Te Kahukura Boynton grew up in an environment where money was always a source of stress.
Now at just 19, she’s in her third year of law school and building on her dream to become a millionaire.
Te Kahukura (Te Whakatōhea, Ngāti Kahungunu, Tūhoe) shares her journey on TikTok, helping inspire other rangatahi Māori to build their mātauranga (knowledge) around growing and saving money.
Her approach is authentic, crack up and unapologetically Māori - and it’s drawing thousands of viewers, as more rangatahi across Aotearoa look for tools to better understand investing, budgeting and business development.
Te Kahukura, who lives in Kirikiriroa, is part of a wider movement among Māori using their online influence to promote financial literacy.
Te Kahukura is known online as the Māori Millionaire.
“Māori Millionaire is on a mission to empower Māori to become financially independent,” she says.
“I have a blog and a podcast and all the different social media that rangatahi use to … teach people about personal finance and investing in entrepreneurship.
“My three biggest kaupapa are: entrepreneurship; managing pūtea - how you are able to look after your money, whether that's savings and budgeting; and then investing - so, growing pūtea.”
Te Kahukura is quick to point out that she isn’t a millionaire - just yet.
“The goal for the end of this year is to hit $100,000, and then the goal is to be a millionaire by the time I'm 25.”
As well as studying law, Te Kahukura runs her own business and works part-time at a law firm that specialises in Waitangi Tribunal claims. Her focus and determination on a secure financial future is driven by her whānau experiences.
“We grew up in state housing. Money was scarce and so I was very protective of the amounts of money that we did have.
“You can work your whole life in a nine to five and you can be diligent with your money and still it doesn't get you ahead. I felt a lot of aroha for those adults in my life.”
‘I want better for me’
At 17, Te Kahukura had to move out of home due to family reasons part way through her final year of high school.
It was a huge relief when her application to law school at the University of Waikato was accepted and she was able to move into the university dorms. But it meant money was again extremely tight.
“I was like: ‘I just don't want to live like this, I want better for me.’”
Building that better life meant building on her knowledge around finances.
“I'm a total bookworm and growing up I read all of those books like Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I remember calling my Nan [when] I was eight and I was like: ‘Nan, I just need to call and make sure that you're maximising your contributions to your KiwiSaver to make sure you're getting the right amount of compound interest for you and pāpā,” she says, laughing.
Since then she’s continued to read stacks of books, go to finance and real estate seminars, and trawl through Youtube videos.
Te Kahukura says she also found the Sorted website helpful (a free service run by Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission) to calculate how much she can save as well as working out how much she needs to put aside for her retirement, which she says people in their teens and early 20s should be thinking about.
‘Pre-colonisation, we had a really strong economy’
She says there’s an incorrect perception that Māori are bad with money.
Instead, what she’s seeing is many rangatahi, like herself, who are eager to have greater financial literacy.
“When we look back, pre-colonisation, Māori were traders and we had a really strong economy. That’s why I think that Māori can do well in the finance sector.”
Sorted website’s Kaihautū and Director Māori and Learning, Erin Thompson (Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Ngaati Tiipa), says the organisation introduced a Sorted in Schools programme to fill a much-needed information gap when it came to rangatahi and finances.
“In 2018 there was a survey that was done and 80% of school leaders were saying: ‘if we had learned about money at school, we'd be much better off after leaving school.’”
Erin says one area that is important for rangatahi to consider is saving for retirement as early as possible, as an alarming number of people in Aotearoa are now retiring without enough money to meet basic needs.
She says the first step is to join KiwiSaver as soon as possible - even if you’re just contributing $2 or $5 a week.
Erin says while it’s encouraging that many rangatahi are no longer using credit cards, a big challenge is the overuse of buy-now-pay-later apps.
“The advice I always give to people: if you can’t afford it, take some time to really think about whether you need it.”
Erin says Sorted’s research shows that when it comes to finances, rangatahi Māori are driven by the impact their choices will have on their wider whānau and hapū.
That is certainly what motivates Te Kahukura.
“When we have access to money we can choose how we want to live. That’s the goal I have for Māori - being able to make decisions for ourselves. We can do whatever we want to do if we have the resources and the means to.”
“If you’re able to see where your money is going, you’re more likely to be able to look after it well.”
“ I didn’t choose brick laying, brick laying chose me.”
Honey Ellis (Tainui, Ngāti Kahungunu) is a social worker turned TikTok educator.