You call this a recession?
I’m not going to be popular for saying this, but I don’t think most Australian consumers are really suffering in the current economic climate.
It might be coming, but the recession is not here yet. And it may not come at all.
I know what you’re thinking: haven’t I been following the doom and gloom pundits in the papers and earnest international economists on the telly? Where have I been hiding over the last six months? Iceland?
Well, talking to about 2,000 Australians online, actually. And what they are saying about their finances and the economy just might surprise you.
Shell be right!
Sure, rising interest rates, petrol and food prices are no fun and they are hurting some people. Some Australian households are tightening their belts by cutting food and fuel bills, delaying holidays, even canceling cable TV/internet.
But surprisingly the majority of people we interviewed recently for our ‘state of the wallet’ study are telling us they are doing just fine, thank you. In fact, 38% feel better than worse off compared to how they were doing a year ago. A further 36% say there’s been no change in their financial situation.
Yeah, but they are just telling you what they think you want to hear, you say. Strangely enough, we’ve found over the years that people are often more honest and upfront when they talk about their financial situation online than by phone or in person.
So that left just 27% who say they are worse off, a surprisingly small number given the doom and gloom stories in the news.
Why are people feeling okay? Consistent tax rate cuts have benefited most of us, leaving us more disposable income. Another thing? Only one third of Australians have a mortgage and are thus exposed to interest rate hikes.
In addition, most people say they aren’t worried about their jobs. Businesses are unlikely to shed employees, even if there is a mild downturn in the economy, because this is still a period of chronic skill shortages. And finally, a lot of people think the Rudd Government is delivering better benefits that help working families.
Whos happy? Why the young, of course!
So who’s feeling okay? Definitely the young (and people in WA and Tasmania). The demographic lovingly referred to as Generation Y is still spending money.
With so many Gen Yers still living at home, it is not surprisingly that they are less affected by economic downturns compared to home owners, people with children or older people whose income may have plateaued and whose super is down the tubes.
Generation Y is the least likely to own a home, credit card or car. So they don’t have the big expenses. Also they are more likely to be receiving pay rises and promotions at this stage in their life. They’re sweet.
The ones starting to feel the pinch are those aged 50-60. Despite having the highest amount of savings/investments, their income levels have plateaued and possibly declined through going part time or having retired. In addition, their super funds are down.
If there is any cost cutting going on, it’s most prevalent between the ages of 30-39 years old. Having a large mortgage and young family are typical of this age group, putting increased pressure on the family wallet, but when has it ever not?
Overall, our survey suggests that people are not feeling the pinch as much as the media suggests. While there are undoubtedly small pockets of people who are feeling worse off at the moment, it could be argued these pockets could easily be attributed to traditional dynamics such as growing older, retiring, buying property, having families and so on.
Dont worry, be happy
So keep a good thought: the recession might be coming, but it’s not here … yet.