When do you know you’ve made it financially?

Angus Kidman 25 May 2017

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Most Australians still dream of paying off their mortgage, new data reveals.

Financial goals don't have to be enormous. As an impoverished uni student, I remember being thrilled when I got my tax return cheque, because it meant I had enough money to buy a dustbuster. When I first moved out of home, my food budget was $10 a week, so a vacuum cleaner was a major indulgence. (And yes, I'm so old it was an actual cheque.)

Most Australians have loftier ambitions. A recent finder.com.au survey asked people to identify the indicators that they had "made it" and were doing well financially. Unsurprisingly, the most popular response was "paying off your mortgage", picked by 74%. With average house prices in many cities now well above $1 million and continuing to grow, getting a mortgage cleared definitely counts as an achievement.

The next key goal? Having enough superannuation to retire comfortably, a goal picked by 59% of the 2,004 respondents. This can feel like a trickier goal to track: how much money will you really need in 50 years time? Changes to the rules, such as recent proposals to incorporate the First Home Saver Scheme into superannuation, make those calculations even fiddlier.

Many other goals seem to spin off those first two. Able to retire at 50? Nice. Owning an investment property? Nice, though not so nice if you're a first home buyer. Able to help your kids with a deposit for their home, or send them to a private school? Yeah, that's a clear indication you're awash with cash.

Setting goals is helpful, but financial goals aren't an end in themselves. Paying off your mortgage isn't cool because you've done it. It's cool because you've given yourself the chance to create a home, and don't have to worry about where you're going to live. Money doesn't buy happiness: it just increases your options for being happy.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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