First, you read about low wage rises and high prices. Then you read about bank executive salaries in the millions (outgoing Commonwealth Bank CEO earned up to $12.3 million before the crisis hit and his pay was cut to $5.5 million).
So where does that leave the majority of us: working hard, saving as best we can and trying to get by?
How do you know if you are keeping up with the Joneses?
There are plenty of variables to confuse the issue.
Media sources can refer to the income in terms of the mean (the average, which can be hugely skewed by outliers) or the median (the middle of the range, which is usually more representative of the whole group).
They produce wildly different ‘normal’ incomes or net worths, and will likely leave you either feeling smug or dissatisfied with your lot.
Luckily, cold, hard facts from the Australian Bureau of Statistics tell us exactly how you compare to Mr and Mrs Average.
So, how rich are you really?
According to the most recent figures available from the ABS, the median gross household income in 2015-2016 was $1616 per week, or $84,032 a year.
But in the real world, households are all different, so the ABS calculates what they call the “equivalised disposable income” to give a clearer picture. This shows the household income after tax adjusted for the size and shape of the household by taking into account factors such as the economies of scale of sharing a house and the burden of children.
The median weekly equivalised disposable household income was $853 per week, or $44,356 a year – a much lower figure.
The ABS data tells us that the mean household net worth (the value of assets minus liabilities) is $929,400, but if that seems preposterous to you, consider that the median household net worth is a much lower $527,000.
The ABS data also tells us that three in four households has debt, while an alarming one in four has debt equal to three or more times their income.
If you want to figure out where you sit in relation to Mr and Mrs Average, economist Matt Cowigill has used this data to create an interactive tool (http://mattcowgill.com/) that lets you enter your household income and make-up to see how many Australians are financially better or worse off than you.
Go on, find out how rich you really are.