Learning to talk about money

Interim Retirement Commissioner Peter Cordtz spoke of the importance of helping New Zealanders talk about money in a story for the E-Tangata magazine website.

"There's a systemic failure to help Māori and Pacific communities understand how they can make money work for them in the same way that a lot of Pākehā-Pālagi have done for many years," says Cordtz, who is of Māori-Samoan descent.

"In the course of my basketball career at Māngere College, we had midweek games at King’s College, and that was always an eye-opener for us. That King’s world was, in a way, only just over the fence. But it was so different. And I’ve no doubt that one of the differences between their students and us Māngere boys was that they mostly came not only from wealthy homes but from homes where money was talked about.

Much of my work here at the Retirement Commission these last four years has been around how we can help normalise not just talking about money, but also about making money work for us — and understanding the machinery of money in a way that we can build wealth. And it’s not about being rich for the sake of being rich. It’s about wellbeing and using money as an enabler."

That ethos has been key in the development of Sorted in Schools, a programme aligned to the National Curriculum to help secondary students learn about money and how to make it work for them. 

"Making money less mysterious and more relevant and more accessible isn’t just our kaupapa. It’s the kaupapa of the government generally — and of the financial services sector, too, including the NZ Bankers' Association, which understands the importance of making their services more accessible to communities who have felt alienated," says Cordtz.

In the year of the three-yearly Review of Retirement Income Policies, there was a heightened focus on the importance of incomes of Māori and Pasifika taxpayers.

"Superannuation costs $39 million a day. It’s the biggest benefit in town. It’s universal. We’re all eligible for it at the age of 65. And, because the New Zealand population is ageing, in 10 years it will double. Then, in 20 years, it trebles to $115 million a day."

There are currently about five taxpayers for every superannuitant. But, with the population ageing, the ratio is on the way to becoming two taxpayers for everyone on superannuation.

The other factor to consider is the birthrate - the number of live births per 1000 in any given year. For Pākehā New Zealanders, it’s 1.9, and for Asian New Zealanders, it’s 1.4. But the Māori figure is 2.4 and for Pasifika it's 2.6.

"So the incomes of Māori and Pasifika taxpayers are going to become more and more important," says Cordtz. "And, if a high proportion remains anchored in low-skill, low-wage jobs, the numbers simply aren’t going to work. Nationally, they won’t stack up unless we lift the bar for Māori and Pasifika."

Click here to find out more about the Review of Retirement Income Policies, and make a submission.