Money Wrapped: Your 2021 finances in review

Girl with singing and playing pink guitar busking on the street, with container of money donations beside her.
Photo by Felix Koutchinski on Unsplash

As we inch closer to the end of the year, it’s time to look back over the most frequently played money topics. From rising property property prices to our online shopping obsession, we’ve seen some major trends take off in 2021.

So, just like Spotify Wrapped collects your favourite hits of the year, we’ve pulled together the personal finance topics which have most likely coloured your newsfeeds and bank statements. For a little extra spice, we’ve matched them to some beloved and (sort of) money-relevant songs.

Property prices continue to climb

Soundtrack: Country Roads, John Denver

The property market in Australia has seen intense growth in value over the last year, and it had already been steadily climbing for some time. This means many new homeowners now have sizable home loans to pay off, while potential buyers are competing in a market with prices at record highs.

Alongside the move to remote work during lockdowns, this has resulted in many Australians moving to regional areas or outer city suburbs for more affordable options – aka following country roads to take them home. But as you might expect, this shift has also meant prices have gone up in these areas as more city folk have moved in, often outpricing locals. 

The latest ABS data shows interest from property investors has continued into the latter half of 2021, while first home buyer borrowing eased off. Some might be turning to the bank of mum and dad instead of traditional lenders, but others could be waiting for the property price drop forecasted for 2023. Only time and more property news reading will tell.

Buy Now Pay Later goes wild

Soundtrack: Just Got Paid, NSYNC

Unless it’s Friday night and you just got paid like NSYNC, you might not have the immediate funds to splurge on a major purchase. That’s where Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) platforms come in, providing the option to pay off a purchase in instalments over a set number of weeks.

It’s really taken off in Australia – according to recent research Aussies are more than twice as likely to use BNPL than the global average – and there are a bunch of new services popping up all over the place. 

Beyond dedicated BNPL providers, banks and payment platforms are jumping on board with their own version of the product. Think PayPal’s Pay in 4, Suncorp’s BNPL debit card PayLater, or Matercard Installments – all of which are 2021 variations on the BNPL system where interest doesn’t rack up on purchases (although customers should always watch out for sneaky fees).

Sustainability takes centre stage

Soundtrack: Big Yellow Taxi, Joni Mitchell 

Joni Mitchell is right: we’ve paved much of paradise and put up a parking lot. But at least we’ve seen some positive efforts made across the financial sector lately, while the climate emergency has been underlined in red by the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 

Ethical superannuation funds prioritising the environment over profit are presenting attractive returns, renewables are bringing household energy prices down, and the states and territories are pushing electric vehicle developments further. There’s always more to be done (and Australia is hardly a world leader on climate change) but understanding how your financial choices impact the planet and making positive changes is a step in the right direction. 

The share trading bandwagon fills up

Soundtrack: The Winner Takes it All, ABBA

Like any investment, there’s risk involved in share trading and the winning trade may indeed take it all. But it seems Australians are keen to learn about that risk, play by the trading rules and reap the (potential) rewards. 

In August, researchers from Investment Trends said the number of people using share trading platforms was close to double that of a few years ago. A more recent CommBank report found young people are continuing to lead the way, with 38% of Aussies in the millennial age bracket investing online.

Similarly, the last year has been a rollercoaster for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple and the novel Dogecoin. Throughout the year, the values of various decentralised digital currencies has waxed and waned. But there have also been significant solidifying market moves for cryptocurrency services in Australia, like crypto payments being incorporated in the Mastercard system and crypto services on the way for CommBank customers. 

The online shopping surge continues

Soundtrack: If I Had $1,000,000, Barenaked Ladies

If the average Australian had a million dollars, they’d probably spend a chunk of it online. At least, that’s what various reports about our online shopping habits throughout 2021 show. Understandably, online shopping spiked during lockdowns, but many shoppers also expect to blow out Christmas budgets this year.

So, if you’re looking to rein in your spending after the last mad year of money musical chairs, scour the savings accounts below for an ideal place to stash some cash.

Compare savings accounts - last updated 23 January 2022

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