New Zealanders aren't great at saving, a survey of 2000 people by the Financial Services Council has found.
The survey also found that more than a third of the public would not be able to pay its mortgage or rent and bills beyond a month if it lost jobs.
The study is the first of a three-part research project.
Financial Services Council chief executive Richard Klipin said that money needed to be a national conversation.
"Being good with money is a special language and we need to get to speak it a whole lot more effectively because when the rainy day comes we need to be able to tap into our savings and resources. Sadly, there has not been too much improvement," he said.
He hoped the Covid-19 pandemic would get people to "rethink, relearn and restart the conversation".
"The research found that only 21 per cent of us actually feel like we're in control of our finances."
He said there was a link between relationships, overall health, wealth and wellbeing.
As the pandemic took off, he said spending had dropped.
"It hopefully gave us all an opportunity to pause and reflect what do we actually spend our money on, what gives us happiness ... and maybe it is not going out every night or getting those takeaways. Maybe it is about paying ourselves first, saving first."
In March, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said a universal basic income was one of the options being considered to help people who lose their jobs or face uncertainty.