Why women are more likely to take on debt

by Marc Shoffman from interactive investor |

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With unemployment on the rise and lockdowns affecting large parts of the UK, debt is a growing problem.

A third of women over 50 have taken on extra debt such as credit cards, overdrafts or loans to cover their day-to-day expenses amid the pandemic, research claims.

The analysis, by equity release lender More2life, says in contrast 26% of men have taken on more debt.

There is also a gender divide when it comes to how much people are expecting their debt levels to increase by, with 13% of women believing the coronavirus crisis would lead to a large increase compared with 6% among men.

More2life suggests the difference could be a result of many older women seeing the value of their pension pots fall, or losing their jobs as a result of the economic impact of the crisis.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that employment for women aged 65 and over had fallen by 79,000 between May and July this year – a record decrease for this demographic.

As a result, some older women could be living on a much lower income and may be more likely to borrow in the future to make ends meet, the provider says.

Dave Harris, chief executive of More2life, says “While unsecured borrowing is how many people manage their day-to-day finances, it is particularly worrying to see that older women are borrowing to make ends meet.  

“With the gender pensions gap a pressing issue, this suggests that those in and approaching retirement are struggling financially which does not bode well for the future.

“Indeed, the Covid-19 crisis is sure to accelerate this issue as it takes a toll on people’s job security and retirement income. It is vital that the financial services industry engages with older generations, particularly women, to ensure that this demographic is properly supported in the months and years to come and that more retirees can live with financial stability.”

Catherine Morgan, a financial coach for women at The Money Panel, says the issue is about more than financial education and there needs to be a focus on what money is being spent on and why.

She says: “If we want to combat increasing debt we can pay some curiosity to what drives the feelings of safety and security, irrespective of gender. 

“Understanding your financial blueprint and the patterns of behaviour, habits and beliefs around money can unlock new opportunities. 

“This is not solely about financial education. This is about understanding what drives our actions or habits and inactions such as what keeps us stuck in patterns of negative behaviours as well as educating men and women about money.”

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