Prevalence of financial stress
Lockdown is stressful. Even more so if you’ve just lost your job or face a reduction in income. As Sydney enters a 4-week lockdown extension, lasting until at least the 28th of August, this scenario will unfortunately become a reality for many Sydneysiders. Based on biannual research since 2014, AMP (2020) concluded financial stress to be a systematic issue in Australia that has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Increased financial stress was well-documented during Melbourne’s second extended 2020 lockdown. AMP’s 2020 Financial Wellness Study found 61 percent of Melbourne workers felt it during this period (an increase from 54 percent before lockdown) with younger women and single parents most significantly impacted (Sarumpaet, 20220. Such emotions can be highly detrimental to productivity, physical health and mental well-being. Accordingly, it is particularly important that individuals develop the ability to manage financial stress during Sydney’s current lockdown and beyond.
Building good habits: Budgeting
During periods of uncertainly, planning becomes a particularly effective means of reducing stress and anxiety. Budgeting is a practical tool to achieve this. At a basic level, budgeting involves forecasting income and expenses, however, can be made as complex and detailed as preferred. Several budgeting phone apps are on offer to facilitate this, including Frollo, MoneyBrilliant and Pocketbook (Watson, 2021). The ANZ recommended simple yet effective 50/30/20 percentage-based budgeting concept allocates 50% to “need”, 30% to “wants” and 20% for “savings/emergencies”. Individuals can format this for themselves or utilise the free template provided by ANZ (ANZ, 2020).
Forecasting income is likely to be more challenging for those who have lost their job or anticipate a reduction in income due to the lockdown. Those experiencing Covid-19 related hardship should review financial assistance on offer for individuals and businesses from the Federal Government, NSW State Government and private sector including, but not limited to:
- Covid-19 disaster payment (for individuals impacted by lockdown)
- Pandemic leave disaster payment (for individuals directed to self-isolate/quarantine)
- Covid-19 support package (for individuals, small businesses and small not-for-profits)
- Jobsaver payment (for businesses with an annual turnover between $75,000-250,000 which have suffered a revenue decline of 30% or more)
- Eviction mortarium (for certain residential tenants – extended until 11 September 2021)
- For homeowners (provided by banks and non-bank lenders in certain cases)
Aside from structured support programs, there are other ways to save money which should be capitalised on and factored into budgeting. For example, the Dine & Discover voucher program, which can be used to purchase takeaway food has been extended until 31 August to assist with the cost of living (NSW Government, 2021).
As part of the budgeting process, expenses must also be projected, which are likely to differ from those incurred during life before lockdown. A diary should be kept tracking actual income and expenses. Reaching your budget goals each week can provide a sense of accomplishment while also teaching you about your spending habits. You may wish to budget a “reward” at the end of each week or month if you remain within budget. Falling short of your goals may signal the need to readjust your plan, source further income or seek help from family and friends. National Debt Helpline offers free counselling for those experiencing financial hardship (National Debt Helpline, 2021). MoneySmart also lists various organisations that can assist with obtaining emergency funds to cover food, housing and bills (MoneySmart, 2021).
Developing lasting habits
Sydney’s next phase of lockdown should be viewed as an opportunity to develop and practice responsible personal finance habits that be carried well beyond the pandemic to improve mental and financial wellbeing. Eligibility requirements regarding financial support for individuals or businesses may change, so it is important to review government updates regularly. Finally, don’t forget to check in with family and friends, support their businesses and share tips and assistance when appropriate. Sometimes a conversation can make all the difference. Let’s get through this together and come out stronger!
ANZ. (2020). A Budget planner built just for you. Accessed 31 July 2021, https://www.anz.com.au/personal/bank-accounts/calculators-tools/budget-planner/.
AMP. (2020). Financial Wellness. Accessed 31 July 2021, https://corporate.amp.com.au/newsroom/2020/November/amp-2020-financial-wellness-report.
MoneySmart. (2021). Urgent Help with Money. Accessed 1 August 2021, https://moneysmart.gov.au/managing-debt/urgent-help-with-money.
National Debt Hotline. (2021). National Debt Hotline. Accessed 1 August 2021, https://ndh.org.au.
NSW Government. (2021). Support for individuals and households. Accessed 31 July 2021, https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/financial-support.
Sarumpaet, R. (2020). Financial stress has been soaring among Aussie workers – and women are disproportionally affected. Accessed 31 July 2021, https://www.sbs.com.au/news/financial-stress-has-been-soaring-among-aussie-workers-and-women-are-disproportionately-affected.
Watson, T. (2021). The seven budget and savings apps every Aussie needs. Accessed 31 July 2021, https://mozo.com.au/fintech/the-seven-budget-and-savings-apps-every-aussie-needs.