Average wealth climbs as households play it smart

Australia’s excellent performance through the global financial crisis has flowed through to household balance sheets, with the wealth of the average Australian climbing 3.6% or $9,000 in the last quarter to just over $253,000.

The data from CommSec shows wealth has jumped 11.4% in the last 12 months on the back of a strong rise in the sharemarket and a surge in house prices.

Wealth levels are how just $7,500 below the high set in 2008.

“The average Australian may have lost on average just over $21,000 in 2008 but they made it back with interest in 2009 with wealth rebounding by just over $29,000 per person,” CommSec economist Craig James says.

“Taking a longer-term perspective, wealth has lifted by 124% over the past decade or 72% in real terms. It’s not hard to see why many people are buying homes and travelling overseas – consumer balance sheets are in good shape.”

The data shows that while wealth has rebounded strongly from the depths of the GFC, Australians have taken a cautious approach to household finances. Spending has not increased during the past year and private sector debt has fallen 5.6% in the last 12 months, the biggest fall in eight years.

However, per capita debt rose by $26,360 to $26,500 during the quarter, the first rise in debt in nine months.

James says the figures highlight how healthy Australian household budgets are at present and should inspire some hope for retailers, who have seen a drop in sales in recent months as the impact of the Government’s stimulus measures fade.

“Retail businesses can take heart from the fact that consumers have the ability to spend, even if they are reluctant to at present.”

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