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One third of pensioners in debt, report says

PUBLISHED: 07:00 27 August 2009 | UPDATED: 11:41 06 July 2010

A growing number of older people are heading into retirement saddled with debt, according to new research. Around 34pc of retired people have unsecured debts, owing an average of £7,344 each, according to Scottish Widows.

A growing number of older people are heading into retirement saddled with debt, according to new research.

Around 34pc of retired people have unsecured debts, owing an average of £7,344 each, according to Scottish Widows.

The amount people owe is 9pc higher than it was when the same research was done last year, and it has soared by nearly a quarter since 2007.

Larger and longer mortgages are adding to the strain of old age, as a further 15pc of retired people have an outstanding mortgage on which they owe more than £50,000, £8,000 more than the average pensioner owed in 2008.

Fears have been raised the level of debt means it is “almost impossible” for pensioners to save contributions for care home fees, placing an extra burden upon Norfolk's social services.

Steve Wiseman, chief executive of the Norwich and West Norfolk Citizens Advice Bureau, said a third of the enquiries it received were about debt, and a “high percentage” of those were from pensioners.

He said: “It isn't at all a surprise to us because over the past 10 years we have seen a year-on-year increase in people coming to us with unmanageable debt.

“Pensioners are struggling. If they haven't worked to a budget it's a constant worry for them about how they are going meet repayments.

“Some people almost give up and wait for the creditors to take action, which is why we are seeing mortgage repossessions increasing.

“For many bankruptcy is not an option because it would mean they lose their homes.

“It's a great source of worry.

“And considering Norfolk has a higher proportion of older people than many other counties then it's going to hit Norfolk to a greater extent.

“This also means that putting money aside for care home fees is becoming almost impossible for many, at a time when their property values have gone down as well.”

Mr Wiseman said many pensioners were heading into retirement with outstanding mortgages because they had previously taken advantage of the equity on their homes to borrow more money.

The research also found that 7pc of retired people have the additional financial burden of still supporting an adult child.

Ian Naismith, head of pensions market development at Scottish Widows, said: "The situation for retirees in debt is not getting any better, and an increase of £8,000 in the average amount of mortgage debt is alarming.

“The recession has seemingly done nothing to encourage retirees to cut their debt, and with the possibility of the value of their property dwindling, they could be leaving themselves in a vulnerable position."

Edith Pocock, of the Norfolk and Norwich Pensioners' Association, said even pensioners who were not in debt had seen their incomes drop sharply as a result of the decline in interest rates.

She said: “I think there are several things that may relate to people being in debt. Some people have to have everything, whereas many people my age wouldn't spend if they hadn't got the money.

“I think also mortgages are causing some of the problems. I didn't realise until recently that you could even get a 100pc loan for your house, which isn't a very sensible thing to be doing.

“You have got to be prudent with your finances because you are on a very limited income when you retire.”

The financial position of people in the run up to retirement is not much better, with 43pc of pre-retirees still having a mortgage, owing an average of £57,000 each.

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