Spend My Super

I have a new role.

It takes a bit of explaining.

In New Zealand, as in many developed countries, we have an increasing number of children born into poverty (one in four) whilst the country as a whole has never been richer.

And once born into poverty, their chances of leading a happy and fulfilling life are significantly impaired and mostly this is despite the best efforts of hard-working and loving parents.

They have a much higher chance of developing heart disease.

They are more likely to have bad teeth or be hospitalised for respiratory conditions like asthma and bronchiolitis.

Many are ‘food insecure’ an anodyne phrase that means they often go hungry which has a knock-on effect on their ability to concentrate at school with all that leads to in terms of their chances to access higher education or get jobs that pay more than minimum wage.

Because they live in houses which are badly heated or entirely unheated (and therefore damp and cold) they get asthma and coughs and colds more often.

Children from the poorest households are 3-4 times more likely to have mental illness than children in the best-off households.

And even in the cases where their parents might be accused of having contributed to the problem; they are the innocent victims. As someone working on childhood poverty front lines said to me last week; “they are doing the time, but they did not do the crime”.

For all its recent economic success and prosperity, New Zealand scores badly on childhood poverty compared to other developed countries.

However, New Zealand scores highly at the other end of the scale where old age poverty has been significantly reduced. In fact, the proportion of people over 65 in material deprivation is just 3 per cent. That is, of course, still too large a number and at $21,000 for a single person, New Zealand superannuation, the main source of income for many retirees, is not a vast amount. Nonetheless, New Zealand’s record on reducing pensioner poverty is an international success story.

Many retirees, of course, have worked hard and long and are able to live on more. And some are able to live on much more. The wealthiest 1% of New Zealanders have one-fifth of all net wealth (assets minus debts), while the poorest half have just 2%. And that inequality has a generational component. The average person over 65 has a net wealth of over $250,000, compared to only $25,000 for people in their 20s and many of the wealthiest 1% are of pensionable age.

So a few years ago when my good friend Liz Greive (who has been successful and, by her own admission, ‘lucky in life’) received notification that she could take her superannuation, she was in the happy situation of not needing it. And being an ex social worker and alive to the child poverty situation, she couldn’t help wonder if other people her age were in a similar situation. And if they were, might they not, like her, want to, “join the dots and see if my extra good fortune in the form of a pension I don’t need might be put to use at the other end of the generational scale by children in poverty?”

This was the genesis of the idea that became Spend My Super.

Why not set up a charity that raised the plight of children in poverty in New Zealand, with New Zealand superannuants and ask them if they could spend some or even all of their superannuation on helping out?

And as there are some well established charities already doing parts of this job; donations raised by Spend My Super would be funnelled through this existing and proven infrastructure. In fact, doners can choose one or any number up to 12.

But why create another organisation on top? Because not one of the existing charities addresses the whole issue and not one of them has the significant promotional and marketing muscle that Liz was prepared to deploy. They also have to be a little more conservative in how they go about their business. Spend my Super does not.

Because more than just set the charity up, Liz funds the whole thing. The legal entity, the salaries of the staff, the office costs, the infrastructure, the web site and the cost of the advertising and marketing campaign. Absolutely every cost is covered by her so that every cent anyone donates goes to the charities in the front line.

And so when she asked me to help out, I did. Last week we launched with a nationwide advertising, PR and social campaign which has ‘stirred the pot’ and introduced the concept and the brand with a bang (more on which later).

Here’s the announcement.

For the record, I am not (yet) of pensionable age, but nonetheless am a contributor too and please click here if you would like to be as well (even if you are as young or possibly even younger than me).

*Click here for the data behind these childhood poverty facts

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