Date posted: 04/12/2023 8 min read

To the rescue

Luke Kemeys CA wants to inspire change and help people keep more than just small change in their bank accounts.

Quick take

  • Luke Kemeys CA runs Keep The Change, an online resource that aims to help New Zealanders improve their financial literacy.
  • In a challenging economy, people are looking for help and guidance to better manage their money.
  • Kemeys believes that now is the time to start normalising and talking more openly about financial health.

By Hayden Maskell

Luke Kemeys CA operates business advisory firm, Next Advisory, and promotes personal financial literacy through his Keep The Change online knowledge base. With a website, weekly newsletter and podcast, Keep The Change aims to help New Zealanders improve their financial literacy.

What led you to start Keep The Change?

I had conversations with my parents around financial literacy and often problems that we would talk about came back to the lack of financial literacy. One day my stepmum said to me, ‘Why don’t you do something about it?’

When we were [in COVID lockdowns] I started getting asked questions by some of my friends around finances and what was happening in the economy. So, I started to put together a big Google folder of different budgeting templates and things that they could be thinking about, breaking some tax myths and other things that we often take for granted as accountants that people will know.

Luke Kemeys CAPictured: Luke Kemeys CA. Image credit: Jessie Casson

Why do you think Keep The Change is such an important initiative – especially now?

Accountants play a really important role in our communities because we’re looked up to and trusted with money and numbers. People expect us to know a lot about these things. People are looking to us for advice and help.

We need to do a better job of helping everyday Kiwis because I don’t know that all the information is there in the ways people want it. Financially, it’s not as easy as it was a few years ago or before COVID, and people are looking for help and some factual information [to help figure out whether] they’re on the right path: whether it’s understanding secondary tax, or budgeting, or how a dividend works.

It’s probably fair to say that very few people engage with accountants, unless they are contractors or businesses. Perhaps personal financial advice seems inaccessible?

Yeah, for sure; maybe our profession has a bit of a stigma of being boring at times, but we’ve actually got some really interesting stuff that we can be talking about. Maybe we just need to be doing it a bit more?

For instance, during the pandemic, the media was interviewing economists and university professors. Where were the accountants telling everyone what they were seeing? Accountants were on the front line.

What engagement have you had with Keep The Change?

I haven’t missed a Friday newsletter in three years, which is pretty good going, if I do say so myself! There’s a written newsletter, which goes out every Friday across LinkedIn, Instagram and to email subscribers. About 10,000 people read that each week now.

Then, there’s a podcast version. I think that’s how people really want to consume their information at the moment, via audio. I started reading the episodes as podcasts and we’ve gone past 400 podcasts now. [There are] tens of thousands of people listening to the podcast as well, so the audio version is a lot more popular than the written version.

Do you get people emailing and messaging you frequently?

I would say [I receive] at least two really good ones a week, at the moment. We’re about three years into this journey and people will share their stories of what they’ve done to make change or improve their own financial situation, and what has really helped them, which is probably the most rewarding thing. That’s what I wanted to see because without action, information doesn’t really matter.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about money?

Money is a tool: nothing more, nothing less. Money is neutral. Good people do good things with it and evil people do evil things with it. But I think that a lot of people go through life thinking that money is evil because they’ve heard that in a movie or a story or something, and they hold on to these stories about money and it then shapes how they live the restof their life.

Maybe if they realised money is neutral, their life could be completely different if they looked at it a different way. I try to remind people that money is literally just a tool and us – the humans – we’re the ones that give it all the emotion.

What are the key points you want to convey to others about personal financial literacy?

It’s an ongoing learning journey and once you have the basics in place, you may need more specific or individualised learning. Financial habits and beliefs can lead to disagreements, wellbeing issues, divorce. They can also lead to freedom, options, peace of mind... the list goes on. People probably need to understand how important the subject of financial wellbeing and financial literacy is.

I think we’ve done a lot recently to normalise talking about mental health and physical health, but what about financial health? I think we just park it off to the side and hope that everyone forgets about it, but people are dealing with money every single day. It’s really important for each of us as individuals, because we’re all different.

Five things most young people don’t know about money

1. Money changes hands when value exceeds price so, individually, it’s wise to focus on becoming more valuable.

2. Every day, money is becoming worth less because of inflation. You must understand inflation and ensure your children do too.

3. Everyday habits help determine your future, including your financial future. Learn sound financial habits and accept they are hard (and could restrict some fun).

4. Money is abundant, but society makes us think it’s scarce and hard to get. Travel (if money allows) or search online to see how other people live and ask yourself, ‘How do they make sense of that?’. For example, I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve been in a helicopter, yet some people own them and hire a full-time pilot – how? Don’t assume: stay curious.

5. You think you have heaps of time in life, but wasting time (like in your 20s, as I did) means a huge loss of compounding. Warren Buffett amassed more than 90% of his wealth after the age of 50, due to compounding. Look him up to understand the power of compounding.

Take away

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