Making sense of the average Aussie

10 mins  
Date: 12 December 2017

Take outs:

  • The profile of a typical Australian is important information for financial advisers looking to stay relevant - is the profile what you think?
  • It may not feel like it, but most of your clients have more purchasing power than they did in 2011, with median personal income up by 19%.
  • Australians are losing their religion, so what matters to them?


What is the typical Australian? The 2016 Census describes the typical Australian as a 38 year-old Australian-born female who speaks English, is married with two kids, lives in a capital city and earns $662 a week.

While typical and average are relative terms, they are useful when you work in an industry servicing Australians and aspiring to reach more Australians, such as financial advice.

What else did the Census reveal? Netwealth has reviewed the Census and devised a list of our top seven findings that are shaping the Australian population. 

Not only are these findings helping to create the new ‘face of Australia’, they also present opportunities for advisers to refine their service offerings and create communications and collateral that not only reach, but resonate with target markets.

1. The traditional family unit remains the norm

The 2016 census indicates that the traditional family unit remains relatively unchanged from 2011 and continues to be dominated by couples. Forty-eight percent of the population is married and 37.8% couples are childless.

The divorce rate has also remained stable since the 2011 Census, increasing less than 1% to 8.5%. Similarly, the percentage of one-parent families also remains stable at 15% (a decrease of less than 1% since 2011), with 81% of these households being led by females.

The 2016 Census has found that the average number of people per household is 2.6, with an increasing number (25.8%) choosing to live in medium to high density dwellings such as semi-detached houses, terraces, townhouses and apartments. This was 23.5% in 2011. The numbers also show that most households are online, with 83.2% having Internet access at home.

2. Same sex couples are an increasingly large part of Australia

The 2016 Census findings show that the number of same sex couples has increased by 39% to 46,800 couples since the 2011 Census. And while the number of male and female same-sex couples is roughly equal, female couples were five times more likely to have children.

Reflecting on the 2011 Census results that indicated same-sex couples tend to be younger, more educated, employed in higher-status occupations and have higher incomes, it can by hypothesized that the upcoming 2016 Census data releases will show similar findings.

Growth areas for advisers

Brisbane-based Forwood Planning financial strategist John Forwood identifies couples without children, same sex couples and females as the obvious growth areas for advisers.

Regarding the growth of couples without children, Forwood says this is a trend we are seeing across the developed world, and indeed by 2018, it will be the largest household type in the US.

So, what are the needs of this group? “Childless couples have greater disposable income, and do focus on shorter term goals including holidays and other leisure based purchases.”

The growth in same sex couples is also expected across the world, however the needs of this group are obviously different to those of couples without children.

For example, a 38-year-old female with 2 kids is going to be concerned with funding education for her kids, her family’s debt, and her retirement. 

“Putting a structure together, to resolve these issues with a communication strategy that talks in a language that is more appealing to women is a great business approach.”

In comparison, Forwood said men tend to have a focus on achieving “more” without necessarily having specific outcomes for savings and investment. 

Men are also less inclined to spend money on risk mitigating tools such as insurance.

3. Wages and purchasing power has grown

Whilst there is a lot of media noise around collapsed wages growth, most people’s purchasing power has continued to rise since the 2011 Census. This year’s results show the median weekly household income as $1438, with the median personal income $662, a 19% increase since 2011 when it was $577.

The median income per state is listed here in descending order: ACT $998, NT $871, WA $724, QLD $660, NSW $664, VIC $644, SA $600 and TAS $573.

4. The Aussie dream is still alive

Whilst home ownership has declined, around 65% of us are either outright homeowners (31%) or mortgagees (34.5%), meaning that home ownership is still desirable for many.  The median monthly mortgage payment is $1755.

The decreasing number of Australians dreaming about home ownership can be seen via the rise of renters, who constitute 30.9% of the population. The median rental payment is $335.

Interestingly, while there is a lot of talk about housing affordability, the numbers show that serviceability doesn’t appear to be a large issue with 92.8% of the households stating that mortgage payments are less than 30% of their household income, indicating perhaps deposit, and not serviceability, is a larger constraint on home ownership.

5. We are getting older

The 2016 census indicates that we, as a nation, are getting older. Whilst the median age in 2016 is 38 years old, the median age in the 1966 Census was 28 years.

With one in six of us over 65 years of age, this means 15.7% of the population is near or at retirement. In Tasmania alone, a fifth of the population is aged over 65 years of age.

6. The changing face of Australia

The 2016 Census discovered that 66.7% of respondents were born in Australia, however 45% had either one or both parents who were born overseas. This means Australia is a country of many migrants, whether it be first, second or even third-generation. 

The top five countries of birth (excluding Australia) are:  England 3.9%, New Zealand 2.2%, China (excludes SARs and Taiwan) 2.2%, India 1.9% and Philippines 1.0%.

7. Losing our religion 

The 2016 Census found 29.6% of respondents describe themselves as having no religion affiliation. This has increased by nearly 10% (from 21.8%) since 2011.

 The two largest religions were Catholic (22.6%) and Anglican (13.3%). These, as well as other religious denominations, saw a decrease in the numbers of people identifying themselves as part of the faith.

How technology can help communication

MyPlanner Managing Director Philippa Sheehan said embracing technology and better data management, means businesses can communicate to clients based on age, demographic, language, religion, income, just to name a few.

This means advisers can better communicate with clients about things that matter to them.

“For example, a traditional New South Wales financial planning business may send out Christmas Cards to their clients but did they know that some of their client base do not celebrate such events.”

In this way, tailoring communication is the key. “Clients today more than ever before are looking for you to know them. They don’t want to be one of masses, so ensuring customisation of their journey, their cashflow and their communication style is going to be essential into the future.”

Sheehan further ads that irrespective of demographic, religion, age, home ownership or increases in wages, cashflow management is required.

“Cashflow management is the fundamental base to ensuring that what comes in, just doesn’t all go out and that families can adapt to change when unexpected things occur.”

She adds: “Hand in hand with cashflow management is road mapping with clients where they really want to be. Whether an early workforce entrant to retiree in Tasmania everyone has goals and making these specific and measurable backed with a cashflow plan will ensure financial stability.”

Sources for data:



Latest: Managed accounts during volatility and beyond

Four advisers share how managed accounts can enhance your client value proposition.

Download the report

Special reports: Take a deep dive

Our collection of guides take a deep dive on topics including AdviceTech, managed accounts and cultural trends.

Access the reports

Podcasts: Between Meetings with Matt Heine

Netwealth's Matt Heine chats to industry thought leaders on the opportunities  they see for financial advisers.

Listen to the episodes

Webinars: Grow your Business IQ

Recordings from our monthly webinar series, covering a range of  topics presented by industry professionals.

Watch the presentations