Young Kiwis are much more comfortable carrying debt than those over the age of 45, research by the BNZ has revealed.

Its Financial Futures study showed people aged 18 to 24 were the group most relaxed about debt, with men more so than women.

Of those aged 18 to 24, 37 per cent said the were comfortable to take on a reasonable level of debt, compared to 28 per cent of those aged 45 to 54, and just 23 per cent of over 65s.

But while nearly half (44 per cent) of males aged 18 to 24 were comfortable with a reasonable level of debt just 29 per cent of females in the same age-group were.


Women's comfort with debt peaked between the ages of 25 and 44, when 31 per cent of those surveyed felt comfortable with it, before falling to 19 per cent after the age of 45.

Men's comfort with debt was highest in the 18 to 24 age-group. It fell to 36 per cent for those aged 25 to 34, before rising to 39 per cent of those aged 35 to 44.

After age 45 it fell back to 36 per cent, and 34 per cent of those aged 55 to 64, before hitting 29 per cent of those aged over 65.

Donna Nicolof, head of wealth and private bank at the BNZ, said older generations were raised to live within their means, while younger generations had grown up with borrowing.

"People under the age of 45 have grown up with credit easily available – taking out student loans or using credit cards have become the norm.

"Whereas older people were brought up to live within their means."

Student loans were introduced in New Zealand in 1992, meaning anyone younger than 45 would likely have had access to a loan for studies.

Over 65s were most likely to say they carefully planned for their financial future, with 80 per cent agreeing with that statement, compared to 66 per cent of those 18 to 24 and 35 to 44 years old.

Those aged 35 to 64 were most likely to have a budget.

Despite their appetite for debt, younger people were also more likely to let their finances take care of themselves.

Thirty-eight per cent of 18 to 24 year olds did not have a budget.

The research also drilled deeper into the finances of women and found they were less likely to pay off debt with the highest interest rates first.

Nicolof said it was good financial practice to pay off high-interest debt, such as credit cards, before other lower or no-interest debts.

She said it pointed to poor financial literacy and it may be that some women were not aware of the interest rate on their credit card.

But there was some positive notes for women with more than half those aged 25-64 regularly paying back more than the minimum on their debt.

"This is outstanding as saving and reducing debt are crucial strategies for financial wellbeing. People often ask me what to do if they receive a lump sum, from an inheritance for example, and I always say reduce your debt."

Nicolof said it was also good to see the realisation from about half of women under 25 and nearly as many under 35, who said they could save more if they cut down on some non-essential spending.

"That's a question of prioritising spending such as eating out only for special occasions and entertaining at home.

"It's worth putting even a small amount aside each week throughout your life to take advantage of the benefits of compounding interest over the long term."