New research shows that a quarter of young people in England and Wales are in constant debt, why is this and what can we do about it?
A survey conducted by Populus Data Solutions which was commissioned by the charity Young Women’s Trust spoke to 4,000 young people aged 18-30. They found that 24% of young people are in debt all of the time. 48% also admit to having to borrow money to get to the end of the month. 25% said their debt had got worse over the past year and many see no end in sight, with only 39% thinking they will be clear of the debt by the time they reach 40.
There were also gender differences. Women seem to struggle more than men with more than half questioned say they often skip meals just to get by compared to 45% of young men. Women also tend to be on the zero hours contracts and low pay which makes life even harder. In fact the coping strategies include 20% of young people using an overdraft facility, 18% borrow money from family and 14% use their credit cards to get by. 14% work extra hours just to get by.
The government claim that youth unemployment has been at its lowest for 16 years. They cite rises to the national living wage. They also add that since 2015 1.3 million people have been taken out of income tax. They also add that there is now a cap on the costs of payday loans.
When you are in debt it can all feel very overwhelming but there is help available. What can you do in the first instance to start trying to get your affairs back in order?
Firstly don’t ignore it, the debt will not go away. The first thing to do is to write down all the bills and loans that you have. Then write against each one which is secured and which is unsecured. The point of this is that secured loans are usually the ones that you will be advised to pay off first. You can get help from places like citizens advice to write this list, but it’s a great start as it helps you see the situation exactly as it is.
Once you have made the list then speak to your creditors. Try to negotiate with them how you can repay sensibly. The Banking Code now requires banks to try to help people in debt. Alongside this look at the money you have coming in including wages and any other benefits and what needs to go out. Outgoings will include rent or mortgage, utility bills and food. See how you can budget to manage your way out of the debt. But be realistic when you do this, you do need to eat and travel to work.
Once you have your finances in order and are paying back the debt you have it is important to keep an eye of what you are spending. It can be useful to see where you can cut back. Some examples include taking a packed lunch to work every day rather than buying lunch out. If you drive to work every day it may be useful to ask if your company has a car share scheme which will save your petrol costs.
In addition check your energy bills to see if there is a cheaper provider. Look at any landline, mobile and broadband packages that you have to see if you have a cheap option. Insurance is another area where you can make savings on existing policies by switching provider. Some of these individually may not look like you are saving any money but collectively they could add up to hundreds each year.
It is always sensible to speak to people who can help you work your way out of the debt situation you are in before it gets worse. StepChange, formerly the Consumer Credit Counselling Service, will help you with all aspects of debt management, the Citizens Advice Bureau will also help and there is a National Debt Line you can call who can also listen and advise you.