Glenn Wealands, Head of Client Experience, Rabobank Australia has joined Dave tolook at the Financial Health Barometer
While 2020 has seen a mix of households doing it tough versus others who have fared more favourably, a shared experience for many is greater money mindfulness and better savings habits, with one third (31%) of consumers saving regularly each month, up from 25% pre-pandemic.
In the latest Financial Health Barometer, Rabobank surveyed Australians in March and again in September, finding that 3.7 million Australian households (34%) have experienced a decrease in income as a result of COVID-19.
This has trigged a focus on finances for many, leading to a proportion of Aussies reducing their spending across a multitude of areas including entertainment (44%), clothes (40%), food (23%), and delaying major purchases (23%).
This year, there’s also been a positive shift in how we save; nine out of ten Australians (90%) now have a savings buffer, up from 84% pre-pandemic. The average Australian’s savings buffer could now last them four months (118 days), an increase of two weeks compared to pre-pandemic. With better savings habits, Aussies’ are pocketing an average of $978 in savings every month, compared with average monthly savings of $815 in 2019.
Against the backdrop of a volatile year, these healthy money habits have helped to leave us feeling more confident with our finances (53% compared to 51% pre-pandemic) and living within our means (74%). More than four out of five Aussies (83%) also say they have enough to get by or are financially comfortable.
Comparisons reveal an unequal impact
2020 has prompted a divergence across the country when it comes to financial health. Gen Z (36%) and Gen Y (38%), students (44%) and people working part-time (43%), were most likely to have seen a reduction in income during 2020, alongside those in VIC (41%), TAS (36%), and NSW (35%).
Government assistance has helped bridge the gap for many, with two in five (39%) Aussies taking up additional support this year (including Job Seeker, Job Keeper, and early super access).
To meet short-term needs during the pandemic, some Australians dipped into their savings (15%), accessed their super early (9%), reduced their voluntary super contributions (6%) or cut their health insurance (6%).
Glenn Wealands, Head of Client Experience, Rabobank Australia, commented: “Many of us have had to make changes to our spending and saving habits this year as we’ve grappled with the impact of the pandemic, but as we start to focus on a new year, it’s worthwhile to review the strategies we’ve put in place to ensure they are aligned to not only meeting short term needs but longer term goals also.”
The research shows that nearly one in ten accessed the superannuation early release scheme, with APRA reporting that Australians have collectively taken out $34.1 billion or reduced their nest egg by $7,668 – $8,374 on average. Most reported using the money to pay for essential items (40%) and make mortgage payments (53%), while one in five spent the cash on home renovations (22%). However, a small group spent these funds treating themselves (11%) or their friends and family (8%).
Mr Wealands added: “It’s been a tough year, but we’ve weathered the storm well as a nation, and if ever there was a time that we deserve to reward ourselves, this is it. But as we spend a well-earned break with family and friends over the holiday period and turn our thoughts to 2021, let’s make sure to keep up the positive money habits many of us have formed in 2020, setting us up for a financially fit future.”
Top tips to keep financially fit:
-2020 has shown having a savings buffer is as important as ever, make a plan to contribute to yours more regularly in 2021.
-Although interest rates are low, it’s still worth finding a high interest savings account which can make your dollars work a little harder, be less volatile and safer. The Government’s Financial Claims Scheme is a guarantee that covers up to $250,000 held in an Authorised Deposit-taking Institution.
-If you are one of the 9% of Aussies who had to dip into their super early this year, or the 6% who reduced voluntary contributions, make a plan to start building that nest egg back up. Even a little will have a big impact over the years!
-For those who had a mortgage holiday, switched to interest only, or paused their health insurance, aim to get back on track to support a bright future! With 2020 almost behind us it’s a good time to think about your long-term financial plan.
For more insights on the ins and outs of Australia’s savings, including the latest research data, visit www.rabobank.com.au/