A new survey has discovered that Australians are saving more now than any time since the 1980s. It turns out that factors such as net worth and income play a huge role in how much we stash under the mattress each month, as does your age and household behaviour.
The average Aussie now saves $427 per month (according to a recent Suncorp survey), which is more than at any point since the 1980s.
Between the 1970s and early 2000s, savings rates of Australian families reduced due to easy access to credit, falling real interest rates, rising asset prices, rising household income and high household confidence. By 2003, Australians weren’t saving enough for a vegemite sandwich.
Then financial crisis hit, causing a strong resurgence in savings (thank goodness!) As might be expected, households’ savings tend to increase with income, but decrease with wealth and gearing. The average now suggests that Aussies are saving around 12% of their disposable income. Financially constrained and migrant households tend to save more than other households (all else being equal). While saving differs substantially across age groups we find that, this does usually reflect differing circumstances.
The Suncorp survey found that younger Australians, aged 25 to 34, are killing it at saving: $533 a month on average. How they spend their savings however is cause for concern. Many young Aussies are not saving enough for retirement due to prioritising saving for emergencies and large purchases like real estate or holidays. This doesn’t leave much left to save for retirement, which seems a problem for the ‘distant future’.
A more detailed Reserve Bank discussion paper (2014) also found that Aussies save less between ages 35 and 45. This is understandable as middle-aged households are usually paying off mortgages and supporting children, leading to much higher costs of living during this ten-year period.
Unsurprisingly, wealth and income significantly affect our ability and propensity to save. The richest 20% of households save nearly 15% of their disposable income, double the average.
Interestingly though, the effect of owning a home outright depends on age. For the young, it’s associated with higher rates of saving and probably has a lot to do with personality, rather than a pure ‘wealth effect’.
Older households, on the other hand, show a decreased tendency to save if they own their own home. That’s probably down to feeling a greater amount of financial security, which reduces the desire to save for emergencies.
The savings gap between rich and poor is even more extreme when separated by income: the top 20% of households save 25% of their income, compared to negative 26% for the lowest income earners.
This is surprising as you would expect a household’s level of income should not affect their saving ratio (since households with high income would also have high consumption). International data supports this: as countries grow richer, household incomes trend higher but saving ratios do not. In Australia however, higher incomes do correlate with higher savings.
How do you stack up?
Comparison may be the thief of joy, however knowing what everyone else is saving can be empowering. If you are falling seriously short of your savings goals, it may be worth having a professional analyse your spending habits, check your tax strategy and ensure your retirement goals are on track.
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