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Investing Basics: How do your savings compare to those of your peers?

Emma Rapaport  |  14 Jun 2018Text size  Decrease  Increase  |  
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A recent article by US finance news site MarketWatch suggested you should have saved twice your salary by age 35. Unsurprisingly it provoked a wave of outrage among social media users.

“I think you meant to say: ‘by 35 you should have debt twice your salary’”, one Twitter user quipped. Another wrote: “By age 35 you should be divorced, financially ruined, and working two jobs just to pay the bills.”

One of my favourite tweets was this one: “My retirement plan is to live with my kids.”

Morningstar senior editor Karen Wallace took the debate further by compiling a step-by-step guide, in which she explained how to save twice your salary by age 35, and 10 times your salary by age 67. But the feverish discussion made me ponder a different question: how much are my peers actually saving?

Australians, I think, often consider this question but seldom, if ever, speak about it. We don’t share how much we earn, the amount we pay in mortgage or rent, or how much we’re saving, spending and investing - even with our closest friends and family. I probably feel more comfortable talking about my sex life than my financial one. It’s a shame because knowing our finances and how they compare to others can be a great way to assess our financial position and serve as motivation to grow our wealth. Healthy competition can be a good thing.

Given your peers are unlikely to start divulging their financial profile anytime soon, Morningstar Next has compiled some data for you. They’ve combed through recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) household data* to find out what the average Australian is saving. While average savings will differ between states, and whether you’re living in a major city or a small town, it’s a revealing benchmark to help you embark on your savings journey.

Things to note before you read the data:

  • The ABS data* is based on households, not individuals, so use your approximate household finances when you make your comparisons. To make it slightly easier for you to compare, they've broken the figures down into different types of households – e.g. households with and without kids -- to give you an idea of how things can vary.

  • Weekly expenditure refers to everyday purchases such as housing, food, transport and medical expenses. Weekly disposable income refers to the money you’re left with after tax, super and other charges have been deducted.

  • The figures are averages rather than medians. But it’s worth noting that averages can be skewed by a few super wealthy/lucky folks in each group. All things being equal, the medians would be lower for each group.

  • Morningstar Next has broken the data up into four major career phases: Early Career (25-34 years old), Mid-Career (35-54 years old), Pre-Retirement (55-64 years old), Retirement (65+ years old)

Early Career: 25-34 years old

You’re starting out, saving for your future. You might have made some investments or begun putting some money away for your first home.

If you fall into the double-income/no kids bracket, affectionately known as DINKs, you’ll likely have a higher income than households in general. In theory, you should be able to save at least $500 a week.

But what about kids? Data shows kids have a big impact on your potential weekly savings.

Average Household Finances 25-34 years

Mid-Career: 35-54 years old

You’ve been in the workforce for some time now. You’ve been working hard to pay off your mortgage and invest for retirement. If you’re part of couple with kids, in theory, you should be able to save at least $400 a week.

But what if you’re a single mum or dad? It can be tough when you find yourself with a lower income but not necessarily lower expenses. After all, you still have to pay for your home, food and kids’ education. The amount you could potentially save each week is less but remember, small amounts can grow into a solid investment over the long term. Every bit adds up.

Average Household Finances 35-54 years

Pre-Retirement: 55-64 years old

Pre-retirement is usually when your financial net worth peaks. After decades of working you’re now trying to add extra to your retirement funds, which you’ll start to draw on in the next decade. Pre-retirees who still have adult kids at home typically have less in financial assets.

Average Household Finances 55+ years pre-retirement

Note: We assumed that the primary age group for the couple with adult (non-dependent) kids at home is 55-64. Empty nesters are a couple-only household.

Start small, start today

I hope this data has given you a good idea of how your household’s finances compare to that of others like you.

If you’ve never had a chat to your mates or family about money, why not start today? Be open, honest, and humble. Do it over a bottle of wine, if it helps. You never know what you’ll learn. More likely than not, you’ll discover you’re all facing the same issues and find some creative ways to tackle them.

Whichever stage you’re at, the smallest of changes can make a really big difference to your future.

More from Morningstar Next

Property vs shares: which investment is better?

Should I invest or pay off my home loan?

Am I ready to invest? Your financial fitness checklist

Emma Rapaport is a reporter for Morningstar Australia.

Jason Prowd leads Morningstar Next: ready-made investment portfolios. Discover more here.

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Note: Calculated from ABS data, to be used as a general indication. Ages are based on the age of the main survey respondent in the relevant ABS survey. Averages are based on mean data. Data on 35-54-year cohort calculated from data on 35-44 and 45-54 years cohorts combined.

*Sources:1. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Household Expenditure Survey, 2015–16. Released September 2017. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Household Income and Wealth, Australia, 2015–16. Released October 2017

© 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither Morningstar, its affiliates, nor the content providers guarantee the data or content contained herein to be accurate, complete or timely nor will they have any liability for its use or distribution. This information is to be used for personal, non-commercial purposes only. No reproduction is permitted without the prior written consent of Morningstar. Any general advice or 'class service' have been prepared by Morningstar Australasia Pty Ltd (ABN: 95 090 665 544, AFSL: 240892), or its Authorised Representatives, and/or Morningstar Research Ltd, subsidiaries of Morningstar, Inc, without reference to your objectives, financial situation or needs. Please refer to our Financial Services Guide (FSG) for more information at www.morningstar.com.au/s/fsg.pdf. Our publications, ratings and products should be viewed as an additional investment resource, not as your sole source of information. Past performance does not necessarily indicate a financial product's future performance. To obtain advice tailored to your situation, contact a licensed financial adviser. Some material is copyright and published under licence from ASX Operations Pty Ltd ACN 004 523 782 ("ASXO"). The article is current as at date of publication.

is a reporter for Morningstar.com.au

© 2019 Morningstar, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither Morningstar, its affiliates, nor the content providers guarantee the data or content contained herein to be accurate, complete or timely nor will they have any liability for its use or distribution. This information is to be used for personal, non-commercial purposes only. No reproduction is permitted without the prior written consent of Morningstar. Any general advice or 'class service' have been prepared by Morningstar Australasia Pty Ltd (ABN: 95 090 665 544, AFSL: 240892), or its Authorised Representatives, and/or Morningstar Research Ltd, subsidiaries of Morningstar, Inc, without reference to your objectives, financial situation or needs. Please refer to our Financial Services Guide (FSG) for more information at www.morningstar.com.au/s/fsg.pdf. Our publications, ratings and products should be viewed as an additional investment resource, not as your sole source of information. Past performance does not necessarily indicate a financial product's future performance. To obtain advice tailored to your situation, contact a licensed financial adviser. Some material is copyright and published under licence from ASX Operations Pty Ltd ACN 004 523 782. The article is current as at date of publication.

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