In 2008, New Zealand was one of the first countries in the OECD to adopt a national strategy for financial literacy.
The strategy was revised in 2014 after wide consultation and became the National Strategy for Financial Capability, supported by over 100 organisations.
In July 2015, commerce and consumer affairs minister Paul Goldsmith said that “building the financial capability of New Zealanders is a government priority”.
Mr Goldsmith said “At the moment almost a third of New Zealanders have low levels of financial knowledge.
If we can improve their financial capability we can improve the wellbeing of our families and communities.”
The key streams to the national strategy are: a cultural shift so people talk about money, financial learning is lifelong, everyone has a financial plan and an emergency fund, uses debt wisely, and saves and invests.
To support the implementation of the strategy, the Commission for Financial Capability has established a cross-government financial capability network with the ministries of education, health, social development, and business, innovation and enterprise, as well as the Inland Revenue Department, the Financial Markets Authority, Treasury, the Reserve Bank, the Commerce Commission and more.
Like most OECD countries, New Zealand has a rapidly ageing population.
Retirement commissioner Diane Maxwell uses the metaphor of a perfect storm when this profound demographic change is combined with the aftermath of the global financial crisis, declining home ownership, easy access to high-cost credit and low financial capability.
She is adamant: “We’ve got to start talking about money.”
To promote public engagement in this critical conversation, Ms Maxwell has broadened the focus of the Commission for Financial Capability, using multiple platforms to connect with communities.
This wider approach does not diminish the value of www.sorted.org.nz, the website launched in 2001 as one of the first achievements of the newly created Retirement Commission. Over time, the site has been upgraded and functions have been added to the calculators, for example, enabling people to save their own data. Since the launch of the KiwiSaver retirement saving scheme in 2007, more resources have been added, including the KiwiSaver fee calculator and a KiwiSaverfund finder. Another addition is the investment planner, operated in partnership with the New Zealand Stock Exchange.
The current rebuild of Sorted will improve its accessibility for mobile devices, and enable uploading of photos and other attachments to make the experience more personal, aiming to attract more visitors aged 18 to 34 years. A further aim is to provide more assistance and information to those at or near retirement. The core services will remain: the A to Z Guides providing clear explanations of everything from compound interest to retirement planning, and the calculators.
Many banks now provide online calculators that perform a similar range of services for their customers. The great advantage of Sorted is its independence. Because it does not have a commercial motive, visitors to Sorted have more trust in the information it provides, and feel secure storing their financial data on the site.