Personal Finance

Jan 17th, 2022

5 lessons we can all learn from 2021

While many of us would be keen to forget 2021, the start of a new year is a great time to reflect, and look at all the lessons it taught us.
5 lessons we can all learn from 2021

Do the words 'unprecedented', 'new normal' and 'pivot' take you back to 2021? They were all some of last year's most infuriating buzzwords, but indeed they say a lot about the year that was.

We thought we had reined in after 2020. But the trend of WFH, limited travel and restrictions stuck around. And while many of us would be keen to forget 2021, the start of a new year is a great time to reflect on the last year, and look at all the lessons it taught us.

Having an emergency savings account is always a good idea

If 2021 taught us anything, it's that life can throw curve balls...again and again and again. Just when we thought lockdowns were over, Melbourne and Sydney both entered months-long lockdowns, which saw huge lay-offs in many customer-facing industries. As a result, the unemployment rate hit a six-month high of 5.2% in October.

This meant many Aussies weren't receiving an income, which could have drastically impacted their ability to pay their bills, mortgages or unforeseen medical expenses. As it stands, 70% of Aussies don't have an emergency savings fund. And, 40% of Aussies could survive on their current savings for just one month or less if they lost their job tomorrow.

The point is, if there's one lesson we can take from 2021 into 2022, it's that having an emergency savings fund (i.e. a pool of savings that could help you meet your living expenses for at least three months) can be a life-saver.

Crypto is (nearly) mainstream

Payments platform Square changed its name to Block, the iconic Staples Center in the US changed its name to the Crypto.com Arena, digital monkeys sold for millions and El Salvador made Bitcoin legal tender.

The bottom line? Crypto isn't some obscure investment anymore. Nearly 30% of all Australians own crypto - up from 18.4% in 2020. While it might not be for everyone (it is still extremely volatile), 2021 was the year crypto came out of the depths of the dark web...and into many people's wallets.

Your super isn't a set and forget

In 2021, the government released its Your Future, Your Super test.

The test reviews the performance of Australia's default super (MySuper) products. If super funds don't pass the test, they need to tell their members that they're underperforming, and send them a letter suggesting they change funds.

And boy, oh boy, were the results shocking. It was revealed that a whopping 13 MySuper products failed the test, with 1.1 million Aussies notified of the poor performance. But only 7% of those members actually bothered to switch accounts.\

Get your packages in early

Aussies know how to shop online. Last year, Australia Post saw record parcel volumes with nearly 6 million households shopping online per month. That's more than half of all Aussie households.

Thanks to border restrictions, Australia Post was forced to pause collections and business lodgements for eCommerce retailers in Melbourne to clear the backlog.

And, let's not forget those terrifying pictures of chock-a-block distribution centres.

So, if you want to ensure something comes on time, order early. And when it comes to the festive season, make sure you stick to Australia Post's delivery deadlines so your loved ones receive their parcels on time.

The buy now, pay later boom is still booming

We used to reserve buy now, pay later (BNPL) platforms for online retailers. Then it moved in stores, to your doctor's surgery, to airlines and in 2021...to the pub.

Yep, Afterpay became available at a number of hospitality venues in Australia in 2021, which delighted some, but concerned many. Last year, financial counsellors said more than half of their clients had BNPL debt - up from 31% the year prior. And, often these clients were struggling to pay for other living expenses like food, bills and rent.

So 2021 taught us that the buy now, pay later boom is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, more providers (think Klarna, StepPay) are popping up every month. But the real lesson? Use BNPL responsibly, and always put your daily needs before loading up your BNPL account.

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