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We’re better off than our parents, but will our kids be better off than us? We think so

23 Nov 2017

The latest Australian Unity Wellbeing Index survey reveals a perception of growing intergenerational financial security, with just one in four Australians expecting their own financial situation to be worse in five years’ time.

For 16 years, in partnership with Australian Unity, a team at Deakin University have researched Australian quality of life. This has resulted in the most comprehensive measure of wellbeing in Australia, the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index.

Acknowledging that quality of life is both subjective as well as objective – that is, it is based not only on material conditions but also on how people feel about their life –  the Wellbeing Index measures both personal wellbeing and national wellbeing. Satisfaction is measured across seven aspects of personal life – standard of living, health, achievement in life, personal relationships, safety, community connectedness and future security. With regard to national wellbeing satisfaction it is measured across six aspects – the economy, the environment, social conditions, governance, business and national security.

“Perceptions of financial security are improving as we move through the generations. We are likely to consider ourselves better off than our parents were at our age and if we are a parent ourselves, we are likely to believe our children will be at least as well off in the future as we are now.”

Dr.Delyse Hutchinson, Senior Research Fellow, Deakin University

This year the focus of the survey was on financial wellbeing. In spite of the everyday economic pressures Australians face, most people rated their financial situation as somewhat good (61.9%) and a substantial proportion rated it as very good (23.4%). Only one in four Australians believe they have gone backwards in the last 5 years and also expect their own financial situation to be worse in five years’ time.

Most participants of the survey reported no difficulty affording living expenses, with the exception of those living on income of less than $30,000 per annum who had significantly higher difficulty affording food, clothes, utilities and transport than most other groups.

Unsurprisingly, being able to afford basic household expenses was related to wellbeing. Those people who could afford household expenses with no difficulty had higher personal wellbeing levels; while those who had some or great difficulty affording those items had lower than normal levels of wellbeing.

Growing intergenerational financial security

An interesting result of this year’s survey was the perception of growing intergenerational financial security. Two in every three Australians consider themselves financially better off than their parents were at the same age, while 70% of parents believe their children will end up at least as well off as them, if not better.

Despite the fact that Australians are facing issues of housing affordability, rising utility costs, future energy supply, low wages growth and an unstable job market, the overall tone of survey participants’ financial wellbeing is broadly optimistic. Most people have a positive view of their own and children’s future financial position.

Thinking about how financially well-off your parents were at your age, are you better or worse off?

Figure 3.9 Compare financial situation to parents

(See fig 3.4, P16   of Survey 34- Bar graph titled “thinking about how financially well off your parents were at your age, are you better or worse off?”)

Overall wellbeing dips slightly

Overall personal and national wellbeing levels this year are slightly lower than last year but for most demographic groups, the survey of 2,000 adults revealed an average personal wellbeing index (PWI) of 75.5 out of 100 which is in the normal range and indicates that Australians are fairly positive about their lives in total.

All measures lie within their respective normal range with the exception of Global Life Satisfaction which is 0.3 points below the normal range. 

(See fig 3.3, Page 12 showing the personal wellbeing index over the last 16 years)

Millennials and baby-boomers are the happiest

A key finding of the survey is the correlation between age and wellbeing. The latest survey confirms that young adults and those aged over 66 are the happiest Australians, with a dampening in wellbeing occurring in the 35 to 55 year old age bracket. While the survey doesn’t examine the reasons behind the numbers, it is probable to assume that this middle age bracket has additional life pressure that the other age brackets don’t. For example, this could be pressures around career advancement, scaling up in housing and also providing for others whether that be children or elderly family members.

(See fig 3.1, page 9 revealing PWI by age)

The golden triangle of wellbeing

Again in 2017, the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index results highlight the three core elements and the major contributors towards personal wellbeing are financial security, a strong relationship and a sense of purpose in life.  This has been dubbed the “golden triangle of wellbeing”


1. Australian Unity Wellbeing Index :
2. Latest Wellbeing survey:

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Penelope Bold

Corporate Affairs Manager (Wealth & Capital Markets)

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