The levels of personal debt incurred by young people today are creating a generation of people locked out of acquiring property and other assets that previous generations have enjoyed, according to a recent CCCS report ‘Debt and the Generations’.

Young people are increasingly concerned about their debt problems

The report states that consumers are now ‘acquiring large levels of debt, especially unsecured debt, much younger’ and, that, ‘due to rising house prices and reducing incomes it seems unlikely that younger households will be able to acquire assets in the same way their parents and grandparents did.’

The report also identifies the impact of rising student loan debt on the ability of young people to acquire wealth. And it is no surprise to read in the report that those who cannot count on help from ‘the bank of mum and dad’ (or mummy and daddy), will be more affected by debt, thereby exacerbating existing inequalities.

 

Economics for the Debt Generation

Faced with such a bleak future and a system that is so weighted against them, young debtors need to take a step back and think purely in terms of self-interest and look at the cold, hard economics of the situation: would it be more financially advantageous to default on their debts and have them written off and then begin the process of saving?

It's all about freedom

It would be fairly easy to sit down and work out how long it would take to pay off existing debts, as well as calculating how little could be saved during the years of debt repayments, then compare this to the amount that could be saved during the same period if there were no debts to pay. Without debts to pay it is highly likely that if an individual were so inclined, that by the time their debts would have been paid off that they could have saved enough money for a large deposit on a house. Of course, if you default then your credit rating will be bad for 6 years but it is likely to take debtors far longer than 6 years to repay their debts, so for most debtors, default will still make sound economic sense.

Above all, it is simply a financial decision, the type that big banks and financial institutions perform daily and without emotion or moral considerations clouding their judgement.

It is important to remember that not everyone is obsessed with getting on the property ladder but the same logic applies to young debtors who just want to live.

The essential question that every debtor should be asking themselves

One thing to investigate when considering default is the prospect of post-insolvency restrictions such as Income Payment Orders, but these can be avoided, principally if you happen to be unemployed at the time of your insolvency. This was how it turned out for me and is something I explained in my book. However, while I could have used the last few years to save, I preferred to invest in myself and work fewer hours in order to pursue creative projects. Whatever your goal, the question of debt always boils down to the same question: would default enable me to achieve what I want quicker than repaying my debts? This is the essential question that every debtor should be asking themselves.

Other key findings of the CCCS report:

• Increasingly first time buyers (FTBs) can only get onto the housing ladder with help from the ‘bank of mum and dad’ – 45% of all FTBs in 2010 received financial assistance, compared to 20% in 2005. For FTBs under 30, 84% require financial assistance in order to buy. This is leading to the exclusion of poorer young households from the housing market and perpetuating existing disparities in wealth within generations.

• The decade in the run up to the financial crisis saw a huge transfer of wealth from younger home buyers to older generations through the mechanism of rising property prices, and taken together the over 60s now own nearly half of all net assets in the UK. In contrast the under 30s own just 5%.

• Student loans will also impact on the ability of younger households to acquire wealth. Total student debt outstanding is expected to grow to £153 billion in real terms by 2031, with loan repayments amounting to nearly £7 billion a year. With student loan repayments reducing available income, future generations will find it difficult to save or invest in pensions until they are older, which will impact considerably on their quality of life when they reach retirement age.

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