New research reveals Australians’ tendency to underestimate their own value is leading to poorer life choices

2019 -
  • Australians are seven times more likely to name their possessions as their most valuable asset rather than themselves 
  • Nearly 3 in 5 (57%) Australians admit that they do not consider themselves a valuable asset
  • Most Australians (78%) believe the way they value their contributions to others has had negative repercussions, including poor decisions relating to their long-term wellbeing

New research1 has uncovered that Australians are considerably underestimating their own value as they overwhelmingly base their value on the amount they earn and own, neglecting to recognise the value of their social and emotional contributions to loved ones.

The findings come from a detailed analysis of the things Australians value most, which was commissioned by TAL, a leading Australian life insurance specialist.

As a nation, Australians consider meaningful relationships and spending time with loved ones the most valuable things in life. However, people find it difficult to evaluate their own worth and place more value on their things, with 64% naming possessions - like their house or car - as their most valuable assets.

The research also found that nearly half of all Australians (47%) struggle to understand the value they provide to others, and four in five (78%) feel their self-valuation has led to negative repercussions, including poor life decisions (41%) and not spending time on things that are important to them (15%).

Commenting on TAL’s research, Dr Ilan Dar-Nimrod, a research psychologist, University of Sydney said: “As people, we have a natural tendency to recognise the value of material things, but it’s not so straightforward when it comes to ourselves. This can impact how we view our own self-worth, leading us to measure it based on elements that are easy to monetise, such as how much we work, earn and what possessions we own, while missing the point that our value is so much greater. Although it contains all of these elements, it goes above and beyond material assets. The value we provide to others through emotional support and mateship is endlessly valuable, but it’s the first thing we seem to forget. 

“The findings show that the phenomenon of under-appreciating the emotional support we provide to others is common, particularly among the younger generations, with many of us failing to see that we are a Most Valued Person – or a true ‘MVP’ – to our loved ones. This lack of awareness may also be impacting Australians’ self-value and the choices they make in life.”

The research from TAL shows that people value different things in life, often related to their life stage. Building a rewarding and successful career is a strong focus for millennials, while baby boomers tend to be more focused on staying healthy and supporting loved ones with practical tasks, all of which could be fueling the generational differences in self-value. 

The research also identified that Australians fall into one of four different profile types depending on how they view their own value. Most Australians (60%) fall into types that are more focused on family and value spending quality time [Conscientious Carers and Family-Focused Optimists] while 40% are more career-driven and focused on providing for others financially [the Gregarious Go-Getters and Ambitious Organisers]. 

While career-driven Gregarious Go-Getters make up only a quarter (24%) of the overall population, they are predominantly young people, with more than half (54%) being millennials.  Older generations (aged 35-74) however, tend to make up the majority of the Family-Focused Optimist group (78%), despite this only comprising a third of all Australians (32%). 

Overall, the findings show that self-value increases with age. Millennials tend to place a low self-valuation on themselves which is likely down to them owning less assets and earning comparatively less than older generations in addition to underestimating the emotional value they provide to others. 

Dr Dar-Nimrod continues, “These findings show that there’s a need for people to better understand that their ’self’ includes much more than just their assets. By underestimating their self-worth, people may be more inclined to lack belief in themselves and their decisions, and so be less inclined to make the decisions that may benefit them the most. This is particularly relevant for younger generations, as they are making social as well as financial decisions, such as decisions around their financial health, that could impact them throughout their lives.” 

Modern life, including social media may also be having a larger impact on young Australians’ self-value with 79% stating that aspect of life makes it difficult for them not to compare themselves to others which could be contributing to the erosion of millennials’ self-value. 

The lack of value Australians place on themselves is also reflected in their actions around protecting what they deem as valuable. Nearly three in five Australians admit that they do not consider themselves a valuable asset, which could explain why twice as many people (66%) say they have car insurance but have not proactively put life insurance, including income protection, insurance in place.  

Visit Value of You to take the test to find out which personal value type you are.

Key statistics from the TAL research include: 

  • 64% of Australians said their possessions, like their house or car, are their most valuable assets, not themselves
  • Nearly three in five (57%) Australians admit that they do not consider themselves a valuable asset
  • 47% of Australians struggle to understand the value they provide to their family and loved ones (twice as many millennials (62%) underestimate their value compared to baby boomers (36%))
  • 43% of Australians place a low self-value on themselves (Millennials 55%, Gen X 36%, Baby Boomers 38%)
  • 78% of Australians feel the way they value their contributions to their family and loved ones has had some negative repercussions (Millennials 88%, Gen X 76%, Baby Boomers 71%)
  • 41% of Australians feel the way they value their contributions to their family and loved ones has led to them making some poor life decisions 
  • 15% of Australians feel the way they value their contributions to their family and loved ones has led to them regretting not spending time on things that are important to them
  • 79% of millennials state that some aspects of modern life make it difficult for them not to compare themselves to others
  • 66% of Australians currently have car insurance, compared to 32% of Australians knowingly having life insurance
Personal value profile statistics include: 
  • More family-focused types
    28% of Australians fall into being Conscientious Carers (consisting of 28% millennials; 25% Gen X; 40% Baby Boomers) 
    32% of Australians fall into being Family-Focused Optimists (consisting of 15% millennials; 36% Gen X; 42% Baby Boomers) 
  • More career-driven types
    24% of Australians fall into being Gregarious Go-Getters (consisting of 54% millennials; 28% Gen X; 16% Baby Boomers) 
    16% of Australians fall into being Ambitious Organisers (consisting of 35% millennials; 40% Gen X; 23% Baby Boomers) 
Descriptions of the four personal value profiles:
  • Conscientious Carers – consisting of 28% of Australians
    Tend to wear their hearts on their sleeves and highly value the emotional support they give to their loved ones as they like to feel well supported by others too. They may question the decisions they make in life and sometimes wish they’d done things differently. Work tends to be less of a priority them.
  • Family-Focused Optimists – consisting of 32% of Australians 
    Take a family orientated approach to life. Providing emotional support to loved ones is very important to them and they prefer to support people that way rather than buying material things. They have a positive outlook on life. Taking care of their health is important to them and they place less importance on their career than other areas of life.
  • Gregarious Go-Getters – consisting of 24% of Australians
    Career-driven and community-aware. They often have fun and live a life full of spontaneity and change while enjoy having nice things around them and sharing them with loved ones. They recognise the importance of ‘giving back’ to the community and would like to give more time and attention to others. They sometimes compare themselves to others as a measure of how they’re doing in life. They tend to underestimate the value and emotional support they provide to loved ones. While striving to have a successful career, they can undervalue the importance of taking care of their health.
  • Ambitious Organisers – consisting of 16% of Australians 
    Having a successful career is important to them and something they take pride in. They like to have fun and embrace change by being spontaneous. They are highly driven to succeed financially so they can provide for themselves, their family, and have nice things around them. This can lead to them sacrificing their long-term happiness to focus on work and underestimating how valuable their emotional support and time can be for their loved ones. 


1 The research was conducted by Lonergan Research in November 2018 on behalf of TAL, with a nationally representative sample of 1,035 Australians across the country aged 18+, in accordance with the ISO 20252 standard. The survey was conducted online amongst members of a permission-based panel.  

Upon completion of the fieldwork a series of multivariate statistical techniques were applied to the data, including factor analysis, cluster analysis and regression analysis to reveal four broad persona types. 

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