If only financial institutions could get their message across as effectively as the legendary Sonny Day managed in his bluesy 1984 interpretation of the Bruce Springsteen song Saving Up.

"We'd better start saving up, for the things that money can't buy," Day wails in the midst of a saxophone-saturated chorus.

Financial institutions, however, have a much more serious, materialistic line to peddle: guitars and mini-skirts might not be deemed appropriate.

Instead, the New Zealand public has been bashed over the head during the last week or so by a barrage of surveys telling us we'd better start saving up for the things money can buy.


This week two banks, the ANZ and ASB, added their voices to the chorus, following on from a communique issued by investment/insurance industry lobby group the Financial Services Council and an earlier report published by Mercer, which I covered in a previous blog.

And all right, OK, we get the point, maybe New Zealanders aren't saving enough to fund a comfortable retirement but it could be they're saving us much as they can under the circumstances.

According to the most recent Statistics New Zealand figures, the median weekly pre-tax income of all New Zealanders over 15 (approximately 3.46 million people) was $550 as at June 2011.

For employed people (about 2.1 million individuals), the median weekly income sat at $820. Breaking that down even further into quintiles (lovely word), Statistics NZ identified only 690,000 people who earned over $1,080 per week - from all sources.

There's not a lot of fat in New Zealand.

Almost 2 million people have signed up to KiwiSaver (of which maybe 1.6 million are contributing members if you subtract the holiday-makers and children) - they're trying to save, really.

Even ASB's head of wealth admitted that New Zealand does have a low level of poverty for retired people - an admirable statistic, which reflects well on the current retirement income system.

Without a doubt that retirement income system is coming under pressure as countless surveys and global experts have pointed out.

It's not just down to the aging population, but also lifestyle expectations. As Turnball highlighted, today's oldies are used to getting by on nothing.

"People growing up today are much bigger consumers. Unless they save there is going to be sharp shock," he said.

They better start saving up for the things that money can't buy.