Navigating Rising Mortgage Stress Insights from RBA’s Financial Stability Review

⚡️ Highlights:

1. The Reserve Bank of Australia’s Financial Stability Review shows that Australia’s financial system is strong, but a small minority of borrowers are experiencing financial stress due to the turbulent economy.

2. Borrowers with low incomes, large loans, and low savings are at higher risk of mortgage stress and arrears.

3. Higher interest rates and inflation have reduced the spare cash flow of most households, leading to slower consumption growth and declining sentiment about financial health.

4. Using the household expenditure measure, 5% of Australian homeowners cannot cover essential expenses, and when including discretionary spending, around 13% of variable-rate owner-occupiers have expenses and mortgage costs exceeding their income.

5. While financial stress is a concern, most borrowers are not yet in mortgage stress and are not turning to credit cards or personal loans to cover expenses. The majority of borrowers are expected to be well placed even with further increases in interest rates.


The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) recently released its half-yearly Financial Stability Review, which provides an invaluable snapshot of the current state of Australia’s financial system. While the review paints a generally robust picture of the nation’s financial health, it also highlights growing concerns about mortgage stress among a subset of borrowers. This blog post delves into the key findings of the RBA’s review, exploring the implications for both borrowers and lenders.

The State of Financial Resilience

According to the RBA’s review, Australia’s financial system has shown remarkable resilience in the face of challenging economic conditions, including inflation and cost-of-living pressures. This resilience is partly attributed to the financial cushions built up by Australians during the pandemic, aided by government stimulus packages.

The Rising Concern of Mortgage Stress

However, the review points out that borrowers with low incomes, large loans, and minimal savings are increasingly vulnerable to mortgage stress. Using the baseline Household Expenditure Measure (HEM), the RBA found that 5% of Australian homeowners are unable to cover essential expenses, a significant increase from just 1% last year. When considering a broader HEM measure that includes discretionary spending items like private health insurance and school fees, the percentage of financially stressed homeowners jumps to around 13%.

The Impact of Interest Rate Changes

The review also examines the potential impact of a hypothetical 50 basis point increase in the cash rate. Such an increase would push the percentage of financially stressed variable-rate owner-occupier borrowers from 5% to approximately 7%. About 30% of these borrowers could deplete their financial buffers within six months.

Financial Stress in the Public Consciousness

Interestingly, the review notes that financial stress has become a more prominent concern among Australians. Google searches related to household financial stress have reached their highest levels since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, financial counseling services have reported a surge in calls, and there has been a significant increase in debt files and financial hardship cases.

Conclusion and Recommendations

While mortgage stress is not yet widespread, the signs are clear that it is a growing concern. Lenders and borrowers alike need to be vigilant and proactive in managing financial risks. Borrowers should consider refinancing options and build up emergency funds, while lenders must adhere to responsible lending practices.

For those in the property investment sector, these findings underscore the importance of thorough financial planning and risk assessment. As the economic landscape continues to evolve, staying informed and prepared is more crucial than ever.

Further Reading

Source: Broker News

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