In a joint initiative between the Fin-Ed Centre (Financial Education and Research Centre – a joint venture between Westpac and Massey) and the Albany chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, students will have the opportunity to find out which areas of their finances require attention.
Dr Jeffrey Stangl, from the School of Economics and Finance, has created a survey that will gauge students’ attitudes towards their finances in areas such as debt and budget management, savings and investment, insurance, and retirement. The survey will be conducted by members of Beta Alpha Psi, an honorary organisation for finance and accounting students.
“The objective of the survey is to raise awareness of the importance of managing money well, and giving students feedback on how well they are actually planning not only for today, but also for tomorrow,” Dr Stangl says.
“It is structured to gauge people’s attitudes to their finances, as opposed to how much money they have in the bank because the biggest obstacle to saving is attitudinal.”
Dr Stangl is also part of the research team conducting a longitudinal survey for the Fin-Ed Centre to understand Kiwis’ needs for financial knowledge at different life stages.
“While this student financial health check is purely informational, it is a condensed version of what we’re examining in our longitudinal study,” he says. “I’m expecting to see similar feedback to what is already coming out of the longitudinal study, where young people are saying things like, ‘I’m only 21 years old – what’s the point of worrying about my retirement now?’ Well, the point is, the earlier you start, the better off you’ll be.”
Beta Alpha Psi president Corbin Neale, a business and psychology student at Massey, hopes the survey will be as eye-opening for his fellow students as it was for him.
“I study finance, but budgeting and financial literacy aren’t really on the agenda. Awareness is really low, so the first step is visibility, getting out there and encouraging people to improve their financial literacy,” he says.
As a student, Mr Neale admits he has been mainly focused on his student loan debt, and even though he has a couple of part-time jobs, he has not joined a KiwiSaver scheme. After taking the survey himself, he is reconsidering that decision. He says the student financial health check will be a good opportunity for students to talk to students about a very important issue to all of them.
“It’s about starting that conversation about financial literacy, because it’s not discussed. We all moan about our student loans but no one proactively talks about how best to deal with it,” he says. “Skills like budgeting are so necessary in everyday life, but we’re not equipped to do it well – I’m hoping this survey will be a step towards normalising financial literacy.”
The Fin-Ed Centre was formerly known as the New Zealand Centre for Personal Finance Education. The centre is currently conducting a baseline survey of around 300 New Zealanders aged between 18 and 20 years to understand their levels of financial literacy and experience of financial education. The longitudinal study will see the survey repeated with the same participants every five years for the next 20 years.
The centre aims to help New Zealanders become financially empowered to achieve a better quality of life. Its other projects include developing a series of personal finance certificate courses for individuals and educators, and the quarterly Retirement Expenditure Survey in conjunction with Workplace Savings NZ.