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What is GDP – and why you should care



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Most people’s eyes glaze over when the term GDP is used in a market outlook or economic report – but it is an important indicator of what’s happening in our economy and the flow-on to everyday Aussies.

What is GDP?

GDP stands for Gross Domestic Product, which is the value of all of the goods and services produced by a particular country. This includes, amongst other things, private and public purchases, government spending, investment, plus the value of exports minus the value of imported goods and services.

While it may seem complicated, GDP provides a relatively simple way of conveying the overall strength of a country’s economy which directly affects our lives.

In particular, the focus is on whether GDP is growing (good) or contracting (bad). Economic growth supports more jobs, stimulates our spending, and garners more in taxes so governments can spend more on infrastructure and services, like hospitals and schools.

Changes in GDP are usually reported on a countrywide basis, but in many ways a more important measure is GDP per capita (that’s us). On this basis, Australia does very well, ranking 12th out of 212 countries in 2022. But if, as a nation, we’re ‘rolling in it’, why do so many Aussies feel like they’re doing it tough?

GDP: Devil in the detail

The problem with GDP is that, because it is such a simple measure, it hides a wealth of detail. It’s like a fairy tale that reads ‘once upon a time they all lived happily ever after’.

GDP growth figures don’t reveal the widening gap between high and low income earners.

GDP doesn’t measure mortgage or rental stress.

GDP doesn’t reveal that company profits make up a higher share of national income than they did in 1975 while the wage share has fallen.

As it happens, recent GDP and other figures reveal a resilient economy for us, despite the impact of trade disputes with China, the Coronavirus pandemic, bushfires and floods. GDP rose by 3.7% in the March 2022 quarter, and grew by 10.2% for the year. The total amount paid to employees increased by 2.8%. Given that population grew by 0.5% for the year to December 2021, GDP per capita showed good growth and wages income experienced some growth as well.

No crystal ball

So what does the future hold for us, economically? The simple answer is that nobody really knows.

We do know that Australia’s household debt is at record levels, and that if interest rates continue to rise or there’s a significant uptick in unemployment, many households will experience real hardship. That will dampen retail spending and put further downward pressure on the economy, potentially sparking a recession (defined as at least two consecutive quarters of declining GDP).

Control what you can, prepare for what you can’t

While we can’t control interest rates or inflation, and most people are having a hard time getting a pay rise, there are many aspects of your financial life that we can control.

These include keeping a rein on discretionary spending, building up some savings, or drawing down on a mortgage to repay high-interest credit card debt.

Most people rate health, happiness and good relationships as being more important than possessions, so think about what’s most important to you and your family. Then talk to a qualified financial planner. You don’t need to be rich to have one. On the contrary, a licensed advisor can help you clarify your goals and work out a plan to achieve them. Just as importantly they can help you stick to the plan, to beat off the big bad wolves of an uncertain economy and deliver more of the happily ever after.  

 The content of this article is general in nature and is presented for informative purposes. It is not intended to constitute tax or financial advice, whether general or personal nor is it intended to imply any recommendation or opinion about a financial product. It does not take into consideration your personal situation and may not be relevant to circumstances. Before taking any action, consider your own particular circumstances and seek professional advice. This content is protected by copyright laws and various other intellectual property laws. It is not to be modified, reproduced or republished without prior written consent.

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