Borrowing spike prompts debt spiral warnings as 9m people turn to lenders

Richard Ross (inset) on how to avoid a borrowing spiral

Richard Ross (inset) on how to avoid a borrowing spiral - Credit: Archant/PA

Nearly nine million people have turned to borrowing money to survive the pandemic, new data has showed.

A report from the Office For National Statistics release this week revealed that 17pc of adults reported borrowing money in December 2020 compared to 11pc at the end of June.

It also showed that the proportion of people borrowing more than £1,000 had increased from 35pc to 45pc during the same period.

The group least likely to save in the months ahead were those with an income of less than £20,000 - prompting experts to warn that this is a society-wide issue. 

"Borrowing like this is an economic concern but more significantly it's a societal concern. Some people in our communities are now living hand to mouth because of the pandemic and don't know how much money they will have from one week to the next," said Richard Ross, director at financial advisors Chadwicks. 

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"As a society we are also not good at talking about debt - it's something we find uncomfortable and people rarely know where to turn when they do get into trouble. 

"The first red flag for people to look out for is if they're taking out debts to pay for their day-to-day life and not capital goods like mortgages or cars - which is to be expected so you can spread the cost. If you're taking out loans for every day spending you're living beyond your means. 

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"If that's the case then it's always better to cut your spending deeper, sooner. It nips the problem before it becomes out of control and starts a downwards spiral.

"It's all well and good to preach that, but of course a lot of people are forced to live beyond their means - a mum of three without any income needs to put food on the table. This is where I would always advise people to talk to their lenders instead of getting into more debt.

"High street lenders are more likely to suspend payments on loans or change the repayment method. It's a horrible conversation no one wants to have but the sooner you do it the better - for your mental health even more so than your credit score."

He added: "The last thing I would say is to businesses: if people owe you money contact them and ask how they are managing the repayments, offer to pause repayments or just take interest. At a time like this kindness is invaluable and it will benefit everyone in the longer term.

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