Author Katrina Shanks, CEO Financial Advice NZ. Article originally published in

OPINION: In this complex economic environment – marked by heightened volatility, high inflation, and a whole lot of uncertainty – small businesses are facing numerous challenges. Many of our advisers know this all too well, both as small business owners themselves and through their interactions with clients.

With this in mind, a new report by online accounting firm Xero, that set out to investigate how small business owners are coping, reveals some compelling data.

The good news is that, according to the report, owning a small business in New Zealand is less stressful (on average, of course) than in other developed countries. And that’s also thanks to having healthy finances.

To me, it is a reminder of both the resourcefulness of New Zealand business owners and the value of quality financial advice in helping them take care of their well-being. Here’s why…

Some key global findings

Between November 2022 and February 2023, Xero surveyed more than 4,600 small businesses in seven countries:

  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • UK
  • Canada
  • South Africa
  • Singapore
  • US

The questions covered personal well-being, life satisfaction, and business outcomes – including financial stress, employee well-being, and work-life balance.

The responses revealed that small businesses in South Africa and Singapore have the highest level of well-being, followed by New Zealand.

Younger business owners (under 30) generally felt better than those aged over 50. And in terms of life satisfaction, New Zealand small businesses ranked the highest, while those in the UK ranked the lowest in both well-being and life satisfaction.

So, why are New Zealand business owners generally less stressed than their counterparts in other countries?

Looking at New Zealand-related data, these are some of the findings that stood out to me:

  • 49% of small business owners in New Zealand feel calm and relaxed most of the time, compared to 43% of Australian owners, and 37% of owners in the UK
  • Only 14% say they experience financial distress most or all of the time – and 28% said they never experienced it at any time
  • Only 15% find work issues causing personal stress most or all of the time, 9% less than any other country

If all countries essentially face the same three headwinds (inflation, stagnant economic growth, and labour shortages), it looks like our ability to manage stress and our money makes a big difference.

According to Xero, New Zealand business owners tend to be less stressed because of healthy finances and effective work-life boundaries. Their well-being improves when they feel happier, which in turn leaves them feeling more in control of their financial life.

And reduced financial stress, in turn, boosts their sense of well-being and happiness. It’s easy to see where financial advisers can contribute to this virtual cycle, by helping business owners grow and protect their creations.

Another noteworthy point is that Kiwi business owners feel significantly less stress managing employees’ mental health compared to their global counterparts. This could indicate that the stigma surrounding mental health is gradually diminishing, and Kiwis are increasingly able to discuss and address it – for themselves and those around them.

Takeaways for advisers too

We know from data that 451 of the 1,360 Financial Advice Providers who were licensed at the start of the new regime (17 March 2023) were sole adviser businesses, and therefore small business owners in their own right.

So, here are some takeaways from the Xero report that I think may resonate with them:

  • Pursuing fulfilling and engaging work leads to higher well-being levels: In the busyness of life and work, from time to time it’s crucial to remind ourselves why we’re doing what we’re doing. Being a financial adviser is rewarding, but it can also be stressful. And one way to make it more rewarding and less stressful is to reduce the time spent on tasks that bring less satisfaction. By outsourcing and automating, advisers can free up time for what they enjoy most – providing advice.
  • Peer support and counselling can help small business owners learn stress management techniques from one another: This is something that Financial Advice NZ has recognised early on. We launched our peer support group a few years ago to help our members with the impact of Covid-19 – visit our Support Resources page to learn more.
  • Intentionally setting boundaries between work and personal life is crucial for achieving a healthy balance: While it may not always be easy, consider moving away from an ‘always on’ mindset.
  • Work-life boundaries matter, and finding a balance between rest, work, and purpose is essential. A 2021 report conducted in Australia by Deakin University and e-lab suggested that advisers who engaged in regular recovery activities – such as practising a hobby, meditating, or exercising – were more likely to feel better overall.

As I pointed out back then, it’s important for advisers not to lose sight of their own health, while helping Kiwis prioritise their well-being.

In your corner

At Financial Advice NZ, we continue to support our members in their day-to-day endeavours as well as advocating for the financial services sector and promoting the value of quality advice. If you’d like to know more about our initiatives, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Here to help

Financial Advice NZ’s ever-growing library of Bring in the Experts webinars are available in our members’ section. Financial Advice NZ was founded with a single-minded purpose: to help New Zealanders, and New Zealand as a whole, be financially better off.