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Source: MIL-OSI Submissions
Source: ASB

As New Zealand braces for Omicron following confirmation of the variant in Auckland, Tasman and Nelson, the latest financial wellbeing research from ASB suggests people in these regions may be better placed financially to manage the impacts of an Omicron surge.

The research tracks the financial fortunes of nearly 600,000 customers, focusing on their spending habits, savings and ability to pay regular bills. It shows Kiwis living in the Tasman region have the strongest financial wellbeing in the country, with those living in the neighbouring Nelson region second. Auckland comes in fourth.  

ASB Chief Executive Vittoria Shortt says while the swift move to the red light setting over the weekend may have taken some by surprise there is no doubt that, for those that can afford it, having a regular savings plan in place will help provide a valuable buffer to see them through what could be a challenging time ahead.

“Globally, we’ve seen how Omicron can disrupt people’s ability to be at work, whether through illness, needing to isolate or to care for whānau who are unwell. Knowing you have some savings in place can take away some of the anxiety at a very difficult time.”

ASB’s research is undertaken in partnership with the University of Melbourne. It highlights a regular, consistent savings habit as one of the most powerful steps New Zealanders can take to strengthen their personal or whānau financial wellbeing.

Ms Shortt says many New Zealanders found themselves unexpectedly better off during previous lockdowns when opportunities to spend were reduced.

“While the red traffic light setting gives us more freedoms, I’d encourage Kiwis to remember back to their lockdown savings and choose one or two simple things they can do to make saving a permanent habit in 2022.”

Key findings:

  • Tasman and Nelson have the strongest overall financial wellbeing, with savings balances 31% higher than the national median in Tasman and 25% higher in Nelson.
  • The Gisborne and Southland regions currently have the weakest financial wellbeing, with customers in those regions over 40% more likely than average to be in overdraft.  
  • Incomes are highest in Wellington, but Aucklanders save more, with median account balances 18% higher than the national median.

People living in Tasman had median savings balances more than a third higher than ASB’s national customer median of $3032, while Nelson people had median savings balances 25% ahead of the national average. Auckland is home to the highest percentage of Kiwis who are ‘doing great’. People in this category tend to have higher savings balances, a lower level of spending relative to income and a greater ability to cover their expenses.

The Wellington region is home to New Zealand’s highest median monthly account inflows – currently 8% ahead of the national median for ASB customers. That money is also being put to work, with the region’s KiwiSaver contributions averaging $438 per month, 16% ahead of the national average contribution of $377 per month.

Financial wellbeing is currently weakest in Southland and Gisborne. Southland’s median savings is 40% lower, or $1200, than the New Zealand median while Gisborne’s is 64% lower, or $1940.

In addition to having lower cash balances, Gisborne and Southland customers are more likely to be in overdraft compared to other regions with more than 40% of people in both regions experiencing frequent payment problems in the past year (16% higher than the national average).

ASB’s research found financial wellbeing was strongest in Tasman followed, in order, by Nelson, Marlborough, Auckland, Canterbury, West Coast, Otago, Wellington, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Northland, Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu-Wanganui, Taranaki, Southland and Gisborne.

MIL OSI