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Podcast episode

Episode 40: Understanding financial wellbeing and its impact


In this episode, we take a deep dive into the importance of financial wellbeing with Financial Wellbeing Specialist, Jessica Jamieson, Director of Impower.

While financial wellbeing has always been important, the current economic climate and cost of living crisis are causing stress and pressure for people across the board.

We explore some of the key financial wellbeing issues people face, shedding light on the various challenges people encounter when it comes to managing their finances effectively. We also examine how societal conditioning influences our relationship with money, impacting our overall wellbeing in ways we might not even realise. Finally, we’ll also discuss actionable strategies and insights on what workplaces can do to foster and support better financial health for their people, ensuring employees feel empowered and equipped to navigate through these turbulent times with confidence. So, make sure you have a pen and paper handy, and get ready for an insight-packed conversation with practical tips for enhancing employee (and maybe your own?) financial wellbeing!

“We weren’t taught this kind of stuff. I mean, who was taught in school what inflation was, what compound interest was, how to open a bank account, and whether a credit card was good for you or not? We weren’t told these kinds of things.”

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Episode insights

Episode Summary

Key points

This episode covers:

• Financial wellbeing is increasingly important due to the current economic climate and cost of living crisis
• Common financial issues include budgeting difficulties, debt management, and retirement planning
• Financial literacy and education are often lacking, creating barriers to good financial health
• Relationship with money is shaped by upbringing, social norms, and cultural factors
• Higher income doesn’t necessarily equate to better financial wellbeing or happiness
• Organisations play a role in supporting employee financial wellbeing beyond just providing salary

Detailed summary

1. Financial wellbeing challenges
The discussion highlights several key financial challenges faced by individuals:
• Budgeting difficulties and the struggle to create effective financial structures
• Debt management, particularly with rising interest rates and cost of living pressures
• Retirement planning and the anxiety surrounding financial security in later life
• Impact of social media and societal pressures on spending habits
• Lack of financial literacy and education from an early age

2. Relationship with money
The conversation explores the complex relationship individuals have with money:
• Early experiences and family attitudes shape financial behaviours
• Societal taboos around discussing money contribute to financial stress
• Gender differences in financial messaging and expectations
• Cultural expectations and their impact on financial decisions
• The need to address emotional aspects of money management

3. Role of organisations in supporting financial wellbeing
The discussion outlines several ways organisations can support their employees’ financial wellbeing:
• Provide access to financial education and resources
• Offer support through Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP)
• Create a culture where discussing financial concerns is destigmatised
• Avoid giving direct financial advice but provide tools for informed decision-making
• Consider proactive approaches, such as redundancy planning support

4. Strategies for improving financial literacy
Several strategies are discussed to enhance financial literacy:
• Start financial education early, both at home and in schools
• Frame financial discussions in terms of personal goals and values
• Use relatable language and avoid jargon
• Encourage open conversations about money to reduce stigma
• Provide practical tools and resources for budgeting and financial planning

5. Link between money and happiness
The discussion explores the complex relationship between financial wellbeing and overall happiness:
• Higher income doesn’t necessarily equate to greater happiness
• Financial wellbeing contributes to overall wellbeing and reduces stress
• The importance of defining ‘enough’ and aligning spending with personal values
• The role of money in enabling choices and supporting causes individuals care about

Additional notes:
• The discussion touches on the impact of COVID-19 on financial wellbeing, noting that it has exacerbated existing financial challenges for many.
• Jessica shares her experience working with organisations during large-scale redundancies, highlighting the importance of proactive financial planning.
• The conversation briefly explores the growing interest in sustainable and ethical financial choices, including considerations in KiwiSaver investments.
• Jessica mentions winning the Rising Star award for financial planning at the National Financial Advice New Zealand conference, indicating growing recognition of the importance of financial wellbeing in the industry.



If you’re thinking about improving financial literacy in your workplace, here are some things to consider.

The business case for improving financial literacy:
• Growing recognition of financial wellbeing importance in workplaces
• Increasing openness from employees to discuss financial issues
• Educating employees on KiwiSaver (Government retirement savings) fund choices for better long-term outcomes
• Encouraging open discussions about financial wellbeing in workplaces

Potential challenges to address:
• Overcoming societal taboos around discussing money
• Stigma and shame associated with discussing financial issues
• Tendency for people to avoid facing financial problems
• Addressing ingrained financial habits and behaviours
• Navigating the complex financial landscape, especially for those with limited financial literacy
• Balancing immediate financial needs with long-term financial planning
• Resisting consumerist pressures and aligning spending with personal values
• Lack of previous financial literacy education growing up, such as in schools
• Difficulty in applying general financial advice to personal situations
• Social media pressure leading to unsustainable spending habits

Top tips for listeners:
• Consider implementing financial wellbeing programmes into your worplace that make it accessible
• Explore ways to destigmatise financial discussions in your workplace
• Support individuals to assess their personal financial goals and values
• Support parents to start having open conversations about money with their children
• Provide financial wellbeing support as part of employee assistance programmes
• Develop financial literacy programmes that focus on behavioural change
• Educate employees on KiwiSaver fund choices
• Encourage open discussions about financial wellbeing in workplaces

“I think that if organisations were allowed or able to support discussions around where we put our money and what we can do with that, that might be a really great space for everybody.”


Sarah: Welcome to the Revolutionaries of Wellbeing podcast. I’m host Sarah McGuinness. The Revolutionaries of Wellbeing, or ROW, helps leaders to be change makers and to create better workplaces. With a community of champions from organisations around the globe. ROW is dedicated to helping you to develop your professional expertise, access practical tools and resources, and network with peers and experts to meaningfully improve wellbeing. These interviews are recorded as part of our monthly Wellbeing Wednesday webinars and are designed to inspire, share ideas and raise awareness of important issues we can all take action on. In this episode, we take a deep dive into the importance of financial wellbeing with financial wellbeing specialist Jessica Jamieson, director of Impower. While financial wellbeing has always been important, the current economic climate and cost of living crisis are causing stress and pressure for people across the board.
, 00:58
We take a look at some of the key financial wellbeing issues that people face, how we’re conditioned to think about money and how that impacts our wellbeing on a day to day basis, and we look at what workplaces can do to foster and support better financial health for their people.
, 01:13
Jessica: I myself have been sort of in the financial space for probably about eleven years or so, but only just short of for, as a fully qualified financial adviser. That being sort of the, I think the catalyst for change there was having been in the space for a long time, having supported organisations not in a financial wellbeing space, but just in terms of supporting them in their finances in general and their cash flow and things like that. I started to realise that the passion that I had was for empowering New Zealanders for making their lives better. But as it turns out, financial advice in New Zealand is regulated. So that sort of sent me on a path of doing a postgraduate and getting a qualification as a financial advisor. I am one of two directors of our company Empower, which was founded in 2016 and at the end of last year I won the rising Star award for financial planning at the National Financial Advice New Zealand conference, which essentially sort of recognises upcoming talent in the industry. But it was a really big win for us. It was really, really cool because we’re finally starting to see some recognition in our industry for the model that we’re using supporting financial wellbeing. That’s very, very rare in our space. So we’re very privileged that people are starting to recognise how important financial wellbeing is.
, 02:36
Sarah: I think that’s such an awesome piece of recognition as well. I agree with you and because one of the things that as I’ve been reading more around financial wellbeing and trying to upskill myself. One of the things that’s become really clear is that typically financial literacy has been aimed at particular sectors. Not all of us have had that opportunity, whether it’s by our school experience, our education, or whatever else, to actually upskill. So tell me, what are some of the problems and challenges that you’re seeing people come to you with? Is it a language and a literacy and an accessibility issue or more broad than that?
, 03:10
Jessica: Yeah, I mean, to a degree, I think you’re right. There’s very few of us. I mean, you’re starting to see this open up in a space in schools now. But, you know, we weren’t taught this kind of stuff. I mean, who was taught in school what inflation was, what compound interest was, how to open a bank account, and whether a credit card was good for you or not. We just. We weren’t told these kinds of things. Right. So there’s definitely an element missing in terms of understanding the basics. But the other thing that we say that’s really obvious, essentially, is there’s this missing bridge that we’re trying to build between what do these things mean and then what do these things actually mean to me personally, and that’s the biggest issue. Right. I mean, if you google budgeting, cryptocurrency, getting out of debt, you’ll have billions of hits. But how do you actually apply those to the place that you’re in? And generally, if you’re in a space where your financial wellbeing isn’t great, you’re already overwhelmed. It’s really hard to know what to do next.
, 04:09
Sarah: And you must see that real impact for financial wellbeing on broader wellbeing topics. Tell me a bit about that, what you’re seeing.
, 04:17
Jessica: Yeah, absolutely. As we all know, I think COVID presented some pretty significant challenges for everybody. But I think if I had to sort of crystallise that down into a nutshell, I’d probably say if you were in a bad space when Covid hit, you are now in a worse position for some people. If you’re in a good space, you’re in a better. But now with this sort of increase in inflation and sort of the effects from COVID I think we’re all really, really struggling. The types of issues that we’ve seen, I think really in principle, haven’t changed much, but the details have. And so budgeting always has been sort of a key issue. Paying off debt, they’re all big issues, but now suddenly we’re seeing inflation and the cost of living as forefront. We’re seeing interest rates and people who are on, say, 2% now on triple that interest rates when they’re refixing. So those are probably more topical. But I think overall, the principle remains the same.
, 05:21
Sarah: And I imagine that’s because I’m just going through some of those issues. You’ve got budgeting, so how people spend their money, and I guess make sure there’s some for a rainy day and all those kind of good principles. There’s the debt issue, and as I understand it, many people carry debt, whether it’s mortgages or credit cards or store cards or all those other things which I imagine you’re seeing across the borders. And I think I was reading this recently, that things like lay by and Afterpay now are seeing people are struggling to make those repayments. And then you’ve got the cost of living. And I think, I don’t know, a conversation I’ve had recently that hasn’t somehow turned to the cost of, as I said earlier, like the cost of lettuces or the cost of, I don’t know, just about anything in a supermarket. So tell me about some of those issues in a bit more detail. Let’s start with budgeting. What are people struggling with when it comes to budgeting?
, 06:09
Jessica: Yeah, I think the key for budgeting is actually creating some kind of structure that works, right? So generally when we start in the budgeting space, people are like, oh my gosh, you know, it’s this big, scary, dirty word. We’ve probably all tried it ten times and failed. And then we’ve just thought, I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to look at, you know, and it’s easy now, right? You just swipe with your Eftpos or your credit card and you don’t have to worry about it with Afterpay. And things are, like you mentioned, actually a really key issue as well, right? Because with some of the clients that I’m working with now, you know, they might have five or six or seven Afterpay. You know, they’re only 20 or $30 a fortnight. So they sign up and they think, well, you know, I can afford that and I can also afford that pair of shoes and I can also do that thing. And when those Afterpay finish, they don’t think, awesome, that’s less debt. Right? So I can reallocate that in my budget. They think, oh, well, now I’ve got $25 a fortnight left in my Afterpay. What will I go and buy next. So I think the biggest thing for me in the budgeting space is actually understanding a structure that works for you and then probably being honest and realistic about what that actually looks like. I think it’s very easy for us to lie to ourselves and hide some things under the mattress.
, 07:27
Sarah: Yeah. And there’s part of that, I think, with budgeting is still leaving a little bit for fun, because I think sometimes it can seem a little bit, if it’s too prescriptive or too hard, then there’s a whole relationship with money piece, which I want to come to in a second. But let’s go to debt. What are the big things you’re seeing people struggle with in the debt space?
, 07:42
Jessica: Yeah. So, like I said before, COVID it was pretty much a majority. Personal debts, car loans, personal loans, credit cards, Afterpay and so forth was absolutely sort of front and foremost. But now we’re seeing a lot of tension with people who were at two or 3% interest rates or are about to shift over now. And, you know, what their bank is offering them has a six or potentially even a seven in front of it. They’re just struggling to work out how these payments are going to meet. Right. It just doesn’t make sense in the budget that they’ve created. The difficulty is the habits that we’ve created, because the people who had two or 3% interest rates were actually stress tested around that 7% level. So in theory, you do have the money. Right. But you don’t in reality, because it’s already pre spent somewhere else. And then you couple that with the fact that there are so many parts of our life that are out of our control. And you mentioned, like, the cost of lettuces, right. So you might say, well, I’m only going to go and get what I need for dinner, but all of a sudden, that’s not $40. You can’t get that for less than 65, and you’re sitting there trying to make ends meet. Debt has been a really key thing. What we are seeing is more people put their head in the sand, stop answering the calls with their lenders, because they’re just overwhelmed. And so the work that we’re doing in the financial wellbeing space is sometimes just to advocate on their behalf, to be that sort of barrier in the middle. And because at the end of the day, we’ve got to face these issues one way or another because they just compound into worse ones later on.
, 09:19
Sarah: So I absolutely have to go to this one then was talking about relationship with money. Why do we have such a tricky relationship with money? Head in the sand. Why is there this avoidance? Or why has it been a dirty topic to talk about?
, 09:30
Jessica: Yeah, that’s a really interesting one. And I think that how we’ve grown up absolutely shapes the relationship that we have with money. I remember growing up, for example, and asking my dad how much he earned and he sort of got really angry with me. He was kind of like, why? Why do you want to know that? Why would I tell you? And I was like, I mean, even if he had told me the answer, I don’t even know whether that would have been a lot or a little. But you’re just trying to understand. And so if money has been shameful or if money has been private, then you just. You genuinely have no idea, right? And then a lot of the time we’re seeing that, you know, everybody else seems to have nice cars and social media really doesn’t help this, right? But everyone’s gone out for a nice dinner and they’re getting married and they bought a new dog and their car looks amazing and they upgraded and got a swimming pool. And you’re sitting there thinking, well, surely everyone else isn’t just covered in debt. They must have somehow made it work. But I might have to take this dead out to keep up with them. Or maybe everybody’s got debt, I don’t know. And it’s not until we’ve gone so far down the rabbit hole that we suddenly realise we’ve got a problem. And then it’s a really shameful thing to come back from, isn’t it?
, 10:36
Sarah: Yeah. And do you find that when people first enter the service with you, that there is this a hill you have to get over in terms of them wanting to open up about their finances? Or do they get to a point with some people that come to see you where they’re just so overwhelmed, desperately want someone to show them the pathway?
, 10:53
Jessica: Yeah, that’s really, really interesting. We’ve had a really big shift probably in the last 18 to 24 months of working in this space where we’ve tried very, very hard now to be the ambulance at the top of the cliff. Sorry, the fence at the top of the cliff and not the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. And so when we’re working with these organisations, we’re trying to bring that financial literacy and now we’re trying to explain the true cost of debt and how compound interest affects you in the long term. And so when people are then coming to us for one on one help, they’re already kind of going, here’s my stuff, you know, I messed up and I don’t know how to get out. And it’s. It’s actually very freeing. And, you know, we’re very humbled by that. It’s a very personal thing to share. Before that, it was very, very difficult to get people to open up, you know, and then they might tell you something and you’d be sort of halfway through working at a programme and they’d go, oh, yeah, there’s actually these other two I didn’t tell you about. That’s. That’s a very difficult space to work in. Yeah. But. But I think that people are starting to realise that it’s okay, that everybody else is struggling and we’ve all made mistakes, and they’re just mistakes and they don’t define us. And there’s a way back.
, 11:56
Sarah: So that seems to me like such crucial messaging. It’s the same as mental health. And it almost sounds to me like financial wellbeing is the next hurdle for us to reduce those stigmas, as you’ve said, because we don’t tend to talk about it. And there’s sort of a mask that can be. Can easily put up by, as you say, buying the latest car or doing whatever it is to look successful, even if behind the scenes people are like a duck on water. Tell me a little bit about the link between money and happiness, because people often associate. I mean, they sort of think it’s a linear relationship. The more money I have, the happier I’ll be. But that’s not necessarily the case, is it?
, 12:35
Jessica: Absolutely not. It’s a very difficult sort of link to navigate. But I think the other difficulty as well is that happiness is actually a very hard word to define, isn’t it? I think, for example, I’ll meet somebody and they’re absolutely happy because they’ve bought a new car, even though they’ve financed it at 20%, and it’s going to take them the next five years to pay that off. And it’ll probably break down in that way. But if I could divert for a moment, I would say that even at higher levels of earning, and what I’ll often see is people say, well, if I just made more money, all of these problems would go away. But what I’ll find with people who earn a lot or have a lot of wealth is that they just have other pressures that impact their wellbeing. Right. And so at those higher levels of earning, there’s obviously these pressures from their family or their friends to contribute to pay for things to support them, there may be cultural expectations. And then just in the circles in which they’re moving, there may be those expectations you mentioned to live that sort of high flying lifestyle and sort of keep up with the Joneses. So what I think is really key, there is definitely the financial literacy element and also very often when people in the financial space, so if I’m talking sort of lenders, you know, mortgage advisors, things like that, when they talk to clients about their money, they’re not really interested in the client’s happiness. Right. They’re interested in a product to sell or in ticking a box and in complying with process and things like that. And so it’s a really key one that you’re talking about unpacking happiness. We like to prefer to talk about wellbeing, I think, because we have a framework for wellbeing, and we certainly don’t have one for happiness. But it does seem in our experience that people who have a good state of financial wellbeing tend to be a lot happier than people who are not.
, 14:31
Sarah: It’s really interesting, actually, and it makes me think of a book I was reading recently that was talking about people getting comfortable with having enough. But what does enough look like for you? And being really clear then on where that happiness will be. And it’s not necessarily at $10 million or whatever it is, it might be something else. And as you said, then you can actually focus on the other parts of your life which bring you wellbeing. It’s not necessarily the money that’s going to equal happiness.
, 14:57
Jessica: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And on that note, we talked about some of the key issues being budgeting, for example, and debt. But those aren’t the only issues that we’re seeing, seeing redundancy come out. We’re also seeing a lot of retirement pressures. So people who probably are at the end of their career probably want to leave, but are too afraid to step out because they just don’t know if they can afford it. Right.
, 15:22
Sarah: That’s super interesting because I actually, I was listening to Radio New Zealand recently, and they were talking about how in Rotorua they’ve recently been doing some housing projects. I’m not sure if you’ve seen that one. And they did it as a ballot. There were three houses the housing trust had put together, and they interviewed some of the people who were going into these houses. They were people in retirement or heading that way, but they were basically saying they’d worked their entire lives and never been able to own a house because they’d never actually been able to get a foot in the ladder and it kind of ended up at the end of their lives not owning property and kind of in a very vulnerable position. And is that something that you’re seeing now with retirement? People are more vulnerable in the years ahead than perhaps previously?
, 15:58
Jessica: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And I think you could probably break that element apart too. There’s absolutely people who are in what I would call it a very dire situation. I think the number is like 60% of retired people in New Zealand have less than $100 of savings on top of the superannuation to live on. So they are really, really struggling in this cost of living phase. And then you’ve got probably another section that actually can afford to where things are actually okay. The numbers actually work, but they don’t know that. Right. So they’re living in this constant sort of anxiety and the stress that they don’t need to when they’re probably at a point where they should really be enjoying sort of the fruits of their entire life work.
, 16:41
Sarah: Interesting. And I think there’s quite an important message there, you know, and it comes back to what we’re talking about earlier around recognising where you’re at in terms of your financial wellbeing. And so I guess people are working with you in your service. But what are some of the things people can start to do to recognise where they’re at and to get some sort of sense of control over their financial wellbeing and their financial status?
, 17:03
Jessica: You mean the employee themselves?
, 17:05
Sarah: Yeah, employees themselves, yeah, yeah.
, 17:07
Jessica: I mean, I think number one is asking yourself what’s important, right? And I think I saw something. It kind of touches on what you just said on social media. And it was basically about someone who said, you know, if I gave you a million dollars tomorrow, would you quit work and would you change life and stuff? And people were like, oh, yeah, that’s not quite enough. And then they said, what about if we gave you 10 million but you didn’t wake up tomorrow? And everyone sort of said, well, no, of course I’m not going to take that. And so the guy basically said, well, you’ve just told me that waking up tomorrow is more important than $10 million, so let’s be happy and let’s move forward and work out what’s really important. I think that would be the number one question is what do people actually want out of their lives? Right? Because if you want a high flying career, then that’s fine. Maybe you need to put in the hard yards and maybe you need to make some sacrifices in a different element. But for a lot of us, we actually just want to enjoy more time with our family, more time with our kids before they grow. We may want to get onto the property ladder, but we’re actually sometimes just buying things for other people. Right. Instead of for ourselves.
, 18:10
Sarah: Yeah, I think that’s such a good point. And actually it links really nicely to where I want to take the conversation again, which is around this whole financial literacy piece. So one of the things I’ve become quite interested in is the socialisation people have around money. And we talked about those relationships and one of the things that I thought was really interesting, so I read this book called think like a breadwinner, how women can earn more and worry less. And it talked about how for women, a lot of the messaging was around invest in your wardrobe, which are things that depreciate, whereas for men, and again, these are very generalised gender comments, but for men it was more about investing in your wealth. So there’s this really early language that we see that starts to perhaps set up our relationship with money. And so I guess, what are some of the other social norms or cultural norms that you’ve seen that really shape people’s view of money?
, 18:60
Jessica: Yeah, I mean, the one that you touched on is a really key one, and I wouldn’t for a second suggest that it’s only women who have this sort of barrier in terms of learning. But for women, I think it’s fair to say that there is a gender wage gap. It does. Existential. And that gender wage gap, compounded from a lifetime of earnings where we generally earn less anyway. Right? Because we’ve taken this time off to raise kids and things like that, creates this huge issue at the other end, in terms of how much a man might have and how much a woman has, which, remembering that women tend to live longer than men anyway, at some point we need to be making financial decisions. If not now, we’ve left it to our husband, because that’s how we think that it should be. At some point in your life, you’re most likely to have to make these decisions. But, yeah, I think that you’re right. The language that is often targeted at women is different to men. But I also see that in terms of sort of our cultural backgrounds as well, there are expectations, there are biases, I suppose, that we all have from growing up. But one example that just sort of comes to mind as a Pacific island woman that I worked with in Auckland, and she had all of this debt and none of the debt was hers. She had this sort of expectation from her family that I think her dad needed some sort of medical procedure and so she signed up that debt and then her mum needed a car, so she signed up that debt and we sort of looked through her budgeting and I said, look, you know, you’ve got this massive tithing going towards the church. I think that, you know, if we started to adjust some of these things, maybe we’d be able to get you back on track. And she said, oh, well, that’s absolutely non negotiable and it’s very important for us in that space to recognise our biases as well and to understand. But it’s also very heartbreaking to see the expectations that are sometimes put on in those societies. It’s very difficult.
, 21:03
Sarah: I think that’s such a good point, is all those kind of external factors that put pressures on people as well. And you maybe think of another story of an organisation who discovered that one of their employees, all of their pay, was going to pay debts of other people, and they were probably debts from things like drugs and whatever. So, you would know, kind of leave the moral judgement out of it. But the end of the day was, while he was working, he wasn’t actually earning anything because it was all going to these debts. And so in the end, actually, the owner of the organisation ended up going down, opening up a new bank account for him and actually having to really step in and almost be that financial manager for this person. That’s an awesome story, but obviously it’s not something that everyone can do. There’s a whole level of trust that goes with it. So let’s go to what’s the role of an organisation in supporting people’s financial wellbeing? I mean, obviously people get paid for their work, that’s fine, but what’s it beyond that?
, 21:56
Jessica: Yeah, that’s an interesting one. I mean, I guess that’s organisation dependent. There have been a couple of organisations we’ve worked with, with a story like yours where we had people absolutely drowning in debt in the organisation. They said to us, do what it takes, hold his hand, you know, walk him to the bank, get him to do these things. And then we have other organisations who will just tick the box and sort of say, well, we’ve done it. But more and more we are seeing this wonderful shift in wellbeing professionals, HR professionals that genuinely care about their people. I guess if I had one piece of advice, it would be that we want you to understand that the problem exists and to provide a resource that people can use if they need it, but it’s very, very dangerous if you’re trying to give the advice or you’re trying to push them in a particular direction. They really just need the support, if you know what I mean. And I think it’s. As a parent, I think I would probably akin it to that. If you tell your child not to do something, then they just want to do it more. Telling somebody that they shouldn’t be in debt or that they should be paying something else generally doesn’t have a very great outcome. Providing the support for them to make those decisions themselves and understand the impacts, I think is probably where you might want to go.
, 23:14
Sarah: I love that. That really links strongly to that concept of self leadership that we’re trying to give people agency and control. You know, I’m not telling them that you should do this, but here’s a way you can do it. How do you respond to people who say, well, you should just pay me more?
, 23:27
Jessica: Yeah, that’s. We do hear about that a little bit. To me, I can’t think there’s a little bit of the fish and the fishing rod thing, right. Feed for a day or feed for a life kind of thing. I’ll give you a really good example of direct clients that I work with in Auckland. This couple, after tax, earns $25,000 a month after tax. So that’s $300,000 a year for anyone who doesn’t have a calculator. I would love to try and spend that kind of money. Right. But what you’re seeing is just this lifestyle creep. And so, yeah, we can pay people more, but if the habits are ingrained, then they just change. And instead of buying $11 bottles of wine at the supermarket at the end of the week, you know, the $25 bottles, but the wine remains. And it’s not that that particular thing is the issue, it’s the habits that we’ve created. And so paying us, as a general rule, what we’ve seen is that if you pay people more, it doesn’t resolve any problems whatsoever. That’s probably why Kiwi Saver has been literally the greatest thing since sliced bread. Right. Because this compulsory saving scheme where you can only get it out for a very small number of topics means that we’re finally learning to save. I don’t know if you sort of keep read an article. I think it was on stuff the other day and it basically said that on average, as New Zealanders we’re about $400 better off in twelve months. So we work for an entire year and our bank account book’s about $400 better off. That’s how terrible we are as savers in New Zealand. So I think that, yeah, at the end of the day, the fish and fishing rod thing is really, really key because you can pay somebody double, but the issues remain the same.
, 25:05
Sarah: And, yeah, I think it’s such, such a good point. And it also makes me think almost of analogy. It’s like when you had like a single lane road, then you go to like a double lane road and you just end up with more cars on the same highway. You know, you haven’t necessarily solved the problem.
, 25:17
Jessica: Absolutely, yeah.
, 25:19
Sarah: So tell me about, like, for those who obviously we’re going through a recession, there’ll be some people who get made redundant and we see more and more stories around that. What can people do to, you know, get through redundancy? What are some of the strategies they could start to put in place now if they’re worried about that on the radar, what people be doing?
, 25:37
Jessica: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve actually done in the last 18 to 24 months, two massive redundancies, so over 100 employees in both particular cases. What was wonderful from those organisations is they were very proactive. Some of these employees had been there for a long time and were receiving large sums of money. And so we stepped in to sort of say, hey, let’s think about where that’s going. Instead of just buying that new jet ski or whatever, because you’ve got this lump sum, maybe we should be looking at where that money should go first. For somebody who potentially thinks that they may be about to be made redundant, I think that having emergency savings is really, really key. But then even if you take the redundancy part aside, we should have that emergency savings, we should have that ability to absorb some sort of financial shock, regardless of whether it’s redundancy or somebody in your family gets ill or your car breaks down or whatever it is. And honestly, in our experience over what we’ve been doing, most of the people who have been made redundant with the right advice and some really good decision making are actually in a much better space than they were before.
, 26:49
Sarah: That’s fantastic. And actually it almost makes me think and sort of tying a few things together here. There’s something there around the messaging that we have around financial wellbeing in organisations, how we reduce the stigma, how we make it more acceptable. On the other hand, I’m also thinking there are some organisations where it’s not encouraged to talk about your salary, like, don’t you dare say what you’re earning compared to somebody else. So how do you bridge that gap between going, yes, we want to talk about finances? Yes, we want to make sure this is a much more accessible conversation, but also, particularly if you’ve got those pressures, we’re not going to actually talk about it.
, 27:23
Jessica: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think a part of that sort of touches on the actual earning capacity. Right? Like there’s still this stigma that we think that if we had high salaries or high, er, salaries, that we would be in a better space. So therefore that should actually be a key part of what we’re discussing. But sometimes it’s not about that at all. Right? It’s about looking at the foundations of what we have and it’s about sort of saying, well, what does our budgeting genuinely look like? What does our framework look like? How much debt are we repaying from yesterday, from all the things that we’ve already bought that we’re still repaying back? How much focus do we have into the future and into our Kiwisaver and the settings and where they are and whether we should be getting our foot on the ladder or whether we want to buy our own business. There’s not enough discussions happening around that. There’s too much, probably, I think, focused on how much we’re earning. But another example, I think I’m full of them. But another example I have that couple that I worked with, $300,000 of after tax income, absolutely drowning in debt because their neighbour gets a pool. They need to get a pool. The neighbour gets a Tesla. They need to get a Tesla because that’s the area of Auckland that they’re living in. But I also work with a single mum beneficiary who’s about to buy her third investment property. So much of what I’m seeing is not about how much you’re earning, but what you’re actually doing with that particular money. And I think that if organisations were allowed or able to support discussions around where we put our money and what we can do with that, that might be a really great space for everybody, you know, and without the tensions there.
, 28:58
Sarah: Yeah, it’s really powerful. It’s less about the inputs and more about the outputs. So what do you do with what you. With what you have? And that’s actually. That links really well with lots of wellbeing messages around. We are where we are, what do we do to be smarter with this, what do we do to make some better decisions and how do we empower ourselves, which extends to those who are parents. And of course, I’m a parent with two kids. What are some of the messages we can share with our children around money to make it more accessible to them?
, 29:24
Jessica: Yeah, I mean, I actually have sort of gone through that a little bit myself. I’ve got a six year old and she’s sort of at the point now where you go to the supermarket or wherever you’re going, and she’ll want that, or she’ll want that. And I definitely had to get to a point where I realised that actually every time I was going out, I was getting her something, even if it was a something little. But actually what I was suggesting to her was that every time you wanted something, you could have it. And so I thought, well, next time I’ll just tell her she can’t have it. But then I got into this really interesting space where she said, well, why? And I thought, well, if I say mommy can’t afford this, actually, what am I teaching her now? You know? And so we sort of kept the money part outside of it, but, you know, just sort of explained that sometimes we can’t always have all the things we want. We need to decide what things are more important for us. Particularly there’s a bigger family holiday goal going away. So it was kind of like, well, if we go on the holiday, we’ll be able to do these things, but if you buy these small things here, then you can’t, you know, you just can’t do both without obviously having to do all the calculations of the money at that particular age. But I think, you know, it’s not necessarily about, I mean, for people who are looking to advance in careers and things, then maybe, you know, sharing salary and other facts like that are really, really important. But from a financial wellbeing perspective, with your kids, it’s not necessarily about the dollar value, but it is understanding that the dollar has a value, if that makes sense, and then maybe just sort of. But this isn’t even just for kids, this is for us ourselves is maybe just unpacking some of the emotions that we have around money.
, 30:53
Sarah: I think that’s so powerful. And it’s almost taking, yeah. Going that money has a value to be able to buy, say, support our futures or whatever. But money in itself doesn’t have emotions. We have the emotions with money. The problem sits with us, not with this gold coin in front of me.
, 31:11
Jessica: To make it really simple. That’s exactly right, yeah.
, 31:14
Sarah: So people are struggling and perhaps they come to the HR or people in the room, they come to those people in organisations and they say, I’m struggling with money. What are some of the things that you would suggest to them? What are some of the resources or tools that they could access?
, 31:28
Jessica: Yeah, I mean, a lot of the organisations have access to their eap programmes, if they have one. We partner with a number of EAP programmes to provide the support as part of it, although I don’t know how well known that is. We had an organisation reach out recently and we did some financial literacy presentations for their staff and the trigger for them was someone had come, they’d got into a whole lot of debt. That debt was at really, really high interest rates, and the organisation had basically said, look, we’ll pay your debt off for you, please don’t tell anybody because obviously you don’t want to just become a bank. But then they got to a point where actually this was becoming a little bit of a norm or a bit of a habit kind of thing. And so one of the tools that they put into place was, well, yes, we will try and support you where we can, but what we need you to do is to put a strategy in place or to show us what your budget’s going to look like or to prove to us that things are changing in any particular way. I think it’s an interesting line, right, because it can be very personal and you’re not entitled to ask everybody about their finances, but having a plan to get out of debt, whether it’s with an organisation or whether it’s with a lender, the sort of basics behind it don’t change. But just having the tools, I think having the tools to support your staff, particularly when they’re in a situation where you can’t just say, well, just go on Google, go and look at the latest interest rates. I don’t know, go and do this thing. Because like I said, people just go, well, what does that mean? What does that mean to me? Offering this and Westpac’s meaning this, but what does that mean? So, yeah, having some sort of place or some sort of person to go to, to support your, your staff.
, 33:12
Sarah: Yeah. And I can just say that language is so key. I mean, when you start kind of wading into the financial world and as you said, you can be completely overwhelmed by all the different terms and even reading in the media, you know, you might start to kind of consume. But again, you’re like, what’s this? And what’s this? And what’s this? There’s a huge catch up that people need to do. So imagine for workplaces, yeah, in the education space, there’s a lot they can be doing.
, 33:33
Jessica: Yeah, absolutely. And then I think, you know, from the behavioural side, and I don’t know too much about whether this is something that happens in the wellbeing space overall, not just in finance, as well as the behavioural understanding of the things that we’re doing. Right. I think the investment expert, I think his name’s Morgan housel, said, you know, the finance industry talks too much about what to do and not enough about what happens in your head when you try to do it. And I think that’s a very, very powerful thing. Right, so we can all just say, I’ll just create a budget or just do this thing or stop getting into debt. But when you try and stop those habits or you try and change those habits, it’s actually very, very difficult. I mean, you’re sort of like in it to going to the gym and you run on the treadmill for two days and you’re like, why haven’t I lost ten kilos? That’s it, I’m out. Like, I’m sort of done. And you need some sort of coach, some sort of motivator or some sort of support person. And what that looks like probably is very dependent on that particular individual. But, you know, having something there, some kind of support, really key.
, 34:33
Sarah: And also how when you try and change behaviours and you live in a world that wants you to spend money, you know, between the billboards and the ads and everything else is a, you know, spend your money here.
, 34:44
Jessica: Absolutely. Yeah. A couple of really good results that I had with people was when we actually turned their spending into a bit of a challenge. And so the challenge for these, and it probably wouldn’t work for everyone, but the challenge here was basically that everybody in the world was trying to take your money from you, right? And it was your decision and you had to try and hold on to it for as long as you can. And so you’ve got to walk, cast all of these 50% off and buy one, get one free, and everybody’s gone and had fish and chips tonight. And it was a bit of a goal to see who could hold on to the most at the other end. And people started getting very, very proud because it is their money and it is their choice. But you’re right. So often we’re just swayed and we think we need these things because everybody else has them. But funnily enough, if you go back to happiness and things, a lot of the time I see people buy things that they don’t want and they don’t need for people that they’re trying to impress, that they don’t even like thinking that it’ll make them happy. And all of those people that have also bought that particular thing or done that particular thing aren’t happy either. We’re all just stuck in this world of sort of consuming.
, 35:47
Sarah: Yes, it’s total consumerism, isn’t it? Buy more, buy more. And I mean, thankfully, and I wonder if you’re seeing this more, there does seem to be a bit more of a shift towards being sustainable, buying things that might be a bit more expensive, but will last longer, getting out of the fast fashion, those sorts of things. I mean, are you seeing those reflected in people’s budget habits or financial habits?
, 36:06
Jessica: Yeah, no, I actually am. It’s funny, that just made me triggered something, I think that I saw where, you know, people had started shopping at, you know, thrift shops or, you know, the Salvation Army and buying secondhand clothes, and then there was actually this big issue, or this big article where people said, well, if you can afford to not buy at a thrift shop, you should leave it for people who, who can’t. And I sort of thought, oh, my gosh, you know, like, there’s this issue, no matter which way you look. But absolutely, we definitely have this push towards sustainability. I’m not sure if you remember back in 2016, for example. I think that’s when the dirty secrets of KiwiSaver all came out. And we, for most of us, we didn’t know what KiwiSaver was. It was just this money that just got taken off our pay slip. And we realised at that point that it was being invested in nuclear weapons and child pornography and animal testing and things. And we all had this big sort of up and arm. And now none of the KiwiSaver providers invest in those types of companies. So I think if we want to shift in either the way that we invest or we spend our money, or all the behaviours that we have, we have to change it ourselves, we got to change that mindset and then we’ve got to.
, 37:15
Sarah: There’s a super interesting link then around making money less personal and then also making it about how do I spend for a better world. If I’m worried about climate change, if I’m worried about the world, that my children will go into all those things, how do I make some spending decisions that is going to make a better world for them? And that’s kind of an interesting collective lens.
, 37:36
Jessica: Yeah, absolutely. It absolutely is. I mean, I suppose that, you know, there’s probably an argument no matter which way about, you know, spending money or earning money or, you know, corporatization, whatever it is, you know, there’s probably, like the pros and cons on either side. I always sort of got taught as I was growing up that if you earned money, then you could make those choices with your money. Right. And that gave you the ability to go and support the SPCA or to go and buy more trees and plant more trees. But, you know, if you can, if you sit and you complain and you don’t do anything and you don’t change the behaviours that you have, like you said, you’re buying sort of one off packet stuff that’s all wrapped in plastics, then you’re essentially contributing to the thing that you don’t particularly like. So, yeah, that’s a very interesting point, I think, that you make for those.
, 38:24
Sarah: People in the room. If they were going to take away kind of one to three, you know, key actions they could do, key messages they could share, what would they be?
, 38:35
Jessica: Oh, gosh, you’re limiting to me to one, to three.
, 38:38
Sarah: I know you can have more than three if you want.
, 38:42
Jessica: I think, you know, encouraging. Encouraging your staff to seek support. But somehow we have to take away the stigmas that it’s a particular problem. I know that. So with some of the sort of wellbeing programmes that we’ve put into place, we couldn’t use budgeting, because if we did budgeting as a session, people wouldn’t turn up. Because if someone knew you went to the budgeting session, obviously that meant that you had an issue. Right. But when we did an investing session, everybody came, everybody wanted to know, should they invest in crypto? You know, should they buy more investment properties? How much money could they make? And so we really have to reduce those stigmas. And so budgeting for us now is more sort of the money puzzle space. If there’s some sort of support that you could put in place for your staff to understand the whys of what they’re spending without the judgement of what it is that they’re doing, that’s probably a better space. And for us, working with clients as well, that’s probably very key for us. I mean, we don’t tell you not to buy a batch or a BMW or a boat. We just sort of suggest that you should have a good, good financial foundation before you do it. But the luxuries themselves is. It’s not up to us to tell you how to live your life. We just want to support you on the way. I mean, there are so many things that you probably could do with your staff, maybe some more is another key takeaway. KiwiSaver is a really key one as well. I worked with a couple recently in their thirties who were in default. Conservative funds. They don’t even know what that means, they were just stuck there. The difference between them being in there and being in a growth fund by the time they were 65 was over $500,000. Right? So that’s $500,000 they got without putting any more money in, without increasing, without getting a pay rise, whatever, just being in the right fund. And so if organisations can support people making more informed choices, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it actually has to come off your bottom line either to give them that kind of value.
, 40:44
Sarah: Thanks again for listening today. It’s been great to have you along. If you’re keen to join the revolutionaries of wellbeing, head to rowwellbeing, that’s r o w, and follow the links to sign up if you’re in our community. Thanks again and we look forward to catching up with you really soon.

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