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Four in 10 wait a year to seek debt advice

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

An estimated 15 million (29%) UK adults worry about money every day, with 8.1 million (15%) regularly losing sleep due to concerns about rising costs.

The figures come from research by the Money Advice Trust and credit reference agency Experian. Money Advice Trust runs National Debtline and the study analysed the makeup of callers to the free debt advice service.

It found that four in 10 (39%) callers to the helpline had waited a year before seeking advice about their debts, while more than a quarter (28%) had waited two years or more.

With household budgets under huge strain as costs continue to rise, the Money Advice Trust is encouraging anyone worried about their finances to seek free independent debt advice as soon as possible.

The findings have been published as part of Talk Money Week, an annual awareness campaign coordinated by the Money and Pensions Service to encourage people to open-up about money.

The study found that the most common reason (33%) cited for debt among callers to National Debtline was that their income was too low to cover essential costs. One in five (20%) callers cited mental health and 19% got into problem debt due to an unexpected bill.

Researchers found that 45% of callers had a “deficit budget” – where they do not have enough coming in to cover essentials. This figure is up from 37% in 2021.

Experian’s analysis, which used financial behaviour and geo-demographic modelling, showed that callers to National Debtline were over-represented in household groups that tend to be on the lowest incomes, such as those who live in rented or social housing.

‘Help before it is too late’

Jane Tully, director of external affairs and partnerships at the Money Advice Trust, said: “This is a challenging time for millions of people as day-to-day costs continue to rise and household budgets come under ever increasing pressure. Seeking advice about your finances can feel like a hard step to take, but the difference it can make to both your financial and emotional wellbeing is huge.

“It is never too late to seek advice, however as our findings show many people wait over a year before doing so. If you are worried about your finances, I would encourage you to contact a free debt advice service as soon as possible.”

Colin Grieves, of Experian UK & Ireland, said: “Many people are currently experiencing financial upheaval and it is important they are aware of the support organisations such as the Money Advice Trust can provide. They can help before it is too late.

“Our analysis shows the three most common groups seeking help share some of the same characteristics – households with limited disposal income and savings, many of whom are in full-time employment – but the challenges are impacting all age groups at different life stages.

“Younger, single people are seeking help. This group is made up of people in their 20s and 30s, renting properties in city locations, and again are in full-time employment but are struggling to make ends meet.

“Meanwhile, both families with young children, and older workers in the latter half of their career are also found in the analysis, indicating how widespread money worries are.”