All in it together? Financial wellbeing before COVID-19

Emily Porter, Dina Bowman and Matthew Curry

Our analysis of Roy Morgan Single Source Survey data showed that financial wellbeing in Australia improved in the two years before the COVID-19 crisis, but not all groups experienced the same improvements.

At a glance

In the two years up to March 2020, unemployed workers, single parents, disability pensioners, young people and renters did not share the overall improvement in financial wellbeing.

Dive deeper

In this first paper in a series on financial wellbeing in Australia we explore patterns and trends in the two years prior to the COVID-19 crisis, We identify where structural barriers limit the ability of vulnerable groups to improve their financial wellbeing and build long-term economic security.

We use ANZ's Financial Wellbeing Indicator, which draws on multiple questions in the continuous Roy Morgan Single Source Survey. The Indicator brings together three dimensions based on Kempson and colleagues’ (2017) model of financial wellbeing:

  • respondents’ ability to meet everyday commitments
  • how financially secure they feel
  • and their resilience to negative shocks.

Each survey respondent is scored from 0 to 100 for each dimension, and the average of the three scores is reported as the overall Financial Wellbeing Indicator score.

Our analysis of the two-year period to March 2020 highlighted unequal patterns in financial wellbeing, including:

  • Increases in the ability to Meet Commitments were stronger among higher income households, with an average improvement of almost 7%, than among lower income households (just under 4%).
  • Unemployed workers spent almost 90% of their income on living expenses, leaving limited scope for saving.
  • In contrast to every other household type (coupled parents, couples and single adults), Financial Wellbeing scores for single parents declined, by 6%.
  • Among Disability Support Pensioners Financial Wellbeing scores decreased, driven by a sharp 21% decline in their ability to Meet Commitments.
  • Among young people (aged 18 to 29), Feeling Comfortable scores declined by 4%, though overall Financial Wellbeing increased by 4%.
  • Renters continued to experience weaker financial wellbeing, with scores around 30% lower than home owners and 15% below those with mortgages.

This report is part of the Financial Lives in Uncertain Times project. The research was made possible by the generous support of ANZ through the ANZ Tony Nicholson Fellowship and the provision under licence of Roy Morgan Single Source Survey data.

Last updated on 9 December 2021