Financial Wellbeing research in Australia

Great to see the release of groundbreaking Financial Wellbeing Survey by ANZ bank and Elaine Kempson. Robert was on the Advisory Committee for the research. Given that promoting the wellbeing of customers should be at the core of what banks do, he was asked for some quick thoughts about how they should do it.

The #ANZfinancialwellbeing survey is great leadership from ANZ. It showed the biggest influences on wellbeing are:

  • Active saving &

  • Not borrowing for everyday spending.

So banks could:

1. Expand great programs like Saverplus that are proven to foster active saving, even for people with little money.

2. Improve bank products to actively encourage saving, eg

  • virtual buckets within your account to separate savings from spending money,

  • monthly reminders (praise) on how your saving is tracking,

  • encourage an automatic transfer to your savings bucket each pay day,

  • ask you to upload a picture of what you are saving for

3. All banks should ditch reward points for spending on credit cards. Reward points actively undermine financial wellbeing. They encourage the delusion that you “benefit” from using your credit card for everyday spending, but they just weaken people’s restrain on spending.  See the research evidence here from Paul Harrison. 

4. Banks should promote a norm that your DEBIT card is for everyday spending, and your CREDIT card is borrowing money to buy an important thing and pay it off quickly. 


One of Robert's projects outside SmartSteps is to run the grants program at Financial Literacy Australia (FLA). FLA funded 40 innovative projects so far, with grants totalling $A5 million. Projects are typically innovative pilots with evaluation, or research with practical implications. 

In 2017, FLA expects to allocate $A1.5 million to a new round of projects in Australia.


New grants program for financial literacy

In tough economic times, it is great to see new money becoming available for financial literacy. Financial Literacy Australia has just launched a $5.6 million grants program.  See

The money comes from corporate donations as part of legal settlements with ASIC, the financial services regulator. This is similar to the main funding source behind the FINRA Foundation in the USA and the Investor Education Fund in Canada.

Other countries may like to follow this example.  Instead of fines being paid to the government, the money helps the community directly.