Lockdown stress could lead to Aussie divorce boom


CBA goes all in on crypto, while Australia could be facing a spike in divorces.

Here are five things you might've missed this week.

Relationships on a knife's edge

the great separation covid divorce boom

Research conducted by the Australian Government-backed online separation tool amica in October (while lockdowns were still in place in NSW, the ACT and Victoria) suggests that Australia could be on the verge of a Great Separation in the months ahead.

More than a fifth of Aussies in a relationship (21%) reported that COVID-19 and lockdowns have strained their relationship with their partner, while 8% reported that the pandemic has forced them to consider separation.

Not surprisingly, relationship stress was found to be highest in the lockdown states. In NSW, 37% of people reported experiencing a strained relationship or considering separation as a result of COVID and lockdowns, closely followed by Victoria at 32%.

Young couples have fared the worst with 40% of those aged 18-34 experiencing relationship stress. This is compared with 28% of those aged 35-44, 30% of those aged 45-54 and 17% of people aged 55 and over.

"The last two years have been extremely challenging for all Australians, but more stressful for some people than others," says amica project chief and national legal aid director Gabrielle Canny

"We anticipate that there are tens of thousands of couples who have held things together as long as they can but now want to move on without becoming one of those bitter and expensive separation horror stories we so often hear about."

CBA all in on crypto

Commonwealth Bank will be the first Aussie bank to facilitate crypto trading.

Trading will take place on CommBank app and will be designed in partnership with blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis.

"The emergence and growing demand for digital currencies from customers creates both challenges and opportunities for the financial services sector, which has seen a significant number of new players and business models innovating in this area.

"We believe we can play an important role in crypto to address what's clearly a growing customer need and provide capability, security and confidence in a crypto trading platform.

Caroline Bowler, CEO of crypto exchange BTC Markets, says the move brings further legitimacy to the domestic crypto market.

"It's yet another red-letter day for crypto and it is as though Australia has suddenly put the lead foot down," she says.

"We have been touted as playing catch up all this while, but now we're moving into a leadership position globally with our largest bank, and one of the most significant mainstream financial institutions in the world offering millions of customers access to cryptocurrencies."

BNPL provider Humm wins Shonky Award for unsafe lending

Humm has won an unenviable Shonky award from consumer group CHOICE for lending up to $30,000 with dubious checks and balances.

The award comes as financial counsellors across Australia have named Humm the worst buy now, pay later (BNPL) provider for hardship assistance.

CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland says Humm and other BNPL providers are evading safe lending laws.

"Buy now, pay later products have been deliberately designed to avoid safe lending laws," he says.

"That means they don't need to check whether you can afford to repay a debt before they lend you money. Humm - which is lending people up to $30,000 without a safe lending check - demonstrates just how dangerous these products are.

"CHOICE asked Humm four times how they check whether they are lending safely and we could not get a straight answer. This is unregulated credit, pure and simple."

Rates on the rise

Many Aussie banks have begun raising their rates out of cycle, and it could cost you thousands in interest.

CommBank has lifted its four-year fixed term loan to 2.89% this week, while its three year fixed terms are up 40 points to 2.69%.

On an $800,000 mortgage, these increases could add up to as much as $10,000.

"Many [home-owners and home buyers] are aware the Reserve Bank has kept the cash rate at the same historic low and assume that there are still a lot of cheap home loans available," says Compare Club home loan manager Matthew Gatt.

"That may have been true four months ago, but the banks are already removing many of the ultra-low rates from the market. For example, Bankwest, Macquarie and CommBank have recently raised their fixed-term loans and it wouldn't be a surprise if more lenders follow suit and remove some of the cheaper fixed term at the start of next year."

RBA gives up on yield target

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) this week gave up maintaining the yield of April 2024 bonds at 0.10% - a program designed to keep lending costs low.

"The lack of any intervention to defend the 0.10% target following higher than expected inflation numbers meant that the end of yield curve control had been largely anticipated by the market," says Anthony Doyle, cross-asset investment specialist at Fidelity International.

The RBA also gave up on the 2024 guidance it has been giving regards when it will lift the cash rate.

"Caught behind the curve by more persistent inflationary pressures, a stronger than anticipated labour market and rising bond yields, the RBA today indicated that it will likely join other central banks by beginning to lift the cash rate sooner than it had anticipated."

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David Thornton was a journalist at Money from September 2019 to November 2021. He previously worked at Your Money, covering market news as producer of Trading Day Live. Before that, he covered business and finance news at The Constant Investor. David holds a Masters of International Relations from the University of Melbourne.