Digital Finance Analytics has released the November 2017 results from our Household Financial Security Index. The index uses data from our household surveys to assess households level of financial comfort.
The index fell to 96.1, which is below the 100 neutral metric, down from 96.9 in October 2017. This is the sixth month in succession the index has been below the neutral point.
Owner Occupied households are the most positive, scoring 102, whilst those with investment property are at 94.3, as they react to higher mortgage repayments (rate rises and switching from interest only mortgages), while rental yields fall, and capital growth is stalling, especially in Sydney). Households who are not holding property – our Property Inactive segment – will be renting or living with friends or family, and they scored 81.2. So those with property are still more positive overall.
Looking across the states, households in NSW and VIC are just above the neutral setting, but continue to slipping lower. Households in QLD are below the 100, but up a little, as are those in SA and WA. Western Australian households are the least positive, but somewhat improved.
Looking at the FCI score card, job security is on the improve, reflecting rising employment participation, and the lower unemployment rate. Around 20% of households feel less secure, especially those with multiple part time jobs.
Savings are being depleted to fill the gap between income and expenditure – as we see in the falling savings ratio. As a result, nearly 40% of households are less comfortable with the amount they are saving. This is reinforced by the lower returns on deposit accounts as banks seek to protect margins.
More households are uncomfortable with the amount of debt they hold with 40% of households concerned. The pressure of higher interest rates on loans, tighter lending conditions, and low income growth all adds to the discomfort. More households reported their real incomes had fallen in the part year, with 50% seeing a fall, while 40% see no change. Only those on very high incomes reported real income growth.
More households reported a rise in their costs of living, and this month this included higher school fees and child care costs, energy bills and fuel costs. The average cpi of around 2% appears to understate the real life experience of many households.
Finally, household net worth improved for more than 60% of households, but there is a rise in those seeing no growth, mainly as home price growth eases back. Those with share market investments have done quite well in recent months.
Looking ahead, we expect the overall index to trend lower, as incomes remain constrained, and costs of living grow. The property market has a big impact on households level of confidence and the leading indicators are flagging lower outcomes ahead. However, home prices would need to fall significantly to allow many of those currently unable to afford to buy in to the market.
By way of background, these results are derived from our household surveys, averaged across Australia. We have 52,000 households in our sample at any one time. We include detailed questions covering various aspects of a household’s financial footprint. The index measures how households are feeling about their financial health. To calculate the index we ask questions which cover a number of different dimensions. We start by asking households how confident they are feeling about their job security, whether their real income has risen or fallen in the past year, their view on their costs of living over the same period, whether they have increased their loans and other outstanding debts including credit cards and whether they are saving more than last year. Finally we ask about their overall change in net worth over the past 12 months – by net worth we mean net assets less outstanding debts.
We will update the results again next month.