Age UK warns of growing number of older people in problem debt

Tuesday, 04 June 2013 09:39

New research suggests that older couples who have debts are more likely to suffer a marriage breakdown than couples whose financial situation is more stable.

It found that debt problems can cause just as many problems for older people as for the young.

The research found that 400,000 people aged over 50 are paying more than £85 a week just to service their debts.

A report from Age UK that charts the debt of older people between 2002 and 2010 found that six per cent of people aged over 50 had debt problems in 2010 and almost 25 per cent were using unsecured credit.

Unsecured credit means the use of credit cards, hire purchase agreements and money borrowed from lenders.

It found that the overall number of people aged over 50 in debt had not changed over the 8-year period, the number in debt whose debts were considered to be “problem” debts had increased from 23 per cent to 28 per cent.

Problem debt is defined as if a poor individual has to spend 10 per cent of their income on repaying debt or 25 per cent if they are wealthy.

The research found that the older an individual is, the more likely they are to have got their levels of debt under control.

Overall, older people have been hit hard by the big increase in costs of essential services such as energy and food.

Age UK wants to see more done to provide debt advice for older people. It says through its research that it found "a statistically significant decrease in quality of life”, for older people whose debts became a problem and that they were more than twice as likely to experience the breakdown of a relationship than couples who have their finances under control.

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK said: “There is a small group of older people who are facing the nightmare of increasingly serious debt problems which doubles their chance of their marriage breaking down and can ruin their quality of life.”

The problem is more serious for self-employed older people who are twice as likely to be in problem debt than employed older people.

Age UK warns that this could be a growing problem as since 2008, people aged 50 and over have made up 84 per cent of the substantial increase in the total number of self-employed people.

The research found that not paying off your mortgage also saw a significant increase in potential debt problems with owner occupiers who still have to pay off their mortgage, five times more likely to be in problem debt as owner occupiers without a mortgage.

Ms Mitchell added: "While it is good news that overall debt among the older population is falling, this research, supported by evidence from other charities, sends a clear warning that funding for debt and money advice for older people must be protected and expanded.

"Debt advisors need to understand the specific needs of older people often living on low fixed incomes and particular attention must be paid to those moving into self-employment or who have recently become unemployed."


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