An increasing number of Australians are struggling with the cost of living, dipping into their short-term savings just to get by, ME Bank’s latest Household Financial Comfort Report says.
The biannual survey released Monday asked 1500 people to rate their household comfort for the first half of 2018, showing short-term cash savings to be the biggest area of decline.
A bright spot in the otherwise gloomy findings came for renters, who reported a lessening in financial stress, thanks largely to a cooling housing market and falling rents.
The report’s Household Financial Comfort Index, which surveys how ordinary Australian perceive their own financial wellbeing, saw a 3 per cent drop on the February results to 4.93 out of 10 for the first half of 2018 – “its lowest level in a couple of years”.
Living expenses were the biggest reason for using short-term savings, the survey found.
In the past year, 17 per cent of households could not always pay their utilities bills on time, 19 per cent sought financial help from family or friends and 15 per cent pawned or sold something to buy necessities, the findings showed.
“Australians generally can dip into their savings to get by,” consulting economist for ME Jeff Oughton said.
“However some households may get to a point where there’s no more savings to draw from,” Mr Oughton said.
“Currently, around a quarter of Australian households have less than $1000 in cash savings,” he added.
The report said the worst-affected demographic was young singles and couples under 30 with no kids.
This group reported falls across all areas of comfort, including in their ability to handle a financial emergency.
Meanwhile, ‘baby boomers’ continued to report the highest financial comfort of all generations.
The report revealed housing stress was still broadly unchanged for households with mortgages.
Some 45 per cent of mortgage holders reported to they contributed more than 30 per cent of their disposable income toward their home loans the past six months.
“The good news for renters is that financial stress has lessened somewhat during the past six months, thanks to the housing market cooling and rents falling,” Mr Oughton said.
“While almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of renters were previously contributing over 30 per cent of their disposable income towards rent, this number dropped significantly to two-thirds (67 per cent in the most recent survey,” he added.