Relaxed about risk and chasing quick wins in 2021

Young Australians Series 2

2021 was a year of significant disruption to well-established consumer trends with any hope for a return to normal life after restrictions in 2020 dashed by mid-year. Extended lockdowns compounded by closed borders kept entire cities housebound for months on end with a flow-on effect to spending patterns.

Young Australians responded by curating lifestyles of hyper convenience and migrating real world experiences to their screens. They also demonstrated different attitudes and approaches to investing and taking risks with their money.

Fonto tracked daily transactions of more than 40,000 members to understand how Australians were spending and investing. Data collected between January and December 2021 revealed a strong surge in cryptocurrency investment with 18-29 year olds leading the charge. In 2021, one in six young Australians (17%) explored digital currency as a means to expand their investment portfolios.

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Crypto 117% more
than in 2020

On average, under 30s invested $380 each on cryptocurrency, representing a growth rate of 117% on the previous year. They contributed to crypto investment accounts an average of eight times over the twelve-month period, equating to approximately once every six weeks.

As young Australians are highly dependent on all things digital, making the move into crypto is a logical step. Under 30s are also drawn to crypto’s comparatively low barriers to entry, where they can perform their own research, set up a portfolio and start with a modest investment, all without the need for a traditional broker.

Conventional advice may consider crypto to be volatile and speculative, but young Australians are demonstrating they are both risk tolerant and curious.

28-year-old Rose from Melbourne was attracted to crypto for its innovation and social benefits and first invested five years ago. While she withdrew some funds in 2021, she considers her investment to be longer term.

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22-year-old Harry from Sydney had a specific, short-term objective in mind. From an initial $125 investment he cashed out $1,200 three months later, which helped him buy his first car.

Stories of under 30s fast-tracking their savings for a first home deposit no doubt spurred the rush to crypto in 2021.

While it remains to be seen if they are engaging with digital currency as a new way to secure big investment returns, or for the thrill of the ups and downs, crypto has emerged as the new kid on the investment block. Banks and other financial institutions will need to offer digital currency options, while superannuation funds must overcome regulatory hurdles and strike a better balance of investment volatility impacting retirement savings. The Super industry is already exploring ways to attract and engage new members and this may well present the perfect opportunity. Actively limiting exposure (both in dollars invested and risk parameters) and helping young Australians navigate the risks associated with investing some of their super in crypto would seem a compelling way to establish long-term, meaningful engagement.

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Topped up 72 times, an average of $1,000

The stay-at-home lifestyle with little ability to travel or frequent pubs and clubs also freed up discretionary spend in 2021. Based on their daily transactional data, one in three 18-29 year olds redirected a chunk of their earnings to gambling. Having a bet on the footy or a flutter at the track is well established cultural entertainment in Australia but in 2021, young Australians engaged in gambling with surprising frequency – the second highest category in terms of number of transactions. After buying groceries (91 times per year), under 30s topped up their betting accounts 72 times last year – that’s more than once a week. For young Australian men in particular, gambling is a more regular activity than grabbing a fast-food meal or using rideshare services.

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19-year-old Alex is at university, but most weekends he has a flutter on the AFL or Big Bash along with his mates, which he says makes watching the game more exciting.

Gambling also represents one of the higher categories in terms of total amount spent, with young Australian gamblers depositing an average of almost $1,000 into betting accounts in 2021. This may be partially attributed to the proliferation of wagering advertising during sports coverage, combined with the ease of having a bet online.

The synchronised growth of both gambling and home delivered food spend from July to October 2021 (when both Sydney and Melbourne were in lockdown) mirrors a corresponding decline in travel spend. With borders now open to both domestic and international travel, Fonto will be able to track daily transactions of young Australians to understand if discretionary spend is redirected to flights and accommodation and away from gambling and quick service restaurants.

In the weeks ahead, as part of our Young Australians series, we will also explore other ways 18-29 year olds adjusted their lifestyles during lockdown, from do-it-yourself beauty regimes to online entertainment. Fonto will continue to track their spending habits in 2022 to understand whether these behaviour changes were symptomatic of imposed restrictions, or have they become established patterns of spending.

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