The Commission for Financial Capability's (CFFC) annual Money Week ends tomorrow.
Money Week, now in its seventh year, is a public awareness campaign aimed at empowering New Zealanders to manage their personal finances.
It's an excellent way to encourage individuals and the wider community (including the Government, media, employers and financial advisers) to get involved and raise financial awareness, including the need to build financial resilience.
"To be really resilient as a population we need to know that we can weather the big financial hits of an unexpected event," said the head of the CFFC, Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell.
Financial Advice NZ chief executive Katrina Shanks said: "It is important for New Zealanders to have a conversation about financial resilience and advisers should be part of that conversation."
What is financial resilience?
"Resilience" tends to be defined as flourishing despite adversity or bouncing back quickly from difficult situations.
Financial resilience is often considered as simply ensuring an emergency cash fund is available to cover against unforeseen expenses.
Important though that is, to be truly financially resilient, you also need to have the ability to adapt your financial arrangements, in response to both changing personal circumstances and wider economic conditions over which you have no control, such as periods of share market volatility.
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What are the key elements of financial resilience?
• Awareness – access to good sources of education, guidance and advice
• Focus – a dedicated plan to build savings to fund future life goals – for example KiwiSaver
• Adaptability – the capacity to change your financial plans in response to changing personal circumstances
• Insight – not being unduly influenced by the daily media noise of boom or bust, or underestimating your potential life expectancy beyond age 65
The risks of not being financially resilient
People are generally creatures of habit. Financial habits will have been built up over a lifetime, influenced by past experiences – good or bad - of banking, buying financial and insurance products and receiving advice.
Many will often stay with the same bank or provider, either out of inertia or convenience, even when there are better options available. Conversely, others will be seduced by slick marketing campaigns promoting low-cost alternatives that may not adequately address their specific requirements.
As a result, many people are not sufficiently equipped with the awareness and confidence needed to deal with financial decisions as their personal circumstances change, whether it be having children, seeking to buy a first home, or planning life post-65.
Against a backdrop of constant media "noise" on share market ups and downs, KiwiSaver articles and product launches, it is understandable that people will struggle to navigate their own way through the financial maze. This potentially increases the risk of them buying or being sold products that do not adequately serve their longer-term financial needs.
Improving financial awareness – who can help?
It would be naive to expect any behavioural change from the media, in whose interests it is to ensure we are fed a daily diet of financial news – good or bad.
The best antidote would be to follow one or two trusted sources that help you filter out the noise and pick up the right signal.
Clearly, Financial Advisers, product providers and the Government regulators all have an important role to play in enhancing the education, standards and, in the last resort, consumer protections. The current Government is being proactive on this with proposed regulatory changes currently before the House.
There is also an important role for employers too, as often employers are the first port of call by their staff for information about KiwiSaver, or other financial or insurance services. Medium-large employers, in particular, can help facilitate staff awareness through workplace seminars with a trusted adviser.
Finally, pick a financial navigator
If life was simple and predictable, there would be less of a need to be financially resilient, but life is rarely certain, so everybody is required to make frequent financially significant decisions.
Statistically, 80 per cent of 65-year-old men can now expect to live to age 90, and 65-year-old women until age 94. With retirement potentially lasting 25 years, or even longer, there will be inevitable changes to your personal circumstances, be it due to health, family or the economy. As such, having financial resilience, and the support of a trusted adviser, becomes an imperative.
• Geoff Wilson is the newly appointed KiwiSaver Adviser at Stewart Group – a Hawke's Bay-based independent financial advisory firm based in Hastings. Stewart Group provides Employer Chosen KiwiSaver Scheme & Group Insurance services for small, medium and large employers.
• The information provided, or any opinions expressed in this article, are of a general nature only and should not be construed or relied on as a recommendation to invest in a financial product or class of financial products. You should seek financial advice specific to your circumstances from an Authorised Financial Adviser before making any financial decisions. A disclosure statement can be obtained free of charge by calling 0800 878 96