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Dr Pushpa Wood will help New Zealanders make more sense of their dollars as the new director of the New Zealand Centre for Personal Financial Education.
The centre, a joint initiative between Westpac Bank and Massey University, aims to improve knowledge of, attitudes to, and behaviour with money.
Dr Wood has a long history of financial literacy advocacy. She was previously the education manager at the Government's Commission for Financial Literacy and Retirement Income.
She has worked across the school, tertiary, and industry sectors to improve financial literacy, and is a member of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority’s project advisory group reviewing financial literacy. She is also the current chair of the Adult Literacy Practitioners’ Association.
Dr Wood is looking forward to building on the work of centre, which was launched in June last year. This will include implementing a certificate programme for personal financial educators, overseeing a longitudinal study to identify why so many New Zealanders struggle with their finances, and the Retirement Expenditure Survey for Workplace Savings NZ.
The first course to certify personal finance educators is set to run in July, and this project is particularly close to Dr Wood’s heart. She believes education is the only way to have a long-term impact, and this must include providing appropriate tools and resources to empower educators.
“It’s an issue that can’t be ignored if we want to avoid some serious problems in the future. We need to be mindful of what’s coming in 20 to 30 years if this generation fails to live within its means and save for its retirement.”
Dr Wood says she considers financial literacy equal in importance to literacy and numeracy, and personal financial education needs to start at a young age, preferably at school.
“Our young people need to be taught that there is such a thing as delayed gratification, and that they can save for what they want without feeling a need to use a credit card to make a purchase,” she says.
The head of Massey University’s College of Business and chair of the centre’s board, Professor Ted Zorn, says Dr Wood has the leadership skills and passion needed to help New Zealanders become financially empowered.
“Massey University is committed to applying its expertise to real-world issues and improving personal financial education is an extremely important task,” Professor Zorn says. “Dr Wood has a vision of all New Zealanders beginning their adult lives with good financial literacy skills, and that vision has the University’s full support.”
Westpac corporate affairs director and board member Sue Foley says the appointment of Dr Wood is a welcome move. "With the vast experience and expertise that Dr Wood brings, we look forward to building on the work the centre has already done towards helping Kiwis towards a better financial future."