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Melbourne lockdown amplifies financial stress

The level of financial stress and “severe anxiety” rose sharply for workers in Melbourne during Victoria’s second COVID-19 lockdown, new research showed.

AMP’s 2020 Financial Wellness research found that 61 per cent of workers in Melbourne reported feeling stressed about their finances during Victoria’s second lockdown to curtail the second wave of the coronavirus.

This is an increase from 54 per cent prior to the lockdown.

Of those who reported feeling stressed about their finances, 80 per cent of respondents in Melbourne indicated that the stress was affecting workplace productivity.

The level of “severe anxiety” rose in Melbourne during the lockdown from 4 per cent to 11 per cent of workers, while the number of Melbourne workers concerned about their ability to financially recover from COVID-19 rose from 26 per cent prior to the second lockdown to 34 per cent.

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Industries worst hit most affected

The hospitality and retail industries, which bore the brunt of the lockdowns, have the highest rates of financially stressed workers at 86 per cent and 64 per cent higher than the national rate, respectively.

According to analysis of AMP’s clients, there were high numbers of applicants for early access to superannuation from these industries as part of the government’s early super release relief package.

One in three members of AMP’s super plans who work in the hospitality industry has applied for early release, the most of any industry.

Lockdowns spur good financial practices

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On the positive side, at the national level, the financial stress caused by the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in positive financial behaviours by respondents, with a 6 per cent rise in the number of works establishing a financial plan and respondents saving an additional 5 per cent for emergencies.

Those directly impacted by COVID-19 are 10 per cent more likely to have taken action to save, according to AMP.

In Melbourne, 35 per cent of workers created new financial goals, up from 27 per cent prior to the lockdown.

Nationally, financial issues are the top cause of stress among respondents, with more than a third of Australians finding dealing with money or even thinking about it stressful and overwhelming, according to AMP research.

Severe and moderate levels of financial stress are impacting 1.8 million Australian workers, with nearly half feeling financially stressed for an average of six and a half years or more, while 50 per cent of all Australian workers reported feeling some level of stress about their finances.

The cost to Australia’s economy is $30.9 billion annually due to employee distraction and absenteeism, with those severely and moderately financially stressed ineffective at work for around 7.7 hours a week, and absent for a further 1.2 hours a week through sick days.

Commenting on the findings, AMP general manager, workplace super engagement, Stephen Owen said that taking action around finances gives workers a greater sense of control and can improve financial and general wellbeing.

“There are other relatively easy steps people can take to reduce stress, including taking advantage of the many freely available online education resources, and participating in the education programs their employer or superannuation provider may offer,” Mr Owen said.

“Our industry also has an important role to play in helping those Australians who have withdrawn super consider how to rebuild their balances so they close any retirement savings shortfall and help improve their quality of life in later years.”

[Related: Over half of all Aussies at risk of vulnerability: survey]

Melbourne lockdown amplifies financial stress
Melbourne lockdown amplifies financial stress
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Malavika Santhebennur

Malavika Santhebennur is the features editor on the mortgages titles at Momentum Media.

Before joining the team in 2019, Malavika held roles with Money Management and Benchmark Media. She has been writing about financial services for the past six years.

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