The rise, and rise, of Money Week

Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell is presiding over the seventh annual Money Week.
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Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell is presiding over the seventh annual Money Week.

The sixth Money Week begins on Monday giving Kiwis the chance to reflect on their finances, and make changes that can bring them a more prosperous future.

Money Week was created by Diana Crossan in 2012 when she was head of the old Retirement Commission, but under current retirement commissioner Diane Maxwell, it has grown into a thoroughly-measured phenomenon.

In 2012 Money Week kicked off with a roar with nearly 100 organisations running more than 100 public events and activities, including banks and budgeting organisations.

Crossan's plan for Money Week was cunningly drawn up. The Retirement Commission (now renamed the Commission for Financial Capability) is government-funded, but it has never been flush with funds.

So Money Week is all about using other people's infrastructure, expertise and labour.

The events of Money Week 2012 were attended by 18,560 people, the Commission says.

That's the equivalent of a respectable Super Rugby crowd, and there was plenty of media interest with 152 media stories, and 13,570 visits to the website set up for Money Week.

Fast forward to 2016, and Money Week, now Maxwell's flagship event, had more than 200 organisations taking part, with more than 800 activities and events.

Just over 50,000 people attended the events, the same number that pack into Eden Park to watch an All Blacks match.

There were 445 media stories, 270,000 views of the Commission's Money Week videos, and 8,900 people went as far as to work out a financial plan on the Sorted goal planner tool.

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The first ever Money Week was a general event. The "theme" was spring cleaning your finances.

It's become a lot more focused. This year's event is focused on debt.

Though as with all the previous Money Week's the idea is to shake people out of survival mode, and get them thinking about their finances.

"People are busy and time poor, and life gets full with work, family commitments, illness," says Maxwell.

"It is easy to know what you need to do but just not find time to do it because you're doing the things that seem urgent – the things that shout the loudest.

"Money Week is the time when money shouts loud enough to compete with all the other stuff.  

She describes Money Week as "a concentrated moment in time where we can tell people to stop procrastinating and do that thing they've been planning to do for ages but haven't got round to – make a will, talk to their kids about money, review their insurance or mortgage, join or check in on their KiwiSaver."

"It creates a noise and a momentum that stimulates talk and drives action. It feels as though 'everybody's doing it' which normalises the conversation and the behaviour."

One of the Commission's most important functions is to provide the public with online calculators and tools for planning their money lives. These include debt and mortgage calculators and Kiwisaver planning calculators.

Maxwell says Money Week is a moment when the spotlight goes on the work the Commission has done during the year.

"It can't work in isolation, it feeds off and feeds into all the supporting work we've done across the year building tools and content," she says.

"After Money Week, when the dust settles, we will have more people aware of Commission, of Sorted and its tools, our databases will have grown and we will be able to revisit those new relationships. Materials will be in some new hands and those people who were prompted to take action will have renegotiated mortgages, kick-started KiwiSaver, made their wills and more."

While it is easy to measure Money Week's numbers, the bigger question is whether it is actually helping lift the public's financial capability.

The Commission created a "barometer" survey to track changes in people's behaviour over the course of a year. Its early days for the barometer, and it is not designed to track the impact of Money Week on its own.

MONEY WEEK'S EVOLUTION

2012: Spring clean your finances

2013: Make a Date with money

2014: Get your money Fighting Fit

2015: Get your money Fighting Fit repeated

2016: Show me the money- visualise your future

2017: What does debt do for you?

 - Stuff

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