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The Discretionary Income Study

Written by

Shaun McGowan

What is Discretionary Income?

Discretionary income refers to funds left over after paying for mortgage/rent, bills, groceries, kids’ expenses, household maintenance and supplies, and loan repayments. conducted a survey of 1006 Australian adults to gauge how much discretionary income Aussies had each month.

Who is cash-strapped the most?

The survey results reveal that, even before the coronavirus crisis, 32 per cent of employed Australians are either in credit or have under $100 left in their pocket after paying for their essentials each month. (Charts 1, 2 and 3). One in five (21 per cent) are either still in credit or have less than $50 left each month.

Which age range is struggling the most?

Surprisingly, older Australians who work or receive an income are struggling the most with stretching their income. Forty-three (43) per cent of over-60s and 33 per cent of those in their 40s and 50s are either in credit, or have under $100 left over after paying their monthly essentials, compared with just a quarter (26 per cent) of those in their 30s.

Which State is struggling the most?

When compared responses between the States, it found that working Victorians are suffering the most. Twenty-five (25) per cent of Victorians earning an income are either in credit or have less than $50 left over at the end of their pay each month, followed by 23 per cent of working South Australians.

The findings also show that 40 per cent of working WA residents are either in credit or have under $100 left in their pocket after paying for essentials each month, followed by 35 per cent of working Queenslanders.

Worse still, 70 per cent of Australians believed their discretionary income would have been lower or the same this year, even before the crisis. (Table 2). A third (33 per cent) said they would have had less money left over each month after paying for all their essentials this year.

Again, older Australians had a much bleaker outlook towards their finances in 2020. The majority (92 per cent) of over-60s and 81 per cent of respondents in their 50s believed they would have less or the same discretionary income this year compared with last year. This contrasts with younger age groups who seem to be more hopeful: 50 per cent of under-30s and 45 per cent of 30-somethings thought that this year they would have had more spending money than they did last year.

Who has the healthiest finances?

Interestingly, working Aussies in their 30s seemed to be better at saving, with 26 per cent citing healthy finances (more than $700 a month in discretionary income). NSW residents who earn an income also have the most money left over each month after paying all their essentials, at 25 per cent.

Younger Aussies were also more positive about their financial outlook this year: 50 per cent of under-30s and 45 per cent of those in their 30s believed they will have more money this year, compared with last year.

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About the Author

Shaun McGowan from



Shaun McGowan

Shaun is the founder of and is determined to help people pay as little as possible for financial products. Through education and building world class technology. Previously Shaun co-founded and Lend.


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