March 29, 2013

$250K is struggle-street for some Australian families. Please explain?!

There I was, sitting on the couch, living large, eating 2 minute noodles and watching TVSN. As one does when recovering from messy polly "spills".  So glad to forgo ABC News 24 political commentary and relax, now that our government leaders are back on their correct medication levels, and resting on comfy parliamentary upholstery (and superannuation stashes). Whether it be on a back bench, or the better dress circle seats. 

However, now stirring my conscience, are  reports  that speak of Australian families struggling to live on $250,000 a year. How, what, and why? And, who? Yes, who are these people?  I say channelling Dame Margaret ThatcherI want names! I want blood samples! I want local municipal councils to go through their rubbish bins!   And, should we deport them (regardless of birth country and citizenship) to a nation (like Kenya or Samoa?) where they can re-learn housekeeping and getting back to basics? ...sans credit card.

Maybe the topic's appearance in the current news, is just a pre-emptive April Fool's Day thing? Though up in the sky (always good, cheap entertainment) there is a full moon. Or, could it be the labour government's new instant spin developed to turn the boats back - in record time before the federal election?

If the word gets out globally, on how difficult it is to live on $250K in this country, no-one will want to risk their life, or over-stay their visa in Australia, ever again. Even international tourists, fraudsters and drug dealers are likely to give our lucky country a wide berth.  And then what will happen to the economy? 

Ok - so they say  it's all really about superannuation. But the discussion is occurring so soon after the media coverage of how tough it is (at the other end of the scale) for jobseekers to live on $35 a day. Yes - we all got that, and unfortunately, many of us have no option but to get it every single day, until we're lucky enough to finally get a job. 

Although, putting the superannuation factor aside,  there has to be more to the issue. For back in August last year (2012),  Bill Shorten did say even he: "Finds it difficult to make ends meet on $330K."  Oh really?.


Now what is going on in laidback, "classless"  21st century Australia when relatively high salary earners, and the odd "struggling" politician, can't manage and prosper on their robust, regular incomes  (even with middle-class welfare concessions, and a politician's job perks)? Haven't they heard of putting away a "surplus" for a rainy day.  Purpose-built for this are the Commonwealth Bank's  platypus money boxes.  I love these. But you need a child to qualify for one. And even if you've banked with them - like I have -  since the Apollo moon landing - if no kiddies - no money box.

Other savings options I've discovered are: staycations, $2 Shops, Dimmeys, op-shopping, and eating-in. With a copy of  Dave O'Neil's cooking and philosophy tome: "Everything Tastes Better Crumbed", 2 minute noodles, and assorted homebrands - what's not to like?  For coffee, there's nothing better than International Roast. Seriously. Nothing wrong with that low-cost brew.  I speak from experience, as an unemployed "job-snob?" ...but at least no-one can EVER call me a coffee snob.

Last year's Social Inclusion in Australia Report tells us that the gap between the haves and have-nots in Australia is widening, with income inequality showing a sharp increase from the mid-1990s onwards.

In his widely researched 2007 book Affluenza, Oliver James writes about the two thirds of Australian "haves"  who - despite good incomes - say: They cannot afford to buy everything they really need, and amazingly, nearly half of top earners are confusing wants with needs in this way. 

So the trappings of an expensive lifestyle choice, and the associated consumption spending that makes people look good in the eyes of others (high-end cars, gizmos, regular expensive holidays, larger houses, more stuff to fill them, more energy to run them)  is taking precedence over getting the actual necessities of life  (utilities, food, health care, insurance, school fees). 

Similar ideas are outlined in Clive Hamilton's article "Affluenza in Australia", which documents research from The Australia Institute. The findings confirm, that even with higher incomes, better living standards, homes and household goods - many Australians, still remain relatively less happy when compared to those on lower incomes.

At least, these "poor" misguided souls, who put so much energy into purchases (that inspire envy among neighbours and peers, and ensure they keep pace with latest trends and fads), can in the end, pay for multiple visits to a therapist (or three) of their choice, to work out just where they and society have gone wrong.


  1. You have a terrific site here Carmen and some super posts.
    It's jolly hard being unemployed anywhere in the world and it seems to be getting increasingly difficult to find employment, no matter what your age.
    Fab site that helps others. I'll be promoting for you and visiting you.
    Lovely to "meet you".
    Carol from

  2. Thanks Carol. Actually, as a newcomer to blogging, your blog (Facing 50 With Humour) was among a few that got me inspired. As once I turned 50, I really did think my sense of humour would disappear. But it hasn't, thanks to wonderful writing like yours.

  3. Hi Carmen,

    I just stumbled upon your blog (I think its name is a big attraction!) and enjoyed this post. Great stuff. I remember reading Clive Hamilton's Affluenza years ago and being staggered by our insidious (and growing) insistence upon a bigger and more luxurious everything -from houses to barbecues to cars. Maybe you'd like to write a short guest post for my blog and I can return the favour. Cheers, Claire

  4. Thanks Claire. And it would be a pleasure to guest post on your blog. I've sent a note about it via your site's contact page (MidlifeExpress).

  5. hi Carmen, I am not surprised to hear that people with such high incomes are struggling. Australia is the most expensive country I have lived so far and I have traveled a lot in the past 10 years. The prices in this country are just crazy. The house prices are over inflated. Australians pay crazy amount to insurance companies that in the end if they need to pay back their costumers they always have a stupid small clause and end up not paying a penny to the poor bastard who has paid into the insurance company for years! Also if anyone who (meaning not 10 sec noodles) wants to cook fresh food for there family expect to pay $6 freaking dollars for a piece of Broccoli, grown LOCALLY! Produce in this country is super over priced and the sad truth is that the farmers are not the ones ripping us off. So I am not surprised at all by this comment. And if you start with me with trades people in WA, how they rip you off of thousands of dollars and do a shit job for jobs that in any country you can get it done for a fraction of the bloody price, no wonder 200K families are struggling. Its the mining boom they say, my family does not have a mining income how can we survive this boom for much longer? I am also looking into going back to work but as a mom in my 30's I am finding it very hard even though I have a University degree. So were is the Economy BOOM when you need it?

  6. You're right about everything (broccoli, insurance, the lot). Is it no wonder that we're currently being described as the biggest whingers and worriers, as per this latest Oz newspaper article

    Best wishes

  7. Just wanted to let you know that I have used your tips for my cover letter and resume and got two interviews schedule for the next couple of days. Thank you so much for the help! Have a wonderful weekend. Hugs Alex (glitterlife)

  8. Great work. And good luck.