Money and You is a resource designed to help grow the financial confidence and wellbeing of Kiwis. It’s an initiative of non-profit member organisation the Financial Services Council (FSC).
Our research has found that money is impacting our physical health, mental health, relationships with family and friends, and our overall wellbeing. There has also been a strong link between the pandemic and our feelings of wellbeing, too.
Our first episode of Money and You looks at how COVID-19 has impacted our wellbeing, and what we can do about it.
We spoke to two inspiring women who know a thing or two about wellbeing:
Genevieve Mora, Co-Founder of mental health charity Voices of Hope
Anita Flowers, Diversity and Inclusion Engagement and Wellbeing Lead at MAS
Watch the episode here – which was filmed during Level 4 lockdown in August 2021 – or read the conversation below.
Important note: This episode was filmed during the second week of the Level 4 lockdown in August 2021, so video and sound quality may not be of the usual standard.
Welcome and thank you for joining the very first episode of Money and You.
Gen: Thank you for having me – for having both of us! It’s cool to be here.
Anita: Thank you.
Gen, what are some of the things that you've noticed among the Voices of Hope community? What sort of things have you been hearing from people?
Gen: It's interesting, it depends on who I've talked to. I've spoken to a few people who had really exciting milestones like their school ball and things coming up that they'd really been holding on to and looking forward to. And I think there are a bunch of people that are really over it, and just you know, another lockdown changes everything up.
The thing that I've heard the most from people is it's the uncertainty of knowing how long we're going to be in this. And for a lot of people they'll be like, I wish they just said to me, we're going to be in this place for eight weeks, rather than getting to the Monday and being told it's another week – because you can't plan ahead. And you know, it's quite hard to live with that uncertainty. So I think the lack of control, and the uncertainty has been challenging for people as well.
For many there’s also the loneliness issue. I think it's an interesting time. We see a lot more people connecting online, when and where they're able to do that. But it's different than connecting with people face to face, and I think people do miss that.
So I think it's been really interesting in terms of people's experiences. It's been a mixture of things depending on who I talk to. But the general consensus has been if it goes on any longer, I think we'll go a bit mad. So yeah, short and sweet, people are hoping.
And Anita, what have you noticed among your whānau and your community – and perhaps your colleagues as well?
Anita: Yeah, I echo what Gen said, the biggest thing I've heard is about the uncertainty and the short timeframes. Like she said, if we'd been told we’re in this lockdown for this many weeks, people would be able to plan things a little bit better. It's just the uncertainty that's really rattling some people.
On the flip side of that, I have heard a lot of our parents say that this time round, it's a lot easier. They feel that there's not as much pressure on them to school their kids, and that they are taking things a little bit easier. And it seems to just be a little bit more relaxed in terms of the expectations around what parents need to do, and what Zoom calls are going to happen for their kids and that sort of thing.
So like Gen, it's been a real mixed bag as to who I talk to, but the general gist of it is the uncertainty around the timing. But that even though there is a bit of uncertainty, it seems a little bit easier this time around – for the majority. There are some who have expressed a real challenge this time round with the isolation, and there are some different circumstances. We've had some people who have moved to different areas, or they've had relationship breakups. So this time around is a little bit different, and for those people it's been really challenging. It's been just a matter of really keeping in contact with them and making sure that they are okay, and they still do have that connection.
But we also have those people who are quite enjoying it, myself included! It gives me an excuse to hermit without having to make excuses for going out.
Generally over the last year and a half how has this pandemic impacted you?
Anita: Yeah, I think it's had quite a big impact, actually, the last year and a half. I think more so than I'd like to admit sometimes. But I think priority wise, it's brought to light a few things that actually are priorities for me. One of them has been running. I've picked up running in the last year and a half, and I love it. And it has been amazing for my mental wellbeing, for my family, that don't have to put up with grumpy me!
On the topic of money, it has made me really look at what I'm doing and how I'm spending. I've learned that I can spend a lot unnecessarily. And so while I think I'm quite good with money, it's made me really look at what I'm doing with my finances and where we sit.
Overall, I think that the past year and a half has given me a really good opportunity to reflect on where I am in life and where we are as a whānau and what is important to myself. Yes, that's how it's been for me – running, lots of running.
And Gen, how about you? Any running for you?
Gen: Running and I don't get on – we have a love hate relationship. Actually we just have a hate hate relationship!
I think the biggest thing I've learned over the last year or the biggest learning curve from all this has been how to adjust to different situations. I think with that comes the flexibility side of things. You know, I left my job. I was working at a primary school until December of 2019 and decided to jump into Voices of Hope. And I was only being paid part time but working full time and I was like well I just need to give it my all to be able to get it going and moving. And then COVID happened.
So it was kind of like this moment of I'm going to do this and then oh wait, but we've got COVID now which means less donations coming in and less ability to serve our campaigns, all that sort of stuff. So it was literally to adjust. If anything I've just learned throughout this year, year and a half, two years, however long it's been now, just to be more resilient, which I think is a really important lesson. And, you know, we learn that through challenges like this as well, I've just learned to be really, really grateful for what I do have. Which I think is something we can all work on.
So we've been talking a lot about wellbeing sort of in a broader sense. I'd love to get your thoughts on financial wellbeing more specifically, and what it means to be financially well. Anita, why does money impact our wellbeing so much – and should it?
Anita: I think that's a really good question. And I hate to say it, but you need money to survive. And if you don't have it, the stress and the discomfort that comes with worrying about where you're going to get your next meal, if you can pay your power bill, has a real impact on both physical and mental wellbeing, not only the person who's trying desperately to look after themselves and their family, but also the people who are impacted by that.
It's the security around being able to live and live comfortably – not well off – just comfortably, and not having to worry and stress. That's the big thing.
As a personal example, when I was younger, I had my children exceptionally young. Growing up with my children was really tough financially. There weren't benefits and things back in the day that could help and what there was, was very, very little so I really struggled to put food on the table, to just have the real bare essentials needed for school – things like that.
It's taken a really, really long time and a lot of hard work, a lot of learning curves, a lot of mistakes, a lot of, you know, credit scores down in the dumps and building back up, and really taking an interest in money and financial wellbeing for me to get to a point now where I'm feeling comfortable, and I'm in a really lucky position to be able to have some luxuries that I've worked hard for, but know that I'm very lucky to have as well.
I think financial wellbeing is hugely important, and feeling safe and secure, and just having the bare minimum that you need to survive.
Gen: Like you said, it's having that sense of security of being able to meet your needs, and to I guess be somewhat content with what you do have and where you are at.
And I just think it's so important. Because if you're not able to meet your needs, basic needs, like you know, food, water, shelter, etc., whatever it may be for the individual, and you don't have that security of if you're gonna be able to pay your rent the next week, that does impact your mental health and wellbeing because it causes anxiety and stress and low moods and confusion. And that's not healthy for anyone. So yeah, it definitely does impact.
And that's why I also believe that financial wellbeing is really important. And I also am a strong believer, and that's why I love that things like this exist, that we need more education in that space. Growing up, you know, I was lucky to come from privilege, and I'm not afraid to admit that.
But you know, there could have been more discussion around money in school and how to manage your money and what to do with your money and what it means to have KiwiSaver and, you know, have a bank account and all that sort of stuff, which I think would benefit people as well as their wellbeing greatly.
Anita: I actually agree. And I think that on the education piece, something that I think is really important is not only do we start discussing money, and what we do with money early, but actually really make sure that it's targeted to their environment.
So really making sure that that we're talking about money in the context of if you are from a Pasifika family, what does that look like? What does that mean to you? How can we talk to you about looking after your money or what you do with your money? What does it mean for a Māori family? What does that look like? What does it mean for a family from an LGBTQ perspective? You know, what does it mean from each individual child's environment?
But getting in there and teaching the basics as well. It's just so important, and I don't think we do it well within New Zealand yet. I think that we've got some really good opportunity to get in there and educate New Zealand tamariki.
Gen: It can't be a sort of blanket approach can it, because what someone needs and wants, and all that sort of stuff is going to be different for each individual person and how people provide for their families might differ between different families. And all that sort of stuff. I really like that. Yeah, I like that point.
Anita, you mentioned before that you were a young mother and sort of had to learn those lessons as you were going by making mistakes. Was there anything that you particularly took from that time that you've learned to navigate a bit better or differently?
Anita: I think what I've taken away and what I've learned over the years is that now I'm quite careful with my money. Rather than making a rash decision – and don't get me wrong, I can (and do!) go and spend and do a good shop here and there – but I'm quite careful now with how I plan what I'm doing with my money.
And for example, we purchased a home which is wonderful after a lot of saving and hard work and using some KiwiSaver. And what I've done is actually taken some time to understand what that home loan means, what it looks like, and what's going to get me to paying off that home loan as quickly as possible. But still also allowing myself a little bit of luxury of living and not being not putting everything I have into the house.
So I think over the years I've just learned to be careful and not frivolous and really look at what's important in my life right now. And where do those funds need to go, what do I need to be concentrating on.
Yesterday we had my grandson's birthday, and there were no shops open and essentials for toys.
I had budgeted a certain amount to buy him toys and have a celebration and we were going to have the party at our place. Because that didn't happen I had a little bit of extra money in the pot if you like and went down to New World and bought up all the toys on the shelf that I could find.
It’s being careful making sure that I'm focusing in on what's important at that moment in time or what I need to be looking at, like registrations or warrants or anything like that, that has been my biggest takeaway. And you know what else I've learned is that it's okay if you've only got rice and peas and soy sauce in the cupboard. And it's okay to make a make a meal of that!
Gen, you've recently become a homeowner. Has that experience helped you develop some of your money know-how and learn along the way as well?
Gen: Yeah, I’ve grown up in a very loving family, I've always been aware of how lucky I am growing up. So it was never a question of being an ungrateful kid or anything like that. But I've been with my partner Izak for a while now. And we just bought our first home, which again, we feel very lucky to be able to do and we moved 30 minutes out of Auckland so that we could get something more in our price range.
I've learned a lot over the last – what has it been – five, six months, that's probably the most I've learned about money ever. And, you know, mortgages, KiwiSaver. I now realise how important KiwiSaver was for me without even realising how important it was until I bought a house.
Also, we've been doing a lot of budgeting. I think for us a lot of it's, you know, like Anita said, being able to live in the moment and have your needs but also be able to treat yourself every now and then that's really important to us. We don't just want to be you know, slaving away and paying off the mortgage and not be living but you know, barely surviving.
A part of it is also future thinking. I'm recently engaged as well and so we're planning for a wedding and doing budgets around all that sort of stuff while also paying off the house. It's a bit of a nightmare, but we're making it work. But yeah, just forward thinking and budgeting, and I guess since owning my own home, I’ve become more careful with my money. It's more about my needs as opposed to my wants. Now I'm much more cautious. I just bought a new phone because I needed to and I avoided doing that for as long as I possibly could because I was like my old one’s fine. The sound doesn't work, so it really wasn't fine. No one could hear me when they called me back. Yeah, I guess needs versus wants while also treating yourself here and there.
I like the treat yourself message.
Anita: I think that's really important. I think that too often we are so hard on people for spending a little bit on themselves. Whereas actually you know what, it's okay to do that. And it's okay to put that in your budget that you have a little bit of whatever you call it spending money or entertainment or whatever someone calls it. It's really important and I think that actually links through to wellbeing because you don't want to feel like every single cent that you earn goes on bills and sometimes that does and if it does, then that's okay. But if you can, if you can pop $5 or $2 even aside and go, you know what, actually, I'm going to go down and get that chocolate bar I want – that's okay.
Gen: Completely agree.
I thought we'd wrap it up by just asking for your top tips on wellbeing. Anita, what would be your top tips to stay on top of your financial wellbeing or your wellbeing more generally?
Anita: I think in terms of wellbeing in general, you know, everyone talks about getting outside, getting some fresh air and doing a little bit of exercise. And I wholeheartedly believe that that has a massive impact on your wellbeing. So I think if you can, when you can, if you can get outside, get some fresh air, eat well – as well as you can – that stuff really does help physically.
Also just connecting in with those you love or those who you have a connection with and talking and being upfront and honest. And sharing your feelings and thoughts. Getting that out is so important.
For your wellbeing, for your mental and your physical wellbeing, holding in thoughts is no good. Well, some thoughts you can keep inside! But when it comes to your wellbeing, let's get sharing.
And for financial wellbeing, I would say the same thing really is to actually talk about it. You know, let's normalise talking about finances and financial wellbeing. It's okay to talk about money. I know that money can be a real head-butting conversation in relationships and I don't think it needs to be.
Budget – I know everyone talks about how you’ve got to have a budget, but you do. If you can have a budget and you can stick to a budget you can come out the other end and you can have a little bit of fun with it afterwards if you're lucky enough to. But yeah, I think my biggest thing is let's talk about wellbeing – financially physically, emotionally. The whole lot.
Gen: In terms of wellbeing especially over this time, my top tips...
Human connection, so making sure you're connecting with those around you. You can do that through FaceTime or Zoom. I think it's really important to keep that up.
I think it's also really important to distance yourself from the news sometimes or rely on one reliable news source as opposed to having 20 million things coming at you at once because I think that can be really overwhelming and confusing.
My next one would be rest – that it's okay to sit around and do nothing.
Don’t compare your situation to other people's.
And gratitude. I think it's always important for us to practice gratitude, it really puts things into perspective and can make moments that seem really tough a little bit easier by reminding ourselves that we do have things to be grateful for.
And then reach out if you need to. There are help lines and phone services that are still working, and people that care about you. So yeah, if you need to talk to someone, pick up the phone and give someone a call.
I love everything that you said. Thank you so much again to both of you for sharing a bit about your personal stories and what wellbeing means to you. Hopefully it'll help other people out there think a bit more about how they can improve their own wellbeing – whether it's their general wellbeing or their financial wellbeing in particular. So a massive thank you to both of you.
Anita: You’re most welcome.
Gen: Thanks for having us.
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Disclaimer: This information is general information only. The views and opinions expressed in this video are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of the FSC. It is not intended to constitute financial advice and does not take your individual circumstances and financial situation into account. We encourage you to seek assistance from a trusted financial adviser or other professional advice. The links that are provided or names of third parties are additional resources that you access at your own risk and the FSC takes no responsibility for any third party content. The FSC and its employees make no express or implied representations or give any warranties regarding this information and we accept no responsibility for any loss, damage, cost, or expense (whether direct or indirect) incurred by you as a result of any error, omission, or misrepresentation in this information. 3 September 2021.