Excessive use of credit is the thing that gets most people into financial trouble, and the number having trouble managing their debts is rising.
The Australian Financial Securities Authority reports that 30,895 debtors entered personal insolvency during the year to June, up 2.6 per cent from 30,103 in the 2015/16 financial year.
Eighty-two per cent of debtors entering personal insolvency did so due to non-business related causes. The most common causes were excessive use of credit, unemployment or loss of income, and relationship breakdown.
The number reporting excessive use of credit as their reason for becoming insolvent rose from 7697 to 8870 year on year – an increase of 15 per cent over 12 months.
The median age of people entering personal insolvency (which includes bankruptcy and debt agreements) was 38.
Some recent surveys confirm the rise in debt stress. According to a survey commissioned by the Financial Planning Association, 80 per cent of working-age Australians are stressed about money, with 15 per cent saying they are extremely stressed about their financial situation and 14 per cent saying they are very stressed.
This finding is backed up by ME’s recent Household Financial Comfort Index, which shows that 51 per cent of people have no spare cash at the end of the month.
ME found a growing number of households that expected their financial condition to worsen. Areas of concern include the rising cost of necessities; the forecast for higher interest rates; and low income growth.
The rising cost of energy, fuel, groceries and other necessities is a “major concern”, with 40 per cent saying the cost of necessities is the primary reason for their worsening financial situation.
With mortgage interest rates up significantly over the past six months, apprehension about future rate rises is another worry.
A growing number of households are expecting their ability to manage debt to deteriorate. The proportion of households expecting to “not meet their required minimum payment on their debt” rose four percentage points to nine per cent and the proportion expecting to “just manage to make the minimum payments” rose by two points.
The number of households classified as “net savers” fell by three percentage points to 39 per cent. The average amount saved each month was $888 – up from $837 in December last year.
The FPA survey found that Gen X and Gen Y are the most stressed about money and finance, and most likely to struggle with financial planning.
When asked what prevents them from achieving their goals, the biggest response was “low bank balance”. Other common responses were “not enough time”, “debt” and “illness or poor health”.
The top of the list of things that people would change about their lives is “not saving enough”.
The FPA survey also found that almost three-quarters of Australians find planning their life hard.