In this month’s episode of Conversations That Count – Ngā Kōrero Whai Take, we take a good look at what we really know about money.
No matter how much of it we have, how we make it, or how we feel about its role in our lives, few topics have such universal relevance in the modern world as money. In the latest episode of Conversations That Count – Ngā Kōrero Whai Take, we find out how deep our collective knowledge of our financial system actually goes – from its origins to its current state, to its still somewhat unpredictable future.
Produced by The Spinoff in partnership with Massey University, this episode sees host Stacey Morrison joined in the studio by Dr Pushpa Wood, director of Massey’s Financial Education and Research centre, and via Zoom from Christchurch by Kendall Flutey, CEO and co-founder of financial education tech platform Banqer. Together the three cover a broad range of topics over a half-hour, ranging from what we do and don’t know about the future of currency to the challenges of promoting financial literacy to a generation of rangatahi for whom physical money is already a mostly historical relic.
Dr Wood is a highly esteemed educator, appointed as an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2017 for her services to financial literacy and interfaith relations in Aotearoa. Having designed and delivered financial education programmes for New Zealanders of all ages and levels of expertise, she has a particular passion for ensuring equitable access to that increasingly crucial knowledge.
Given that background, Wood is ever-conscious of the need to find a balance with how that work is carried out, noting that although her field allows practitioners to “make [financial literacy] as simple as you like, or complicate it as much as you like”, in essence the function of money remains a relatively straightforward one.
“Money has come through a few centuries of change, but in its bare minimum form – either a chunk of metal, in terms of coins, or a bundle of paper, in terms of notes – it becomes money only when it takes the function of exchange.”
But in a world where both money and that function of exchange is becoming increasingly digital, that previously simple truth likewise becomes harder to quantify. Wood admits that this is a major hindrance for those working in her field.
“The more complicated [the financial system] becomes, the more mystical the form it takes. And it becomes difficult for people in their day-to-day lives to actually understand the full function of money.”
For Flutey, the need to ensure our rangatahi have the necessary skills to navigate the strange new world of money is a particularly crucial one. Having studied accounting and economics at university, she spent time at a major accounting firm before quickly realising that wasn’t a long-term path she wanted to follow. She moved instead towards tech, and was inspired by conversations with her younger brother – and one of his teachers – about money and financial education to begin development on what would eventually become Banqer.
With the app she built now being used by more than 150,000 children across Aotearoa, Flutey has a unique level of insight into young people’s attitudes and understanding of our financial system. And while she’s broadly enthusiastic about some of the ways in which new financial technologies are opening up aspects of the economy which have previously been a bit less accessible – investment in stock markets, for example – she also notes that the country’s current economic conditions seem to be engendering some troubling attitudes.
“I’ve been speaking to a lot of rangatahi recently who actually think it’s easier just to disengage, because they don’t see some of the financial [stability] that their parents or their grandparents attained as being achievable to them.”
Rather than dwelling in doom, though, both of our guests believe that rethinking our collective approach to money could have significant tangible benefits. And while we may not yet be able to predict its direction or nature, the two also agree that we can be almost certain that change is on the way for our financial system. To this end, the kōrero sees Flutey and Dr Wood put forth not only on the rise of digital money and cryptocurrency but also the emergence of ideas like open banking and restorative finance – the latter in particular is a potentially revolutionary model, wherein all financing would need to be justified on the basis that whatever it returns goes some way to redressing the baked-in inequities, inequalities and environmental impacts of our current system.
And so from future-proofing financial education to decolonising and rebuilding our entire system of exchange, this episode covers significant ground in the modern money conversation: how we can move our economy forward, how that evolution could happen, and how we’d all stand to gain from a system that’s just a bit more fit for contemporary purpose.
Does our approach to money need an update? This episode of Conversations That Count – Ngā Kōrero Whai Take seeks to find out. Subscribe and listen now via Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your preferred podcast platform.
Subscribe to Rec Room a weekly newsletter delivering The Spinoff’s latest videos, podcasts and other recommendations straight to your inbox.