Interest rates, inflation and cost of living in SA: Fearless Conversations looks at solutions

Grocery bills, mortgage repayments and utility bills are soaring, piling pressure on every family. But these experts say there’s a simple first step everyone should take.

South Australians worrying about the “perfect storm” of rising inflation, spiraling interest rates and high energy prices should have a financial health check.

That’s the message from Flinders University senior accounting lecturer Dr Michelle Yeong, who says the uncertain economic climate presents an ideal reason for people to improve their financial literacy.

“This is the best time to do a financial health check of what you have and set your priorities,” she said. “Financial education is the best thing you can have. Things are challenging but this has happened before.”

Dr Yeong advised people to speak to a financial adviser and to “stay positive”.

“Do some checks and make informed decisions,” she said. “If people are much more informed with their financial condition, they have more confidence about making the right decision.”

Dr Yeong made the call during this month’s Flinders University and The Advertiser Fearless Conversations forum, focusing on financial security. It is the fifth in the 2022 series, which brings together leading voices in roundtable discussions about the big issues facing the state.

UniSuper Advice state manager Tristan Barnes backed Dr Yeong’s message, saying financial pressure could lead to mental health and relationships problems.

“People are very frightened right now – you can see it in clients,” he said. “It’s really about wellbeing in the end. You don’t want Australians stewing over these interest rate rises, losing sleep and having heart attacks over it.

“Sometimes it’s helpful just to sit down with someone and revisit your objectives because sometimes interest rate rises aren’t really that bad… (and) you’ll still be able to meet all the objectives over the long term.”

Hosted by Channel 7 presenter Mark Soderstrom, the hour-long conversation also involved Bendigo and Adelaide Bank chief economist David Robertson and Milestone Project Management director Nick Peacock. Other issues canvassed included the value of cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens, superannuation changes and – after a question from an audience member – the widening inequality “divide” in the community.

Mr Robertson said cost-of-living issues had been exacerbated by external factors such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Chinese-related supply chain issues and the weather. However, he said there was no better place than SA to ride out the current “perfect storm”.

“It is easy to be concerned about the economic outlook… but I really cannot think of an economy in the world that is better equipped to cope with some of these challenges than what we have in Australia,” he said.

“Here we are – a strong demand for labour, strong business confidence, strong household confidence and we’ve come through the pandemic in fantastic shape. So we’re well equipped to deal with the challenges ahead – and there are going to be some.

“But I’d rather be dealing with them here than anywhere else.”

Watch the latest conversation from 11am on Wednesday at adelaidenow.com.au/fearless-conversations. Register for Fearless Conversations at flinders.edu.au/fearless/conversations

Originally published as Fearless Conversations: How SA families can stay financially afloat as the cost of living skyrockets

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