Australia’s Generations by Wealth and Income

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

This infographic is based on analysis of the ABS Household Income and Wealth data released in late 2015 and 2013. It gives a picture of how both income and wealth is distributed across the generations of households in Australia and how it has been changing.

Generation Y: High incomes, low wealth

While Generation Y aged 25 to 34 are income rich, earning in gross household terms $113,152 per annum, their net worth is modest, at $268,800. As they enter their mid-30’s, they are getting closer to their key earnings years however such has been the low wages growth over the last two years, their household incomes have only increased by $5,356, or 5% since 2013. While Gen Y households on average earn more per annum than the older Boomers aged 55-64 who are rapidly easing out of their full-time working roles, these Boomers managed income increases almost three times that of the younger generation over this period ($14,040). This 14% increase in annual household incomes came about because the older Boomers were reliant not on wages growth but investment income which has seen solid increases over the last two years.

Generation Stagnation

It is ironic, and unfortunate that the emerging generation of wealth accumulators, moving up the career ladder have seen far smaller income increases (amounts just keeping up with inflation) than the generations that are easing out of employment or having ceased employment. Indeed, the generation aged 65+ managed much higher income increases (16%) than the younger working age Gen Y’s.

Wealth compared across the generations

The generational financial inequities are even more pronounced when analysing net wealth by generational cohort. While Gen Y have a household net worth of $268,800, it is less than half that of the Gen Xers who are just a decade older. The highest net worth generation in Australia are the Boomers aged 55-64 who not only have a net wealth almost 5 times that of the generation of their children (Gen Y) but they still have a decade or more of earnings and wealth accumulating ahead of them.

The $1 million households

While Gen Y have seen a wealth increase of 9% since 2012 ($21,647), the mid 50’s Boomers have seen a 14% wealth increase ($153,335) with their wealth rising since 2012 from $1,086,365 to $1,239,700. Therefore, not only does the average Australian household aged over 55 have a net worth exceeding $1 million, but, due largely to rising property prices over the last few years, it is also seeing the fastest wealth increases. When the demographic size of each generation is compared against their corresponding economic share, the differences are stark. Australians aged 25 to 34 are equal in size to the Over 65’s at 3.6 million, or 15% of the total population of 24 million. However, the net wealth of Generation Y is well below this population share at just 7% of the national private wealth compared to the Builders generation who have a share of 26%, almost twice their demographic proportion.

The quarter who own more than half

In total the Baby Boomers (45 to 64) are a quarter of the population (25%) but own more than half of Australia’s national wealth (53%). Their economic footprint is twice as large as their demographic footprint. While the Gen Y’s have decades of wealth accumulating ahead of them which will grow their net worth footprint, it is unlikely that Australia will ever see the likes of today’s Boomers again where a quarter own more than half. The Boomers have been the beneficiaries of a near 50-year economic miracle, and they are unlikely to ease out of this accumulating any time soon.

The $3 trillion wealth transfer

But there is some hope for the emerging generations who have stagnated in wealth and have been priced out of property. The households of Australians aged 55+ currently own a combined $2.8 trillion and over the next two decades will pass on much of this. By the time they move from the growing to the spending side of this accumulation, it will have exceeded the $3 trillion level. Therefore, the decades ahead will see the biggest intergenerational wealth transfer in Australia’s history and many of the younger generations will be the main beneficiaries.

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