Wrightson, the crisis provided not just an insight, but also an opportunity to get to know an industry which she had never dealt with before.
"In all crises there are opportunities," she says. "I have had many conversations on Zoom and Teams in the last month with a pretty wide range of people in the industry that has been enormously helpful in my learning curve.
"The industry itself - leaders I have been talking to - are probably more in a space than ever to think about shouldering the collective responsibility; how can industry, government and those working out of the community help ... how can we work collectively to shift some dials?"
Wrightson says she will take lessons from the recent crisis to help further shape New Zealand's national strategy for financial capability.
"[It] is one of those strategies which sounds good until you realise it has been sitting on the shelf and people box tick it.
"But there is an opportunity now for those of us who are parts of the same jigsaw to be talking quite intensely about what we can do to improve New Zealanders' financial resilience, to send messages to Government about the things that would make the biggest difference and to support NZers who are going to need it more than ever in the coming months."
Wrightson might not have knowledge of New Zealand's financial sector, but she has had plenty of experience of working with government over the years.
Born and bred in Hastings, she moved to Wellington as a teenager to study for a law degree at Victoria University.
"I failed it miserably and got some of the worst grades I have ever had in my life. I staggered out of there with a BA in English literature - which of course is enormously helpful," she jokes.
With no contacts in Wellington, she struggled to get her first job and ended up working for a recruitment agency before landing at TVNZ.
Wrightson admits that growing up, she gave little thought to a career plan.
"I didn't have one. I had ambition to do interesting work and I always knew I would be a career woman - which was a thing in the 70s - you had a stark choice about being the 'career woman' or thinking about marriage and children - and that really wasn't quite for me."
Fortunately, she landed on her feet at TVNZ and moved up the ranks to become head of commissioned programmes before moving to the role of chief film censor.
From there she moved to NZ on Air in her first stint as TV manager before returning for a second time at the agency, in the top job as chief executive.
The shift to retirement savings is a big change.
"It is and I was most scared about that and thinking it was a really deep, crunchy, high numeracy requirement and I had to understand the finance industry stuff and it's not that at all - which is really helpful because I don't think I would be good at that."
She says the sector reminds her a bit of the media. "It is full of opinionated, intelligent people who are reasonably convinced their view of the world is the right one - sometimes that's true and sometimes that is not correct.
"It has got an interface with the community sector and an interface with Government. I am quite used to walking those tightropes. The core skill you need is common sense and an ability to listen and cut through complicated conversations because they are complicated issues."
Wrightson is not afraid to admit she hasn't always made the best decisions when it comes to money.
"What did I do in my first job? Cashed up my super and bought a car - for God's sake, young people - hopeless - this young person really hopeless."
She describes herself as a "haphazard saver".
"I'm not a spender - I'm not a great shopper although in my later years I have discovered international travel.
"I have always been quite good a putting a portion of money away and this of course is the godsend of KiwiSaver, which wasn't there when I started in the workforce. Anything that takes away some money at the beginning of the week, that you never see and think about, is generally a good thing.
"What I was useless at was applying basic knowledge and investment skill - taking regular advice and taking regular stock takes. I think I am probably fairly typical of women of my generation except the accountants who are all generally quite good at this stuff."
Wrightson says often the knowledge is there but it's how to apply it that can be challenge.
Most people know they should spend less than they earn but doing it in practice is another thing altogether.
"If you are looking at it from a systemic New Zealand problem, the trouble with the panic we have seen around Covid - and it is real panic - is that we are a country that doesn't save enough and a country with low incomes, and this is a pretty toxic combination when a financial shock happens."
Wrightson says Covid is having an impact on virtually everyone's finances.
"It is hitting people in retirement who are trying to live off bank accounts that are paying 1.5 per cent. It is hitting people close to retirement - the last five or 10 years of pre-retirement when you should be salting it away because you should be mortgage-free and you are not.
"It is hitting young people because they are further away on the housing ladder. So it is hard. And I don't have any obvious answers to any of this other than to reinforce the basics."
She says if it is humanly possible - and you are not on the breadline - spend less than you earn.
"Put a bit of money away - even if it is $5 a week - try and get a buffer of at least three months [worth of bills] - if you can. It will take you a while. All these things help you withstand a shock."
She says if people can do that, when the next shock hits they will have money to tap into, leaving KiwiSaver for only the very worst-case scenarios.
"So that if you have to get into KiwiSaver it really is an emergency. And then get budgeting advice first."
And if you do find yourself in financial difficulty, don't panic: take a moment to think and get advice from experts.
"The message is do not panic - but do start to think - people will help you, but you need to be clear-headed."
• Job: Retirement Commissioner
• Born and grew up: In Hastings
• Qualifications: Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English from Victoria University and an MBA with distinction from Massey University
• Career: Began her career working for TVNZ, working her way up to become head of commissioned programmes before becoming the chief film censor at the Department of Internal Affairs. Moved to NZ on Air for the first time in 1994, becoming the television manager and deputy chief executive. Then moved into a succession of chief executive roles, first at the Screen Producers Association, then at the Broadcasting Standards Authority and finally back at NZ on Air where she was CEO for 13 years. She became the Retirement Commissioner in February.
• Age: 62
• Family: She has an adult daughter
• Last book read: Aue
• Last movie seen: Documentary on Robert Fisk
• Last overseas holiday: A trip to Guatemala, Belize, Cuba and Mexico City which was a trip of a lifetime with her daughter in January.