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Finder’s Cost of Living Pressure Gauge

Finder's Cost of Living Pressure Gauge measures the financial stress experienced by Australian households.

The cost of living pressure experienced by Australian households sits in the extreme range at 77%

What you need to know

  • The Finder Cost of Living Pressure Gauge has been updated with new data covering the month of April 2024.
  • The cost of living pressure in April 2024 is measured at 77%, slightly lower than last month’s 78%.
  • For more detailed information on how we constructed this see the methodology section below.

The Cost of Living Pressure Gauge, devised by Finder, measures the financial burden on Australian households. It integrates findings from Finder's Consumer Sentiment Tracker with official government data, providing a clear depiction of the economic challenges faced by consumers. Updated monthly, the model combines monthly and quarterly data on various aspects such as housing stress, salary projections, household debt, financial strain, savings, holiday intentions, credit card expenditure, the RBA cash rate target, property values and inflation. Presently, the Cost of Living Pressure Gauge stands in the extreme range, at 77%.

So what exactly does this look like in raw terms?

At an extreme pressure level of 77% at the end of April 2024::
  • 64% of mortgage holders cite mortgage stress as a key financial concern, an increase from 63% last month.
  • 36% of homeowners are facing difficulty covering their home loan, decreased from 38% of the previous month. Similarly, 42% of renters are still encountering challenges in meeting their rent payments, down from the previous month's 43%.
  • On average, Australians have $40,979 in cash savings, up from last month's $37,206.
  • 76% of Australians feel extremely or somewhat stressed about their finances.
  • The RBA's cash rate target of 4.35% is its highest since 2011.
  • As of March 2024, annual inflation is at 3.6%.
  • In March 2024, Australian credit card spending was $36 billion.
  • 44.4% of the total credit card balances were accumulating interest.
  • One in four (25%) Aussies are saying they can't handle their finances without a credit card.
Comparatively, at a high pressure level of 53% in April 2021:
  • 37% of mortgage holders faced mortgage stress.
  • Only 29% of homeowners and 29% of renters were struggling to pay.
  • On average, Australians have $36,416 in cash savings in April 2021.
  • 72% of Australians said they were stressed about their current financial situation.
  • The cash rate target was significantly lower at 0.10%.
  • Annual inflation was recorded at 1.1% in March 2021.
  • In April 2021, the total Australian credit card spending was $27.5 billion.
  • 53.3% of the total credit card balances were accumulating interest.
  • 21% of Australians are saying they can't manage their finances without a credit card.

The April pressure reading shows a continued decline from April 2023's peak of 84%. This reduction is largely due to an increase in total savings and decrease in housing stress reported by consumers via our Consumer Sentiment Tracker. Additionally, there has been a reduction in unpaid credit card balances, as reported by the RBA. Nevertheless, the pressure remains significantly higher than the levels observed throughout most of 2020 and 2021. More information on the methodology behind these figures is provided below.

Methodology

Finder's Cost of Living Pressure Gauge merges data from its Consumer Sentiment Tracker (CST) and the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA). Updated monthly, it combines CST data with RBA figures, which are updated either monthly or quarterly. When specific monthly RBA data is unavailable, the preceding quarter's figures are used.

Percentage data in the gauge has a set maximum, or "ceiling", defined as 100% pressure. For example, if a survey question like "How stressed are you about your financial situation?" has an 80% ceiling, then 80% of negative responses (extremely or somewhat stressed) equates to 100% pressure. Responses exceeding this ceiling are capped at 100%. This weighting is applied proportionally. Non-CST data is converted to a percentage as described below in "Data categories explained". After calculating all data, a global weighting is assigned to each figure, as outlined in the table below. Historical pressure figures may be revised if new historical data is released.

Data categories explained

  • Mortgage/rent stress: Percentage of consumers who identify their mortgage or rent payments as a primary financial stressor.
  • Mortgage/rent struggle: Percentage of consumers who find it difficult to make their rent or mortgage payments.
  • Salary sentiment: Percentage of Australians expecting a pay rise within the next year.
  • Spend sentiment: Percentage of Australians unhappy with the amount they need to spend monthly to maintain their standard of living.
  • Household debt sentiment: Percentage of Australians who have negative feelings about the level of household debt.
  • Financial stress: Percentage of Australians who report feeling extremely or somewhat stressed about their finances.
  • Credit card dependency: Percentage of respondents relying on credit cards to manage their finances.
  • Holiday plans: Percentage of Australians intending to go on a holiday in the upcoming year.
  • Savings index: Average monthly savings as a percentage of $1,000 of income.
  • Total savings index: Average total savings as a percentage of $50,000.
  • Cash rate index: Current cash rate relative to a 5% benchmark.
  • Savings rate index: Current average savings account interest rate relative to a 5% benchmark.
  • Credit card spend index: Total credit card spending as a percentage of a $35 billion benchmark.
  • Credit card balance index: Percentage of credit card balances accruing interest.
  • Inflation index: Current inflation rate relative to a 7% benchmark.
  • Housing index: Current rate of year-on-year property price inflation relative to a 10% benchmark.

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