Despite a rocky second half of 2019, with geopolitical uncertainty and a slowing global economy, New Zealanders’ wellbeing held up at a similar level as in the previous BNZ Wellbeing Report six months earlier (66.9 vs 67.2).
BNZ Economist Paul Conway says, “New Zealanders appear to be a resilient bunch with the glass generally half-full even with things being a bit of a mess out there in the world.
“Overall wellbeing decreased ever so slightly in the second half of 2019 but was largely unchanged throughout the year. The relatively strong sense of wellbeing is despite increased concern about the New Zealand and global economies over the second half 2019.
“In the latter half of 2019 we had a slump in business and consumer confidence and a slight deceleration in economic growth. Internationally, uncertainty was through the roof with rising tensions between the US and China, Brexit and the UK political situation, as well as downgrades in the global economic outlook.
“But Kiwi wellbeing essentially held up. This suggests Kiwis recognise the impact and importance of what’s going on in the world, but don’t let it ruin their day,” says Conway.
Want higher wellbeing? Get out of the city
Demographics, location and financial situation affect wellbeing, with men, older people, home owners, and those living in rural areas reporting relatively high wellbeing.
Paul Conway says, “The urban-rural divide is real when it comes to wellbeing, with people living in rural areas reporting higher wellbeing than city dwellers. This suggests that notwithstanding the excitement of city living, long commutes, congestion and noise can detract from wellbeing.
“No matter where you live though, financial stress has a significant bearing on wellbeing, with higher-income households, not surprisingly, tending to have higher levels of happiness and lower anxiety.
“Worries about money drag on wellbeing measures – not having enough money for an emergency is the most common form of financial hardship, and more than half of New Zealanders worry they won’t have enough wealth to afford their desired standard of living in retirement.
“Women, younger people and people living in relatively low-income households are especially prone to financial stresses. While financial stress is all too common in New Zealand, some people living with financial stress can still enjoy reasonable wellbeing,” says Conway.
Lack of trusted advisors when it comes to money matters
Across all three estimates of BNZ’s Wellbeing indicator, New Zealanders have responded to financial hardship in largely much the same ways.
“Following a stricter budget and cutting out unnecessary expenses is the first thing New Zealanders tell us they try. Personal sacrifice, selling possessions and working harder are also relatively common. Talking over financial worries with friends and family is also common.
“However, less than five per cent of hardship events lead to a conversation with a bank or a financial advisor. Good quality advice can help people respond to these events more effectively and even help avoid repeats in the future, so it’s concerning to see such a small number of people seeking this out.
“Banks and financial advisors of all kinds have the skills and tools to help people through difficult times, so there’s clearly more than can be done right across the industry to help lift this number,” says Conway.
The BNZ Wellbeing Report is produced every six months, based on research conducted in November and December 2019 across a sample of around 1500 people.