Households struggling to save or cope with unexpected bills, Kiwibank report reveals

Households are struggling to save or cope with an unexpected bill because of the high cost of living, according to a Kiwibank report.

The bank's first State of Savings index showed 59 percent of respondents had a budget, and 41 percent had regular savings, but 30 percent would struggle to pay an unexpected $500 expense without having to borrow, sell something, or resort to a credit card.

Kiwibank chief executive Steve Jurkovich said the survey pointed to financial resilience, but also vulnerabilities.

"While it's encouraging to see that some New Zealanders are managing to save and set financial goals, the research shows that a large portion are vulnerable to financial shocks."

He said households understood the need for budgeting and saving, although amount being saved monthly, outside of Kiwisaver, was generally less than $100 for four out of 10 respondents.

'Confronting' data

Jurkovich said the tight financial position of many households was reflected among Kiwibank customers.

"People are now six times more likely to tell you the big financial issues they are facing are the cost of living versus divorce, illness or losing a job, and we have certainly noticed that over the last 18 months."

"We've also noticed in our card spending that spending on entertainment, hospitality and retail are down very sharply, so real indicators show people are knuckling down and paying the bills they have to face such as the mortgage."

The survey showed about two-thirds of those with mortgages were likely to follow a budget, as were those aged between 30 and 44.

Regular savers' priorities were for emergencies, holidays, and retirement, with women more likely to save for emergencies and those under 30 more likely to save for home ownership and a car.

However, women and those under 30 were also more likely to be struggling to save, which nearly three quarters of respondents put down to the high cost of living.

Jurkovich said the data regarding women was "confronting" and pointed to the need for measures giving them support at times when they were taking time out for parenting or caring for elderly.

He said tough financial conditions were set to remain for the rest of the year, but interest rate cuts by the Reserve Bank would at least lift confidence even if they provided little immediate relief to households.

The survey of 1046 people was conducted by Talbot Mills the week before the budget with a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.