Two in five (40%) British adults are at least fairly worried about their current level of debt, while the same proportion (40%) say they sometimes or often struggle to make it to payday, according to research by insolvency and restructuring trade body R3.

The figures, from the latest in the long-running R3/ComRes survey of over 2,000 British adults’ personal debt concerns, give an insight into the current position of the country’s personal finances. Among concerns about credit card debt, worries felt by those renting, and increasing problems with basics like the cost of food, the latest Personal Debt Snapshot found that:

Two Fifths Have Debt Worries

  • 40% of British adults say they are at least fairly worried about their current level of debt – an increase on the previous two surveys (37% in October 2018 and 34% in April 2018).
  • As many as 57% of adults aged 25-34 are at least fairly worried about their current level of debt – more than any other age group (lowest: over-65s, 15%).
  • Renters (53%) are significantly more likely to be at least fairly worried about their current level of debt than home-owners (33%).
  • Credit card debt remains by far the most frequently reported cause for concern among British adults who say they are at least fairly worried about their current level of debt, with half (48%) saying it worries them (unchanged from October 2018, and similar to the 49% from April 2018).
  • Credit card worries are followed by worries about overdrafts (18% – similar to 17% in October 2018), mortgage repayments (16% – similar to 15% in October 2018), bank loans (16% – similar to 18% in October 2018), and student loans (13% – similar to 12% in October 2018) – again amongst British adults who are worried about their current level of debt.

Saving, Borrowing, Missed Payments and Falling Optimism

  • 22% of British adults say they do not have any savings at all at the moment (compared to 21%in October 2018 and 19% in April 2018).
  • 37% of renters say they do not have any savings at all at the moment (up from 35% in October 2018), compared to 14% of homeowners (unchanged from October 2018).
  • 21% of British adults think their personal financial situation will improve in the next six months (unchanged from October 2018) – which is still higher than the 17% who think their personal finance situation will get worse in the next six months (similar to 16% in October 2018).
  • Younger British adults are most optimistic about their personal finances (31% of 18-24 year olds think their personal finances will improve in the next six months).
  • 55-64 year olds and 35-44 year olds are the most pessimistic about their future finances (20% and 19% respectively think their finances will worsen in this time).
  • 6% of British adults are only paying the interest off on their credit card and not reducing the original debt itself (similar to the 7% in October 2018).
  • 7% of British adults have borrowed £100 or more from friends or family in the last month (similar to the 6% in October 2018).
  • 3% of British adults have missed a debt repayment deadline in the past month (similar to the 4% in October 2018).

Struggles to Payday – Cost of Food Problems Increasing

  • 40% of British adults say they often or sometimes struggle to make it to payday, up from 37%in October 2018. Table:
Survey % of British adults who say they often or sometimes struggle to payday
March 2019 40%
October 2018 37%
April 2018 34%
August 2017 40%
February 2017 40%
September 2016 38%
June 2016 39%
January 2016 36%
August 2015 38%
March 2015 41%
November 2014 40%
July 2014 39%

 

  • Struggles to payday are most common in Wales (49%), followed by the North West and Scotland (both 47%) and Yorkshire & Humberside (43%).
  • Renters (56%) are significantly more likely than homeowners (32%) to say they often or sometimes struggle to payday.
  • The most common cause for struggling to payday is the cost of food (cited by 52% of those who often or sometimes struggle to make it to payday), followed by: household energy costs (42%); fuel or transport costs (35%); credit card repayments (24%); paying for rent (22%); and spending on going out or non-essentials (also 22%). Mortgage repayments are cited by only 10% of British adults who often or sometimes struggle to payday, while recent cuts to benefit payments were cited by 8%.
    Women were more likely than men to cite the cost of food as a reason for struggling to payday (56% of women v 48% of men), with a similar margin separating women and men who cited household energy costs (46% of women v 37% of men), and fuel or transport costs (38% of women v 31% of men).
  • Around a third (36%) of adults living in London identify rent as the reason why they struggle financially leading up to payday, a higher proportion than in any other region.
  • The majority of British adults aged 55+ who often or sometimes struggle to make it to payday say they struggle financially as a result of household energy costs, compared to a third of 18-34 year olds who say the same (56% v 32% respectively).