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With increasing debt and falling home ownership among the under 40s, their financial prospects are less than rosy. If this trend is set to continue, young people are going to be needing financial advice more than ever to help them make the best choices for a secure future.
There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about how much better off baby boomers are than their kids or grandkids. But is there any truth in these reports? According to the latest HILDA (Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia) survey report, the gap in net wealth across Australian generations is growing and it’s not looking good for the under 40s.
Since 2001, the HILDA survey has been following the fortunes of more than 17,000 people. One of the latest findings from this cross-section of Australian households is a sharp decline in income growth across all age groups. But the potential downside for young people (aged 18 – 39) is even greater because they’re less likely to be benefiting from capital gains that come from home ownership. And if they have been able to get their foot on the property ladder, the amount of debt they’re taking on with their mortgage is on the rise.
Less home ownership, more debt
In 2002, the HILDA survey reported 36% of people under 40 as homeowners. In the 12 years to 2014 that number has fallen to just 25%. And that ‘lucky’ 25% are now grappling with more than double the average amount of mortgage debt, up from $167,385 in 2002 to $336,586 in 2014. They’re also quite likely to be increasing that debt after securing their initial home finance with more than 30% of younger home owners taking on a bigger mortgage from one year to the next without moving to a new property. Given the recent slump in household incomes, this trend in taking on more debt to make ends meet isn’t surprising. And while interest rates remain low, the decision to refinance to access more home equity may add up. When rates rise, their larger debts could leave this group vulnerable to an ever greater squeeze on their income.
The generation gap in net wealth
With more and more young people struggling to get on the property ladder, it’s no wonder they’re falling behind dramatically in their overall wealth position, compared with their parents and/or grandparents. While we certainly might expect older people to have more wealth – they’ve had more time to work, save and benefit from the ongoing property boom in Australia – they now have considerably more compared with young people than they used to. In 2002, people aged 65 and over had 2.2 times more wealth than those in the 25 to 34 aged group. In 2014 that ratio has risen to 4.5.
The outlook for retirees in 2050
So what could these economic trends mean for our under 40 year-olds in the longer term? With incomes stagnating and mortgage debts growing, their prospects for a comfortable financial transition into retirement could be a cause for concern. As a growing number of people face a long-term future in the rental market, they could be continuing to pay for a roof over their head well into their retirement years. And that could be the case for the shrinking number of home owners in the same generation too. By increasing their home finance year-on-year instead of paying it off, they might find themselves drawing on retirement savings to finally say goodbye to that substantial mortgage.
Getting priorities in order with the right advice
Even though young people might feel they’re up against it financially, there are steps they can take to build wealth and plan for their personal goals. And when it comes to managing their household budget and taking on more debt, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional can help them understand how this could affect their financial position in later years. And a planner may be able to give them other options for meeting their financial commitments and saving more for a secure future.
Whatever generation you were born into, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional can offer valuable advice on making positive choices for a more secure financial future.
 ABC News Young Australians hit by falling wages, surging house prices as wealth gap widens: HILDA report
 The Conversation Home ownership falling, debts rising – it’s looking grim for the under 40s Roger Wilkins 2 August 2017, “In 2002, median net wealth of those aged 65 and over was 2.8 times that of people aged 25 to 34. In 2014, this ratio had increased to 4.5.”