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Australians prove they have ‘Savings Sense’

23 October 2006

Australians are protecting themselves against the high cost of living and the turbulent economy by cutting back on luxuries and saving more of their income, according to a survey released today by the Commonwealth Bank1.

The Bank’s ‘Savings Sense’ survey revealed that more than seven in ten Australians (71 per cent) are actively putting money into savings accounts.  The expected continuing challenging times, including recent increases in fuel prices, interest rate rises and the high cost of fruit, are making nearly half (48 per cent) of the population even more determined to save.  According to the survey, Australians are saving on average 13 per cent of their net income.  Measures they are taking, or actively considering taking, include cutting back on luxury items (68 per cent), using their car less (45 per cent) or using public transport more (27 per cent).  Based on Australians’ average weekly income* this means they are putting aside approximately $86 per week.

Michael Cameron, Group Executive, Retail Banking Services, Commonwealth Bank said, “It is important to realise that saving a small amount regularly can make a major difference and that savings plans should suit people’s lifestyle and goals.”
Commenting on the survey results, CommSec Chief Economist Craig James said:
"It is interesting that unemployment is at a 30-year low and job security is super-strong, but that isn't being reflected in people's confidence levels about their finances.  Australia hasn't experienced a recession for 15 years but this research highlights that consumers remain keen to maintain a safety buffer of savings and are determined to save more, not less, in the future. The new era of consumer conservatism certainly stands in contrast to the high-spending periods of the past."

According to the survey, security is a key driver for saving with the vast majority of Australians (88 per cent) saying that saving money helps them feel safe, responsible and in control.  Other motivations to save vary between the generations.  Most Gen Yers are saving for holidays (58 per cent) or big ticket items such as a car or white goods (37 per cent) whilst Baby Boomers are saving for their retirement (64 per cent).

To help them achieve their aspirations, Australians are investing their dollars in several different ways including high interest savings accounts (31 per cent), or opting for regular savings or cheque accounts (59 per cent) and online savings accounts (19 per cent).  Alternative savings strategies include investing in property, making additional superannuation contributions or buying shares. 

The Bank’s ‘Savings Sense’ survey revealed that a major barrier to saving is a lack of understanding about financial management.  Overall, 44 per cent of Australians said that they might save more if they understood better how to manage their finances; nearly two-thirds (60 per cent) of 18 – 24 year olds agreed this was the case.

Michael Cameron also said, “Other factors which prevent Australians from saving more include everyday living costs and ongoing bills (72 per cent) and also the belief that the amount that they could afford to save would not make a significant difference (30 per cent), but it’s never too late to start saving.” 

By cutting back on unnecessary weekly expenses such as using a car wash ($624 a year), a bottle of wine ($624) and a jackpot lotto ticket ($260), Australians could save $580 million** a week.  

Michael Cameron continued, “Every cent counts - the Commonwealth Bank’s website offers information and tools such as an interactive account selector to help people choose which account best suits their saving habits and way of life”.


Notes to editors
The Commonwealth Bank is Australia’s most convenient bank with a service network that enables customers to access their money whenever they want, wherever they are.  Its services include over 40 per cent more ATM outlets than its nearest competitor, access to online banking via NetBank, a range of personal banking services at Australia Post agencies and a 24 hours, seven days a week telephone banking service.

The Commonwealth Bank has just been awarded five star ratings from industry body Cannex for seven of its key deposit products making it the provider of Australia’s most awarded savings accounts. 

For more information contact:

Steve Batten
Media Adviser, Media and Issues Management
The Commonwealth Bank
Ph: (02) 9378 2504
M: 0411 080 268

1The ‘Savings Sense’ survey was conducted online by Galaxy Research on behalf of the Commonwealth Bank in October 2006 with a representative sample of 1,502 respondents. The study was conducted nationally and respondents were aged 18 - 64.
* Australian Bureau of Statistics, Average Weekly Earnings Survey, May, 2006

** Based on a weekly $12 car wash, $12 bottle of wine and $5 lotto ticket x 20 million Australians

The Commonwealth Bank’s ‘Savings Sense’ survey highlights

The ‘Savings Sense’ survey was conducted online by the Commonwealth Bank in October 2006.  A representative sample of 1,502 respondents aged 18 – 64 were interviewed about their attitudes, feelings and habits relating to savings in our current challenging economic climate.

Key Findings

  • Australians are determined to save, despite the high cost of living (48% of those 18-64 years)
  • Australians are saving on average 13% of their net income.

How are Australians saving?

  • The ‘Savings Sense’ survey shows that Australians with lower incomes are cutting back on luxuries, using the car and switching to public transport, however, those with higher incomes are cutting back at a lower rate, but saving more of their income.
  • Around three quarters (71%) of the adult population have actively been saving by putting money into regular savings or cheque accounts (59%), high interest savings accounts (31%) and online savings accounts (19%).
  • A sizeable proportion have also been putting money towards the mortgage (37%), making additional contributions to superannuation (37%) or investing in shares (30%).
  • Australian saving habits reflect the different stages of their lives and priorities:
    • 25-49 year olds are upping their mortgage payments
    • 50-64 year olds are making extra superannuation contributions
  • 91% of Australians are taking proactive steps to ensure their financial security including:
    • 68% are spending less on luxuries
    • 45% are using the car less
    • 27% are using public transport more
  • Females are cutting back – 74% are spending less on luxuries in order to save more.

Motivations to save

  • 88% agree that saving money helps them feel safe, responsible and in control.
  • 80% of Australians are determined to try and save more.
  • 72% would save more if offered a strong enough incentive.
  • 40% feel they have enough money saved to safeguard against an economic downturn and say they might save more if they understood better how to manage their finances.
  • Age groups at either end of the spectrum show different trends:
    • 56% of Australians aged 50-64 feel they have enough money saved to safeguard against an economic downturn versus only 27% of those 18-24.
    • 60% of those aged 18-24 say they might save more if they understood how to manage their finances better, compared to 34% among those aged 50-64 years.

Financial Security

  • Whilst 56% of 50-64 year olds feel they are in a good position in terms of having a financial safety net, 70% of those aged 18-24 feel vulnerable about their financial position.

What Australians are saving for

  • 93% are saving money for some purpose including:
    • more than half (55%) putting money aside for a rainy day
    • 50% saving for retirement
    • 47% for holidays
    • 34% are saving for education, either for themselves or for someone in their family
    • 22% are putting money aside to buy a big ticket item, such as a car or whitegoods
    • 17% are saving towards a home deposit
  • Across the age groups trends show:
    • More young people are saving for a home deposit (35%)
    • Those aged over 35 are more likely to save for retirement (over 60%)

Barriers to saving

  • Australians feel there are several barriers preventing them from saving even more of their income, listing factors such as:
    • Ongoing bills and the cost of living (72%)
    • Not enough money to save (52%)
    • Not enough discipline to save (26%)
    • Unattractive interest rates on savings (43%)
    • Not knowing where to put their money (21%)
    • No incentive to save (18%)
    • The small amount available would not make a significant difference (30%)
    • 26% would rather spend their money on day to day items.

Incentives that would encourage Australians to save more

  • 92% of Australians would be encouraged to save more if incentives they were offered incentives including;
    • Tax breaks (78%)
    • Higher interest rates on savings (72%)
    • Benefits gained from regular contributions (63%)

State comparisons

People in Western Australia are less determined to save than those in NSW and people in Queensland are less determined to save than those in Victoria.

People in SA are worse savers than those in NSW:  only 11% of SA residents are putting aside or investing into savings more than 20% of their after tax income compared to 22% of NSW residents.

The high price of housing is one of the factors influencing savings as 20% of those in NSW are putting money aside for a home deposit compared to only 12% in WA.

“Boom-time” conditions in Queensland and Western Australia are more likely to influence big ticket purchases.  More than one in four (27%) of Queenslanders are saving to buy a big ticket item such as a car or whitegoods compared to only 19% of Victorians.

There are also differences by state on savings for education:  as many as 38% of Queenslanders are putting money aside for education (either for themselves or for someone in their family) compared to 30% of Western Australians.


For more information, contact:
Steve Batten
Media Adviser, Media and Issues Management
The Commonwealth Bank
Ph: (02) 9378 2504
M: 0411 080 268

Top ten tips to help you start saving

  1. Put all of your pay in a savings account, and then give yourself a weekly allowance.
  2. Set a realistic monthly budget and include an allowance for saving.
  3. Bank your next pay rise and don’t change your lifestyle.
  4. Treat your savings commitment like any other bill that needs to be paid.
  5. Saving a large amount?  Aim for milestones along the way.
  6. Reward yourself in ways that don’t cost money such as a walk on the beach or a pampering night at home.
  7. Have a clear savings goal and carry a picture of it in your wallet or purse or use a magnet to stick it to your fridge.
  8. Save small amounts but save them regularly and don’t set unrealistic goals.  Make sure your savings plan matches your lifestyle.
  9. Itemise your top 10 expenses and then ask – how could I reduce them by 10 per cent?
  10. Shop around to ensure your cash will earn the highest rate of interest possible.