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IVA

British Banks Continue To Put Pressure On Customer Finances

According to recent data released by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), banks are rejecting thousands of requests every month from customers looking for help with their finances.

The Financial Ombudsman Service, which is an independently run service that deals with complaints from consumers and businesses in the financial industry, revealed that 13,053 cases were brought to its attention from consumers looking for more leniency from their banks. Debt management and IVA company Debt Free Direct expect to see this number of complaints increase in 2010 as thousands of individuals sought debt advice with the company in Q1 of 2010.

Derek Oakley, Insolvency Director at Debt Free Direct comments:

“We are continuing to see an increase in debt help enquiries from individuals worried about their finances. For many of these people, overdraft charges are adding to their already stretched budgets. We would always recommend that individuals seek professional debt advice if they find themselves struggling to pay their bills each month.”

Compared with just 2,800 similar complaints to the FOS in 2008, the 360 per cent increase in complaints may indicate the UK banking organisations are responding poorly to their customers needs during the economic downturn. In particular customers concerns include individuals in debt who are being charged fees on their overdraft facilities or insurance policy holders who have not been paid out on their claims.

Although traditional legal routes for reclaiming money lost through overdraft charges have now ended, there are still ways in which individuals can claim this money back if they are in financial difficulties. With charges of up to £35 every time the overdraft limit is exceeded, such fees could be contributing to furthering levels of personal debt for many customers in the UK.

According to the Ombudsman service, many banks will ignore individual’s pleas of hardship and refuse to suspend overdraft charges, renegotiate overdraft limits or restructure outstanding debts, despite this going against the industry lending code for personal banking. In the case of most complaints put forward to the Obmundsman, the customer will have already been refused a refund by their bank on any outstanding overdraft charges.

Debt Free Direct recommends the best course of action for anyone with financial worries is to seek professional, confidential debt advice. Many individuals may feel ashamed of their financial difficulties, but seeking advice is one of the first steps to becoming debt free.

They state, “Our aim is to suggest an effective debt solution for every individual using our Best Advice Model (BAM). BAM quickly and accurately analyses the financial information for each person and recommends the most appropriate, least drastic solution for them.”

Debt Free Direct, the UK’s leading Insolvency practitioners receive thousands of insolvency inquiries each month for debt advice. The company, which was founded in 1997 specialise in providing impartial debt advice and guidance for individuals in financial hardship.

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Moneystand.co.uk: Take Advantage Of Saving Strategies

Savers must look for smart new ways to make the most out of their accumulated wealth in the midst of continual drops in saving rates. With easy access and notice accounts both dropping their rates in recent months, savers must act swiftly to ensure they make the most out of any savings they may have remaining.

For those relying upon savings accounts to support their income the consistently low rates of the past 12 months will have been particularly difficult to stomach. Moneystand.co.uk founder Matt Spencer suggests that there are ways around this reality for individuals willing to put in the extra effort to ensure they actually see a real return on their savings.

“Savvy consumers who assess how separate bank details can be played off one another are likely to see the best return on their savings. In these tough economic times, it is always important to make your money work as hard as possible.”

Some savings accounts, such as the Santander offer will reward you for making regular monthly payments in to their account; paying 6% as long as at least £1000 is deposited per month. Other banks, such as the Halifax are offering £5 per month payouts as long as a minimum £1000 monthly deposit is made.

Clearly logic implies that multiple accounts across banks will ensure maximum return and with both of these banks accepting direct transfer from other banks this technique is completely plausible. Many customers are already making use of this process to ensure that they acquire the saving rates they need to ensure they see a real return after tax and inflation are taken into account.

Moneystand suggests consumers must be wary not to fall into the overdraft facility if they do decide to take this approach. Multiple current accounts, all of which have had their overdraft facility used will reflect very negatively upon an individual’s credit rating and must be avoided at all costs. Proper planning must go in to making this decision to ensure that all accounts are clearing whilst still in the positive.

For the latest financial news and advice on individual voluntary arrangement, debt and insolvency issues visit our personal finance blog, http://www.moneystand.co.uk.

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Consumer Price Index Rise Hits UK Savers Pockets

With bank rates predicted to stay low for the next 12 months, savers are in an increasingly tricky situation, according to personal finance website MoneyStand.co.uk.

As the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) is often greater than the savings account interest rates, MoneyStand.co.uk believes some individuals are actually poorer in real terms by keeping money in certain accounts. The UK website, which focuses on giving advice and information on personal finance, debt solutions, and IVA, has stated that simple and well thought out decisions can make all the difference to consumers in these instances. These are particularly testing times for those who live off the interest of their accumulated wealth to subsidise their pension.

Due to the low interest rates affecting most banks within the UK and the erosive affects of rising inflation, individuals with savings are feeling the brunt of the economic downturn. Even with substantial savings, British savers are missing out on a solid return on their investments once tax is taken into account.

With the Consumer Prices Index rising to 1.9 per cent, basic rate taxpayers need their banks to provide a minimum savings rate of 2.375 per cent before seeing any real return on their investments, and higher rate tax payers need a sizeable 3.166 per cent to see a return. In reality, currently only 9 out of 744 variable rate savings accounts available in the UK actually offer an interest rate higher than this. Compared with November, when 69 out of 744 accounts paid above this rate, experts argue that banks are profiteering at the expense of their customers, warning that the situation will now get even worse for the basic rate taxpayers.

Following a widespread media campaign for better deals for UK savers, the UK government has promised to start taking action against these low yield savings accounts. Despite these claims, Moneystand.co.uk suggests that UK individuals will soon have almost no reason to save.

Founder Matt Spencer said, “Due to the worsening interests rates offered by the banks, we have approached the stage where taxpayers are better off investing their money into gold bullion than they are with savings accounts.”

“Due to the Consumer Prices Index rising beyond economists’ expectations from 1.5 per cent to 1.9 per cent last month, basic rate taxpayers will also feel the knock on effects of the increase for some months to come. Economists have attributed this to amongst other things, rising fuel and energy costs.”

Personal Finance weblog MoneyStand.co.uk has been providing unbiased personal finance, IVA and debt related information since early 2008 specifically to help people through these testing financial times. The authors realise people are facing particularly pressing financial times and seek to alleviate this where possible by providing clear and easy to understand information.

“In times of recession individuals and families often overlook simple financial decisions that can make huge differences to their financial health.” Matt Spencer explained, “Our aim is to highlight and offer financial advice on these sensitive topics.”

For the latest financial news and advice on IVA, debt and insolvency visit our personal finance blog, http://www.moneystand.co.uk.

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Spend Carefully over Christmas

During tough economic times with rising levels of personal insolvency, one UK website is offering consumers reliable, factual and helpful money advice.

Personal Finance weblog MoneyStand.co.uk has been providing information and opinions on personal finance since January 2008. The blog was created for UK consumers facing common financial issues wanting honest, up front information with no hidden agendas. The website will be launching a series of articles on seasonal spending this Friday to help consumers spend less over the festive season and start sensible budgeting.

According to a report released by government body The Insolvency Service at the start of November, personal insolvencies have risen by 28.8 percent in the past year. This figure consisted of consumers who had opted for bankruptcy, IVA or a Debt Relief Order to overcome their debt problems. Although the increase in individuals seeking personal insolvencies may be attributed to a rise in unemployment, MoneyStand.co.uk estimates that this figure will continue to rise during 2010 following excessive spending over the festive season.

Founder Matt Spencer said, “Along with Christmas and seasonal celebrations comes a heavy expense. Thousands of families across the United Kingdom will find themselves with obscene credit card bills during January and face the difficult question of how to pay it back and get out of debt.”

“We have seen a massive increase of personal insolvencies since the economic downturn and estimate the further financial pressure that Christmas brings will be the ‘final straw’ for many people already struggling with debt without careful budgeting. We urge consumers to spend carefully over the holiday season.”

MoneyStand.co.uk is a resource for anyone in the United Kingdom wanting to learn more about debt solutions such as IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangements), bankruptcy, debt relief orders, debt management plans and consolidation loans. The weblog also focuses on debit and credit cards, budgeting and saving. In addition to as becoming a valuable source for information, the website offers practical advice on small changes consumers can make in their everyday life to make the most of their financial situation.

As well as providing information on debt solutions like IVAs and debt management, the authors share their own personal experiences with money, such as problems with banks and opinions on finance news.“MoneyStand is a financial hub for anyone in the United Kingdom who wants practical advice on managing finances and debt problems without the jargon.” Matt Spencer explained. “All articles are written by people with extensive knowledge on personal finance and all facts are taken from government websites so you can be sure the information is accurate and up-to-date.”

Since the beginning of the financial crisis, the website has noticed an increased amount of consumers seeking sensible financial advice in easy to comprehend terminology. During this time the website has committed to providing consumers the latest information on topical personal finance issues.

The website will be launching the new series of articles this Friday on helping people in the United Kingdom avoid overspending during the Festive Season.

For the latest news and advice on IVA, debt and insolvency visit our personal finance blog, http://www.moneystand.co.uk.

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IVAs: Help Avoiding Repossession

Responding to the latest figures from the CML (Council of Mortgage Lenders), debt management company Gregory Pennington has stressed the role which debt solutions addressing unsecured debt can play in helping people avoid repossession.

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Released on May 15th, the CML’s figures show that 12,800 repossessions were carried out by first-charge mortgage lenders in the first quarter of 2009. “Compared with many predictions, these figures are relatively low,” said a spokesperson for Gregory Pennington. “Indeed, the CML itself has used the word ‘pessimistic’ in reference to its own estimate of 75,000 repossessions throughout 2009, and has recently revised this figure downwards to 65,000.

“It’s good to see lenders and borrowers working together to keep the figure as low as possible, but it’s important not to become complacent. There were still around 23% more repossessions in Q1 2009 than in the previous quarter – and 50% more than we saw in Q1 last year.

“Looking ahead, the repossession figures for the rest of 2009 are by no means set in stone. They depend not just on the state of the economy and the forbearance shown by secured lenders, but on the attitude of borrowers and unsecured lenders alike.

“In this recession, many people are suffering multiple ‘shocks’ at the same time. With 2.2 million unemployed and many others dealing with reduced wages, homeowners are also facing the issue of falling equity. While there’s no direct link between low (or negative) equity and repossession, this is limiting many homeowners’ ability to access ways of dealing with their debt – from debt consolidation loans and remortgaging to downsizing to a smaller property.

“It all underlines the importance of finding a solution that addresses a borrower’s priority and non-priority commitments at the same time. A founder member of DEMSA (the Debt Managers Standards Association), Gregory Pennington has 15 years’ experience of dealing with lenders of all kinds.

“Secured and unsecured lenders alike clearly have a thorough understanding of the problems consumers face today. They understand the link between secured and unsecured debt problems.

“Secured lenders know that many of today’s borrowers are facing complex financial problems, trying to deal with unsecured debts as well as secured.

“Unsecured lenders, in general, appreciate that a homeowner’s secured debts must take priority – and that repossession is unlikely to improve the borrower’s chances of repaying their unsecured debt.

“This is one reason unsecured lenders will often agree to the terms of an IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement).”

A solution that’s designed to address the concerns of everyone involved, an IVA can help unsecured lenders recover as much of their money as realistically possible, and can help borrowers avoid the need to focus on their mortgage / rent at the expense of their unsecured debts. Insolvency Practitioners (IPs) achieve this by calculating how much the individual can realistically afford to repay per month after they’ve taken their mortgage / rent payments and other essential expenses into account.

“Even so, we always emphasise that entering an IVA is a serious step, and is by no means suitable for everyone facing debt problems. Depending on their situation, different homeowners may be better advised to consider alternative solutions to their debt problems.”

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NS&I Has Launched A New Online Feature, The Five Questions, Featuring Sir Alan Sugar, To Encourage The British Public To Give Their Personal Finances A Much Needed Health Check

With research from NS&I revealing that 40 per cent of the population have no long-term financial plan and almost a fifth (17 per cent) don’t seek information on managing their money because it is too confusing, the need for a quick, simple way to help people review their current financial situation is clear.

The Five Questions prompt individuals to consider important aspects of their financial management, including how much debt they have and what their cash and assets are worth. Each question is designed to ensure that everyone, regardless of age or situation, really thinks about their current financial situation and plans accordingly for a secure financial future.

John Prout, Director of Customer Sales and Retention at NS&I said: “The Five Questions help focus the mind and help people make an honest and straightforward appraisal of their financial situation. This is part of our ongoing work to fulfil our duty, as an organisation in the financial services industry, to help everyone understand the basics when it comes to making financial decisions.”

Once answered, the five questions link to specific information on NS&I’s You and your money website. This is an impartial website launched by NS&I in 2008 as part of an ongoing drive to improve the public’s understanding of personal finance. The site has a dedicated financial jargon-buster guide and sections on key life stages, such as planning for a family or retirement. Just like The Five Questions, it is simple and easy to use, even for those who find finance difficult to understand.

John Prout added, “Most people are very familiar with the healthy eating model of ‘five portions of fruit and veg daily’. We want to encourage a similar mindset about financial planning to ensure people review their finances on a regular basis.”

Nick Cann, Chief Executive at the Institute of Financial Planning stated, “Asking the key questions to help you get your finances in better shape needn’t be hard work. Through basic planning techniques, individuals can then make the first step to improve their overall financial ‘fitness’. We welcome this initiative, and it aligns well with the IFP’s development of a national Financial Planning Week – scheduled for September 2009.”

You and your money has a range of useful links and tools to help people decide what action they should be taking. These include:

-pensions and personal inflation calculators
-FSA online tools
-Government online tools and calculators

NS&I plans to add further lifestyle sections to the website over time.

*The survey, which questioned people about financial planning, was carried out by TNS in 2008 among 1009 GB adults aged between 16 and 64.

About NS&I
NS&I is one of the UK’s largest financial providers with 28 million customers and over £88 billion invested. It is best known for Premium Bonds, but also offers Inflation-Beating Savings and investment accounts, Guaranteed Equity Bonds and Children’s Bonus Bonds in its range. NS&I also provides a choice of isa accounts with the direct isa and a cash isa which will remain available to new customers until 5th April 2009. All products offer 100% security, because NS&I is backed by HM Treasury. NS&I has a number of spokespeople available for interviews via ISDN line: 020 7602 4522.

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Tackling Unsecured Debt Can Prevent Repossession

Responding to the 2008 repossession and arrears statistics released by the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), debt specialists Debt Advisers Direct have stressed the relationship between unsecured debt and mortgage arrears.

“As the CML reports, there were 40,000 repossessions in 2008,” said a spokesperson for Debt Advisers Direct, “and a further 219,000 mortgages ended the year more than three months in arrears.

“For many of those people, however, the problem lay not in the cost of their actual mortgage payments, but in the cost of servicing their unsecured debts. Charging significantly higher interest rates than mortgages, unsecured debts can easily ‘snowball’ to the point where borrowers simply can’t keep up with them – where their monthly payments barely suffice to pay off the accumulating interest.

“Unsecured debts can also be alarmingly easy to take on. Credit cards and store cards in particular allow significant levels of debt to accumulate gradually: people who would hesitate to take out a £2,000 loan can find they’ve acquired £2,000 of debt on a number of cards without even noticing it.”

This combination of high interest rates and ease of access has left many homeowners with unsecured monthly debt repayments that take up some or all of the funds they need to service their mortgage debt. Unless they take steps to address this, it can end up leading to repossession.

“There are ways of reducing the burden of their unsecured debts,” the spokesperson continued. “Many people successfully negotiate with their unsecured lenders – either on their own or through a professional debt management organisation – asking them to accept lower payments, freeze interest and/or waive charges, to ensure that servicing their unsecured debts doesn’t take up funds they need to stay on top of their mortgage payments.

Others find that their unsecured debts have passed the point where negotiation is a realistic option: “In 2008, some 106,000 people in England and Wales turned to insolvency (bankruptcy or an IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement)) as the only realistic path out of debt – and experts such as KPMG believe this figure could easily grow by 50% this year.

“For the majority of homeowners, an IVA offers distinct benefits over bankruptcy. Like bankruptcy, an IVA lets them write off the debt they can’t afford to repay, and will have a severe impact on their credit rating. Unlike bankruptcy, however, it will allow them to retain ownership of their property.”

This is what makes it a particularly interesting option for homeowners who worry that their unsecured debts could end up costing them their home: “An IVA requires substantial commitment, as they will need to make regular payments towards their unsecured debt for five years, but those payments are designed to be affordable.

They will be calculated to take up the individual’s entire disposable income – the money they will have left after taking into account their essential monthly expenditure, such as food, petrol, utility bills and (most importantly) mortgage payments.

“So a homeowner in an IVA will be required to contribute all their disposable income to their IVA for a full five years, as well as releasing some equity halfway through the final year of the IVA to maximise the amount they can pay their unsecured creditors.

“However, they’ll know they’re protected from any legal action by their unsecured creditors – including attempts to make them bankrupt – and they’ll know their outstanding unsecured debts will be written off at the end of that period. Most important of all, they’ll know the budget they’re following is specifically designed to ensure their monthly mortgage payments will be met.”

“The important thing is to take action in time, as soon as their unsecured debts reach unmanageable levels. An IVA is a legal procedure that requires the approval of creditors who collectively ‘own’ 75% of the debt in question – in general, the sooner an individual speaks to an Insolvency Practitioner about an IVA, the better their chances of gaining that approval.”

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Debt Advisers Direct remind consumers with debt problems of the importance of seeking debt advice early on, before their finances are further affected by the recession

Commenting on the nation’s economic troubles, Debt Advisers Direct stressed the importance of seeking debt advice in time, before debt problems can escalate out of control.

“Whatever the economic climate, it always makes sense to address debts at the first sign of trouble,” said a spokesperson for the company. “During times of economic uncertainty, it’s more important than ever.

“The problems in the housing market alone pose a significant threat to the livelihoods of people in all walks of life. What was initially seen as an issue for estate agents has grown to affect builders, movers, decorators, furniture stores and so on – after months of negative news from companies directly linked to the housing market, we’re now hearing of problems in a much wider range of industries.

“With so many either out of work or facing the possibility of unemployment, people are spending less and problems in the housing industry are spilling over into the high street, placing even more jobs at risk – at a time when new employment may be hard to find.

“Coping with a period of reduced income is never easy, but people with high levels of debt are far more likely to experience financial problems almost as soon as their income drops.

“This underlines the need to tackle debt problems sooner, rather than later. Many people with smaller debt problems may find a chat with a debt adviser could help them get on top of their finances without making any major lifestyle changes. Once the adviser understands their financial circumstances, they should be able to provide some budgeting advice and suggest practical ways of reducing their level of debt.

“When it comes to more serious financial problems, however, many people are put off by the sheer size of their debts. Someone who owes tens of thousands of pounds may not feel there’s anything they can do to make an appreciable ‘dent’ in their debts.”

In most cases this is unlikely to be true: “However much they owe, they may still have a range of options, depending on their circumstances. A debt consolidation mortgage, for example, could be right for someone who wants to reduce their monthly outgoings and simplify their finances, while an IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement) could help someone who literally can’t keep up with their debt repayments – and who can’t realistically expect to repay their debts in a reasonable timeframe.

“We were very pleased to see the emphasis which the Chancellor’s Pre-Budget Report placed on debt advice – the Government is dedicating more than £15 million of additional funding to ensure people can access debt advice when they need it. Similarly, we were pleased to see certain credit card providers and mortgage lenders extending a ‘grace period’ to people who fall behind on their repayments.

“Even so, we remind borrowers how important it is to talk to a debt adviser before things reach the stage where they’re missing payments of any kind: taking steps to tackle their debt today is virtually certain to improve their chances of getting through the recession with their finances in a good state.”

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Think Money Have Advised Consumers To Avoid Getting Into Debt Wherever Possible This Christmas, With The Recession Threatening To Put Further Pressure On The Finances Of British Households In 2009

Financial solutions company Think Money have warned consumers to be careful over the amount of debt they incur over the festive season, in order to avoid potential debt problems in the midst of an economic recession.

They have also advised those consumers who do rely on credit to act early and tackle any debts before they have the chance to grow, and to be selective over the types of credit used in order to prevent the debts from becoming unmanageable.

For many families in the UK, including those who are usually comfortable financially, the Christmas season has become associated with debt. The tradition of spending large amounts of money on food and gifts has meant that large numbers of households fall into debt every year, even if it means spending a large part of the following year repaying those debts.

Indeed, a survey taken earlier this year by Savebuckets.com suggested that one in four Christmas borrowers were still repaying their Christmas debts in the following October – nine months after the money was originally spent.

A debt expert for financial solutions company Think Money commented: “In today’s society, many households actually expect to get into debt in order to get through the Christmas season – which can put them at risk of debt problems in the future. It’s much safer to focus more on how to avoid falling into debt – and with the right preparation and attitude, it is very much possible to do that.”

The spokesperson added that staying out of debt over the Christmas period does not necessarily have to mean cutting back on costs. “The households who are best prepared for the Christmas period are those who have thought about it long in advance and have been saving throughout the year. By saving just a relatively small amount each month, it’s quite possible to save enough to cover all the costs involved, without having to compromise.

“However, it seems that it is currently more common to pay with credit in the run-up to Christmas. This may have been fuelled by the relatively easy access to credit of the past few years, although due to the credit crunch, this may be a little more difficult this year.”

The spokesperson also said that the type of credit used can be crucial to consumers’ ability to repay the debt. “For those consumers who do rely on credit over the Christmas period, choosing the right form of credit is a simple step that can make all the difference.

“For example, it’s generally unadvisable to make large purchases on credit cards unless the buyer is absolutely sure they will be able to repay the debt in a short space of time. The APR on credit cards is typically very high, which means the debt can grow very quickly unless it is repaid promptly.

The Think Money spokesperson added that anyone finding themselves struggling with debt should seek debt advice straight away. “There are a number of debt solutions that can help to minimise outgoings and/or help to reduce debts, such as debt consolidation or an IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement). We urge anyone in serious debt to seek professional debt advice as soon as possible.”

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Debt Management Company Gregory Pennington Have Advised Anyone Currently Struggling To Repay Debts To Seek Professional Debt Advice

Responding to a new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers suggesting that over a quarter of borrowers are worried about their ability to repay debts, debt management company Gregory Pennington has advised consumers that all forms of borrowing should be planned well to ensure that the debts can be repaid, and has encouraged anyone struggling to repay their debts to seek professional debt advice.

The Credit Confidence Survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers suggested that over one in four people (27%) are worried about their future ability to repay debts, while 20% of UK credit customers are worried about the future availability of credit – suggesting a reliance on credit to pay off existing debts.

16% of those questioned reported that they were already struggling to make debt repayments, “very few” of whom have considered options to restructure their debt, such as a debt management plan.

The report also found:

• Unsecured borrowing has actually risen by 6% compared with last year – although secured borrowing has fallen ‘dramatically’
• Insolvencies increased by around 9% in the third quarter of 2008, compared with the second quarter
• Every working hour, over 100 adults enter into bankruptcy, an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) or start a Debt Management Plan

A spokesperson for Gregory Pennington commented: “Although the survey on the whole represents good confidence levels amongst a lot of borrowers, the fact that over one in four borrowers are worried about their future ability to repay debts highlights the importance of future planning when it comes to borrowing.

“One of the most important steps for borrowers to take before taking out a loan is to establish how much they want to borrow and how much they can afford to repay each month. There is also the matter of how long the repayment terms should be – the longer the terms, the more time there is in which the borrower’s circumstances could change, and a change in circumstances could affect their ability to make repayments.

“Of course, there are many cases in which unforeseen circumstances prevent borrowers from repaying their debts, such as unemployment or a fall in earnings.

“Whatever the reason, anyone struggling to repay their debts should take decisive action as early as possible. A debt adviser can provide information on a range of debt solutions that can help to minimise monthly outgoings, which could be crucial to those hard-pressed by the current economic situation.

“For example, a debt management plan through a professional debt adviser can enable people to pay back their debts at a more manageable pace, while reducing or freezing interest and other charges. However, this can mean the debts take longer to repay than originally planned.

“Alternatively, a debt consolidation loan can ‘group together’ the borrower’s debts, meaning they pay one creditor instead of many. A debt consolidation loan can also be spread out over a longer period of time than the original debts, meaning monthly outgoings are reduced – although this can mean paying more interest in the long run. However, if the borrower is consolidating high-APR debts such as credit cards, the lower interest rate can often mean that less interest is paid overall.

“For more serious debts, typically of £15,000 or higher, an IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement) might be the most appropriate option. An IVA involves working with an Insolvency Practitioner to draw up a proposal for lower debt repayments based on an amount that the borrower can afford. This normally continues for five years, and on successful completion the remaining debt is considered settled.

“As with anything debt related, it’s always advisable for borrowers to speak to an expert debt adviser before deciding on the appropriate solution for their debts.”

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Insolvency Practitioners Freeman Jones Have Commented That Ivas Remain A Very Useful Alternative That Can Avoid Many Of The Negative Consequences Associated With Bankruptcy

Responding to new statistics showing a rise in the number of people in debt applying for bankruptcy, Insolvency Practitioners Freeman Jones have highlighted the importance of addressing debt problems early, especially with a recession looming, and have pointed to the IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement) as a useful alternative to bankruptcy that could lessen the blow of insolvency.

The statistics, compiled by the Ministry of Justice, showed a total of 13,653 petitions for bankruptcy in the three months between July and September – 7% more compared with the same time last year, and a 1% increase on the previous quarter.

In the same time, creditors themselves filed 5,499 bankruptcy petitions against borrowers – 2% less than the previous quarter, but 10% more than July-September 2007.

In an earlier report, the Insolvency Service reported a 3.3% rise in individuals taking up IVAs in the third quarter of 2008, although the number had actually fallen by 3.1% compared with the same period last year.

A spokesperson for Freeman Jones commented: “Bankruptcy can be the best way out of debt for some people, but in many cases an IVA is a preferable alternative, as it can avoid a lot of the negative consequences associated with bankruptcy.

“Unlike bankruptcy, an IVA almost always allows borrowers to keep hold of their home – although they will be expected to release some of the equity in their home in the fourth year – and it does not carry the publicity or social stigma that bankruptcy does. It also does not prevent people from running a business or taking other positions, like bankruptcy does.

“There are some people who feel that bankruptcy is a more appropriate way out of insolvency than an IVA,” continued the spokesperson. “That’s mainly because bankruptcy is over more quickly – normally after a year – and it typically results in less of the overall debt being paid off by the borrower.

“However the restrictions placed upon borrowers by bankruptcy can sometimes outweigh the benefits, and although an IVA lasts for longer, it will do less damage to the borrower’s future prospects in the long run.

But the Freeman Jones spokesperson was quick to acknowledge that bankruptcy can sometimes be the better option. “Since an IVA requires regular monthly payments for a number of years, people with a low or unpredictable income may find that bankruptcy better suits their needs,” she said.

“Likewise, if the borrower does not have much in the way of assets, and their circumstances are unlikely to improve, then bankruptcy may be their best choice.

“It can often be difficult for people in debt to decide whether bankruptcy or an IVA is the best option – and as always, we advise anyone facing debt problems to seek expert debt advice.”

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The latest report from the Insolvency Service shows a rapid rise in the numbers of people being declared insolvent

Commenting on statistics from the Insolvency Service showing a sharp rise in insolvencies, both over the last quarter and over the past year, Debt Advisers Direct have said that it is now more important than ever for people to get their finances in order and tackle any debt problems as soon as possible.

Commenting on new statistics showing an increase in the number of personal insolvencies in the third quarter of 2008, Debt Advisers Direct (www.debtadvisersdirect.co.uk) have said that this is further confirmation of the difficulties faced by many British households due to rising inflation and worsening economic conditions, and have emphasised the importance of good debt advice as the economy faces a recession.

The latest report from the Insolvency Service shows a rapid rise in the numbers of people being declared insolvent. Between July and September there were 27,087 personal insolvencies, an 8.8% increase on the previous quarter. It was also 4.6% higher than the number of insolvencies reported a year earlier.

Despite falling in the second quarter of the year, bankruptcies were up 12.1% over the quarter. IVAs (Individual Voluntary Arrangements), meanwhile, were up 3.3% over the quarter.

A spokesperson for Debt Advisers Direct said: “Higher costs of living and the credit crunch have put a lot of pressure on British households’ finances this year, so we expected to see a rise in personal insolvencies over the course of this year.

“However, the extent of the rise in insolvencies shows the seriousness of the problems we are facing – and highlights the need to tackle debt problems early, before they become unmanageable..”

The Insolvency Service report also showed that despite the quarterly rise, IVAs were down by 3.1% compared with the same period last year – with The Telegraph concluding that it may be becoming more difficult to enter into an IVA.

“There are a few possible reasons why the number of IVAs may be lower than this time last year,” the spokesperson commented. “It may simply be that more people are taking the bankruptcy route, perhaps because they are unaware that an IVA can avoid many of the downsides of bankruptcy.

“IVAs are usually considered a preferable alternative to bankruptcy. People on IVAs do not lose control of their assets, unlike bankruptcy, and they typically carry fewer restrictions.

“The rise in IVAs over the quarter shows that lenders still consider it a valid means of reclaiming some of the money they are owed – and it remains that if you are in significant debt, an IVA can be a very useful way of getting debt-free.”

The Debt Advisers Direct spokesperson was keen to emphasise the importance of tackling debts before they grow unmanageable. “For anyone struggling with debt, there are a number of ways out. With a recession approaching, it’s important that people do not feel powerless, and that they tackle the issue head-on.

“There are a number of debt solutions, such as debt consolidation and debt management plans, that can help people to stop their debts growing before they become unmanageable. We advise anyone with debt problems to seek professional advice at the first sign of trouble.”

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Debt Problems Can Affect People From All Age Groups And Should Always Be Taken Seriously

Following a study suggesting that the 18-34 age group are most at risk from the credit crunch, with many carrying significant debts, financial solutions company Think Money have advised people in this age group to take extra care with their finances as the prospect of a recession looms.

Furthermore, they added that debt problems are just as serious for people of any age, and should always be addressed as soon as they start.

The study, carried out by think tank Reform and the Chartered Insurance Institute, claimed that many 18 to 34-year-olds had so far experienced a “uniquely gilded life” which had given them a “false sense of security”.

As a result, they have “run up huge credit card bills, smashed their piggy banks and are now staring at a broken housing ladder”, the report claims.

The report dubs the age group the “IPOD (Insecure, Pressurised, Over-taxed and Debt-Ridden) generation”, and claims that one in five such people carry debts of £10,000 or more, while one in three have no savings.

The overall situation leaves the IPOD generation particularly vulnerable to the current state of the economy, with the report stating that they “have the raw skills to understand their position and the dawning sense of responsibility to do something about it (…) However they are hamstrung by a financial establishment determined to service the old and patronise the young.”

A spokesperson for Think Money said: “It may well be the case that many of the large numbers of younger people getting into debt do so because of a diminished sense of responsibility, brought on by comfortable living conditions and, until recently, relatively easy access to credit.

“But with the credit crunch ongoing and a recession becoming a very real possibility, a lot of younger people may be about to experience the kind of struggles that instilled an “instinctive fear”, as the report puts it, into people from previous generations.

“Whatever the reason, in the current economic climate, it’s more important than ever for people to tackle their debts now. Especially with high-APR debts such as credit cards, it’s essential that those debts aren’t allowed to grow.

“There are a number of debt solutions designed to help people in different financial situations.

“For people with a number of smaller debts, a debt consolidation loan could help. A debt consolidation loan involves taking out a new loan to pay off all your existing debts, meaning you only have to repay one creditor instead of many. The interest rate is often smaller than your original debts, especially if you are paying off high-APR debts such as credit cards – although if you choose to lower your monthly payments by spreading them out over a longer period, this will incur more interest which could cancel out the benefit of a lower overall rate of interest.

“If you have a number of debts that you are struggling to repay, a debt management plan might be a better option. This involves speaking to a debt adviser, who will discuss your financial situation in confidence, and will then negotiate with your creditors to agree repayments based on how much you can afford each month. In many cases, interest and other charges can be frozen, reducing the total amount you have to pay.

“If you have more serious debts of over £15,000, an IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement) could get you debt-free in five years. An IVA involves making regular monthly payments to your creditors based on the amount you can afford to repay, and after the five-year period your remaining debt will be considered settled.

“However, be aware that an IVA requires approval from creditors holding a total of at least 75% of your debts before it can go ahead, and you may be required to withdraw some of the equity in your home in the fourth year of your IVA.

“Debt affects people of all ages, so we urge anybody struggling with debt to seek expert debt advice as soon as possible.”

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Debt Management Company Gregory Pennington Have Said That Now Is A More Important Time Than Ever For Consumers To Get Their Finances In Order And Tackle Any Existing Debt Problems

Following Bank of England Governor Mervyn King’s announcement that the British economy is entering a recession, debt management company Gregory Pennington have warned that financial hardship is likely to be widespread in the coming months, adding that the public should aim to get their finances in order and tackle any debts as a matter of priority.

Speaking at a business conference on Tuesday, Mervyn King told business leaders that the economy faces a “sharp and prolonged slowdown”, perpetuated by smaller take home salaries, soaring living costs and limited access to consumer credit.

“We now face a long, slow haul to restore lending to the real economy, and hence growth of our economy, to more normal conditions,” he also said.

On a more positive note, King said that some of the factors causing inflation had “shifted decisively”, putting less pressure on the Bank of England to actively control inflation and instead giving them time to address other factors, particularly the cost of consumer lending.

And addressing those concerned about many lenders’ reluctance to pass on the Bank of England’s recent base rate cut, King offered his assurance that the cuts would eventually have an effect, but said: “It will take time before the [bank bailout] leads to a resumption of normal levels of lending.”

A spokesperson for Gregory Pennington warned of the dangers that consumers face as a recession approaches. “One of the biggest dangers is unemployment. Since there will be less money flowing through the economy, businesses will suffer, and many will be forced to make job cuts as a result – which restarts the same cycle.

“We may also see the availability of credit take a further hit, as lenders will be wary that the borrowers may be at a higher risk of losing their jobs than usual. However, the Bank of England are doing their best to ensure that cash flow within banks improves, so it remains to be seen how lenders will react to that as things progress.

“What we can be sure of is that it’s essential for the public to address any financial problems they may have, particularly when it comes to debt. Debt is a burden at any time, but carrying debts during such an uncertain time for the economy can be very worrying.

“If borrowers miss payments, the creditors may pursue the whole debts, which can lead to court action and even bankruptcy if they are unable to comply.”

The Gregory Pennington spokesperson said that there a number of debt solutions that could help people repay their debts and limit the pressure on their finances as the economy enters a recession.

“For people with multiple debts, a debt consolidation loan can help,” she said. “Debt consolidation involves taking out a new loan to cover your existing debts, meaning you only have one creditor to repay.

“Payments can often be reduced by spreading them over a longer period, although you can pay more interest in the long run. Interest rates can also potentially be reduced, especially if you are consolidating high-APR debts such as credit cards – but be aware that if you have extended your repayment period, the additional interest incurred can reduce the benefit of a lower interest rate.

“For more unmanageable debts, a debt management plan may be your better option. If you do this through an expert debt adviser, they will assess how much you can realistically afford to repay each month. After that, they will negotiate with your creditors for lower monthly payments and possibly a freeze in interest or other charges.

“For more significant debts of £15,000 or more, an IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement) might be more appropriate. This involves making monthly payments over a period of five years, based on how much you can afford. Once that five-year period is over, your remaining debts will be considered settled.

“However be aware that an IVA requires approval from creditors responsible for at least 75% of your debts, and you may be required to release some of the equity tied up in your home in the fourth year of your IVA.

“Before you make any decisions, it’s important to seek independent debt help. A debt adviser will talk you through your situation and will be able to establish which debt solution is right for you.”

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People In Debt Should Review Their Financial Situation As Soon As Possible And If Necessary Seek Professional Debt Advice

The deteriorating state of the economy should lead borrowers to review their finances as a matter of urgency, say debt experts Debt Advisers Direct, following the Autumn forecast from the Ernst & Young ITEM Club.

“Released on 20th October, the Ernst & Young ITEM Club Autumn forecast ‘sees an economy that has deteriorated dramatically in the last quarter and is now in recession’,” said a spokesperson for Debt Advisers Direct. “The good news, however, is that the recession is expected to be both short and shallow, with GDP rising – even if only by 1% – in 2010.”

“Even so, the impact of today’s economic downturn will be profound,” the spokesperson continued. “By definition, even a ‘shallow’ recession involves a shrinking of the nation’s economy, with the inevitable consequences: lower spending, higher unemployment, greater uncertainty about the future, etc.

“On an individual level, the threat of a reduced monthly income is likely to lead many to review their financial situation. This isn’t to say that economic gloom is a good thing, but everyone needs to stop and take stock of their finances from time to time, and reports such as this can provide a much-needed incentive to do so.

“It’s important for everyone – even people with no debts and significant savings – but for the millions of UK consumers in debt, it’s particularly vital. Many people in the UK have grown used to spending more and more of their monthly budget on debt repayments. In many cases, those repayments take up almost their entire disposable income, so if anything happens to their income, they could almost immediately face a whole range of consequences, from legal action to bailiffs and County Court Judgments (CCJs) – to say nothing of the damage to their credit rating.

“The important thing, of course, is to take action before it’s too late. Seeking professional debt advice is normally the best way to start – any borrower could have a wide range of debt solutions available to them, so it’s vital they talk to a professional organisation which understands every option and can provide impartial debt advice, tailored to their individual circumstances.”

An Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) or debt consolidation loan, for example, could help someone cope with a reduced income – yet neither debt solution would make sense for someone who’s fairly sure they might lose their income (or a significant part of it) in the near future.

“A borrower who is working, but whose job seems to be at risk, may be better off with a flexible debt solution such as a debt management plan: if their income drops, they can ask a professional debt management company to talk to their creditors on their behalf, renegotiating their debt repayments as and when it becomes necessary.”

Different borrowers, in other words, will need to adopt different strategies to deal with their debts. “There’s no ‘silver bullet’ for debt. Debt management plans, debt consolidation loans, debt consolidation remortgages, IVAs, even bankruptcy – each has its place, but the debt solution that’s right for one person can be completely inappropriate for another. The key thing is to take the time to get the right debt advice before making any commitments.”

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The Risk Of A Severe Economic Downturn Still Remains, And Taking Care Of Personal Finances Should Be Made Top Priority In The Coming Weeks And Months

Debt management company Gregory Pennington have warned that the economy remains uncertain, despite a number of signals suggesting a potential recovery, and have advised anyone facing severe financial problems to seek professional debt advice as soon as possible.

The Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee’s announcement on Wednesday that the base rate would fall to 4.5% was intended to calm fears surrounding the money market and increase lenders’ willingness to do business with one another, subsequently increasing liquidity and boosting the loans market.

A number of lenders announced cuts to their mortgage rates following the base rate announcement – which may come as a relief to prospective homeowners or existing homeowners looking to remortgage, following many lenders’ reluctance to respond to the last base rate drop.

Meanwhile, petrol prices recently fell to as little as 103.9 pence per litre, while food price growth slowed by 0.2% in September, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC)– arousing speculation that overall inflation has hit its peak and will now begin to slow.

However, a spokesperson for Gregory Pennington commented that while there are encouraging signs for the economy, there is no guarantee that further difficulty for the economy can be avoided.

“The first thing to bear in mind is that while the base rate cut is intended to help the economy, it was brought in as an emergency measure,” she said. “The threat of a severe economic downturn is still looming and there are no guarantees it can be avoided.

“The fall in oil and food prices are very encouraging, but both are heavily affected by external factors, largely outside our Government’s control.”

The debt management company spokesperson was keen to emphasise the continued need to take care over finances and manage debts effectively in the coming months. “There is still the possibility that things could get tighter in the near future, so it pays to tackle any financial issues now, rather than waiting to see what happens next.

“People who are struggling with debt are especially at risk, because their finances are already stretched – and any further rises in costs of living could make those debts unmanageable.

“As always, we advise anyone struggling with debt to seek expert debt advice as soon as possible. Leaving it too late could allow your debts to grow, which is particularly dangerous if costs of living do continue to rise.

“There are a number of debt solutions to help with various financial situations. A debt management plan is a flexible means of getting out of debt in which your repayments are based on how much you can afford, and in some cases interest and other charges can be frozen.

Debt consolidation involves grouping your debts into one convenient monthly payment, therefore simplifying your finances, and your debt can also be spread out over a longer period of time, meaning monthly payments are smaller – although this can mean you pay more interest in the long run.

“For more serious debts of over £15,000, an IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement) might be more appropriate. These work by agreeing with your creditors to make payments based on what you can afford for a period of five years, after which the remaining debt is considered settled.”

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Debt Advisers Direct Warn Anyone Struggling With Debt To Seek Expert Debt Advice As Soon As Possible

Responding to the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s report suggesting that the global economic slowdown is likely to worsen and spread to more economic sectors, Debt Advisers Direct have warned the public that extremely testing times may be ahead, and people should look to get their finances in order and clear any debts as soon as possible.

In their new Global Financial Stability Report, the IMF have warned of “growing turmoil”, saying that the state of the global economy has worsened since its last assessment in April 2008. They also said that Governments’ willingness to act would be crucial in “bringing about a return to stability in the international financial system”.

Although the global economic crisis has so far been mostly limited to the financial sectors in more developed economies, the IMF warned that may soon be about to change, with other sectors and developing economies likely to be affected in the future.

A note on the IMF press release said: “financial institutions in emerging markets, which until recently remained fairly resilient, will be confronted with a much more challenging economic environment: A combination of global credit tightening, and economic slowdown, which could accelerate a downturn in the domestic credit cycle in some countries. Those economies with greater reliance on short-term flows or with leveraged banking systems funded internationally are particularly vulnerable.”

A spokesperson for Debt Advisers Direct said that the threat of financial hardship applies to everybody – not just people on lower incomes or those already in debt.

“The nature of the economic crisis is that many peoples’ jobs are at risk, and that applies just as much to people earning high incomes as it does to low earners. At the same time, many costs of living such as food and energy are still on the rise, so most of us are likely to feel the squeeze to some extent.

“For that reason it’s essential that anyone who is currently struggling financially, particularly those struggling with debt, seeks the relevant advice as soon as possible.”

The Debt Advisers Direct spokesperson added that there are a range of debt solutions available to help people in various financial situations. “For those with a number of debts, a debt consolidation loan could be the answer,” he said.

Debt consolidation involves grouping all of your debts into convenient single monthly payments. It can also reduce interest rates if you are consolidating high-APR forms of credit such as credit cards, and it can allow you to reschedule your payments over a longer period, making your monthly payments lower. However, this may result in paying more interest in the long term.

“Alternatively, for those who want a less formal debt solution, a debt management plan can reduce your monthly payments to an amount you can afford, as well as freezing interest and other charges.

“Or for people with debts of over £15,000, an IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement) is an alternative to bankruptcy which could help you keep your home and other assets.”

The spokesperson added: “Above all, it’s very important that anyone struggling with their debts seeks the appropriate advice immediately, because it’s very possible that things are going to get even tighter in the coming months.”

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Debt Advisers Direct Reminds Consumers That There Is Still Plenty They Can Do To Help Protect Themselves Against Rising Household Costs

As the Government prepare to announce a new scheme that is set to help the millions of households that have fallen into fuel poverty, Debt Advisers Direct (www.debtadvisersdirect.co.uk) have welcomed the scheme, but have reminded consumers that there is still plenty they can do to help protect themselves against rising costs.

Fuel poverty is usually defined as when households are spending more than 10% of their total monthly income on keeping their homes adequately heated. In early 2008 it was estimated that around 4.4 million households in the UK were living in fuel poverty.

And with energy costs jumping up by as much as 30% with some providers, and with others set to follow, the threat of fuel poverty is increasing.

A spokesperson for Debt Advisers Direct said: “The rate at which energy prices are rising means that even families who would have previously considered themselves financially comfortable are beginning to feel the strain. Making compromises on other costs has become commonplace.

“Switching providers can help to bring costs down to an extent, but it might not be long before all providers raise their prices, which could mean sacrifices in other areas are needed.

“Ideally, consumers should be trying to put at least a small amount of money aside in a savings account every month. If prices shoot up unexpectedly, savings could be a very helpful financial safety net that could prevent people falling into debt.”

The spokesperson said that the worst hit are lower-income families, who might not have the extra funds available for rising fuel costs. “For those on lower incomes, fuel poverty is a particularly serious matter. There is a choice: turn the heating off, or keep yourself warm and suffer the consequences. We have seen large numbers of people being pushed into debt because of energy costs.”

The spokesperson followed that if consumers do find themselves struggling to balance debts with increasing costs of living, it’s essential that they seek debt advice before the problem grows out of control. “There are a number of debt solutions that are designed to reduce monthly outgoings and simplify finances, which could be a great help in these difficult times.

“It could be a debt management plan, in which a debt adviser works with the owner of the debts and their creditors to work out a new repayment plan, usually resulting in lower monthly payments over a longer period of time.

“For some people, a debt consolidation loan is more effective – a new loan is taken out to pay off the existing debts, after which it is repaid in single monthly payments. Debt consolidation loans can also be set out over a longer period of time, so monthly payments will be lower, although the borrower will usually end up paying more in interest in the long run.”

For more serious debts of £15,000 or over, an IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement) may be more suitable. If you are in debt but are unsure about how to tackle it, contact a debt adviser for further information.

Debt Advisers Direct are a debt management company based in Salford Quays, Manchester. They offer a range of debt advice and solutions, including debt consolidation, debt management plans and IVAs (Individual Voluntary Arrangements).

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Ivas Don’t Address Mortgages And Other Secured Debts But They Do Reduce Payments To Unsecured Creditors

Commenting on the rising number of home repossessions, debt consolidation experts DebtAdvisersDirect.co.uk point out that IVAs (Individual Voluntary Arrangements) and other debt solutions could help people stay in their homes.

Of the 45,000 repossessions expected by Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) in 2008, there were 18,900 in the first half of the year. In the second half, therefore, the CML expects a further 26,000 or so.

“As with any statistical forecast, this figure isn’t written in stone,” said a DebtAdvisersDirect.co.uk spokesperson. “Times are particularly tough for homeowners, but many people threatened with repossession may be able to resolve their situation by talking to their lender, and by taking steps to sort out their finances and free up enough money for their mortgage payments.

“Different homeowners will, of course, need to adopt different tactics to avoid repossession. Some may just need to reduce their spending, while others may need to consider taking in a lodger, for example, or working longer hours.

“But for many, the problem is unmanageable debt. Many people can’t afford their mortgage payments because their non-priority debts are taking up so much of their budget. We would advise anyone in that situation to seek debt help immediately. A professional debt adviser can help them go through their finances and figure out what steps they would need to take to free up the necessary funds.”

Often, those funds are already there: “Very few people know exactly where all their income goes. They may know where they spend large sums of money, but the smaller sums can easily slip through the cracks – and they all add up. This is why so many people find they have enough ‘on paper’, but not in reality. A debt adviser can help them create a monthly budget sheet and track their spending more effectively.”

Some homeowners, however, are facing more serious debt problems. “At a certain point, the monthly debt repayments simply exceed the individual’s ability to keep up – there just isn’t enough money coming in to service the debts and cope with the ongoing bills. Once this happens, they find it’s almost impossible to pull themselves out of debt without professional help. The important thing is to get in touch with a debt specialist as soon as possible, and find out what they can do to help.

“Depending on the individual’s circumstances, the best debt solution could be an IVA. As a form of insolvency that helps people clear significant debts without resorting to bankruptcy, an IVA can be an effective way of reducing their monthly expenditure, freeing up the money they need to make their mortgage payments and start paying off any arrears that have built up.”

An IVA is a legally binding agreement between an individual and their unsecured creditors, which normally lasts for five years. “The individual commits to making fixed monthly payments throughout the IVA, based on what they can afford after taking their essential living expenses (including mortgage payments) into account. If enough of the creditors agree to the terms, they’ll agree to freeze interest, not to take any legal action, and to write off any outstanding debt at the end of the IVA. Like bankruptcy, an IVA helps borrowers make a fresh start, but unlike bankruptcy, it helps them protect their home – they may have to release some equity, but it’s extremely unlikely they would have to sell.”

Yet it’s important to recognise that IVAs are not an appropriate solution to every homeowner’s problems. “Whatever financial issues an individual may be facing,” the spokesperson concluded, “it’s vital they seek debt advice from a specialist offering a range of debt solutions – someone who can help them take stock of their situation, understand their options and identify the best way forward.”

About Debt Advisers Direct
www.debtadvisersdirect.co.uk helps people with financial difficulties, providing debt help & advice and tailor-made debt solutions.

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Gregory Pennington advise people to stay on top of their finances

As the credit crunch reaches the end of its first year, debt management company Gregory Pennington (http://www.gregorypennington.co.uk) have advised people to keep on top of their finances, and warned that there may still be tough times ahead.

A spokesperson for Gregory Pennington said: “While studies suggest some of the country feel they have not yet been affected too badly by the credit crunch, these people may begin to feel the effects as future events unfold.”

A recent survey in The Times revealed that 66% of those asked felt their family would fare badly over the next year, while 77% felt the country as a whole will suffer. The spokesperson said that while these views are probably justified, there is still a lot people can do to lessen the effects of the credit crunch.

“The most important thing is staying on top of your finances,” says the debt solutions company. “Make sure you are meeting all your priority financial commitments before anything else, and try to build a budget around that. If you find you can’t meet those commitments, seek expert advice as soon as possible.

“We would also advise people to save as much as possible, because that little bit extra could come in very useful if things get tight.”

The fact that the remaining 34% of people questioned in the survey did not feel (or weren’t sure) that their family would suffer over the next year suggests that the credit crunch has not necessarily affected everyone. But the Gregory Pennington spokesperson warned that other problems linked to the credit crunch may start to kick in over the next few months.

“It’s important to distinguish between the different elements of the economic downturn we’re currently experiencing,” he said. “The credit crunch primarily affects people looking for credit – particularly homeowners, who may be faced with large arrangement fees or higher payments when they remortgage, and also those looking to obtain loans and new mortgages.

“People who aren’t reliant on credit, or homeowners who have a long-term fixed rate on their mortgage, may well have been largely unaffected – so far.

“But it’s now very possible that we will see the knock-on effects of the weak housing market combined with rising costs of living – higher unemployment, increasing amounts of people struggling to meet their comments, and more people facing problems with debt.

“Even if it does get to that stage, there are still things you can do. Seeking professional debt advice from an expert debt adviser is essential if you find yourself in financial difficulty.

“There are a range of debt solutions available to meet different situations, including debt management plans, IVAs (Individual Voluntary Arrangements), debt consolidation loans and remortgages, etc. One of these could be a lifeline if you find yourself with unmanageable debt, which is a growing threat in the current economic climate.”

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