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A conversation about how to handle your money in uncertain times.
Just three months in and 2020 has already been a whirlwind.
While the world locks down, we're faced with a lot of uncertainty about the future. How long will this last? Will our loved ones be safe? Am I going to be able to survive financially?
On this episode, we sat down (remotely, of course) to dig into how the coronavirus will affect our everyday lives, and what we can do to set ourselves and our community up for the long haul. These are unprecedented times, and we're all figuring it out together.
This conversation was recorded prior to the announcement of Australia's 30 March $130 billion stimulus package. Follow along with all of our coronavirus coverage here and learn how you can get financial help during the coronavirus pandemic here.
Mentioned in this episode
- Our full list of guides and resources on coronavirus and your money
- Australia's coronavirus economic stimulus and how it affects you
- Coronavirus: What should you do with your super?
- How to support small businesses in Australia
- When it comes to unemployment in Australia, definitions have been broken
- Coronavirus Capitalism: Are We Obligated To Shop?
- When the System Breaks Down, Leaders Stand Up
Read the transcript of this episode
Note: This is a machine-generated transcript. We've tidied it up, but we're sorry if any glitches have slipped through.
Build up that kind of level of security in case anything does go wrong further down the line, you want to have those savings available. That's the one thing that will pull you through this if you're unfortunate enough to lose your job.
Welcome back to Pocket Money, everyone. Hey, Kate!
I'm saying hello to you from across the internet because we're currently recording this episode separately from our own homes because we're social distancing right now.
Yeah, I am, I'm without a joke, sitting in my wardrobe because it has the best sound quality in the house.
So of course, we're currently social distancing because of all of the coronavirus craziness happening right now. And in today's episode of Pocket Money, we're actually going to be chatting a little bit about that and especially the tough line between budgeting and like reining in our finances and being a bit more savvy with how we spend our money, but also supporting the economy and especially local business, which I think is a tough one.
We're going to be talking about, sort of, some of the really typical ways you can waste money, but with a bit of a lens on what's going on at the moment and understanding that, you know, what might have been a money waste a month ago may not even really exist now, or may be totally off your radar. So we're going to wind a few things into here and just see how people going. In these uncertain times, it's even more important to have a real handle on your finances, making a budget, understanding where your money's going, because things are so uncertain. So if you haven't done it before, this is the perfect opportunity to do it.
Everything that's happening right now is moving so fast. So we're also just mindful of, by the time that this episode comes out, you know, the world may have changed even further. So this isn't health advice, it's not financial advice. We're just having a real chat about some of the problems that we're facing, we're seeing other people in the world facing, and yeah, we just hope that it'll be helpful for you guys.
Yeah, totally. And I guess, you know, we do, Sally and I, work, you know, for Finder and we have a ridiculous amount of experts who are across so many of the areas that are really being affected at the moment. So like as Sal said, you know, this isn't specific financial advice, but, you know, I'm hoping we've got a good read on what's going on out there, in terms of the jobs we do, we're across a lot of the changes and things that are happening. So we're hoping this episode we'll be able to help you make a few extra little wiser decisions or at least have a think about some of the things that are going on for you at the moment.
This episode of Pocket Money is presented by bundll. bundll lets you buy now pay later everywhere Mastercard is accepted. So from clothes to groceries and fuel to coffee, you'll have two weeks to pay, interest free. Head to bundll.com.au – that's bundll.com.au – to learn more.
You know, we're in a very changeable financial climate at the moment. We want to look at how that's all going, but also just focus down on what really is an evergreen topic, which is, what's happening with your personal finances? Where can you make some savings? Where can you, you know, optimise where you're spending or improve the bang you're getting for your buck? Obviously with the lens of what's going on at the moment with the current financial crisis, but this is still good advice, which is evergreen. So I guess what we wanted to first look at is our personal finances, and in terms of, what are we doing in terms of Australia? At Finder, we do a lot of research with everyday Australians to find out where they're spending their money, where they're not spending their money and where they think they could do better. So originally, when we looked at this episode, we were going to talk about some of the biggest money wastes, and this was just from February 2020, which, I don't know about you, Sal, feels like a really long time ago.
Oh, yeah, that was decades ago now for me.
Two weeks or two decades ago, but back then, in those wonderful times, some of the biggest money wastes identified by our nationally representative survey was, for men it was gambling. 19% of Australian men said that. Electronics was 12%, which is interesting. Probably right now some of those are really coming in handy. I know plenty of households are scrambling to buy a little extra tech at the moment. Another money waste people put on there was travel, which was 9%, closely followed by jewellery at 7%. You can never have too much jewellery, right, Sally?
Well, I mean, I know that's what I'll be trying to hock first when just all the currencies go under and you know, we're all living in like a Mad Max society. So, you know, why not?
Adult entertainment, 7%. I'm raising an eyebrow because I'm not sure what definitions of that are.
You know what, I feel like right now, if anything, maybe some of those purchases will be going up. I'd be interested to see how that will change over the next few months. And why not? Self care is self love, baby.
Absolutely. And then, you know, women are saying their biggest regret on credit was gym memberships and equipment. I mean at the moment, gyms are pretty much shut down, I think, at the moment, personal trainers are allowed to run around out there. Look, equipment may not be seen as a waste of money at the moment. I know some stores that have been selling things like treadmills have sold out of stock. So this is just a great example of when the world tilts, what seems like a frivolous spend suddenly may not seem like that. Has anything changed the way you've been behaving lately, Sally, in terms of your buying or not buying?
Oh, definitely. So the first thing that I noticed was, very sadly, all of the concerts that are being cancelled and postponed. And obviously I am heartbroken about that. But yeah, I've been getting some bank back in my account. It all adds up! And like, they all seem to just be falling in this March, April, May period, and yeah, so I've been enjoying a little bit of money back from that. Also, just the money that I would spend in day-to-day life on commuting, getting multiple coffees, maybe going out for lunch, you know, walking past the shops and seeing something that I like, and also like grocery shopping as well. I feel like maybe now I've been a little bit more disciplined in what I've been buying.
I had some travels planned for the next couple of months, so I'm pretty sad about that. But like you said, I'm now awash in travel vouchers and refunds as well, so that's really been noticeable. For me, my biggest weakness or money waste would be online shopping. And I have to say, I've stopped doing that. And I think part of it's just because I'm not leaving the house. I'm sort of suddenly reassessing all those must-haves, and part of that is like what you touched on, Sal, it's when you're out and about, you're going out to work, even in my job I do a lot of media. At the moment, that's not really happening as much. It's caused me to stop and think before I purchase, so I'm hoping that will continue when the world restores itself to whatever the new normal is going to be. And again, not being out and about, that's right, all those little discretionary purchases, as we call them, have really bottomed out for me. I'm doing a coffee run once a day, and that's mainly because I just love my local cafe. They're able to do takeaway, they're able to do good social distancing, and I really really don't want to see them go under. I'm really invested in them kicking on, so for me at the moment, possibly coffee and muffin purchases are up. The other thing, I guess, we need to touch on in this is employment and job security, because this crisis has impacted every industry. Greg Jericho who writes for The Guardian has pointed out that if Australia follows the same trends as the US, unemployment could rise to 8% in Australia. We have not had the same levels of closures or lockdowns as they have yet, but it does appear we are following in the same direction. So that's just something else to be really mindful of, I'm being really mindful, but I feel very lucky at the moment to be working. Not a lot of people can be working. Some people have been stood down, indefinitely. I know a friend that works in the airline industry that that's happened to. My best friend's a chef, she's lost her job. She works in fine dining and she just got back from a holiday in Bali and had to self isolate. It's a small family-owned business, and they've just decided to close, which is really sad. So it's happening already. And that is probably a better reason than ever for people to really take a good hard look at their budgets and see where they can pull back.
It's definitely a tough one, and I think that's such a good point, to be mindful that not everybody has that luxury of getting an income right now and that financial security is, you know, non-existent for a lot of people right now. But I think that if you don't have a budget already, now is the time to make one. There are so many resources out there on the internet, on Finder, that you can use. So usually we would use the 50/30/20 method. So you would put 50% of your money towards your needs – so like your bills and like the non-negotiables – 30% towards your wants – so for me, concert tickets – and then 20% towards your savings. I know this is going to be different for everyone, but personally, I've definitely been swapping the wants to savings ratio right now and putting a lot more money into my savings. That's one budgeting tip that I think is pretty easy for a lot of people to try out.
Other things that just popped into my head when you're talking about that, Sal, is my partner had a birthday recently, so he's been given a lot of vouchers for things like experiences and stuff like that. So this is a good time to audit that stuff as well because you obviously want to make sure that they don't go to waste. So, you know, I think we've done Finder research in the past that showed Australians are sitting on like a billion dollars worth of unused vouchers and gift cards. So this is a good time to audit those as well, being mindful that some businesses may close, so maybe you want to approach them for a refund, you might want to see if you can get an extension on those, because that is another form of currency and often it's something that someone's spent money on for you as a gift.
And when we were talking about some of those budgeting tips as well, there's plenty of apps and stuff out there that basically do this stuff for you. So there's like Pocketbook or if you're using bundll to use by now pay later. Lots of these apps have features – as well as the Finder app, nice little plug there – have features that show you the breakdown of your spending and especially the categories of your spending, so like how much you're spending on groceries or entertainment or whatever it is. And I think that's a really helpful way to, like you said, do a bit of an audit on what you're spending and it just makes it really clear on where your money's going and where it could be going instead.
It sounds like the simplest thing in the world, but for some weird reason, so many of us don't do it. But I think, like, apps are great. They almost gamify this kind of stuff. It's easy, it's all in one place. Like you said, bundll's doing this really well, Finder's doing this really well, too. You can actually see where all your money's going and what's being spent. Subscriptions: a great opportunity. We always say this, but this is a great opportunity to consolidate them or audit them, I mean, not consolidate. Some people may be taking out more subscriptions, I don't know, our behaviours change, so maybe where we were spending money on Uber and eating out, we might be picking up – I know in my house, there's a lot of heavy lobbying for the Disney+ app, which I'm currently resisting.
Oh my god. No, you can't. It's honestly the best. Disney+ has been my saving grace in this tough time.
There you go, maybe I'll have to capitulate. I'll run my budget, Sally, and see what we're saving on going out, and I'll review my muffin budget. For people that are in debt though – this is not uncommon, a huge amount of Australians carry debt. If you do, there are some things you can do, which you should be doing anyway, but obviously, it's more pressing at the moment. So don't sit there and stress, try and be proactive. So if you do have some debt, see if you can get some relief from your credit card or your mortgage lender. So if you've got a home loan, or credit card debt, contact your lender to see what you can do. So this is just straight up, you're really struggling at the moment, maybe you're out of work, or you're about to lose work. Get on the front foot. All these organisations have financial hardship teams and I think people don't always know that. They want to keep you as a customer, they don't want you to fall into a hole, you know, when it's too late. So contact your lenders if you are concerned, they might be able to do things like offer a lower interest rate, lower fees, they might be able to even freeze some of those repayment. This is just good solid advice and this is the time to do it. So if you've got any concerns around things like that.
The other thing, if you do have credit card debt, now might be the time to consider doing a balance transfer. So with these cards, you move your debt from your old card to one that's charging 0% interest on your debt, and this interest-free period can last for up to 26 months, which is a huge, like, amount of time to have breathing room to pay off your debt. You can also consolidate multiple debts, so if you have like two or three credit cards that are all attracting a high interest rate or just interest at all, this could be a really great time to combine them all under one account that is collecting no interest for the promotional period. Of course, you know, these things sound great, it kind of, you know, sounds like, you know, you're not going to be paying any money, but it's very important that if you do a balance transfer, that you need to set up a repayment budget plan for yourself to make sure that you are paying off this debt, you know, by the time the 26 months or however long the interest-free period, runs out. Because that's how you're really going to get value out of these cards, is by paying it off. It's really important to be proactive and still paying off that debt so you don't get to the end of the interest-free period and be like, "Oh, god" and then it all starts attracting interest again.
The final one is, there's been a lot of discussion about super at the moment and pulling super out. There's been various advice, we've had a lot of confusing messages from the government about everything. But look, key message, I think, from us at Finder is, if you're young, don't overreact with you super right now or pull the money out unless you really, really need to. We had some data from Host Plus, which is an industry fund, that said, the $20,000 withdrawn by someone 25 years old, would have swelled to $132,000 by the time they're aged 67. So that's a scary stat, but that's just to show the impact of doing something like that while it is on the table. We'll have heaps of links to things like super in the show notes. Just stop and think. There's lots of other things you can do before that, as we mentioned, balance transfer credit cards, contacting your lenders, do all those steps first before you go to super and really do your research before you do it. It's gonna have a huge impact. Sally, we've got heaps of experts at Finder. One of them is our insights editor Graham Cooke, or, as we like to call him, the Irish Oracle. He wrote a really great piece the other day on the stimulus packages available and how Australia is going to protect their saving, so I think we should give him a call.
Let's do it.
Hey, Graham, welcome to Pocket Money.
Good afternoon, guys. How you doing?
I'm good. How are you, Graham?
I am excellent. I'm only slightly starting to get bored with working from home, but not quite there yet.
Could be worse, you could be in a cupboard like me.
So, Graham, you spoke with, was it 17 Australian economists about the state of the world right now, and you were talking to them about some of the stimulus packages that have been announced by the government over the last week or so.
Yeah, well, so the government has announced two stimulus packages so far. The first one was in the teens in terms of the value, in the teens of billions. The second one was 66 billion. And at Finder, we regularly survey economists across Australia. So one of the things I wanted to find out was if the government creating all this extra cash and pumping it into the economy was going to maybe have any negative effects on the Australian dollar, if it was going to decrease the value of the Australian dollar internationally, which would obviously mean that the things that you own the same as you have in Australia would be worth less compared to the rest of the world, and whether that could potentially affect the value of savings for families. So I was asking economists what they think would be the best way to protect your savings if you have cash saved and your Australian family, and actually, surprisingly, the pretty simple, straightforward answer that came back as the most popular was stick with term deposits on savings accounts right now. So there's no fear for the kind of weakness of the currency in the long run. Currently, right now, savings accounts and term deposits are probably the safest thing to have your cash in in the Australian market. There was some other economists that cited property as an option. We could see house prices, obviously, go down quite significantly in the capitals over the next few weeks, as the government announced last night that they're cutting down on open houses. I mean, we could be seeing 15% to 20% drop in house prices, according to economists, so that could be a potential. If you're lucky enough to have a deposit saved, it might be a good time to start looking for property. Shares and gold were two options that were discussed as well, which are generally, well gold is generally a safe haven. If you think the economy is going down the tubes, you can buy gold. The US dollar is another potential safe haven. But they were only cited by a handful of economists, generally, the advice is, get your money in a savings account and keep it there. Now if you're going to do that, you need to make sure that you're choosing an effective savings account in Australia because the Big Banks, the old fashioned savings accounts, generally won't offer you a huge interest rate. Keep an eye on the smaller banks, those bonus accounts that will give you a bonus savings rate. If you do day-to-day banking, that's the way to effectively save your cash right now.
The overall message Graham, when it comes to, sort of, savings accounts and term deposits, is maybe consider a different bank to get the most bang for your buck, but hang onto it in there, don't do anything crazy, don't start cashing it out.
Yeah, build up that kind of level of security in case anything does go wrong further down the line. You want to have those savings available. That's the one thing that will pull you through this if you're unfortunate enough to lose your job. And, you know, there's a whole raft of savings options available but some are offering significantly better returns than the others. Actually, if you want to kind of narrow down the banks to look at, the kind of smaller online banks and the neobanks, banks like UBank and ING and banks like 86 400 and Xinja, those guys are offering some of the better rates in the market right now. You can see these obviously all on Finder, and but it might be worth moving whatever savings you have to an account which gets you a higher rate, just to kind of build up that security blanket.
That's great advice. What would you say to anyone who's a bit tentative to try a neobank? What can you say to allay any fears they might have about those?
Oh, I understand that, to be honest, because these are new kids on the block and with the economy very much in uncertain times, you know, you'd be worried about new banks. But the first thing to say is that the Australian Government guarantees all funds deposited with neobanks up to a quarter of a million dollars per bank. So you do not need to worry about the security of your cash in these banks. And because these banks are brand new, they're doing an awful lot to try and get customers on board and they're offering really good interest rates. Xinja is the most interesting example here. Before the most recent double set of cuts, Xinja were offering 2.25%, which was one of the highest rates on the market. After the cuts came into place, every other bank passed on the rate cut to consumers, but Xinja decided to instead keep the current customers on board, give everybody that the current right without cutting it, but instead stop new customers from applying. So anyone who was with Xinja from before has been rewarded with a loyalty bonus essentially, is now getting the best interest rate in the country. So there could be some, some decent opportunities if you look at these new kids on the block. Keep an eye on Finder, we'll be monitoring these changes on all of our different channels as these new announcements come out every day at this stage.
Yeah, it's a moveable feast.
Yeah, it sure is. We'll make sure to pop some of those resources in the show notes. And I think that's really good advice, Graham, and as well, switching banks, or like opening a new savings account, for some reason seems like such a, you know, arduous task, but we have the time now and it actually is, I think it's a lot quicker than a lot of people think. So definitely take the time to do a little bit of research, compare your options, and it could just be, yeah, a couple of minutes online to open a new account and move your savings over, so why not?
Well, thank you so much, Graham. That was all super helpful. We'll make sure to put a link to Graham's amazing article that outlines the stimulus packages and also some of that feedback that we got from the economists in the show notes. But thanks, Graham.
This episode of Pocket Money is brought to you by bundll. bundll lets you buy now pay later wherever Mastercard is accepted. In these unpredictable times, we're all thinking about our money habits. Have you got any questionable ones? I know I have. With bundll, you can track down your weekly spend by creating category spending limits and notifications to help you stick to your budget. Be the master of your money with bundll at bundll.com.au. That's bundll.com.au. Now let's get back to the show.
So this stuff is changing rapidly as we know, but there have been a lot of really interesting chats and posts on social media, especially about the things that we can do to support local businesses and to support the economy. I think it's really, it's just like a really interesting time because while that is so true, there's also like the philosophical side of me that's like, is it our responsibility as individuals to be providing this support? What do you think, Kate?
It is a little bit of an unfair, individualistic take that we are all expected to shop our way out of this crisis when so many of us are not sure where we're going to be in a couple of weeks ourselves. I think in the UK, it's been really interesting that the government stepped in to support small businesses who've had to close. I think there are things we can do within reason, but it really depends on how you're feeling about your own finances. I've really, since my friends have lost jobs, thought about that rule that we often talk about at Finder, which is where you need at least three months salary stashed away if you can, and that's never really been more pertinent than now. So I think it's a balance, you know, like, it's great to try and support your local businesses, you can shop online, you can shop locally, you can buy gift cards. I'm still ordering home delivery twice a week, which is kind of what we usually do, I'm not going crazy, but at the same time, I don't want to cut that off. You know, it is a balancing out. And again, I totally recognise, I'm saying this from a place of privilege where I still have a job, I have a home, I'm in an area where I can do that. But I think people shouldn't feel weighed down on top of everything else that's going on, like it's all on them to make sure that these businesses don't collapse.
Yeah, I think that's so true, and we're all feeling that pressure. There was a really interesting article on Refinery29 by Kristin Iverson, my apologies if I'm pronouncing that name incorrectly. There was an interesting quote from the article, and it was, "We spend money and have the illusion of control over an uncontrollable situation," and it's definitely, like, that's how I've been feeling. You know, like there's been some local boutiques and stuff that I've been seeing are doing sales and stuff, and I'm like, oh, well, I've got friends birthdays coming up, so I'll like buy this and that and prepare for that and try and help them. But it's a weird time because then I'm also like, no, I should not be buying gifts or clothes or like buying into some of these, like, sales and discounts that I'm getting into my email right now. I should be putting this money in my savings. So it's definitely a tough one. I think as a final note, let's not forget about the people who are suffering or will suffer through some really tough economic hardships. I know that we've said a few times, you and I are very aware we're in a very privileged position. There are resources available, of course, we've spoken about the stimulus packages, we'll include some resources to that, but of course, they're changing all the time. So, yeah, we'll make sure to have the most up-to-date info for you guys in there. But if you are looking for specific answers, if you have any specific questions about your situation or anything that's happening, shoot us a message on Instagram @pocketmoneypodcast, and we'll try to help you track it down. Like we said, we, you know, are really lucky to have access to a bunch of really intelligent experts at Finder across basically every field in the financial sector, so I'm sure we will be able to do some digging and get you some help.
And where I'm a huge fan of Finder, is, you know, we do this in plain language, we really do make such an effort to make this stuff easy to understand, easy to take on board, we'll give you simple steps. So do check the show notes. We'll have a list of all kinds of financial assistance you can seek out, financial counselling available through government services. We'll package it all in a way where you don't have to kind of go off and dig around for this information. So do check in.
Yeah, definitely. So head to finder.com.au/podcast for the show notes. We're also planning to do some episodes on recession-proofing, so we'll be digging into a lot of the tips that we talked about today and more in further detail. And we're also going to be doing an episode on investing during a market crash, which is definitely a hot topic right now. So make sure to subscribe to Pocket Money wherever you listen to your fave podcasts and don't miss out on those. A lot of the topics that we mentioned today as well – from superannuation to budgeting, auditing your streaming services, getting the most out of your superannuation – we have actually done a lot of episodes on these topics in the past on Pocket Money, so make sure to go back through the catalogue because a lot of the tips that we gave in those episodes are still relevant even in today's climate, so definitely worth a listen and going back.
As Sally mentioned also before, if you join us on Instagram, we've got extra tips there. That's @pocketmoneypodcast, you can slide into our DMs anytime, especially if you've got any questions about stuff that's happening today, you want a little bit more guidance. We are also on Facebook. We have a Facebook group, jump in there. Hit us up with your questions or suggestions on shows. We'll be in there to sharing some of our tips. As we said, this is such a moveable feast right now, we're going to try and keep updating all this information as it happens.
As always, Pocket Money is hosted by myself, Sally McMullen, and the fabulous Kate Brown, produced by our wonderful Franko Ali and edited by Brianna Ansaldo of Bamby Media. So thanks again to everybody listening today, thanks to Graham for jumping on the call and giving us some tips, and stay safe out there everybody. Wash your hands, start doing a puzzle, try and stay sane, and listen to Pocket Money in the meantime. Until next time, everyone.
See ya later.
Thanks again to bundll for supporting this episode of Pocket Money. To sign up, keep a closer eye on your spending and be the master of your money, head to bundll.com.au. That's bundll.com.au.
Thanks for listening to Pocket Money from Finder. Head over to finder.com.au/podcast for the show notes for this episode. The Finder podcast is intended to provide you with tips, tools and strategies that will help you make better decisions. Although we're licenced and authorised, we don't provide financial advice. So please consider your own situation or get advice before making any decisions based on anything in our show. Thanks for listening!
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
The Finder Pocket Money podcast is intended to provide you with tips, tools and strategies that will help you make better decisions. Although we're licensed and authorised, we (and our guests) aren't providing any form of financial or legal advice. So please consider your own situation and get proper advice about your individual circumstances before making any decisions based on anything on our show. Thanks for listening!
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Pocket Money is hosted by Sally McMullen and Kate Browne, produced and directed by Franko Ali, with editing and theme music from Brianna Ansaldo of Bamby Media.
finder.com.au (ACL 385509. CAR 432664) is Australia's most popular comparison site. We like to help, and while we understand that our podcast provides information, insight and entertainment, it's not personal advice. Consider your own circumstances and get advice before you make any decision based on our general comments and commentary.
Kate Browne is Finder's managing editor for Australia. She worked as an investigative journalist and lifestyle editor at CHOICE and has written for publications including the Sydney Morning Herald, Sun Herald, The Age, news.com.au, Sunday Telegraph, The Australian, The Big Issue, Sunday Life, Kidspot and Essential Baby. She co-authored the best-selling non-fiction book The Checkout in 2016. You might also recognise her as one of the writers and presenters of ABC TV's top-rating consumer affairs show The Checkout, which ran from 2013 to 2018. She is a media spokesperson for Finder and regularly appears on Nine, Seven and on the radio. Kate has a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of Technology Sydney.