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Worried about money? Here’s how to stress less

With one in four1 Australians worried about living costs, it’s no surprise that financial stress is a major problem today. In this article we look at why people are financially stressed and what they can do about it.

High anxiety

Australians are increasingly worried about their financial future and more people are reporting financial hardship. That’s the strong message coming out of the latest NAB Consumer Anxiety Index survey.1

NAB’s ‘anxiety survey’ rose 2.9 points in the September quarter 2019. While consumers are worried about health, government policy and their ability to fund retirement, it’s the high cost of living that is causing most anxiety.

The survey also looked at the kinds of living costs most impacting particular consumer age groups. The results vary considerably:

  • 18 to 29 year-olds are most impacted by rent, eating out, entertainment and debt.
  • 30 to 49 year-olds are most impacted by mortgages and children.
  • 50 to 64 year-olds and over 65 year-olds are most impacted by utilities, groceries and home improvements.

Financial fragility

The high cost of living is a big influence on financial fragility. One study2 reported that half of Australia’s population has just three or four months of savings, and that one in five adults feel indebted or are only just keeping up with their debt payments.

AMP’s Financial Wellness report3 claims that two in five Australians will experience financial stress in their working lives. While our workforce is less financially stressed than it was, one in five or 2.44 million Australian employees are financially stressed, and two in five employees will experience financial stress in their lifetime. And in the wake of COVID-19, this stress will only get worse. These are worrying statistics with serious knock-on effects in the workplace and in the community, as we explain below.

The path to financial freedom

Like any sort of stress, financial stress is something to be actively resolved, not passively tolerated. One of the most important things that can be done up front is face the reality of financial stress. Only then can active steps be taken to get back on the path to financial freedom.

  • Recognise the warning signs – these might include being behind on the mortgage, getting hassled by debt collectors, losing sleep, feeling overwhelmed and out of control, and consistently paying bills late.
  • Face reality – it’s critical to be honest with oneself when under financial stress. Ignoring the problem tends to make the situation worse. It helps to get empowered – everyone has the ability to choose and tackle the issues they’re dealing with.
  • Relax and think positively – negative thoughts tend to restrict clear thinking and good decision making. It helps to avoid the negative triggers that can spark financial anxiety, like gambling, impulse shopping, smoking, and drinking, or other personal factors.
  • Adjust priorities – research cheaper alternatives when it comes to basics like food, clothing and accommodation. It also helps to move the focus away from expensive brands, to cheaper, practical options (like recycling clothes).
  • Focus on non-monetary wealth – when financially stressed, it’s critical to get good support from family and friends. It also helps to focus on non-monetary things like creative work, charity work, relationship and kids, or other hobbies. Confidence and a positive outlook on life are key elements when working through times of financial stress.
  • Get good financial advice – get sound money advice, make a plan, then stick to it. Professional, experienced advice to resolve financial issues can help provide a more secure financial future and avoid mistakes made in the past. Learn more about our advice services.
  • Make a plan, do a budget – a strict budget and financial plan can help re-structure spending, manage debt, change bad spending habits, and learn how to invest.

As a profit to member fund, our priority is to give our members a better quality of life in retirement. A big part of this is giving members high quality products and services at lowest possible cost. Our qualified financial advisers provide expert, tailored advice that can help ease your financial worries and get you back on track.

Here’s how VicSuper ‘gives you more’:

  • Profit to member fund – we keep fees as low as possible and don’t pay commissions to financial advisers.
  • Solid long-term investment returns – we aim to deliver competitive investment returns for our members.
  • Award-winning value – we’ve been awarded Constar’s 5-Star Rating* for Outstanding Value Superannuation in 2020, one of only six super funds across Australia to receive this rating. We’ve also received SuperRatings’ Platinum** rating – their highest rating – seven years in a row (2013-2020), confirming that VicSuper continues to be one of the “best value for money funds” in Australia.
  • High quality services – we were awarded Best Fund: Integrity by Chant West (2019)* for offering lower fees and premiums, while continuing to provide the benefits and services members really need, like quality investment and insurance, and member services and advice.

Important information
This is general information only and does not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation or needs. We recommend you seek professional advice for your own circumstances. Contact us to make an appointment to see one of our representatives. When members receive advice, they receive it under our financial planning business Aware Financial Services Australia Limited’s own AFS licence. Aware Financial Services Australia Limited ABN 86 003 742 AFSL 238430 is wholly owned by Aware Super Pty Ltd as trustee of the fund. You should read their Financial Services Guide before making a decision. Issued by Aware Super Pty Ltd ABN 11 118 202 672, AFSL 293340, the trustee of the Aware Super ABN 53 226 460 365.
2 Financial Security and the influence of economic resources. NAB and Centre for Social Impact, December 2018.
Financial Wellness in the Australian workplace. AMP, 01/19, 2019.
* The Canstar 5-Star Rating for Outstanding Value Superannuation was awarded in March, 2020.
** SuperRatings is an independent superannuation ratings and research company. Platinum is SuperRating’s highest rating. SuperRatings and Chant West are independent organisations. See and for ratings, criteria and methodologies.
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