Adverse Debt Levels Blight UK Consumers Personal Finances

Debt levels are at an all time high in the UK. The younger generation tend to be feeling the pinch the most, but parents are increasingly being required to bail them out, often at great expense to their own limited mortgage or retirement savings.

It has become almost accepted as a fact of life that graduates will begin their careers with a considerable level of personal debt. The Association of Investment Trust Companies found that on average students expected to graduate with £7,208 of debt, while parents believed it would be nearer to £9,741, however the real average was found to be currently running at £13,501. Graduates then need to service credit cards, take out a mortgage, then cover the payments, repay university loans, not to mention the pressure to start saving earlier, and save more, for their retirement, whilst the basic state pension increasingly becomes inadequate. The government revealed in June that student debt for 2003-04 was seven times higher than they were in 1994-95 and the Student Loans Company has shown that debts owed to them has risen to more than £13bn.

It is not only students who face financial difficulties early in life. Consumer Credit Counselling Services – Scotland, has indicated that young adults in general, under the age of 25, now account for more than 10 per cent of the estimated 32,000 people who have fallen into severe arrears on non-mortgage debts of more than £1 billion.

Malcolm Hurlston, Chairman of the Consumer Credit Counselling Services (CCCS) said, “It is noticeable that young people are accounting for an increasing proportion and the number of them seeking assistance has risen by about 25 per cent over the past two years or so.”

Analysts have been bracing themselves for news of a sharp increase in adverse debt levels from the major high street banks following report figures of a 21 per cent increase in bad debts levels at Lloyds TSB. City analysts expect HBOS and Royal Bank of Scotland to declare that bad debt charges have risen by around 20% in their personal banking businesses, and Barclays, HSBC and Alliance & Leicester are all expected to tell a similar tale of rising loan defaults. Citigroup analysts are expecting bad debt charges from its retail banking division to rise about 24% in the first half of this year to £230m, while last year HBOS’s provisions for bad debt rose from £1bn to £1.2bn.

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