National financial wellbeing remains elevated during COVID

The financial wellbeing of Australians continues to remain higher than before the COVID pandemic began, according to the latest Australian Consumer Financial Wellbeing report released today by Commonwealth Bank and the Melbourne Institute.

CBA’s Head of Financial Wellbeing, Ben Grauer, said: “While it may be a surprise to some, this latest research with the Melbourne Institute shows the nation’s financial wellbeing is close to the same level as it was last year and higher than it was before the pandemic began.

“Also, despite enduring challenging restrictions and lockdowns, Victoria and New South Wales fared the best overall compared to the same time last year. Victoria and New South Wales moved up into equal first and second position respectively for financial wellbeing, with those in ACT again having the highest financial wellbeing score across the country.”

The latest report, analysing the transactional and account data of Commonwealth Bank customers, highlights that the overall financial wellbeing score was 50.1 (out of 100) for September 2021 and 50.2 for September 2020, compared to a score of 47.3 in September 2019.

The highest average levels of financial wellbeing were found in ACT at 53, VIC at 52.6 and NSW at 49.9.

“A range of macro and micro economic factors during the pandemic all help to explain this increased and sustained level of financial wellbeing compared to pre-COVID. Our latest research highlights that Aussies across the country were limiting how much they consumed and increasing how much they were saving given the uncertainty at the time, all while being supported with government initiatives such as JobKeeper and JobSeeker,” Mr Grauer said.

The latest report reveals median household savings balances remain elevated compared to pre-COVID levels.

“While remaining similar to last year, savings balances are 66 per cent higher than two years ago – indicating a persistence of precautionary savings behaviour during the pandemic,” Mr Grauer said.

The proportion of those Australians experiencing the worst or negative financial wellbeing outcomes remains significantly better than the same time two years ago.

Speaking about the latest data, Professor John de New from the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research at the University of Melbourne, said: “The latest data should be interpreted as a sign of a healthy economy, which is rebounding with increased consumption and confidence. Despite an increase in expenditure during the first economic recovery in March 2021 in response to pent-up consumer demand, savings balances still remain high.”

Mr Grauer said the latest data showed financial wellbeing increasing in VIC and remaining stable in NSW, as compared to the previous year.

“We’re really encouraged the overall financial wellbeing of Australians is continuing to remain higher than before the pandemic began,” Mr Grauer said.

About the Australian Consumer Financial Wellbeing Report

  • The Australian Consumer Financial Wellbeing Report is a quarterly report from CommBank and the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research at the University of Melbourne.
  • The report harnesses actual transactional and account data from over 5 million CommBank customers and tracks their financial wellbeing outcomes.
  • The report is based on the Melbourne Institute’s Observed Financial Wellbeing Scale, and comprises five major components that measure financial wellbeing, capturing the extent to which Australians have financial freedom, control, security, and can meet their ongoing obligations – now and into the future.
  • The report provides a nationally representative view of Australians’ financial wellbeing, and describes the annual rate of change to financial wellbeing outcomes for more than a quarter of the Austraian adult population.
  • The report’s methodology draws on the MI Observed Financial Wellbeing Scale, a world-first, objective measure of financial wellbeing based on banking records.

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