Bank research reveals the regions where customers had the highest and lowest savings ahead of Omicron outbreak

Research released by ASB, which surveyed almost 600,000 of its customers, showed financial wellbeing was strongest in the Tasman region and weakest in Gisborne.
Research released by ASB, which surveyed almost 600,000 of its customers, showed financial wellbeing was strongest in the Tasman region and weakest in Gisborne. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Customers in the Tasman region have proportionally the highest level of savings compared to the national median, bank research shows.

It comes as the Omicron outbreak highlights the importance of having a financial buffer in place, to prepare for the unexpected.

Financial wellbeing research released by ASB which surveyed close to 600,000 of its customers in the year to November 30, shows the median value of savings held by customers across the country was $3032. 

Based on customer savings (e.g. savings accounts, credit cards, term deposits and term funds), financial well being was strongest in Tasman, followed by Nelson, Marlborough and Auckland, ASB research showed. 

People living in Nelson and Tasman areas had the highest savings balances, just under a third (31 percent) higher than the national median in Tasman, and 25 percent higher in Nelson.

The Gisborne and Southland regions had the lowest level of financial wellbeing, customers over 40 percent more likely than average to be in overdraft. Median savings of customers in Gisborne were $1940 (64 percent) less than the national median, $1200 (40 percent) less in Southland.

As New Zealand braces for a rise in Omicron cases, ASB CEO Vittoria Shortt said global experience showed how Omicron could disrupt peoples' ability to work, whether through contracting the virus, and/or needing to self-isolate, or caring for sick family members.

"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," Shortt said.

Many Kiwis found themselves unexpectedly better off when opportunities to spend were reduced, ASB research found.

Using money skills gained over the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns, Shortt suggests people think about a couple of small changes they could put in place. 

This may include reviewing spending, setting up a regular online payment into a separate savings account or other low-risk investment option, and/or using bank alerts to avoid going into overdraft.  

"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," Shortt added.

A rule-of-thumb for a financial buffer is three-to-six months' worth of income.  The required amount will vary depending on peoples' situation, such as number of dependents, and fixed costs.

"Test your buffer…what would happen in a situation if you were unable to work for an extended period of time," Shortt suggested.

She also reminds people that a higher income doesn't necessarily equal higher savings.  It's what they do day-by-day that counts.

"It's what you do with what you earn, rather than what you do earn," Shortt added.

Wellington customers had the highest median monthly account inflows, coming in 8 percent higher than the national median, the Capital coming in seventh (after Otago) for financial wellbeing.

Also referred to as a 'rainy day fund' or 'emergency fund', having a financial buffer provides money to draw on for emergencies.

It helps people avoid having to apply for loans, missing credit card repayments and/or going into overdraft.