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Survey busts borrowing myths

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The under 30s may have gained an undeserved reputation for regular credit card blitzes. Pauline McCallion finds out more

A survey into borrowing by Alliance & Leicester showed that, although those under 30 may have the highest debts, their borrowings are more often made up of low-cost student loans rather than credit card debt. On average, borrowers in this age group have £1,073 outstanding on credit cards. In contrast, 30- to 50-year-olds have £2,580 outstanding on their plastic – more than double those under 30.

This is at odds with the typical image of carefree, live-for-today twenty-somethings who buy now and pay later. It seems that those in the youngest age bracket actually use credit more responsibly than any other age group. Those aged over 50 have an average of £1,556 owing on credit cards, according to A&L, but their overall non-mortgage borrowing is reduced by much lower student and personal loan levels than the other age ranges.

Mortgages figure in the finances of 22% of the under 30s, compared to 59% of those in their 30s and 40s. However, young peoples’ mortgages tend to be one and a half times bigger than the next age group up ¬- £126,000 on average compared to £79,000 for 30 to 50-year-olds.

On a regional basis, borrowers in the capital have one of the highest levels of non-mortgage debt in the UK. But higher average incomes in London mean this only costs them 2.4% of their income in interest – among the lowest of any region.

The survey also shows that Scots have the highest level of non-mortgage debt in Britain – at £7,417, which is equivalent to 28% of their income. However, this is balanced by their mortgage borrowing – at £48,000 they have the lowest regional average.

Chris Rhodes, managing director of Alliance & Leicester Retail Banking, said: “Patterns of borrowing vary across Britain – with some of our findings definitely at odds with popular stereotypes. 

 “The Scots have the highest levels of non-mortgage debt – averaging £7,417 – 25% more than the average for Britain as a whole and 80% more than the lowest region, Yorkshire.  However, the Scots also have the lowest levels of mortgage borrowing. East Anglians pay the highest proportion of their incomes in interest – 3.5%, compared to the national average of 2.7%.

 “Londoners and those in the South East, by contrast, pay among the smallest proportion of their incomes in non-mortgage interest – but they have the biggest mortgages.” 

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