Alexis George (left) and Bernard Salt

The financial services sector has to adapt to Australia’s changing perception of wealth which has shifted from more than owning a house.

Speaking at a presentation of the ‘What wealthy means to Australians in 2023’ research report on Tuesday morning in Sydney, AMP chief executive Alexis George said the key finding is the modern concept of “wealthy” for Australians is “more than home ownership”.

“As someone who is a product of the 1960s that’s really confronting because I’ve strived my whole life to have that house,” George said.

“My parents were so proud the day they paid of their three-bedroom house in Bega.”

George added that financial services providers have to think differently about their customers and what needs to be done to help them achieve an alternative definition of wealth.

“For many [home ownership] still is the ultimate goal, but it’s not only about home ownership,” George said.

“People are no longer willing to compromise their lifestyle, whether that’s travel, social interaction with friends and family, for that home ownership.”

Building the dream

Working on the research, demographer Bernand Salt reviewed 110 years of Australian census data.

According to his research, it was 31 years before the release of the The Castle, the iconic film centered around the Australia dream, that Australia achieved the highest proportion of home ownership – 73 per cent of households in 1966.

“In 1911 about 48 per cent of households were owned on the Australian continent barely 10 years after federation,” Salt said.

“I actually see that as an intergenerational dividend of gold. We’re a really rich country on a per capita basis around the turn of the century.”

Salt noted the greatest lift in home ownership in Australia was from 1947 to 1966, which was the birth of the middle class. He added this demographic lived through the great depression and WWII, which shaped their world view.

“They remember war rationing,” Salt said.