Interactive money skills to improve financial literacy among Kiwi kids

In the face of New Zealand recording its worst-ever youth literacy rates, a free online education tool focused on arming our rangatahi with essential money skills has received significant support from donors and education trust.

Building on the success of Life Education Trust New Zealand’s (LETNZ) Smart$ financial literacy programme, in 2023 the PMG Charitable Trust in partnership with LETNZ developed SMART$ Online. The platform includes videos, role play and interactive content covering money topics like debt, savings, deferred payments and KiwiSaver and is being offered free of charge to secondary schools and youth organisations.

PMG Charitable Trust General Manager, Bridget Lem, says the engaging, informal way in which the topics are presented through SMART$ Online is key to encouraging more young Kiwis to want to learn essential financial literacy skills.

“We are pleased with the results and impact the tool has had on the financial mindset of young New Zealanders in its first year,“ says Bridget.

In 2023, 2000 Year 9-11 students completed SMART$ Online. Results showed the relatability of the content played an important role in students understanding and embracing of the core financial concepts.

Results of the pilot showed that after participating in SMART$ Online:

• 86 per cent of students knew the difference between good and bad debt.

• 69 per cent knew and understood the benefits of compound interest.

• 70 per cent said they would join KiwiSaver as soon as they got their first job.

• 83 per cent said they would like to learn more about KiwiSaver, savings and money matters.

• 7 out of 10 students said they would recommend the tool to a friend/whanau member.

• 86% of teachers would recommend it to other schools.

Life Education Trust New Zealand Chief Executive John O’Connell says understanding financial literacy empowers young people and improves their future prospects.

“SMART$ Online has helped us engage more students and build their knowledge and skills. Schools appreciate the flexibility of being able to use the tool to complement the theatre in education programme or as a stand-alone resource in a range of classes,” says John.

Improving financial literacy has been the focus of the PMG Charitable Trust since it was established in 2021.

Bridget says thanks to a recent $265,000 funding boost from generous donors the Trust can now develop the learning tool further to address the urgent need to close the financial knowledge gap for the next generation.

“Over the next three decades, over 50% of New Zealand’s wealth will likely be transferred to the next generation. It’s therefore incredibly important that those that inherit this wealth understand how they can manage it responsibly for their future and ultimately their own children’s future,” says Bridget.

“Creating tools like SMART$ Online is about empowering young New Zealanders with the skills and knowledge necessary to navigate their own financial futures by delivering this information in a way that is engaging for them and easy to understand.”

“This would not be possible without our donors; the Hosanna Charitable Trust Board, PMG Foundation Donors, law firm and corporate partner Cooney Lees Morgan, and a generous grant from Allan & Gill Gray Philanthropies (advised by Trevor Gray and sourced through the Education Partnership & Innovation Trust),” says Bridget.

The tool is available for schools participating in Life Education Trust’s Smart$ money programme and will be shared with youth organisations like the YMCA, Scouts Aotearoa and the Graeme Dingle Foundation.

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