Aussies feel the squeeze

Written By miftah nugraha on Minggu, 17 Februari 2013 | 19.55

ONE in three Australian families lives from one pay day to the next and 17 per cent of Tasmanians say they would struggle to scrape up $1000 if needed in an emergency.

BT Australian Financial Health Index found almost one in two employees wouldn't have enough savings to survive on with no income for up to six months.

One in three fear they cannot afford normal monthly living expenses and will not have a financially secure retirement, one in 11 people would have trouble borrowing $2000 and just two in five workers save regularly.

High-income earners admit to living from one pay to the next and 48 per cent of people rarely or never make contributions to their super.

The "alarming" results showed a large proportion of Australians employees were struggling to cope financially day to day.

TasCOSS chief executive Tony Reidy said the community sector was well aware of the levels of financial hardship being experienced in Tasmania.

"TasCOSS member organisations continue to report significant increases in individuals and families approaching emergency relief charities for assistance for the first time in their lives," he said.

"Key factors are high unemployment and under-employment and the spiralling cost of living, particularly in essential service areas such as electricity and water, they are getting beyond the reach of low-income families."

BT general manager Deanne Stewart said: "Very few people can confidently state how much they spend on food, utilities or even their mortgage.

"Surprisingly, 57 per cent have no regular savings plan and this figure peaks among 45- to 54-year-olds when they might expect to be at the height of their earning capacity."

Almost half the population squirrel away just $200 or less a month, while 28 per cent managed $100 or less.

Only a third of respondents had a financial plan to meet their financial goals, and 56 per cent said they were unable to save as much as they would like.

But 4 per cent save $2000 to $5000 a month -- mainly tradies and some professionals.

Ms Stewart said people put managing their finances in the "too-hard basket".

"There are simple steps everyone can take and over time these will make a huge difference to people's savings and peace of mind," she said. "The quite high number of people who shop without purpose for things they don't need is just one example."

Tasmanians were the worst savers, with 52 per cent setting aside $200 a month followed by Queensland.

The biggest savers were in WA, where 15 per cent of people put aside more than $1000 a month, ahead of Victoria (14 per cent) and NSW (13 per cent).

Machine operators, drivers, professionals, tradespeople and managers saved the most each month while labourers and storepeople the least, with women marginally better savers than men.

"In many instances people are living in the hope that they will achieve their goals rather than planning for a fulfilling and secure future," Ms Stewart said. "This has implications for their health and lifestyle, impacting on their levels of stress in the longer term influencing their enjoyment in the years after they finish work."

It is men, not women, who are the big credit card bingers.

Males aged 18 to 69 have larger monthly repayments on average than women.

BT commissioned the survey in November last year to understand how Australians rated their financial health in order to tailor its products and services better.

The BT Index also found Australians have become more conservative than ever since the global financial crisis in their attitude towards credit card debt.

Findings show only one in 20 workers regularly uses credit cards as a cash-out facility, while more than half always pay the total balance on time to avoid extra fees.

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