Over-60s in region ‘being squeezed by high debts’

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Many older people in Yorkshire are struggling with “significant levels” of debt, according to a consumer credit advice charity which has warned of increasing concerns about the problem.

StepChange says older people across the region are being trapped in a debt crisis at a time in their lives when they are retired or should be thinking about retirement.

Latest figures for the first six months of this year show the extent of the problem in Yorkshire, with the average over-60 in contact with the charity owing £16,341 on credit cards, loans and other unsecured debts – an increase on the data for first quarter of the year when the figure was £16,177.

The average unsecured debt seen by the charity among the 40-59 age group in Yorkshire was £16,469 and the average among 25 to 39-year-olds in the region was £12,348.

A spokesman for StepChange said yesterday: “The high levels of debt among the over-60s is very worrying, as people approach retirement most would hope that a sound financial future lies ahead of them, but significant levels of personal debt is a serious problem for some.”

The charity says it is increasingly finding the over-60s have dependent children as people are having families later in life and high unemployment rates for people under the age of 25, mean they are often having to continue supporting them later in life.

Experts also say those in this age group are particularly vulnerable to the high price of food, fuel and energy prices at a time when returns from their savings and pensions are being hit by low interest rates.

Closer analysis of the figures for the first six months of this year also reveals those living in more affluent parts of the county are struggling just as much as those living in less affluent areas.

In Harrogate the average unsecured debt seen by the charity was £20,081, while in York the figure was £19,158. In Hull the figure was £13,435.

The spokesman for StepChange added: “We are seeing a number of problems among the over-60s including increasing numbers falling behind with housing and energy bills with housing, as well as increasing numbers of clients over the age of 60 who still have dependent children, which can mean increased strain on household budgets.

“Debt levels among this age group are particularly concerning, because as a group they are particularly vulnerable to any changes in circumstances, through redundancy, illness or bereavement. Added to this is the fact that their diminished earning capacity means that it may be difficult to resolve outstanding financial problems.

“This means that it is essential that anyone approaching retirement and still struggling with financial difficulties should get advice and support at the earliest opportunity.”