5 Mar 2022

As Covid-19 hits wallets, households urged to seek financial advice

4:12 pm on 5 March 2022

Financial mentors are urging people to seek advice as many households remain under pressure due to the impacts of Covid-19.

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Photo: Emil Kalibradov/Unsplash

The organisation Bay Financial Mentors Tau Awhi Noa has been operating in the Bay of Plenty region for 50 years.

General manager Shirley McCombe said financial assistance was not just for beneficiaries and those on low incomes.

"There's a whole lot of people who would never have engaged with our service before and if you ask them what we did, they wouldn't really know.

"But there are a whole lot of people that, for the very first time in their lives, are going 'holy cow, I don't think I can pay my rent this week, I don't think I can put food on the table or I don't know where to go from here'."

She said people should not feel ashamed for seeking help and said she would like to see better financial literacy taught in schools and prisons to break the cycle.

"I think it's great for kids to learn about shares and diversified portfolios, and all that kind of stuff but actually, just the basic stuff about making decisions around money.

"I was at a school talking a while ago to the 15 year old age group and we were talking about interest rates, and they really didn't understand how interest works, or about mortgages and we see a lot of people signing up for loans that get in huge trouble because of not understanding the impacts of interest rates."

McCombe also said funding for the current services available to people was desperately needed.

"There's something like 200 organisations like ours throughout the country and some of them are not funded at all, they work purely on a volunteer basis.

"We had increased funding during Covid, but that's all about to stop and as we all know, the crisis is not over. So I would love to see that funding brought up to a level where it was sustainable, where we didn't have to beg, steal and borrow to get by."

Bay Financial Mentors Tau Awhi Noa was formerly known as Tauranga Budget Advisory Services.

McCombe said the name change, which took effect on the organisation's 50th anniversary signalled the reciprocal nature of the relationship with their clients, the desire to incorporate Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Tikanga Māori into their practice, and a commitment to whanaungatanga (the importance of relationships), manaakitanga (respect and generosity) and kotahitanga (unity).

She also said it was important to move away from the term "budget advisors" because the services provided were more than just budgeting.

"The word budget is aptly with the word diet... it's about going without, it feels like punishing yourself, I guess and it's a very old fashioned idea of going along to somebody who works out what comes in and what goes out and tells you all the things you're doing wrong and sends you on your way.

"And that is absolutely what we're not about these days, we spend a great majority of our time advocating for people, providing education, negotiation, all those sorts of things. So the budgeting itself, is a small part of a much bigger picture."

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