The MetLife study involving 1,283 Australians aged 18 to 65, saw half (49 per cent) of consumers claim COVID-19 had a negative impact on their personal finances, but the number of people reporting a “very negative impact” had eased since March.
The proportion of people agreeing they would suffer from extreme financial hardship was down to 7 per cent from 12 per cent the month before.
Super fund members were reported to increasingly want to hear from their fund, with 58 per cent wanting general market updates and insights, including how investment teams are responding.
More than half of consumers (52 per cent) reported they are also keen to receive information regarding life insurance inside their super – good news for the industry, MetLife said, as consumer engagement has been a barrier for providing suitable products.
However, 71 per cent of members said they didn’t want to hear from their fund on coronavirus, with the general sentiment being funds aren’t qualified to give medical or specialist advice and there is already too much information available.
The research also indicated the pandemic has had knock-on effects for Australians’ mental health – around three in 10 (33 per cent) have sought help, an 18 per cent increase from March, with partners, friends and family the people most commonly turned to for support, and GP contact doubled to 8 per cent since March.
Those aged 35 years and over were more likely to be seeking mental health support (47 per cent), as are women (38 per cent) and those living alone (42 per cent).
While many were looking for support, a fifth (22 per cent) said they were struggling to open up to others about how they are feeling due to COVID-19.
James Carey, head of group insurance at MetLife Australia, said the spike in interest in super and insurance was understandable, given the ongoing financial stress felt by Australians during COVID-19.
“Although the number of people reporting a ‘very negative’ impact has eased since March, there is still a lot of uncertainty when it comes to job security and financial wellbeing, particularly amongst younger Australians,” Mr Carey said.
“Financial providers, including super funds and advisers, have a key role to play in helping consumers navigate this uncertainty. Consumers are continuing to look to their financial providers to guide them, particularly on topics like super investment performance and early access to their super balance.”
Chesne Stafford, chief customer and marketing officer at MetLife Australia, added that financial providers have a role to play in people’s mental health, with access to investment options, tools and financial advice and information all having the potential to help manage financial strain.
“Financial wellbeing is a crucial factor in reducing mental health related issues, particularly for the harder hit young Australians and women,” Ms Stafford said.
“By providing clear advice and tools to consumers, financial providers can help their customers navigate this difficult time and come out of the pandemic feeling supported and financially secure.”
Meanwhile, 28 per cent of consumers had engaged with their life insurance provider since the outbreak of the pandemic, particularly among those aged 35 and over, where the figure rose to 40 per cent.
MetLife reported it had experienced a marked increase in enquiries for life and income protection insurance since the outbreak of COVID-19.
“While it’s encouraging to see so many Australians, particularly those in the younger age bracket, take active steps to understand their financial situation, the increase in and types of enquiries we’ve experienced over the past few months suggests many consumers don’t fully understand what is and isn’t covered by different insurance products,” Mr Carey said.
“For example, income protection will cover you if you’re unable to work due to illness or injury but doesn’t protect against redundancy – which is what many consumers have been worried about since the COVID-19 lockdown began.
“There is an important opportunity right now for financial providers to educate consumers to ensure they have the right protection for their situation."
Sarah Simpkins is a journalist at Momentum Media, reporting primarily on banking, financial services and wealth.
Prior to joining the team in 2018, Sarah worked in trade media and produced stories for a current affairs program on community radio.
Sarah has a dual bachelor's degree in science and journalism from the University of Queensland.