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Are you surprised just 34 per cent of New Zealanders can access $3000 easily if they need it?

Even in households earning $100,000 plus only 50 per cent can access that amount easily. That's the research findings of the Commission for Financial Capability.

I'm not at all surprised. You'd have to be living in the backblocks of this country for years not to know that for thousands of New Zealanders a surplus $3000 tucked away, for a rainy day perhaps, is a far distant dream.

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Not likely to come true any time soon. Many of these families live on struggle street every day. I hear often "well they should look at what they're spending their money on" or "I bet they don't have a budget and if they do they probably don't stick to it". We're so good at judging and knowing what's good for "those people".

But what's interesting is when you look a little closer at those who preach financial responsibility and money management you often see that with them all is not as rosy as it should be either.

My friend who made himself a millionaire selling insurance before he turned 30 told me he can't believe people still take money advice from financial advisers who are barely making ends meet.


They have never practised what they preach. He believes we can live without debt when we change our thinking about money and how we spend it. Funny that, isn't this what happens when we change our thinking about most things. If we have a weight problem, change how we think about food. An alcohol problem, change how we think about alcohol. Changing our thinking can help in most situations where change is needed.

You'd have to be living in the backblocks of this country for years not to know that for thousands of New Zealanders a surplus $3000 tucked away, for a rainy day perhaps, is a far distant dream.

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The families I'm very concerned about wouldn't even have a spare $300. And it's difficult to talk about poverty to those who live comfortable lives. They can be quite indifferent to struggling families. It's their own fault of course. Poverty isn't about living in the gutter, begging.

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Poverty is about lack. Not having enough of the basics to get by. Poor or inadequate housing, unemployment with little or no income to meet every day needs, health worries that get worse not better. These families tell me trying to get debt free is knowing what depression is like. A dark cloud that never lifts.

Affordable housing would go a long way in lifting these families out of debt. Housing costs eat up much of their meagre income. With the families I come across, their number one wish is to be debt free. They want to lighten their load. Their other two top wishes are to have better health and to have more time for the family. Debt can be a killer. Literally. It weighs you down. Effects your mood and relationships suffer too. One of the main reasons given for relationship breakups is "financial problems". It takes its toll on a relationship especially if one partner assumed that having someone to share their life with, meant they'd be financially better off. Often not the case.

We all have debt from time to time. A manageable loan or mortgage, even credit cards if you pay the bills when due. But debt can become addictive and after a while considered normal.

If just 34 per cent of New Zealanders can access $3000 easily then how well are the other 66 per cent doing? Anyone can get into financial trouble. But not everyone can get out of it. We need to have support for families to manage through challenging times. Support that builds rapport, trust and assists them in taking the necessary steps to do what has to be done. To take action. Support that is on the ground every day, working with them to plan for a better debt-free future.

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait is a Rotorua district councillor, Lakes District Health Board member and chairs the North Island Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency. She writes, speaks and broadcasts to thwart political correctness