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Simple lessons for a bigger life

“My Dad found it pretty ironic when his son became a banker - and he was not afraid to remind me of the fallibility of the economy. He was right to.”

When my grandparents lost their house during the Great Depression my Dad was just a little boy but the experience never left him.


Of course, he did not fully comprehend what was going on at the time.


He knew the backyard that had been his world was no longer his to play in, that life was harder and that older kids were leaving school to go to work.


Most of all he saw the worry on his parents’ faces and how they tried to protect him.


When he left school as a carpenter’s apprentice, eventually starting his own business, he retained a morbid fear of debt.


But teaching him the trade was a great chippie who also subtly showed him how to navigate a tough world, plan for the future and envisage more for himself.


This broader education was the rock upon which he built a life for my mum and me.


I still marvel at how he built our family home by himself, without turning to the banks.


I absorbed many of his lessons without even realising it.


This is how many economic lessons are taught. Over generations.


My Dad found it pretty ironic when his son became a banker and he was not afraid to remind me of the fallibility of the economy. He was right to.


Over the last 250 years, there's been 39 financial crises of some shape or form. On average, they're every six or seven years. Try as we might, avoiding banking ructions of some sort has proven incredibly difficult.


When many bankers see financial crises coming, they think of the price of swap rates or things like liquidity. When my Dad saw financial crises coming, he thought of the price of food and of schoolbooks.


We can’t forget principles like this. In fact, it’s embedded into the financial wellbeing principles we instil in our customers today – things like spend less than you earn, put money aside for a rainy day and protect what you can’t afford to lose.


Whether the economy is booming or whether it is in turmoil we need to make sure a measure of our success is how much we collectively invest in education – a key part of which is supporting our teachers.


After all, some of us have people like my Dad who impart these values to the younger generation. For many others, those lessons are often taught by our teachers who help guide our children through these experiences.


They are there on the good days and often help carry our children through the hard times too.


Shayne Elliott is CEO of ANZ



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