The latest official government statistics indicate that UK household debt has increased by 7% since 2012 with consumer credit and student loans being the worst hit. The 7% increase has been adjusted for inflation. Back in 2012, the total UK household debt stood at £1.52 trillion. The debt has increased to £1.63 trillion as of March 2017.
The Bank of England and Student Loan Company statistics for individual household debt segments show that mortgage loans increased from £1.2 trillion to £1.33 trillion from 2012 to 2017. Student debt increased from £46.9 billion to £100.5 billion while consumer credit increased from £159.6 billion to £197.3 billion during the same period. Although the UK government plans to reduce its yearly deficit going forward every year until 2025, UK households are headed in the opposite direction. The household debt and GDP ratio is set to heat the peak as was the case before the financial crash.
The wage growth has grown by a mere 0.7% when adjusted for inflation minus bonuses over the same period. This growth figure clearly shows that UK consumers have turned to loans to buy essentials. Incredibly low interest rates have managed to keep mortgage loan costs down. However, this is a cause of concern since a small increase in interest rates may pose serious financial challenges to many borrowers given the current debt climate.
Borrowing on second mortgages and credit cards has increased drastically making things worse. Most UK households have increased their debt uptake twofold by getting into arrears on monthly bills such as council tax. Let’s take a close look at unsecured credit, car finance, mortgages, student debt and arrears.
UK consumer credit levels have increased by 19% since 2012. The consumer credit levels currently are the same as those experienced back in September 2010. Unsecured consumer debt was at 45% of the total household income in 2007. In the years following the economic recession, UK households were forced to deal with bad credit habits which resulted in a decline in borrowing and an increase in savings. Unsecured debt levels were at 35% of the total household income in 2012, but since then, UK households have failed to clear store and credit card bills. Charges on those cards have increased unsecured credit debt drastically. According to the Office of Budget Responsibility, unsecured household debt in the UK is set to hit 47% of the total household income by 2021. In the past year (July 2016 to July 2017), the debt has increased from £192bn to £201.5bn when adjusted for inflation (a 4.9% increase).
The latest statistics show that auto finance dealers issued more than £30 billion as new credit in 2016 alone. These types of loans have become increasingly popular because they are cheaper than regular car loans. Borrowers can also make lower monthly repayments. In fact, this type of car finance currently controls 86% of the new car finance market. Over a million cars are being bought in Britain using auto finance dealer loans. The main cause for concern is this form of lending isn’t highly regulated which poses serious risks in the future.
The Mortgage debt levels have increased by 2% since 2012. This household debt segment isn’t as marked as the others although there are concerns of borrower risks if the Bank of England raises rates in the near future. The UK government has done a lot to revive the mortgage industry such as giving subsidies to 1st time home buyers. Some critics argue that this has encouraged unhealthy borrowing, i.e., people who wouldn’t qualify for a mortgage normally getting easy access. Furthermore, over 40% of all mortgage borrowers in the UK today haven’t been forced to deal with an interest rate hike which makes repayment obligations harder triggering cutbacks on spending and foreclosures in worst case scenarios. Considering there is a looming Bank of England interest rate hike by the end of 2017, the mortgage industry is set for tough times ahead.
Student debt levels in the UK have surpassed other forms of debt. Since 2012, the student debt levels have doubled to £100.5 billion. This is raising concerns on how UK students should be funded considering the recent hike in fees to £9,250 this year. Furthermore, the slow growth in wages coupled with increasing taxes is bound to make it hard for UK graduates to meet their student debt obligations.
Utility bill arrears are usually an indication of financial distress. Council tax arrears in the UK have increased by 12% between 2012 and 2017. UK households have arrears on water bills, power bills and gas bills. A continuation of this trend could make it impossible for UK households to enjoy basic services.
UK households are the 2nd most indebted among the G8 nations. The UK also has a large trade deficit and a government spending shortfall. This can only make the looming debt crisis worse if drastic action isn’t taken.