On average CAB clients many times their monthly salary
The shocking size of the personal debt mountain facing many Britons has been revealed in new research from the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).
CAB debt advisers across the UK have reported a 47% increase in the number of new consumer credit debt problems over the past five years, and argue that the numbers in debt have gathered pace.
In a survey of 8,000 debt case studies, CAB found that the average amount owed was £10,700 - roughly 14 times their average monthly income of £800.
The survey concluded that one of the main triggers for debt problems for people on low pay was a change in circumstances, such as a period of ill health or a relationship breakdown.
One-quarter of those surveyed were receiving treatment for stress, depression and anxiety, with money worries making matters worse in most cases.
The CAB added that it was worried that in nearly half the cases it handled, those in debt tried to get out of difficulty by borrowing more money.
The level of credit commitments for many seeking advice from CAB was such that it only took a 10% drop in earnings for people in debt to suffer real hardship and be unable to keep up repayments.
"Our research shows that we are a critical stage where personal debt problems threaten to overwhelm large numbers of people in this country," warns David Harker, chief of Citizens Advice.
The government announced last year that it intended to crack down hard on credit companies that charge extortionate rates of interest.
However, at present there are no plans to curb more mainstream lenders from marketing products to those already in debt.
What is your experience of debt? Are there enough checks and balances on lenders in the UK?
When will credit card companies stop encouraging people to get into debt? Twenty years ago it was nigh on impossible to get bank loans and credit cards, but now they're thrown at you. I get a pre-approved credit card offer in the mail about every other day. I shred every single one of them, and don't have a penny of debt other than my mortgage (and no, I haven't re-mortgaged to "cash in" on the equity of my house). Big financial companies are cashing in on the keep up with the Joneses mentality for every latest luxury item, but individuals also have to take responsibility for being so soft-minded.
I am currently working in a collections department during a gap year, and have noticed a considerable rise in just the past 2 months of people in serious problems with their debt
Young Britons are in a huge amount of debt, and education is to blame. I left university after a few months because the gains at the end weren't worth the financial expenditure but most of my friends are finishing their courses this year. With £9,000 student loan to pay off at least, they stand little chance of being able to afford to buy a house for a long time, crippled by student loan repayments.
Personally I owe £2,800 student loan (I took my full year's entitlement to pay off an overdraft and credit card), another £2,000 on a credit card and £1,600 on an overdraft. It'll take a while to shift before I can start to think about buying a house and investing my money somewhere else apart from credit card repayments.
There is a great deal of irresponsible leading going on and a downturn in the economy will expose it hurting all concerned. One major cause - credit cards - could be controlled at a stroke by requiring monthly minimum payments of say 15% of the outstanding balance each month rather than the derisory 5% or even less.
Debt becomes a neccessity in todays Western world inorder to carry on as usual,be it spending on food,government charges,or indeed gifts at Christmas.As far as being overwhelmed by debt I just don't think about it and using the old adage you can't get blood out of a stone
I am currently working in a collections department during a gap year, and have noticed a considerable rise in just the past 2 months of people in serious problems with their debt. Many of these people choose to use highly advertised debt management companies, which themselves charge fees to work out repayment plans which for a large proportion of the time offer little more than giving each creditor a percentage of their "disposable" income each month, this, of course, after their fees - in some cases I have seen these as high as 20%. This, coupled with extortionate rates of interest - with the poor paying the higher rates of up to 33% pa and late/overlimit charges of upto £25 each per month, it is little wonder our country is facing a spiralling personal debt mountain - considering these rates are conveniently hidden during advertising campaigns. I know the two words striking fear, at least into many departments at my company, are Tony Blair's honesty boxes, where these rates would have to be clearly labelled. Until this happens, at least, we're constantly recruiting...hopefully one day, for the good of the country, it won't be this way. If you do find yourself in trouble with debt, call your creditors, and they will be able to advise you of contact numbers at the CAB and CCCS (Consumer Credit Counselling Service) who can provide free advice and information, rather than paying additional fees to use debt management companies.
It is sad to hear that so many people are facing such debt problems.I think there are two main reasons.Firstly the cost of housing has reached unsustainable levels in many parts of the UK and people are over-extending themselves to get on the property ladder.Secondly some people have unrealistic living standards.Easy credit is just too tempting for too many people.
If this survey was narrowed to look at Londoners only, the problem might become more apparent. The high cost of property and fast pace of life meant that most of my friends (in the 25-35 age group) had credit card debts of 10 to 20K and because of redundancies in the technical and banking sector, have leased out their homes and moved in with partners and friends to cover their payments.
My total borrowing on a 50,000 salary was 173,000 (mortgage), 15,000 (2nd Mortgage) 17,000 (car). This is only sustainable while property (and rental) prices are high.
Fiona Papageorge, Australia
I'm not suprised people get in debt. Each month I receive about 5 letters inviting me to take out a credit card 'for people with past credit problems'. I throw them in the bin but for people in trouble it seems an easy way to help in some way.
I find it always helps to take a 'No Person' shopping whenever you go out. There the people who say 'No, you cant afford that' before you get to the checkout. That way you live to your means.
Some of my friends count money that they havent spent on credit cards as 'Savings' (they dont make good 'No People')
Don't get sucked into the 'must-have', 'coolest thing to have' trend.
Of course more people are having trouble getting into debt. The government's target of getting 50% of people into higher education means that almost this many people will start work roughly 10,000 in debt, before the cost of living in the real, non-student world even starts to accumulate!
The current surge of adverts on TV is to blame im my opinion. Its a disgrace.
I got into debt some years ago, and realised the painful truth was that I had to make fundamental changes to my lifestyle and spending habits. But these days many people don't seem to want to take responsibility for their own actions. Who will they blame for their debt problems? You can bet a significant proportion will try to blame banks, credit card suppliers, retailers, etc - anyone but themselves.
Notwithstanding the people who can't afford to feed their kids, I really struggle to find sympathy with people who treat credit cards and loans as spending money. Sure, we all need to use the plastic or overdraft occasionally, but not treat it as a spending spree. Most of our friends have spent stupid amounts on their homes, have car loans no savings and meagre pension contributions. We take pleasure in buying decent second hand stuff for our house and in getting a good deal. We are nearly 30 and are out of debt for the first time since university - we also have a good deposit for buying a house saved up and also managed to pay for our wedding and honeymoon without taking out a loan. How? We don't earn much more than the average income - we just don't treat expensive holidays, house makeovers and new cars as "essentials". We do go away when we can afford it, but we don't treat a foreign holidays once or twice a year as a birthright. I also feel easily obtainable credit is actually exploiting people who may not realise the gravity (or indeed cost) of what they are doing. We constantly get set credit cards offering crazy limits - it's just an expensive form loan.
The rule to stay out of debt in simple, if you have the right attitude - Buy when you can afford to pay cash, otherwise you can't, walk away. Don't get sucked into the 'must-have', 'coolest thing to have' trend. It's the people who put you in debt by doing that fancy marketing who are the ones driving porsches whilst you're trying to save your car, house, or worse - your family. Chop up your credit cards, and keep one with a low credit level. Spend what you can afford to pay off at the end of the month. Carry no debt, the interest is extortionate.
Why do you think 1% of our population controls 99% of the wealth? Because they continue to fool the masses into paying billions of dollars in interest into their coffers....Think about it!
As a Vicar in an apparently well-healed community in leafy Warwickshire, I see the problems of debt most days. Alcohol abuse, anger and violence within respectable families - leading to breakdowns of one sort or another - and chronic depression are some of the more obvious signs. But, most people simply manage and suffer in silence and fear. The reality being that they aren't managing and that there aren't nearly enough trained debt counsellors to go around. Much more public debate - of the non-naming/ shaming variety - needed. BBC over to you!
Tony Bradley, UK
Too much attention is given to material possessions and perhaps if people stopped being so greedy they would not get into so much debt.
Hasn't the increase of adverts advertising how easy it is to borrow money for any purpose, regardless of circumstances or credit rating, contributed to the present problem. The country seems to run on credit to such an extent that today you have problem convincing a retailer to accept cash. Long gone are the days that in order buy something, you saved up for it.
It is much too easy for people to borrow money these days. The number of adverts in the press and on TV should be controlled by Law. I have been in debt, and managed to get myself out of the mire. Nowadays I do not buy anything on credit, I save for it.
There should be automatic 50% debt relief for borrowers where it can be shown the credit company took insuficient care to assertain their customers ability to pay.
Goverment policy , encouraging credit and discouraging saving has caused this. Credit card companies are so keen to offer loans intrest free transfers etc. But those of us who wish to save our money are suffering with such low intrest rates. Credit should be made more difficult as it just leads to the problem we have now and it will get worse where banks and credit card companies will eventually have to write off millions of pounds. Serve them.right.
If I lost my job, I'd lose everything and it's a real worry
I am no longer resident in the UK but always notice on my return visits how many people in the UK always need new things, new clothes every season, the latest electrical goods, a new car. Too much attention is given to material possessions and perhaps if people stopped being so greedy they would not get into so much debt.
Andy, Czech Republic
If you are in trouble with repayments, don't do as I have seen my people do and bury your head in the sand. Talk to who you owe money to, most companies are happy to restructure your repayments rather than get nasty with you.
This situation is merely a sympton of people's short-termist "must have now" mentality.
In a few years time these people will be filing lawsuits to have their debt wiped out, claiming that it was all the credit companies' fault for agreeing to lend them so much!
Surely all these "victims" are adults responsible for their own actions. It's pathetic to hear them flail around seeking someone else to blame for their own personal mistakes ("so unfair no one held my little hand and told me I was being stupid"). My debt is about 60 times my net monthly pay (thanks to a large mortgage) but I don't whine about how nasty the world is. Stop complaining and deal with it!
Paul, London, England
It's not only those on low income that are in debt. I had to borrow huge amounts to get most of the deposit for a house. I then needed to borrow money to buy a car to find a house. I also took out a bridging loan with the bank to make up the shortfall in the deposit. I'm spending about 75% of my monthly income on repayments of one sort or another, and I know i'm not the only one. The main reason is the excessive price of houses and also renting. I want to consolidate some of the loans on to my mortgage since i'm paying over 15% interest at the moment on some of them. If I lost my job, I'd lose everything and it's a real worry.
I have a feeling this is the tip of the next blip in the economy. If people cant spend because they have reached more than their debt limit, not only will they have to stop this spend, but also they will have to restructure to pay their debts - thus reducing disposable income even more. This will hit consumer spending and hence slow the economy again.
Gary, Wilmslow, UK
It's so much easier to get credit now that the urge to spend more is greater. Getting credit cards with £10,000 limits is almost as easy as buying a pint of milk. It almost seems that they are gagging to give people money to spend.
With jobs increasingly harder to keep and find, people should be very wary of how much debt they take on. An economy that grows purely out of credit has a more limited cycle than one that grows normally, the debt and equity markets are still looking very shaky.
It's no real surprise that people are in debt when nearly every other advert on TV is for an "easy unsecured low rate loan", Interest Free Credit on Household goods or low APR Credit Cards. The ability to get into debt is all too easy. The advertising is also often confusing and leads people into traps by making offers they can't seem to refuse. The other problem is people are getting into debt younger, most students are forced into getting an overdraft, credit card and maybe even a loan to cover fees and materials. Banks are only too ready to give out this money but have a tendancy to turn slightly hostile when the excuse for a salary starts trickling in. People need more lessons in managing money, maybe this could be combined into the core courses system the goverment is promoting like nobodies business.
James Docherty, United Kingdom
Tighter control and regulation is required from government. Along with some type of financial education for consumers.
My colleague has 3 credit cards, owing around £28,000 in total, and he was immediately granted another credit card. Irrespective of the unmanagble debt he has, a fourth card was granted because he makes regular payments, paying off the minimum each month. He is heading towards bankruptcy at a rate of knots, and yet it seems lenders are happy to give him more and more credit. I just think a view should be taken. I realise lenders are insured against bankruptcy, but surely there has to be a sensible call made for the sake of Joe public.
I am in about £6000 debt, caused by sickness while at university. The collection agencies call and demand money from me and some even say that they cannot accept payments £15/wk. Unless you speak to someone about budgeting and what these agengies can and can't do, you are looking at a stressful way ahead. I now sit down with my fiancee every week and we both plan together what to pay, save and spend. Despite not earning more, I am now paying off more, eating more, travelling further to work and I have money in savings and in my pocket.
James Scrase, Portsmouth, England
Being in the position of debt myself, I have to agree that it is my spending that put me here but the credit companies (loans and cards) make it far too easy to get in this position. There has to be some way of controlling these companies at the application level. If one of the companies had said NO then I would not be in this position
Also have to say education would help people realise that CREDIT=DEBT because the message we get these days is that because CREDIT is easy to get then it is not a bad thing to do.
I believe the fragile towers of personal debt that have been built up, will collapse en masse on day, with enourmous consequences.
It seems strange that under these circumstances the amount of debt people are getting themselves into is treated as a concerning issue, but when it comes to the next lot of students the aim of the government seems to be to saddle them with as much debt as possible!
People in serious debt seem to be rewarded for their greed and stupidity in todays "I want it now" culture, with access to easy credit and low interst rates. People with a more sensible attitude are penalized by low interest rates (my savings lost money last year) and unaffordable housing. I saved for years and avoided debt to try and buy a house only to have the so-called "property ladder" yanked up beyond my means just as I'd saved enough to start looking. Now I am ill and claiming benefits, only to see my savings drain away as I have too much in the bank to qualify for much benefit. I really envy people with big debts - at least they probably had a good time acquiring them.
Dont forget that more people are in debt due to being students.
simon jacklin, England
The debt situation for many people is getting beyond their means to address it. I have a well paid job, but I cannot make ends meet every month. I have been divorced for over a year, and my debts have got bigger and bigger - loan to pay off credit cards, trying to get a mortgage on somewhere decent to live, maintenance payments that are totally unrealistic, cost of living going up all the time. So at the end of the month when the money runs out what are you supposed to do ? Use a credit card or starve ? Problem is, that point in the month keeps getting earlier and earlier.
Due to the current economic climate, and general downturn in the IT industry in which I work (not to mention offshoring work to India), there will be no bonuses or payrises this year, just like last year - the net result is a pay cut of between 4% and 7%, despite exceeding all my performance targets.....?
I consider myself quite thorough when it comes to finding the best deals on interest rates for credit cards and loans, and I move my debt around every 6 months to minimise interest, but what is the way out ? Forcing credit companies to reduce their interest rates is only part of the solution - ensuring employers enable their employees to keep up with inflation, and restricting the amount of tax the government collects to pay for highly controversial projects are another.
Our Government should tighten the lending laws in this country.
People find it to easy to borrow. The Government want us to keep spending to make the economy look good, when realy it is in decline.
Stop treating adults like children and trying to control what products they can and cannot see and give them some good solid advice like the CAB is doing. Andy
Andy, London, UK
It's simple, if you can't afford it, don't buy it.
Purchasing everything on credit or a credit card doesn't magically make paying for it go away, it just prolongs the agony increases the total cost.
The level of personal debt that people are allowed to build up - combined with the continual eagerness of banks and credit card companies to lend more - is symptomatic of the self-obsessed consumerism of our age. The religious status of absolute capitalism is the West's current obsession. It will be the defining characteristic of this generation. More specifically, with regards to personal debt, I believe the fragile towers of personal debt that have been built up, will collapse en masse on day, with enourmous consequences.
I have long thought that the 'credit card culture' is today's 'slavery'.
Jim Golightly, UK
I have taken advantage of the low balance transfer rates of recent years but found it quite difficult to close the previous card account. On three or more occassions I found myself being talked into keeping the account open for possible future offers thus giving me double the credit I needed straight away.
Sean Fletcher, England
I ask myself - Why is this scenario just as bad in the USA, Australia etc?
Why are people letting themselves get into such a predicament? When will the bubble burst? The debt on these 'Bond' mortgages will never be repaid unless they win a lottery.
Why are credit card companies allowed to keep issuing people with new cards even if they already have a credit card and it's full? Banks will give out multiple loans without checking the details of previous ones. There don't seem to be many checks to stop people just borrowing and borrowing - its down to the individual and many of us take advantage of this, untill it turns into a problem. Then we're stuck. I don't think we need yet more regulation but there should be some sort of check that individuals can afford it before any loans or credit cards are issued. The current system encourages people to borrow but does not analyse if they can pay it back.
The main problem is that lenders cannot be relied upon to behave responsibly and so we need tighter regulation of the amount of credit offered to an individual based upon a multiple of their earnings. My wife and I worked it out that between us we have credit cards with available credit of £48,000 and, needless to say, that is considerably more than our combined gross annual salary...and we still receive at least one offer of a new card per week with a credit facility of £5000! It's madness and there is a clear need for tighter controls on the credit card companies. It seems to me to be the only real way of controlling access to credit. Having said that, the whole economy is based upon credit and propped up by consumer spending. If you stop consumers spending by limiting their credit then recession is inevitable. Either way there will be victims...
We are heading for crisis unless the government realises this and takes steps to encourage people to save rather than spend.
The government should introduce into the curriculum basic financial education, compulsory for all school leavers to cover credit, managing debt and mortgages etc - that way people wouldn't be sucked in my gimmicks and responsibility could be left to those who should have it - the individual, rather than trying to blame credit card companies who are just doing their business, making hay while the sun shines on low interest rates.
Stephen Davies, London UK
I'm not surprised everyone is in debt. All my work mates go out shopping for the latest clothes at lunchtime with their credit and store cards, and come back laden, then go and buy new cars, ready made food and the latest things for their children. After being in terrible debt five years ago which we have finally paid off, my husband and I not only live strictly within our means, we also budget and put money aside for savings every single month.
Thank goodness we do, as a result we have been able to ride out my husbands recent unemployment comfortably. Shopping and spending is quite simply not worth it - now we have peace of mind which is priceless.
It's greed, and the only irresponsible ones are the borrowers who can't wait for a few months to have that holiday, that new car or that stylish new mobile 'phone before their friends.
However, it if far to easy to blame the financial sector. They didn't force you to sign the loan agreement!
Those that have got themselves into trouble have only themselves to blame. They have enjoyed the benefits of spending the cash raised from debt and they will have to bear the consequences of repaying it back.
Everyone would love to borrow to finance a fictious and unsustainable life style, but to blame someone else for your actions is amazing!
It's hardly surprising that we're all in so much debt. The government supports young students starting off their lives with thousands of pounds of debt - I'm immune to it now! I believed that debt was necessary when I was 18 and I still believe that now.
We are encouraged to borrow and told this will keep the economy afloat. As a result we encounter increasing problems of this nature. At some time in time we will reach a critical point where we simply cannot borrow any more as a nation. We are heading for crisis unless the government realises this and takes steps to encourage people to save rather than spend.
Roger Irving, UK
It is so easy to get into debt. I have just remotgaged the house to pay off £12,000 of debt. I wont do it again !
Catherine m, uk
Just remember, the car infront is owned by the bank!
Almost every shop you go into, want you to take a store card and try to entice you by giving you money off your first purchase.
I think there should be some controls on this as they often have high interest rates and they just entice the people to spend more that they can afford.
S Kinghorn, UK
I think the government must take responsibility for controlling this and should start by capping the interest rates that individuals can be charged - then people in real trouble cannot borrow more until it is impossible to get out of it. They should also regulate fees - which are a disgrace. Also more financial education at school is an essential.
Brian Chadwick, England
I thinks its awful what some companies will do to encourage you to spend money, I recently bought a mini-disc player on credit, the first and last time it will happen, the company that I bought the mini-disc player from does not send me statements telling me how much I owe them, they send me statments telling me how much money I have left to spend on the credit account, this seems to be a new low in the race to drag people into dept.
C McCollum, England
The credit card companies can send you lots of offers, but they can't sign your name for you. Why is it that people feel no sense of personal responsibility for running up large credit card bills?
C Brown, UK
People need to show self restrain, nobody forces them to borrow money!!!
As an expat living in Holland I'm constantly amazed now when I return to the UK how much people use their credit cards. Even for the tiniest items... bing, out comes the plastic. Here in Holland you are not allowed to overspend. If it aint in your bank account you go without. But everyone is perfectly happy. And yes, we do have credit cards but the Dutch hardly use them. Its a completely different mentality to the UK.
I'm in my early thirties and have been 'in debt' through loans, overdrafts and credit/store cards all my adult life, including 4 years of study. It wasn't my university education that put me into debt as I chose to remain at home - but, I admit, the 'must have now' culture that seems to grip this country; clothes, holidays, meals out, property etc. I'm still renting as I've never had the means to save up for a deposit but judging by my friends most have had to borrow or have family assistance to get their own place anyway. After 10 years of working on relatively good salaries I'm only now starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel but this has meant some drastic changes in the way I shop, eat and socialise. If you are going to take a loan to consolidate your debts make sure you cut up those cards straightaway! It's very hard and the social pressure is enormous - though telling people 'sorry but I can't afford it right now' does get easier. You'll be better off a! nd less stressed in the long run, believe me.
The country's debt levels are dangerous to everyone's financial health. The house-price bubble, the troubles in the world economy and the huge amount of consumer debt say that we are heading for trouble, perhaps even deflation... and if you don't know what that means then you should find out.
Just remember, the car infront is owned by the bank!
I have, what I hope maybe helpful advice, for those with large credit card debts. I believe there are currently over 1,600 credit cards on the market, a majority of which have 6 month interest free balance transfers. If you have the willpower it is quite possible to maintain your existing borrowing without paying any interest for many years by simply applying for a new credit card every six months. I have been doing this for the past 5 years (with credit card debt of just over £10,000) and have yet to pay a penny in interest. This will have the added benefit of allowing you to save for paying it off without incurring any interest the entire time. I hope this helps.
CJA, London, UK
The government, via the credit lenders, is using our greed and lack of self-control to encourage us to buy the country out of a recession. As more and more people stop spending when their debt gets too high, to whom will the government then turn to boost the economy?
In France it is illegal to have an unauthorised overdraft - bounce a cheque twice and all your accounts in any French banks will be closed. Likewise, it is very difficult to get a credit card there if you cannot show that you can afford it. It will be interesting to see which country is doing well in another five years.
Vince P, UK
Companies are falling over themselves to try and get me into debt. I get several offers per day through the post, and even when I access my savings account online.
Within the last month, two well-known retailers have tried to trick me into buying on their credit scheme even when I clearly wanted to settle on debit card from my bank account.
It's immoral, and the regulators are being far too soft.
Most people blame costly education, or tempting credit card offers and various other things for their debts. But they never blame themselves! If you can't wait until you have saved up enough money to purchase a new phone, a new car, go on the same holiday as your neighbours did... it is your own decision to get a loan, and it is also your own decision to work out the maths if your salary is enough to pay back the money to the lender.
We live in a "consumer society" - growth is dependant on spending and spending is fuelling the debt problem.
I remeber it being very different when I was being brought up. The priority for my parents was to save money - not to spend it. This meant we waited until the black and white telly finally broke before buying colour and then the price had to be right.
We did not deprive ourselves by any means but we did cut our cloth to ensure we had savings and not debts. Modern thinking seems to be that it is better to have possessions than money.
Alan Leal, UK
As a manager of a major Financial Institutes Debt Collection department, I have three peices of advice if you get into debt
1- Talk to the people you owe money to - do not think it will go away. Most reputable companies want their money back and will work with you to reach that end, It costs them money to recover debt so it is easier and cheaper to work with you than against you. 2 - Avoid the companies offering debt consolidation - they charge for the service and therefore take some of your money that you could use to repay your debts - the lenders are under no obligation to accept what they offer and you will end up oweing more money for longer - free advice is available from the CCCS or the CAB 3 - Be realistic - if you are in debt, then some things will have to wait - Lenders do not like to see you spending large amounts of money on foreign holidays when they are having to wait for their debt to be re-paid - the stress of your situation will probably spoil your holiday anyway and why not make it the prize for clearing the debt, then there is more of a motivation as well.
When I opened my student bank account I chose not to have a credit card, and so didn't apply for the one that went with the account. Yet a couple of weeks later, even though I didn't sign any forms for a credit card, a credit card was issued to me. As a student living entirely on student loans how is this possible? The small print for this card says I must have an income of £25,000...I guess my bank's just desperate for me to get into even more debt!
People have lost sight of the real value of money, instead of putting it on the card take cash every time, it soon becomes clear when you hand over several £20 notes for an item, trust me it hurts. In your mind be tight and always look for a cheaper way of buying the item, if you really need it that is.
There needs to be a significant
change in the expectations people have from their
lifestyles before debt levels can be reduced - and
while it is the savers who wonder where they
are going wrong we have a long way to go!
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