What better way of sinking your teeth into an election year than asking consumers what’s on their minds. Our latest consumer survey shows home ownership concerns high on the list, but they were topped by worries over healthcare costs. Just half had confidence in the healthcare system.

That shouldn’t really be a surprise — we have an aging population requiring medical care as well as an increasingly unhealthy population, overweight and obese. And while those populations grow, the tax-paying pool to support them shrinks.

Economist Shamubeel Eaqub noted this recently but he went further, saying this disparity would lead to a political and fiscal reckoning — those fewer workers will be unwilling to pay ever greater taxes for older people who did not prepare for the well-known increases in age-related spending.

Alongside other exclusions for Generation X and Millennials from home ownership and secure work, fiscal pressures will add to building tension for generational warfare, he said.

Those comments are borne out in our survey — 66% of respondents listed home ownership as their number two concern. Among renters, worries about home ownership were more pronounced — 77% picked home ownership costs as the biggest concern tied to worry about their level of savings and investments generally.

24% of consumers struggled to get by on their household income but that jumped to 36% among renters. They were also more likely than homeowners to be cutting back on essentials such as power.

Renters have broader concerns than just the cost of living. While improvements are being made to the pool of rental houses, many tenants still live in cold, damp homes — and so you’re back on the healthcare merry-go-round.

Up there with healthcare and housing were concerns about water quality at beaches and rivers. A majority of consumers felt companies were failing to do enough to reduce the environmental impacts of their products. There was also scepticism about environmental claims — less than half of consumers trusted green claims.

Just under half said they looked for greener products and more than a third were prepared to pay extra for them. This year, we’ll be introducing more environmental factors into our research and testing to take account of those concerns.

We also asked consumers about their day-to-day dealings with traders. Most were confident and aware they had rights but one in three worried about dud products and being ripped off. The most common problems were paying for products that didn’t work as expected or delays in delivery or non-delivery of goods. The latter is an increasing problem as more people shop online.

At Consumer we’ll be working hard this election year to ensure the issues you care about and have taken the time to tell us about are put in front of politicians. That’s our job.

About the author:

Sue Chetwin has been our Chief Executive since April 2007 after more than 25 years in print journalism. She was formerly the Editor of Sunday News, Sunday Star Times and the Herald on Sunday.

Sue oversees all of Consumer’s operations and is also the public face of the organisation. Sue is a director of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme and a member of the Electricity Authority Retail Advisory group.