Toby Clark a senior financial analyst in MINTEL comments "There is a major need for financial education and for a drive to prompt borrowers to take a fresh look at their debts. Without a detailed understanding of exactly how much they owe and what rates they are paying, it is easy to see how the situation could spiral out of control". This statement clearly highlights the position of the average British consumers as far as their mortgage and non-mortgage debts are concerned.
It is observed by the report from MINTEL that the British consumers who have outstanding mortgage debts have a better control on the amount of their outstanding than the non-mortgage debt consumers. When the mortgage holders were asked to estimate the amount of the outstanding loan they could estimate the figure at ? 92,200 which matched with the estimation of ? 95,000 made by Bank of England and mortgage lenders. There are different purposes for which the consumers obtain mortgage and non-mortgage loans.
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The purposes also differ between different income earners. The high income earners borrow for paying a house, buying a second home or for paying the university or school fees of their children. Whereas the low income earners have totally different purposes of taking the loans like bringing up their children; paying their tax bills or meeting their regular commitments. Irrespective of the purpose for which the loans are taken the loans do have an impact on the financial soundness of the borrowers.
On few occasions and for few consumers the loans become handy to take care of their financial struggle but in most of the cases the loans have had adverse impact only on the lives and finances of the consumers. Especially when the average consumer does not even know the extent of their debts the impact would be still worse. “Many debt problems are caused by poor decision making, with taking on more debt to pay back what debt you already have not always a wise move, according to the free and impartial debt advice organisation Debt Free Direct.
” (Linkroll) In most of the cases the consumers get in to debt traps either due to poor decision making or not being accurately able to assess the impact the debts have on their financial capabilities and standing. This includes the decisions of debt consolidation. Quite often consumers think that debt consolidation is the best solution for solving their debt problems which will only aggravate the burden to the already debt trapped consumers. The loan burden on the borrowers is made to increase by the actions of the lenders also.
Luring the customers in tot taking additional loans with the intention of just increasing their lending activities and without assessing the capabilities of the borrowers to pay back the loans often take the borrowers to a point of no return. “A number of Britons report that their debt problems are causing them difficulties in other areas of their life, according to a new study. In research carried out by R3 - the Association of Business Recovery Professionals - one out of six consumers are said to be unable to manage with repayments on secured loans and credit cards”. (Loan Arrangers)
With this background I intend to make an analytical study of the British Loan Market and its impact on the average British consumers. In the process I also intend to study the kinds of mortgage and non-mortgage loans available to the consumers in the UK. This study has among other things the following central objectives: 1. Studying the psychological and economical reasons for the British consumers getting in to the debt trap. 2. Analytical study of the impact of the various loans on the lives and financial wellbeing of the average consumers – including mortgage and non-mortgage loans.
Studying the role of the banks and other lending institutions on extending the debt burden of the average British consumer This study by undertaking a detailed research in the subject tries to find plausible answers for the following research questions: What are the prime reasons that make the British consumers to get into the debt trap? What are the major impacts that the mortgage and non-mortgage loans have on the lives of the average What are the different ways that an average British consumer can manage the debts effectively?
In order to present a comprehensive paper I intend to divide the paper into the different chapters. While chapter 1 introduces the subject matter of the study to the readers along with stating the research objectives and questions, chapter 2 makes a detailed review of the available literature on the subject of the impact of debts on the British consumer. Chapter 3 makes a detailed presentation of the research methodology adopted by this study for conducting the research. In chapter 4 I have included the findings of the research and a detailed discussion on the analysis of the findings.
Concluding remarks recapitulating the issues discussed in the paper and few suggestions which will enable the British consumer to manage his debts are included in the chapter 5. Bonds, Securities, Economics, Finance This chapter presents a detailed review of the available literature on the debt creation by the British consumers and the impact of such debt creation on the bond and securities market, on the finance and monetary policy and economic situation of the country apart from the life styles and financial status of the individual consumers.
A latest report from Bloomberg. com says “European 10-year bond yields held near a three-month low as an Australian hedge fund filed for bankruptcy protection on losses related to a slump in U. S. home loans, prompting speculation global economic expansion will slow. ” (Lukanyo Mnyanda, 2007) There has been a widespread skepticism about the future of the bond market because of the higher levels of failure in the sub prime mortgage repayments. This phenomenon has also been felt in the UK which is evident from the statement of the credit rating firm Standard & Poor.
“Standard & Poor's said business conditions for securities firms are worse than in the second half of 1998 when trading revenue slumped 31 percent after Russia's debt default. Revenue from investment banking and trading could fall 47 percent in the final six months of this year, the ratings company said. ” On the basis of micro economic foundations there are certain models that analyse the likely economic consequences of structural changes in the economy.
Though in general these models help the analysts to comment upon microeconomic foundations, sometimes these models are found inappropriate for analyzing such consequences. “This is because their parameters are generally complicated functions of an economy’s technology, institutions and government policy, and the preferences of economic agents. Subsequent changes in any of these structural characteristics would mean that those parameters, and hence the relationships between key economic variables, would be expected to change. ” (Bank of England)
However the optimizing models enable the analysis of the deep structural relationship which is dependent upon the individual variables in relation to the economic shocks and their identification. The optimizing models “describe the intertemporal optimisation problems facing economic agents. They often try to capture the interactions between the different types of agent in the economy (consumers, firms, government, foreign sector), each of which is assumed to solve well-defined dynamic optimisation problems, subject to certain informational and technological constraints.
These models can be used to analyse how economic agents might optimally respond to various demand and supply shocks that have or might hit the economy, or to changes in the structure of the economy. Equally, they can be used to examine likely explanations for observed patterns of behaviour in the data. ”
However there is a serious limitation of this model is that it does not perform well in the empirical tests. It is observed that the increase in the household debt in the UK over the last three decades was the result of the continued increase in the owner-occupied buildings and the number of mortgages created as a proportion of the total households. The rise in the prices till the time of the sub prime mortgage issue was also because of this increased private ownership of the houses.
However it is interesting to note that the increase in the household debt didn’t have much impact on the consumption growth. This was due to the fact that the households were focused on the accumulation of financial assets during the recent past. “Finally, while it is possible that higher levels of debt may make household consumption more sensitive to interest rate changes, this may easily be offset simply by moderating these same changes. ” (Stephen Nickell) While there was some contraction in the economies of US and Germany, the UK economy remained strong during the year 2001.
There was a significant relaxation in the monetary policies of the country during this period and hence the UK economy witnessed an increase in the domestic demand though the situation was different with the world economy which was weak and was suffering a fall in investments. The increase in the domestic demand made the overall growth rate of the economy positive. However some of the economists were of the view that such a growth in the UK GDP as against the widespread recession in other developed countries was possible only at certain implied costs.
For Example in an article in ‘The Observer’ dated 27th March 2005 Fred Harrison noted that “Encouraged by low interest rates, people went on a spending spree. They reduced savings and extracted equity from their homes to fuel a consumption boom” A similar view was expressed by Hamish McRae in his article in the ‘The Independent’ stated “What is, however, clear is that the credit-fuelled spending boom is, one way or another, coming to an end”. (The Independent dated 16th March 2005). Hence it was observed that booming consumption resulted in a rapid expansion of debt.
Thus there has been a significant increase in the debt to income ratio which was a matter of serious concern to the analysts and the financial economists. In this context Philip Thornton made the following remark in the ‘The Independent’ issue dated 30th July 2003 “Britons piled on an all-time record amount of debt last month, triggering fears that consumers have embarked on an unsustainable borrowing binge that will end in a crash reminiscent of the early 1990s”
Generally it is assumed that the macroeconomic policies of the UK government had resulted in a house price bubble coupled with a boom of the consumer spending. Thus the economy got missed out from the impact of the global recessionary trends. However Stephen Nickell argues that over the period 2000 to 2003 which was supposed to be the consumption boom the average quarterly consumption growth was only 0. 77 percent very similar to the average consumption rate of 0. 72 percent that was existed over the last twenty five years.
The consumption rate was also below the average consumption rate in the previous period 0f 1996 to 1999. “From 1998 to the end of 2003, the proportion of post-tax income that was consumed was relatively flat, hardly evidence of a debt fuelled consumption boom. Nevertheless, mortgage equity withdrawal (MEW) plus unsecured credit growth rose from around 2% of post-tax household income in 1998 to over 10% in 2003. So there was indeed a significant rise in the rate of household debt accumulation from 1998 to 2003 despite the fact that the ratio of consumption to post-tax income remained stable throughout.
” (Stephen Nickell) With this argument the author proceeds to state the majority of mortgage equity withdrawal leads to increased financial assets accumulation and not to increased consumption. Further it is also argued that there is a strong relationship between the aggregate secured debt accumulation and aggregate financial asset accumulation especially in a period of rapidly spiraling house prices. Similarly there is no strong relationship between the factors of aggregate consumption growth and debt accumulation. In that case the following will be the effect of the household debt on the monetary policy.
May et al (2004) observed “In 1975, household debt was around 38% of household post-tax income. By 2004, this had risen to around 125%. Currently, over four-fifths of household debt is secured on property, ie. consists of mortgages, and around 95% of all household debt is held by mortgagors. ” As already stated the important factor causing the rise in the household debt was the increase in the number of owner-occupied buildings and the proportion of the houses carrying a mortgage.
Another factor that contributed the increase in secured debts is the change in the mode of financing by leaving the front end loading of the repayment of mortgages. Such a method of financing has lead to higher loan to income ratios. It also resulted in higher mortgages relative to income. Based on these basic premise there are three arguments that can be support the view that the household debt is a predominant factor in the determination of the monetary policies. 1. The first argument is based on the concept that the there will be significant impact on the bahaviour of the economy due to shocks if there is a high level of household debts.
As observed by Griffiths commission “Debt is a time-bomb which could be triggered by any number of shocks to the economy at any time” (The Griffiths’ Commission, 2005, Executive Summary). Though any adverse economic shock will have the impact on the employment and the consumption levels, higher levels of debts will make the conditions worse. “The excessive debt may still induce greater precautionary saving and a larger drop in consumption. Overall, it is hard to tell whether higher debt levels will generate a significant additional cut back in consumption which cannot be modified by easier monetary policy”
The second argument is based on the possibility that the there may be a cut in the consumption due to the sudden realization of the debtors about the real interest on the debts and their extent of exposure to the debts in spite of their efforts to reduce the level of debts. This will create severe macro economic problems leading to large scale adjustments in the monetary policies. However this argument is countered by indicating that the inexperience of the secured debt holders being young and there may be occasions that these people may behave in an irrational way to reduce the consumption.
But such phenomenon can not be identified with a majority of debts. 3. The third argument was based on the fear that with more number of people the more will be the trouble when there is a collapse in the housing market. This fear has become true presently with housing boom bubble exploding. “If house prices fall by 30 or 40 per cent, more people with mortgages means more people in negative equity. Of course, the consequences of this depend to some extent on the behaviour of lenders.
If the mortgage debt continues to be treated as secured, even though some is not, then debt service costs remain unchanged. So a lot will then depend on the collateral damage associated with the collapse in the housing market and what caused it in the first place. The issue is, if some disaster happens in the housing market, does the fact that more people have mortgages make the consequences very much worse? So much worse, indeed, that monetary policy should be used to discourage individuals from taking out mortgages. ”
According to a research conducted by R3 – the Association of Business Recovery Professionals one out of six consumers find it difficult to manage the repayment of their secured loans and credit card payments. “Of those struggling the most with their day-to-day finances, 21 per cent of respondents were reported to have encountered debt problems as a result of becoming ill, with a third (33 per cent) highlighting redundancy as the source of their monetary difficulties. ” (Secured Loan News) Educational loans taken for higher studies form a major proportion of debts to be repaid by the 50 percent people in the age group of 18 – 24 years.
The same is the case with one third of the people in the age group of 25 – 34 years still struggling to settle the loans taken for their educational purposes. A study carried out by Abbey in early 2007 showed that the British consumers had to pay48. 7 billion by way of unexpected bills and charges over the previous year. On an average 79 percent of the British people have spent money on unbudgeted things and the average cost of such spending is estimated at 1375. Some of the issues identified with the debt creation in the UK are:
A majority of the people have no savings or definite plans for savings to meet any unexpected future expenditure. A proportion of less than 50 percent of the people only have made adequate provisions for meeting the exigencies of a drop in their income level or other serious financial difficulties.
Some important statistics indicate that a substantial proportion of the population suffer from serious financial worries and resultant stress due to the increase of their debt burden. These statistics show that “74% of British couples find money the most difficult subject to talk about; 32% lie to their partners about how much they spend on credit cards; 35% are kept awake at night worrying about their finances”. According to the estimate from Bank of England around 50 percent of the people who have identified their debts as a serious burden on them belong to the lower income groups.
It is the case with those people who live in the housing provided by the loca authorities are likely to live in debt burden at two times the average person has.Debts being burdensome on their own are also responsible for several other social problems and debt and these problems are interdependent on each other in terms of their cause and effect. Groups of people like those out of work, school dropouts, people from single parent families or unemployed parents are more likely to have serious debt management problems. 2. 4 REASONS FOR DEBT CREATION Consumers obtain loans for different purposes.
Similarly people in different income groups and different strata of life opt for secured and unsecured loans for various purposes depending on their life styles and needs for different purposes. The main reasons cited for increase in the debts of the consumers is the increased availability of the loans, overspending and the desire to ‘buy instantly’ doing major purchases like purchase of cars or spending on a foreign vacation. The debt management problems of majority of the British consumers have arisen due to these and other reasons most of which are emotional spending.
However why people get into serious debt problem is a very complicated question to find the answers there for. Though there are several factors responsible for leading the consumers to severe debt problems the following are some of the major causes that create a ‘debt trap’ for the British consumers: In recent years the economy of the country was doing extremely well resulting in lower rates of inflation, low interest rates and low levels of unemployment.
This economic buoyancy there had been an increased demand for the credit and the cost of such credit was low. The highly competitive financial services industry had been innovative to find many a number of products to suit the needs of various strata of people. “Today over 400 mainstream financial institutions compete fiercely to satisfy consumer demand. ” (Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach) In this background it can be said that the easy availability of credit was the main reason for the creation of more debts by the average consumer.
Although the banks do not explicitly solicit or lure the vulnerable people to sell their financial services products, the products themselves have been so designed in addition to the lending practices of the banks to target the vulnerable people. Such practices include “aggressive marketing; a lack of transparency in calculating the cost of borrowing; undue care in lending and a lack of data-sharing. ” (Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach)
Though it cannot be said that the banks and other lending institutions purposely target the vulnerable people “customers are often enticed into over-borrowing with disastrous consequences; research evidence suggests there is a strong correlation between serious indebtedness, drug and alcohol addictions and family breakdown. ” (Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach) This often leads to a situation where the vulnerable people stand the chances of more likely to get into serious debt problems.
It is observed out of a poll conducted in the year 2004 that 33 percent of the people in the UK are not confident enough to handle money issues and only 30 percent of them even knew the basic interest calculations which forms the basis financial intelligence. If this is kind of financial knowledge that an average British consumer has then there is no doubt that such people may not be in a position to make sound financial decisions concerning their personal finances including availing of secured and unsecured loans.
Such lack of financial knowledge will make them drown in serious financial struggle as a result of unmanageable debts they have contracted. The trend of today’s Britain is ‘buy now and pay later’ as against the traditional way of living of saving money to buy assets. This has seriously disturbed the saving habit of the people over the period of time. In the current scenario more than 50 percent of the British pensioners make a cut on their other needs to settle their annual fuel bills.
The decline in the habit of saving is one of the main reasons for the increased debt problems. Unless the saving habit of the people change drastically the situation of debt problems is likely to grow into greater magnitude. The attitude of the society towards borrowing and its effects on life has considerably changed over the last few decades. Credit is no more considered as dangerous as it was perceived once upon a time. Now it is considered as more neutral and beneficial to the society.
With this change in the attitude people have become more materialistic to obtain loans to buy the things irrespective of the need for such things in their lives. This is evident from the buying habits of British consumers exhibited in the following section. In one of the surveys conducted by Abbey, the financial service provider, it is learnt that “Britons have spent more than 169 billion on items that they rarely, if at all, use. Overall the average consumer has paid out some 3,685 through unnecessary objects, which could consequently impact upon their ability to handle their day-to-day finances.
” (Secured Loan News) The survey also revealed that half of all consumers own an expensive clothing item which they wear only occasionally and over 35 percent of them have unworn shoes. “However, women were reported to be driving pointless fashion spending. Some 58 per cent of females were said to have unused garments, with this figure falling to 45 per cent for footwear. Meanwhile, spending on such products accounted for 45 and 23 per cent respectively among men. ” (Secured Loan News)
Electronic items, computer game console or video cameras and cooking equipments, repeated purchase of fine china items, exercise equipments, beauty gadgets that are not frequently used are some of the other items on which the British consumers spend their money and create debts for themselves. “However, financial problems could be particularly increased for those 288,000 people who have bought a second home in Britain which they claim to make little use of, which as a result may see them to struggle to make secured loan repayments. ”
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