What does economic harm look like?

27 min read
24 September, 2021

This episode of Money and You looks at the topic of economic harm. We talked to some experts in this space who shared their insights into what it looks like, who it impacts, and where Kiwis experiencing economic harm can go to get help and support:

  • Dr Ayesha Scott, Senior Lecturer, Finance, Auckland University of Technology (AUT)
  • Angela Smart, Team Lead, MoneyTalks
  • Nicola Eccleton, Social Inclusion Manager, Good Shepherd
  • Martin King, General Manager Customer Assist (Vulnerability), Bank of New Zealand

Watch the episode on YouTube or read the conversation below. 
Important note: This episode was filmed in September 2021.

Before you read:

This episode of Money and You contains some sensitive subject matter relating to economic harm and financial abuse. If these topics are triggering for you, we recommend you take a look at another episode, and return to this one if and when you feel ready. If you are looking for help, a list of resources and support helplines is listed at the end of this blog article and the video.

Obviously this is a very tricky subject with a bit of a dark side to it, but I wanted to start by looking at what does a healthy financial relationship look like between two people?  

Nicola: The million dollar question, Clarissa. What does a good relationship look like? I think from my perspective, if you take the financial out of it, it's what any healthy relationship looks like. It's about trust, it's about communication. It's about partnership, participation, having choice and an agency to make decisions. 

Ayesha: Yeah, and I'd probably add to that, that it's not necessarily, you know, unicorns and rainbows - it's not going to be happy all the time. But when conflict does arise, those conversations can happen in an open and loving way, without sort of descending into blame or being mean, or being particularly emotive, or particularly angry. So it's just about being comfortable, to disagree and to have arguments and to have those tough conversations, but still come out the other side of that, knowing that you're supported and you're loved, and you can, you know, work together as partners. I think that that's key to any healthy relationship as Nicola said, but I think around money in particular we don't necessarily do these things particularly well. 

Angela: I tend to agree that being able to have a conversation about finances without fear, without hiding stuff, that's when you start to understand that maybe there's a little bit of disharmony in regards to a relationship and being able to share your finances, but to be able to have those discussions without fear of retribution of bringing, you know, the difficult stuff up. 

Martin: I guess the final point I'd make is the role money actually has within relationships. So we think about the core things around the relationship, a roof over your head, and food on the table, paying the bills, having enjoyment in life, that the one commonality between all those is actually the ability to pay for it. So I think there's a danger sometimes that we think money economics are very separate to the rest of relationships, but actually, there's a high level of the core parts of us as being human beings now that relies particularly on banking, finances, and the money that goes around. 

Okay, so now that we've established what a reasonably good financial relationship looks like, let's turn to what a harmful or potentially abusive financial relationship would look like.  

And when it comes to this, I'm going to use the term economic harm, but I know there are a lot of terms that are used. Are we essentially talking about the same thing with all these terms or is there a spectrum when it comes to that? 

Ayesha: So yes, this is on a spectrum. The way that I look at it in my research is on one side of the spectrum we have the healthy financial relationship that we were just discussing. And right down the other end, we have dynamics that you would consider to be extreme violence. So we know that for people experiencing abuse and violence, of various different forms, a very, very high proportion of those victim survivors of other forms of violence (physical and sexual violence) also experience economic and financial abuse alongside, so that would be the other end of the spectrum.  

Then in the middle, you have what I would think of as economic and financial abuse. And we can define that in a moment. Then more in that grey area between the abuse and the healthy financial relationship, I think you've got these harmful behaviours. And I think it's really, today what we'll speak to is economic and financial harm, is really this grey area, that sits between having a perfectly healthy financial relationship and a normal relationship the way that many of us would be in, but also really trying to talk about some of those behaviours that are abusive, and that cause harm.  

Nicola: Yeah, so in terms of the economic versus the financial, from my perspective, the economic feels a little bit broader. So we're acknowledging that some of what goes on is about stopping people from getting to employment, so sabotaging someone getting to work so they can't be financially independent. So for me, that's why economic is a broader term.

And the harm is, we've actually just written a blog on this on our website, because it's a really interesting talking point, the harm is about reaching people and helping people identify. Abuse is a real blockage, because it speaks to violence, and it speaks to the extreme end of the spectrum, whereas harm is a little bit more, you can actually behave in a way that you think is quite acceptable, but cause harm. So it's about being able to reach people who both are victims of harm, but also who are perpetrating that harm, so that we can start to take away a little bit of the stigma or the barriers to getting support and making the behavior change. 

That's a really interesting point, actually. So it can be unintentional, would you say in some cases? 

Nicola: I think for relationships, there's some stuff around habits, so we form habits and we fall into roles and relationships, and the more years that go on, the more we fall into these roles. Some of the things that we have seen that have caused harm have come from quite a paternalistic place of wanting to look after people, e.g. “I wanted my wife to be able to stay home and look after the kids if she wanted to, I wanted her not to have to make those hard decisions around finances.” And it's actually become the wife or, you know, it can happen to both women and men and in all sorts of situations, but the person who's staying at home finds that all of a sudden, they don't have the confidence or the ability, and it's become “I don't have a say in these things.” 

Right. That’s really, really interesting. So I'm curious to know, how would I be able to tell if I was experiencing something like this on any end of the spectrum? Or if someone I knew was experiencing it. What kind of signs should I be looking for that would tell me that I wasn't in a healthy financial relationship? 

Angela: Based on the phone calls that we get at MoneyTalks, it's a conversation around feeling comfortable and being able to have those conversations if you feel that something is off or that you can't go and do something because somebody says that's not appropriate or that you're not allowed to, or “it's my money.” Having those conversations, hearing the terminology that's used.  

But a lot of the time, I think it happens without any real idea – you don't even know that it's happening. Like, it's amazing how many years on people call us saying “so and so put my name on the loan, but he's the one that drives the car”. I think a lot of it happens so subtly that unless you are really in a space of looking out for it, I'm not quite sure if it's necessarily something that can be pinpointed as such, but it becomes an overarching theme, potentially, within the relationship.  

And money doesn't happen in a silo. It's not just finances that are the only thing that's going wrong. There'll be other things from an emotional perspective to be watching out for. 

Martin: One of the things we observe and have observed is just general asymmetry. So asymmetry in knowledge, asymmetry in capability, access. Sometimes unintended consequences are asymmetry in income that drives certain behaviours.  

But it's when those asymmetries work in opposites. So to Angela's point, “can you have the car loan in your name, but I drive the car, and I have the higher income?” Some of those asymmetries, “I use it more, I earn more money, but can you have the debt?” Those are the ones where you start to add up on one of the great ledgers of life around what sits on one's own what sits on the other.  

It's quite difficult because it will not be one big thing. And I think there's a danger too, sometimes we say there'll be an event, and there'll be a big thing. Something that Angela and Ayesha already talked to is a build up of a series of small points that add up to a picture of increased asymmetry. The word malicious will not always be in there. But sometimes we've got to be careful that doesn't then bleed into malicious calculated. Because at the other end, going to Ayesha's point towards the violence end, when this becomes incredibly tough and hard is where you have coercion around violence and money. So if you don't do this financial transaction in a certain way, there will be a physical consequence to that.  

That's the combining of the two worlds of physical violence and financial balance. You're then tied into contracts, and that's the other part I guess that doesn't happen in certain other parts of unhealthy relationships, as these become financial contracts between you and the financial service provider, which are held up in law. So I think to come back to that, asymmetry is a key thing to look out for. 

Nicola: What I would add to that is that when we did our research, we found that there's also a blurry line between using money as a form of control and economic harm being a result of family violence, and people saying I can't leave my physically violent relationship, because I don't have any financial support or capability or so I'm stuck in this place where I can't go and become safe because of the financial situation. 

Ayesha: Yeah, and I suppose I would add, you know, and we've all sort of spoken to this a little bit. But no one goes into a relationship and intimate partnership from a place of what's this gonna look like when this all goes pear shaped? What is this going to look like when inevitably, you know, we break up and we have to split relationship property? And so the way that we tend to, you know, join finances and the way that we tend to develop these financial relationships, it is that real gradual progression that Martin spoke to, but I suppose the way that I think about it, is it's a gradual erosion of confidence and capability, and a slow squeezing and restriction of freedoms that you enjoyed beforehand.  

You know, you wake up one day and you go, “actually hang on, I used to do that, I used to handle these things. And now I'm not and I'm afraid to.” Or as Martin spoke to, there might be a really physical consequence. Even the threat of a consequence is extremely powerful.  

In my research, I spoke to a woman who said her partner put a knife – just a sharp kitchen knife – on the windowsill. She asked him to move it because they had little kids. And he just said, “yeah, yeah, I will.” And he just didn’t. All it was, was a knife. Now, because of the situation and the trap that she was experiencing at that point – and this was extreme economic and financial violence – she didn't feel comfortable moving that knife. He didn't move that knife for some time. He didn't lay a hand on her. He wasn't telling her that she couldn't go out and buy a new knife because this one's sitting on the window. It can be the smallest thing that has such a powerful hold.  

And coerced debt. If you don't blink an eye, when you say, well, we're in a partnership together, and one partner needs to buy a new car. It just makes sense in the moment that, “okay, that loan will be in my name”, because you're both paying it off together. But there is that asymmetry there, and that power dynamic is really, really important. For one couple, sharing debt and income and managing spending via two independent accounts probably makes total sense, you know, one partner is paying for everything, and the other partner is managing the investments, and it's that real partnership, and the agency around that. Then that same dynamic without the agency, that's abuse.  

The example that you used just before was this relationship between a woman and a man in which the woman was the one being abused. Is that typical in Aotearoa New Zealand? Is there a particular group of people that is more vulnerable to experiencing economic harm or abuse? 

Ayesha: In my research, we predominantly look at economic harm as violence against women. Now, this is statistically predominantly how it presents. However, what I will say is it can happen to anyone in any type of relationship. It's predominantly male violence against women, however, that is not 100% of the time.  

What I would also say is there hasn't been enough research done on other types of relationships. And there hasn't been enough research done on different dynamics. The other thing I would say is that what we've spoken to so far is, you know, intimate partner economic harm between two romantic partners. Angela was speaking a little bit before we started recording about elder abuse and financial abuse of an older person. What we find is that the dynamic there is quite different. So we think about economic harm as being a restriction of economic resources, exploitation or sabotage. I would say from an elder abuse perspective that you're really looking at exploitation. There might be a restriction of things there as well but it's a much more exploitative relationship. Whereas with romantic partners, the motivations for that and the dynamic is quite different.  

But going back to your question, it's predominantly male violence against women, but it can happen to anyone. And age, class, socioeconomic status, education, some of these are risk factors, some of them are consequences of economic harm, but it can happen to anyone, and it's often not who you think it will be. 

Martin: At BNZ we have a particular support team that has been set up with specially trained individuals that support victim survivors of economic harm. And I think everything you just said there is exactly as we see it play out. So at the moment, we're seeing that predominantly heterosexual relationships with the victim survivor the female within that.  

But certainly from experience, not just within our own users, but also in other countries, when you start to get into same sex relationships, but also the converse of a male victim survivor, a female victim survivor, again, the asymmetries in the dynamics where there is less physical violence involved sometimes that the less the physical power play, actually money is an incredibly powerful tool to maintain coercion and control.  

I would also reflect upon location, demographic in terms of finances, demographic in terms of culture, race – no one wins. There's nobody that's escaping from this, all the way from right at the top of the house, what we would describe as the affluent parts of New Zealand, all the way through to the less affluent parts. The dynamics too, as Ayesha said, are very different. What can be controlled, what can be sabotaged, and what can be limited are different, but they all exist, they all definitely happen in every way that we look.

Nicola: And Good Shepherd comes at it from a family violence perspective. There’s some really obvious reasons for why it's gendered and it's because women have not had the same economic security that men have had for all of those traditional patriarchal reasons. So as Martin said, it's asymmetry, its power, the person with more money, so some quite obvious links there. 

Angela: Can I also add, to not forget about people with disabilities and mental health conditions as well. We get a number of phone calls where you then have the issue of mental capacity and being able to spot it, and we're starting to see a rise in those kinds of conversations about people who get a hold of peoples’ EFTPOS cards, because they're linked them to go off and go get groceries. From a carer perspective, or a family perspective, that's starting to be seen within our helpline as well. 

Angela, you mentioned mental health. I'm assuming that this can have some pretty serious consequences for someone's mental health and just overall sense of happiness and wellbeing. What have you experienced in the people that you've spoken to and people that your team has spoken with? How does economic harm actually impact on people? 

Angela: Funny, you should say this, we've only been having a discussion within the team in the last 24 hours about how the helpline is almost changing more from just simply being a catch net, of being able to point people in the right direction of where to go for financial help, and understanding these areas to becoming almost like a counselling session within itself to start off with. Because the sheer pain, the anguish of knowing that they can't see a way out of it at this point from a financial perspective.  

Then you add the layers of understanding or thinking, “well, hold on, maybe my partner's doing this to me”, or maybe “my son is doing this to me”, from an elder abuse perspective. You know, you've got layers of emotions, layers of trauma there. That's when we're able to use the networks that we have available to us to be able to help people.  

But for sure, you're getting people who have plucked up the courage to be able to even call and reach out for help, and to then have that real responsibility of being able to help move them to the next person that's going to be able to provide that wraparound service, but for sure, emotionally just massive. 

Martin: I think we see very similar in terms of the kind of conversations. One of the other things I would certainly reflect upon is the extent to which the harm continues once the relationship has ended. That's I guess where some of the differences will feature to other types of harm is whether it’s the family relationship may have ended, you may have the estranged member of the family, the financial harm will potentially stay for many years. Bad credit ratings, coerced debt, they don't get clicked off as soon as you walk out, or indeed the other individual leaves.  

So there's a danger actually, that we assume that once decisions have been made to safely close or end the relationship that all of this stuff actually finishes, and potentially, it's actually when it begins. The harms that are experienced don't actually really come to fruition until you begin on your own. So your ability to rehouse yourself may be impacted by the decisions, or indeed coercion that’s happened to you. Some of the core things that we count – our lifestyle, our ability to ensure our children have the lifestyle that they have become born into and enjoy. That's I think where certainly the differences within some of the economic layers within the country is very, very different, but actually the harm and coercion sometimes becomes even more difficult.  

I'll give you an example. If I leave the relationship, can my children continue to receive the best education that they are receiving at the moment? So can I move? But again, the money, the finances, the housing sits at the heart of that. 

Martin, can I also just ask you about the work that you've been doing at BNZ with regards to transaction abuse?  

Martin: Yeah happy to, and actually I could take the rest of this session to explain it. At BNZ, we looked around and we do continue to look beyond the shores of the country to look at what's happening internationally. 

We do three things as a bank: we lend money, we allow people to deposit money, and we also do payments. And actually what increasingly banks are seeing is that payments are becoming far easier, far more digital. And actually, I can do them in a very private way. I could sit here now and make a payment and still be doing this podcast. But actually, what I choose to use that payment for could be paying my rent, it could be paying a friend. But actually the ability to write a message becomes an interesting tool, very different to a mobile phone, text message or WhatsApp. And also potentially comes a lower cost bizarrely, because what you're choosing to use instead of the telecoms cables, is the banks’ payment systems and payment systems that have been set up to do certain things.  

So when we actually started to delve into what kind of payments are we seeing coming and going, we came across 7,000 that you would describe as undesirable’. I could have a very jokey relationship with an individual and use some pretty horrific language. Some people may determine that as ‘banter’, some people may determine that as not particularly pleasant. And that's at one end of the scale. 

Another case we saw was a conversation or conversations between people. It's actually very cheap and very hidden for me to have a conversation with Nicola instead of having over text messages when my mobile phone may be taken from me by law enforcement. They don't necessarily think to go and have a look at bank statements. We observed some interesting behaviours there. The final one that was more of concern, we had two cases I remember very well.  

One was an individual spent $2.91, sending 40 messages over a six month period, pleading with the ex-partner but going through the full cycle of abuse, so pleading, blaming, shaming, but doing that on their bank statement. In 40 messages not one swear word was used. So again, going back to the horrific language, you would not be able to find that. But it was a pattern of behaviour, low value, high volume, over a short period of time between two people. And the other case was where one cent was sent every working day for four years with a particularly undesirable phrase in there that I wouldn't repeat here. And this is a repeatable pattern. So it doesn't cost much, but where it shows up it's horrible to receive, it's horrible to have that and to deal with the trauma that day.  

The next time you need to go in to apply for a mortgage, a home loan, get some validation, you have to produce a really important document, which is normally your bank statement. So that shame is then continued when you go to apply. How are you going to have in front of you, the bank manager, reading this bank statement with this kind of language on so either you choose to face into that shame, which is really hard, or you don't face into those bigger financial decisions.  

Again, you may need to go and receive some support from the government or Work and Income. Again, do I want Work and Income seeing this kind of language? So I think that there's a multi-layer and again, an extended period of how and what we’ve said at BNZ is, first of all, we know that you're doing this. So just be really clear, it's unacceptable. And if customers either one recognise it themselves and wish to highlight, we will take action. And for those people that are doing this, we will we have contacted and said please stop. And if it does continue, we will actually end our relationships with those customers, because this is not what that process is meant for. And this is about moving money around. 

What do you do once you recognise that you are a victim of economic harm, or someone you know is seeing those signs? Where can you go to get support and help? Where does someone even start? 

Nicola: One of the things that we've all probably identified is that there has traditionally been a real gap in this space. And so we're just starting to see some responses like the BNZ response that they've been working on. We're currently recruiting for a specialist financial wellbeing coach of economic harm. We have been trialing a little bit with some of our debt coaches.  

During that trial, we established that actually, someone needs to be a specialist in this space and really understand it. Some people we would encourage to go and speak to a family violence agency, because there may be other forms of violence happening alongside and it's really important that if that is the case that they are able to access support from a family violence agency. I think that's a bit of a starting point.  

But I feel quite passionately that workforces across the board actually need to be upskilled in how they might respond. So whether it’s banks or it’s telcos or it’s utility companies, because everyone potentially has a very small role to play in making people's lives easier and providing some support. So I think that's still a work in progress and I'm really excited for it to build over the next few years. 

Martin: I think that there's a lot of online resources. As you talk about the build and what I would describe as the opening of Pandora's box. We've got to be very clear; this is not a new thing. This is not something that's happened just in the last couple of years. But actually what's happened is we've decided that a number of people are deciding to open up Pandora's box. Financial abuse is not a 21st century thing. It's not a 20th century thing and this is a long thing you've actually got to face into. So I think internationally some of the researchers have skipped ahead.  

So there's lots you can find, there's lots of support and direction, and I probably would agree with Nicola around actually seeking support. It is very often this won't operate within an isolated silo. There will be other support and other people that actually can sit out there for you. But also, I think we as being said, at BNZ we are facing into it, but it is really tough. I don't want to sit here and say, for other businesses or for individuals that we'll get this nailed overnight. I think actually, to suggest that we will have 100% support on day one would actually be very foolhardy. This is about us facing into an issue, helping people recognise those signs, recognise those things that aren’t great, the asymmetry, but also know that there are people out there that will support you. I think the work that Good Shepherd do, the research that you're leading on Ayesha, and the work that MoneyTalks does not just on financial abuse, but in a more broader sense, is very much about being there for the difficult times in your life. And there also may be a whole raft of other topics. And again, I don't want us to sit here and consider that it's one circle of attributes, we can get a big Venn diagram, and it starts to look a bit messy, but it doesn't operate in one silo. 

Angela: Yeah, I absolutely agree with Martin. Our ability to help is to be able to have that conversation in a private and confidential way. We have a number of different ways that people can reach out. If they don't feel like they can have a conversation on the phone because someone's listening, we've got the ability to do web chats and there is a trained financial mentor at the other end that has the ability to have conversations without people overhearing.  

You can contact us by email or by text. So there's a number of different ways that we can offer that. Then we hook you up with a local financial mentor, so somebody that's in your area, or somebody that can speak your language. There's so many layers of things, because once you start looking outside that there's more to it than just money, but if somebody has taken that amazing step to even be able to notice it, reach out, have a conversation, it's up to us to be able to provide the spaces and the places for them to be able to go. And I guess that's where from MoneyTalks and FinCap’s perspective, there’s over 200, different budgeting services around Aotearoa that have the ability to be able to work with people, whether it's online and that type of stuff. So it's about being able to look at each situation but be able to take that first step to reach out, all props to people to be able to do that, because that would be the scariest thing ever. 

Is there any way we could proactively prevent economic harm from happening?  

Ayesha: Yeah. So you know, if I think about prevention, I think that we put a lot of responsibility on a victim survivor to keep themselves safe. We then blame them for the abuse. And historically, this has been overwhelmingly the case. So you know “what did you do, that provoked this individual to cause you harm?” And we don't make it particularly easy for victim survivors to seek help. This is changing, but there's still a lot more work that needs to be done in this space.  

So I think from a prevention point of view, this is everybody's problem. This is not a women's issue. This is not a man's issue. This is everybody's problem. And I think that if we all just tried to be a little bit more open and a little bit more constructive in our own intimate relationships if it's safe to do so but equally look at friends and family.  

It's not something that needs to be behind closed doors. If you think that something's off because of the way that a close friend is behaving, then ask the question, and you might hit, you know, they might say, “oh, no, there's nothing to see here. Thanks.” But by asking that question, you've let that victim know that actually, if they do need to disclose to you, or they become ready to disclose to you, then you're probably going to be someone who is a safe place for them to do that.  

Research shows that those social interactions and those social reactions that victims survivors receive when they make disclosures, the difference in their mental wellbeing and their overall outcomes, it's just so much more positive for them to feel that they've been heard, feel that they're not being disbelieved, they're understood, and their experience is important and is valid.  

And then partnering with them to do the hard things, because it is a hard thing to call the helpline and talk about your financial situation, it is a hard thing to call your bank, and realise, actually, I have a lot of coerced debt, and I'm not entirely sure how I'm ever going to, get out of this. For many victim survivors, ending that relationship takes intense planning. And that is true of someone facing down the extreme end of the violent spectrum, through to the less traditionally violent, but equally harmful, economic harm.

We talk about financial capability in this space, and there has been work done, particularly in the US, financial empowerment of victim survivors is a key intervention. I'd make two points on that. Usually it's not a question of financial capability. There might be some missing financial knowledge. But broadly, a victim survivor has done an awful lot with very little over an extended period of time. A victim survivor may not pass a financial literacy exam, but will be extremely financially capable. The question is really about confidence. And so how can we build confidence for victim survivors so that they take back control? Because it's all about control. They haven't had it, so how can we give some control back, so they can navigate their financial future, because it is challenging. And as Martin said, you know, this is not a new problem. But it suffers a massive awareness issue. So let's name it, let's talk about it, and let's start solving it, but it is everybody's problem. And we are all responsible for keeping everyone in our society safe. 

Nicola: I don't think we can underestimate the visibility and awareness piece and how important that is. And it requires repeated effort. And we look at the It's Not Okay campaign and what that has done for physical violence. We've really changed the conversation from what happens in a marriage is none of our business to actually it's never okay, no matter if people are married or not.  

And I think that we have roles as employers to say, we've got an example of an employer where someone didn't have access to their wages. So as employers, we can be saying, this is your bank account where you complete the form, our expectation is that you have access to this money, or you have control over where this money goes. We can be talking to our customers and saying you're signing a bank loan with your partner, or you're taking out a mortgage with your partner, did you want to see some of the resources that are available on getting joint debt and having conversations with your partner about money and planning together, and taking all these joint financial decisions that you're making?  

So if those sort of things are flagged at all sorts of different touch points, then there's an expectation that there are some standards of behaviour. And fundamentally, economic harm is against the law. It's actually illegal for people to behave in this way and use money as a form of control. So that's our starting point in each of those different areas. Say you log into your bank and you log in somewhere else, and then you see an ad for MoneyTalks, and people are saying, “hey, you know, talk to your partner, do you have a say?” We will start chipping away at the problem. I think awareness just can't be underestimated, the power of it. 

Martin: We've come across cases, and this is probably more in passing, but people pay more on their gas bill, or their electricity bill, because that's the safe place they can build up a fund of money. So people will find a way. And so they'll overpay their electricity bill by $10 a week every year, generally, so they've got $500 that their potentially abusive partner is unaware of, and actually they've been maintaining what they need to do.

On the other side I guess is understanding us as banks and other companies, the strength of controls around privacy, around making sure that everybody understands fully what contract they're entering into, and they have enough agency with which to make that decision. And that sounds really simple, and the words, "no, no, wait, my wife, or my husband understands everything, it's okay", but the rules and regulations are there for a reason. But be wary.

The wonderful part about working in financial services is you have relationships for sometimes 25, 30 years, 40 years, 50 years with your customers. But that comes with an extra responsibility that you have a relationship with your customers for 25, 30 years, 40 or 50 years. Particularly when we think about investments, when we think about KiwiSaver, when we think about home lending, these are all long-term relationships that involve multiple touch points over multiple years, and we have a great opportunity to really influence customers’ lives for the positive and avoid bad things happening. 

Angela: I feel like my personal challenge and even within our own team, and just us as humans, is trying to remember to have a conversation about money is not a bad thing. We seem to have this weird cultural thing to talk about money is such a taboo subject, and the sheer amount of whakamā (shame) around reaching out asking for help, or even saying, I have a debt that I can't pay. To even have the conversation, you know, they'd rather not talk about it and suffer the consequences than to be able to have the conversation.  

I put that back on the finance companies and the organisations that are doing the lending and stuff like that. It's about how approachable are we in being able to have those conversations, and what sort of response are we getting. Especially during COVID, to be able to reduce the year that real shame for asking for help.  

I think it starts with all of us just being able to have normal conversations about money on a regular basis with our kids, with our neighbours, with our friends. It doesn't necessarily mean you know, going down to every detail. But it's even having a conversation of going “oh, I can't go out for dinner tomorrow night, because I don't get paid until next week.”  

Just reducing some of the stigma, which then helps being able to have these conversations. I'd also like to see more information in different languages. You know, we’re a multicultural society within New Zealand. And that's what we see a lot with our clients is that English is not the first language. To see more of these contracts more of these type of things offered in different languages so that there isn't there a possibility of abuse of vulnerability being taken advantage of. 

We might wrap things up on that note. I really want to thank each of you for sharing your perspectives on this topic today. It's been really insightful, and hopefully it'll help grow awareness on this topic and also offer a bit of hope for people that may be experiencing economic harm or abuse that there are places that they can go and there is help and support there. So thank you so much again. It's been great to have you. 

Economic Harm Resources & Support

Specialist helplines

moneytalks.co.nz  call 0800 345 123 or text 4029

goodshepherd.org.nz – call 0800 466 370

areyouok.org.nz – call 0800 456 450 (9am-11pm every day)

2shine.org.nz – call 0508 744 633 (24/7) or chat online

womensrefuge.org.nz – call 0800 733 843 (24/7)

avivafamilies.org.nz (Christchurch) – call 0800 28482 669

shakti-international.org/shakti-nz – 0800 742 584 (24/7)

Elder Abuse Helpline – 0800 32 668 65 (24/7)

safebubble.org.nz – 0800 456 450

For men

0800 Hey Bro / 0800 439 276 (24/7)

safemansafefamily.org.nz – 0800SAFEHELP

Places to go

Your local Women’s Refuge

Your local police station

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau

In immediate danger?

Call 111, and press 55 if unsafe to speak

Want to improve your financial know-how and wellbeing?  


This information is general information only. The views and opinions expressed in this video are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of the FSC. It is not intended to constitute financial advice and does not take your individual circumstances and financial situation into account. We encourage you to seek assistance from a trusted financial adviser or other professional advice.

The links that are provided or names of third parties are additional resources that you access at your own risk and the FSC takes no responsibility for any third party content.

The FSC and its employees make no express or implied representations or give any warranties regarding this information and we accept no responsibility for any loss, damage, cost, or expense (whether direct or indirect) incurred by you as a result of any error, omission, or misrepresentation in this information.

24 September 2021.   


Subscribe to our blog