Saving more than just money
Learning new saving habits on a tight budget and building a buffer to cope with unexpected bills are just two ways the life-changing Saver Plus program has helped over 45,000 people on lower incomes.
Saver Plus is the world’s longest running matched savings program – jointly run by the Brotherhood St Laurence, ANZ, community partners and the Federal Department of Social Services. It began with a pilot project of fewer than 300 people in a few locations back in 2003. Now thousands across Australia have turned their lives around, collectively saving $23 million with ANZ providing over $18 million in matched funds to participants.
The achievements of Saver Plus were celebrated recently at the national Saver Plus conference in Brisbane, attended by coordinators from around Australia.
Speakers and participants were able to reflect on what had been achieved over 16 years and, through sharing stories, look at how better to keep meeting people’s changing needs.
Brotherhood Executive Director Conny Lenneberg said the program not only gets people’s budgets on track, but also teaches them money saving habits which are then passed on to the next generation.
Dr Lisa O’Brien, CEO of The Smith Family said her organisation was proud to be a part of Saver Plus due to its “enduring” impact on children and families and its link to education.
Other speakers highlighted the complex path that is navigated when supporting people to build their money management skills and help them plan for the future.
“Concerns about money can vary significantly, and there are many reasons why people might be struggling from time-to-time. Having confidence and resilience through those times is really important,” said Michelle Commandeur, Group Head of Financial Inclusion at ANZ.
Award-winning journalist Rick Morton, author of the memoir One Hundred Years of Dirt told the conference that as a child his family was plunged into poverty after his parents relationship broke down and his father froze the family bank account.
“Mum is the hardest working person I know. She had a notebook – in the evenings she would do her sums, she knew money down to the last five cents.
“I am comfortably middle class on paper, but still with the mind of a poor child who watched my mum. I wish Mum had something like Saver Plus when I was a kid.”
Conny described poverty as having a “woman’s face”. The majority of participants in the program are single-parent households headed by women.
Conny said, according to research by RMIT, the program created lasting change – with 87% of participants saving the same amount or more, three to seven years later.
Saver Plus is an initiative of Brotherhood of St Laurence and ANZ, delivered in partnership with Berry Street, The Benevolent Society and The Smith Family and other local community agencies. The program is funded by ANZ and the Australian Government Department of Social Services.