Frances Cook: Best response to job fears is boosting financial resilience


“It’s been a weird year” – a sentence I keep trotting out while catching up with friends, workmates, everyone I bump into in the pre-Christmas rush.

It’s trite and boring but also the only vaguely positive way I can think of to sum up a year that has at times been deeply unpleasant, stressful, worrying.

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Back in March, when we were thrown into the first lockdown, people I knew took pictures of their desks as they packed up for home, unsure if they would ever come back to that job. Some of them didn’t.

In New Zealand, I feel lucky that our biggest worry is jobs. Far better that than the worry of people around you dying.

But just because someone else’s leg is broken doesn’t mean your arm doesn’t hurt. The job fears of many New Zealanders this year have been legitimately upsetting, and caused huge stress.

The results of the Financial Resilience Index from the Financial Services Council show just how badly job security worries have affected us.

The survey shows we leapt from 30 per cent of us worrying about it in March, to almost 50 per cent in both April and August.

A more general money worry also plagued many of us, with more people saying money was on their mind, and affecting things like their physical and mental health.

But in the detail of the report was also one encouraging detail I think we can all take something from.

More people have decided to start investing and building up household savings.

To me, this is the most rational and helpful response to an uncertain time like this.

Many reports have been issued over the years on our increasing instability of work. They don’t usually factor in a plague, they’re usually more focused on the gig economy, but to be honest it’s not hard to draw parallels between the impacts of the two.

Many of those reports have found that you don’t necessarily need to have job security back, in order to decrease the money stress. While that’s ideal, it’s not always within your control.

Instead, a solution can be to increase your own financial stability, so you know you have the ability to ride out any unpleasant shocks.

This might be through a strong savings account, potentially some independent investments, perhaps some side income from another gig that you can do without much commitment.

You certainly don’t need to do all of them, but they’re all considerations that will help you weather whatever it is that comes next.

If you put aside $20 a week into a savings account, that’s over $1000 in a year. You can start investing in shares from $5 a pop. A side hustle can be as small as juicing lime scooters, or as big as freelancing your work skills in your spare time.

Even small steps can do a lot to get you on more stable ground, and feeling more confident as you step into 2021.

This article is general information only, not financial advice.

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