Finance Your Budget Pay-rise drought is putting the squeeze on Aussies’ savings

Pay-rise drought is putting the squeeze on Aussies’ savings

Savings challenges.
Low wage growth is making saving difficult. Photo: Getty
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With immigration boosting the population but doing little to lift growth-per-head, Australians are not only finding it much more difficult to save, they are also tapping their nest eggs just to keep up.

Wages growth is at record lows, 1.9 per cent as of the end of March, and the ABC has reported on a Commonwealth Bank survey showing that workers’ pay is going backwards after inflation.

All that makes it increasingly hard to put aside the cash you need to give you some buffer to cover contingencies.

Kane Jiang, a financial planner with AA Financial Planning in Perth, told The New Daily “you should have about three months’ pay set aside to cover for unexpected things like losing your job or expenses you weren’t expecting”.

“I tell my clients that when you are young and have a young family you should put 10 per cent aside to build that buffer. If you’re earning $1000 a week after tax then save $100. Remember your super fund is also saving 9.5 per cent for you.”

As you get older, earn more and have less responsibilities, saving becomes easier, but still try when you are young, Mr Jiang said. “Warren Buffett (billionaire investor) says don’t save what’s left after spending; spend what’s left after saving.”

Independent economist Stephen Koukoulas said low wage growth is making the savings struggle harder for Australians.

“After the GFC, the savings rate shot up to 10 per cent for households for three or four years,” he said.

“In March it hit a new low of 4.7 per cent after falling consistently from those highs. Household debt is at record highs (of 190 per cent of income) making it hard to take on more debt if something goes wrong.”

Research from online operator UBANK has highlighted just how hard it is for Australians to save. Around 21 per cent of people have only $1000 or less in savings and 8 per cent of people have credit card debt of $10,000 or more.

Over one in three people (35 per cent) have spent all their money by pay day and 57 per cent of people dip into their savings monthly to get by with an average drawdown of $235 per month. Extrapolating this finding across the whole community equates to 11.07 million Australians taking out $2.6 billion from savings per month, or a total of $31 billion annual savings drawn down.

Spending appears driven by short-term needs. The survey also found that 45 per cent of respondents confirmed that more often than not, their money is being spent on items or experiences that make them happy.

Taking a systematic approach to savings is also a problem for many. The survey found that 46 per cent of people don’t have a weekly budget, 35 per cent of people don’t even have a savings account and 61 per cent of people don’t have a dedicated savings plan which they follow.

Consumers appear to be cutting back on credit card debt. Reserve Bank of Australia figures released on Wednesday show the total balance being charged interest in May was $32.8 billion, compared to $32.9 billion a year earlier.

Acting Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer saw some economic light in recent days, saying consumer sentiment had improved along with business confidence and some employment strength. These show “a very positive direction for the economy and for Australian businesses, Australian businesses that are backing themselves to hire more Australians”, Ms O’Dwyer said.

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