Thematic Report

Mr & Mrs Australia

by Scott Ryall / Feb 16, 2016

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Findings from CLSA’s fourth Mr & Mrs Australia survey sees us more optimistic about consumer spending than at any time since we began tracking sentiment in 2011. The financial outlook for our 1,400 respondents across the country is more positive than before but consumers are unlikely to emulate the debt-fuelled 1990’s.

Results of the survey find that spending concerns are moderating, due to lower interest rates and fuel prices, savings rates are strong, and retirement concerns are subsiding. Stress around debt levels and employment prospects still exist and consumers continue to remain critical of government economic policy.

Key findings:

  • Spending concerns are moderating, but 55% of those surveyed still have to be careful with money
  • Savings rates remain strong and there is flexibility for increased discretionary spending
  • Some relief among three of the four largest fixed-expense items (home-loan repayments, utility bills and fuel), although concerns remain about potential utility bill hikes
  • Retirement concerns easing
    • While house prices remain high (up around 20% over the last two-years) there are less concerns about retirement funding
    • Upsurge in people selling homes to fund retirement (many respondents believe renting is more suited to their needs)
    • In NSW almost 50% of respondents (where house price increases have been greatest in the past 12-months), indicate confidence around having adequate retirement funding
  • Interest rates and unemployment remain key risks
    • Debt levels are a worry for more than half of the correspondents, given the imbalance between average mortgage $250K and liquid assets $50K
    • The vulnerability towards potential job loss is worrying (61% of all respondents have less than A$50,000 in liquid assets)
    • Higher-paid workers are particularly fearful of being made redundant
  • Negative view of Australian government economic management remains high, with top three policy concerns being:
    • Reducing the cost of living
    • Improving healthcare
    • Improving housing affordability