FOREWORD – Financial wellbeing around the world

The 2018 Australian and New Zealand financial wellbeing surveys are a fascinating ‘first look’ at over 5,000 Australian and New Zealanders’ financial situations through the lens of financial wellbeing.

‘Financial wellbeing’ is a term that may be new to many. I define it as: “the extent to which someone is able to meet all their current commitments and needs comfortably, and has the financial resilience to maintain this in the future.”1

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These surveys are a significant first step along an absolutely fascinating road to understanding financial wellbeing around the world. Australia and New Zealand, along with Canada, Ireland, Norway and the United States are key OECD nations at the forefront of research in the burgeoning field of financial wellbeing; investigating the interplay between financial behaviour, knowledge, socio-economic environment and psychological factors.

The overall financial wellbeing scores of 59 for Australia and New Zealand put both nations squarely in the ‘doing OK’ category in this report. Although sharing the same score, there are small differences between the two countries. In both cases there is room for improvement.

For the first time in Australia and New Zealand, researchers have identified and measured the key behaviours that drive financial wellbeing – active saving and not borrowing for everyday expenses. The study showed that these two behaviours contributed 19% and 16% respectively in Australia (18% for both in New Zealand) to explaining differences in people’s overall level of financial wellbeing. The data showed that that at every income level, we need more active saving as having less than $1,000 in savings and investments was strongly associated with low levels of financial wellbeing2.

The findings suggest if financial wellbeing in Australia and New Zealand is to improve, the focus needs to be on how people actually use their money, not just how they manage it, since neither planning nor monitoring ones finances seemed to promote better financial wellbeing.

And the new evidence shows that to promote active saving and the avoidance of borrowing for everyday expenses will mean tackling issues around personality rather than just knowledge. This calls for a wider range of financial capability interventions that enable behaviour change3.

Since 2002, ANZ has shown its commitment to monitoring financial literacy, capability and now, financial wellbeing. I commend the Australian and New Zealand research teams and steering committees for their hard work on these surveys. I hope these findings encourage debate about policy and interventions related to financial capability. Such debate will surely lead to positive influence on people’s attitudes, motivations and behaviours around money and will lead to higher financial wellbeing in the region.

[1] Kempson, Elaine & Finney, Andrea & Poppe, Christian (2017). Financial Well-Being A Conceptual Model and Preliminary Analysis. 10.13140/RG.2.2.18737.68961.

[2] The mean financial wellbeing score for those with less than $1,000 in savings was 34 (compared with 59 for the total population). The mean financial wellbeing score rose sharply to 50 for those in the next category ($1,000 to $4,999 in savings and investments).

[3] Behaviour change will always be moderated by income which remains a fundamental backdrop to financial wellbeing. Income allows people to save and avoid borrowing for everyday expenses, as well as having a direct effect on financial wellbeing.

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Elaine Kempson

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ANZ Financial Wellbeing Summary Report - Australia

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ANZ Financial Wellbeing Summary Report - New Zealand

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To learn more about the reports, view here.

ANZ welcomes your comments and enquiries about this survey. Please contact:
Michelle Commandeur
ANZ Head of Financial Inclusion