“The need for financial literacy has never been greater,” I wrote in a paper almost 10 years ago. I’m beginning to believe my words were premature. Not only has the need increased, but financial capability has become crucial as we navigate life alongside COVID-19.

The pandemic has threatened our economy, small businesses, industries and has infiltrated all aspects of our lives. We have seen businesses close, severe job losses and most tragically, the loss of lives.

How are Māori coping financially?

One of the areas that concerns me is our Māori community. Some of the things that make up the fabric of our culture have been shaken up in ways we have never seen before. Marae closures, tangihanga (funeral) restrictions and even whakawhanaungatanga (supporting each other) through this pandemic has been limited or severely affected.

Recent research by the Commission for Financial Capability, which runs Sorted, has found our rangatahi (young people) have developed an attitude of ‘Spend rather than save’ and ‘Think of today and let tomorrow take care of itself’. If we are to take to heart the whakaaro (idea) that our rangatahi are our future, this should be concerning to us all.

What would I say to this generation if I had the chance?

I would remind them that as Māori we have the unique advantage of seeing and experiencing the world differently. We perform better collectively, as we understand the strengths of each other, not just as whānau (extended family) but as hapū (clans) and iwi (tribes).

This means that each of us not only has the responsibility to learn from each other, but we’re encouraged to seek new knowledge so future generations will have more opportunities than we might have had. 

Even as we grapple with the fact that many of us were raised in homes where money was not a topic spoken about often – if at all – and financial role models may not have been present, we are fortunate to live in an era when we have all the tools, programmes and support to help us make good money decisions.

What would we like life to be like in 20, 30, 40 years’ time?

For me, as a wahine Māori (Māori woman), my ideal retirement is living in close proximity to my tamariki (children) and future mokopuna (grandchildren), helping to raise them, teach them and support each other.

But it is also having the freedom to travel the world and see how other cultures live. To make this moemoeā (dream) a reality, I need to have clear goals and understand how making good choices with my money now will help me achieve it.  

Setting the path forward is vital

For me, looking back at what my ancestors have achieved and setting my path forward is a vital step. Making a plan is much easier now with so many forms of support and resources available. We can access home ownership and money management courses in almost every town in New Zealand; we have the Sorted website, which allows us to discreetly progress on our financial journey without feeling whakamā (embarrassed) about what our money situation looks like right now.

Setting up a safety net for those unexpected events is more important than ever, and I think especially for our youth, who have borne the brunt of job losses.

You are our future

While it is still important that you have fun and enjoy your youth, taking a little bit of time now to gain some useful money skills will help to set you up for the future. Look for those opportunities in your community to learn about finances, home ownership and other money matters.

We are looking to you as our future money role models. In fact, we as a Māori collective are depending on it.

Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri a muri ake nei
For us and our children after us


Donna Robinson (Waikato-Tainui, Ngāti Raukawa) is a course facilitator for Sorted.

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