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Pensioners Suffering As The Money Runs Out, Says Debt Solutions Company Trust Deed Scotland

A new report reveals that pensioners across the UK are being left penniless as their money disappears every week in a whirlwind of bills, says Debt Solutions Company, Trust Deed Scotland.

An income of £207.15 per week is typical for most pensioned couples, but a report by Standard Life shows it goes straight back out the door as £207.24 is spent on food, fuel, housing and transport.

The report highlights rising inflation as the reason why the average pensioner has difficulties making ends and are being hit hard – many are having issues even affording a new pair of shoes, a holiday or a present for a grandchild.

While the Consumer Price Index remained the same in September at 4.5%, the Retail Price Index was hovering at 5.2% and threatening to rise again. Pensioner have a fixed income that doesn’t change from month to month, and that combined with inflation and large energy rises from utilities companies means turn some have turned towards credit cards to make ends meet.

A spokesperson for Scottish Debt Solutions Company, Trust Deed Scotland, said:
“According to Age UK, British pensioners are the fourth poorest in Europe, with the worst off set to lose up to 22% of their household income because of cuts to local authority services and changes to the tax and benefits system. This report highlights the dire position our parents and grandparents are in. At a time when they should be relaxing after a lifetime of working, they are pinching pennies and worrying about what the future will hold for them.”

The day before Standard Life published its report, the Institute of Fiscal Studies issued a warning about how ‘real’ inflation was hitting pensioners much harder than younger age groups.

“The Insolvency Service reported the fastest rising group of people claiming insolvency is pensioners,” said the spokesperson. “They are six times more likely to go bankrupt or take out a debt solution such as a Scottish Trust Deed or Debt Arrangement Schemethan they were just a decade ago. The number of people entering retirement with unpaid debts has increased, and when combined with increased life expectancy, the recession and limited options to increase income when you retire, it adds up to a lot of older people in real trouble”.

According to the Consumer Credit Counseling Service the average unsecured debt of newly retired pensioners is £21,370 and few have any savings at all. Once all the bills have been covered, there’s just £85 left at the end of the month.

“There are numerous reasons why pensioners are entering retirement in debt,” said the spokesperson. “Previous good house values led to many people remortgaging for home improvements or to loan to children or grand children for house deposits. There’s also the issue of divorce, where one partner will often buy the other out of their share of the property by extending their mortgage. And then some people are marrying and having families much later in life or having second families in their fifties.”

“For many life as a retiree in today’s world is just as expensive as it was when they were working, but now they have less income to live on.”

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Media Ingenuity 14th in Sunday Times Tech Track

Media Ingenuity is delighted to announce that it has ranked 14th in the 2010 Sunday Times Tech Track. Media Ingenuity is mostly known for its consumer facing brand TotallyMoney.com which is an online price comparison website that specialises in comparing financial products. Media Ingenuity has recently released granite its own brand credit card. The league table ranks Britain’s one hundred privately-owned technology, media and telecoms (TMT) companies with the fastest-growing sales over the last three years.

Commenting on the result, managing director Adam Quint said, ‘This truly is a momentous result for Media ingenuity and represents its emergence as one of the UK’s foremost online marketing businesses. We are absolutely delighted to have come 14th from the thousands of qualifying businesses in the UK. The result reflects the wealth of talent we have in our team and confirms the strength of our business model’.

Despite typically turning over less than £50m, many Tech Track 100 companies develop technology behind global brands. For example, Mobica develops apps for the iPhone, Mobile Interactive Group provides digital interactive services for O2 and The Foundry developed software for digital-effect sequences on Avatar.

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Debt Free Direct Sees Mixed Results As Q1 Insolvency Figures Are Released By The Insolvency Service

The latest insolvency figures released show personal debt is continuing to rise in the UK, with Q1 of 2010 the fifth consecutive quarter to do so. Official figures declared for the first three months of 2010 saw a 17.9% increase in the number of personal insolvencies in England and Wales compared with the same period last year. Company insolvencies however were down 17.8% on the same period last year, rounding off a mixed year for the nation’s debt.

Debt Free Direct Sees Mixed Results As Q1 Insolvency Figures Are Released By The Insolvency Service

There were 35,682 personal insolvencies and 4,082 company insolvencies in the first quarter of 2010, however Derek Oakley, Insolvency Director at Debt Free Direct has warned of the trends of previous downturns; “In previous downturns the UK has experienced a double spike in formal insolvencies: the first representing the actual downturn itself and the second coming during the recovery of the downturn as under capitalised and weakened businesses struggle to cope with increased activity levels.”

The figure for company insolvencies, 4,082, equalled out at a decrease of 8.4% on the previous quarter. The figure can be converted to 1 in 120 active companies going into l formal insolvency(or 0.8%), which is a decrease f r o m the previous quarter, when the figure stood at 1 in every 114 countries (0.9%).

The official figures on insolvencies are released by The Insolvency Service and are compiled f r o m administrative records of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The records show that the 35,682 personal insolvencies consisted of a variety of different types. The traditional way of dealing with unmanageable debt; Bankruptcy was at 18,256, which was down 10.7% on the same quarter last year, but up 7.3% on the previous quarter.

There were 11,782 Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVA), up 20.1% on last year but at the lowest level since the first quarter of 2009. An IVA is a legally binding agreement between debtor and creditor in which a reduced payment plan is committed to. Introduced in 1986, the agreement typically lasts for around 5 years and the consumer has the potential to settle a portion of their debt.

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UK Savers Losing Billions Of Pounds In ISA Accounts Each Year

As billions of pounds of British savers money is being lost in ISA accounts, the government’s consumer watchdog Consumer Focus is due to launch an official complaint on the matter. The move which could potentially ‘shake up the ISA industry’ is a long time coming suggests Matt Spencer, founder of UK based personal finance blog Moneystand.co.uk.

Consumer Focus have highlighted numerous ‘unfair obstacles’ financial providers have put in place for savers to transfer their accounts to other banks, which pay higher interest rates.

The cash ISA market is currently worth around £158 billion, as savers flocked to the tax free service introduced in 1999. Upon its launch rates averaged a healthy 6.32 %, however this figure has plummeted to 0.42 %, a figure that is below the Bank of England base rate.

Mike O’Connor, chief executive of Consumer Focus suggests that a slow ISA transfer process and bureaucracy from the banks has caused many of these problems. He suggests that only 12 % of people have moved their ISAs to a more preferable savings rate, which is costing UK savers millions per year in lost revenue.

As a large consumer group, Consumer Focus can launch a ‘super-complaint’ to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). This would force the OFT to give an official response within 90 days to the matter and a decision over what action it would take towards the issue.

Common issues that arose include the length of time it takes for transfers to occur when sending funds and information from one bank to another. Official government guidelines recommend a limit of four weeks for this process. Findings from Consumer focus show that a third of people switching their ISAs waiting more than five weeks for funds to clear into the new account.

Customers should be wary when looking for a new ISA provider however warns Matt Spencer, suggesting:

“Banks are offering introductory rates with high interest levels to entice new customers to open new ISA accounts. These short term bonuses often hide very poor interest rates once the honeymoon period is over.

It’s time for savers to get the rates they deserve, so be sure to make your money is working as hard as possible for you. This might mean that you need to change your current ISA provider, despite the long transfer times between banks.”

Personal finance blog MoneyStand provides unbiased personal finance, IVA help and debt related information. Founded in 2008, MoneyStand was created in response to the worsening financial situation of individuals in the UK and across the world. For more information on personal finance, visit www.moneystand.co.uk.

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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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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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Debt Advice Could Help Relieve Money Anxiety

Responding to a survey which found that two thirds of 18-24-year-olds frequently feel stressed or anxious – with money worries being cited as a main cause – insolvency specialists the IVA Advisory Centre said that anyone feeling anxious about their money problems should seek financial advice.

The company added that anyone facing debt problems should speak with an expert debt adviser about ways of clearing their debts.

A survey carried out by YouGov found that 66% of people in the 18-24 age group felt stressed or anxious at least once a week, with money and job concerns cited as the main cause.

Over all age groups, 45% of respondents reported money worries as a main cause of anxiety, with 33% saying the same about their job prospects.

Some said they would seek support from friends or family in this situation, but almost a third (31%) said they kept their worries to themselves.

The survey is by no means the first to link money worries with anxiety. Earlier this year, the London Health Forum estimated that 250,000 Londoners suffer from mental health problems as a result of debt, at a cost of £450m a year to the NHS.

A spokesperson for the IVA Advisory Centre said that anyone feeling anxious due to money problems should seek advice on ways to improve their finances as soon as they can.

The spokesperson added that if financial difficulty leads to debt, the borrower should not hesitate to get debt advice at the first sign of problems.

“Being in debt can be an extremely worrying situation, so it’s no wonder that this has contributed to a lot of worry and anxiety.

“For many people, part of the worry is that they feel like there is no way out. However, there is a lot an expert debt adviser can do to help people in debt, even if the borrower can’t see any way of ever repaying the debt in full.

“In some cases, a few words of advice might be all it takes. Some people find that they can make more room for their debt repayments by keeping to a strict budget, while others might be able to find areas in which they can cut back and reduce their outgoings.

“Of course, not everyone’s problems are as easily solved as that. For people who simply can’t afford to repay their debts, a debt adviser may be able to recommend a debt solution that could help them to reduce their debt repayments to a manageable level.

“For people who can’t afford their existing repayments but can afford to repay the debt in full over a longer period of time, a debt management plan could help. Or, for people who can’t see any way of ever repaying their debts, an IVA could help them to avoid bankruptcy and its potential downsides, such as the repossession of their home.

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24% Of Students In The UK Expect To Graduate With Over £20,000 Of Debt

Responding to a report that found that 24% of students in the UK expect to graduate with over £20,000 of debt, Debt Advisers Direct has advised students that with the right financial planning, the amount of debt they take on can be reduced.

The company added that students should avoid taking on debt (i.e. any debt outside their regular student loan) wherever possible, as this could increase their risk of debt problems in the future.

Research by the Association of Investment Companies (AIC) looked into the financial expectations of UK students. It found that 24% thought they would leave university with more than £20,000 of debt – although the picture varied between countries.

In Scotland, Scottish-born students are not required to pay university tuition fees. This is reflected in the AIC’s figures: only 26% of Scottish students expected to take out a student loan, compared with 55% across the entire UK.

A spokesperson for Debt Advisers Direct commented: “Debt is a big concern for many students. The introduction of top-up fees in recent years has added a significant amount to the debt many students will be expected to repay once they graduate.

“However, it’s very important that we distinguish between student debt in terms of an official student loan, issued by the Student Loans Company (SLC), and other forms of debt.

“Government student loans are designed to be paid back once the student graduates and is earning enough to meet the threshold – currently £15,000 a year – and only as a small percentage of earnings above this amount. In that respect, a student loan is not likely to cause significant financial hardship.

“However, students who have borrowed money in other ways could find themselves in more difficulty. Things like personal loans and credit cards, for example, usually require regular repayments and tend to carry higher interest rates. This is not ideal for students, who usually survive on a relatively low income.

“The risk is that the more debt students take on, the more likely they are to have trouble meeting their repayments. For that reason, we advise students to steer clear of taking on additional debt wherever possible.”

The Debt Advisers Direct spokesperson added that while most students experience financial difficulties at one stage or another, there are other things they can do to improve their situation.

“There is plenty of advice available, both online and from expert financial advisers, on ways for people to manage their finances well. For example, we have just released a guide on ways to cut back without compromising their social life – which is particularly relevant to students.

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Debt Management: The Earlier, The Better

Responding to news that the Credit Services Association (CSA) has agreed that its members will grant 30 days’ ‘breathing space’ to borrowers who have fallen behind on their debt repayments, debt management company Gregory Pennington has advised struggling borrowers to take advantage of the opportunity to seek expert debt advice.

gregorypennington

The CSA, which represents debt recovery agencies in the UK, says the addition to its code of practice is “one of a series of positive measures being introduced […] to ease the pressure on debtors”.

It comes after discussions between the CSA and the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) aimed at helping the increasing number of people getting into trouble with debt.

The CSA said that it “acknowledged that the present economic environment is placing greater pressure on debtors, and debts are increasingly being passed to agencies for collection”.

Starting from the moment that the borrower informs the debt recovery agency that an accredited debt adviser has been appointed to the case, debt recovery agencies will take no further action to recover the debt for a 30-day period. Borrowers can use this time to establish the best way to tackle their debts, with the assistance of their debt adviser.

Consumer Minister Gareth Thomas said: “This new 30-day rule will give people a breathing space to help them take control of their finances as well as encourage them to seek help from debt advisers.”

A spokesperson for Gregory Pennington said: “This 30-day period will give struggling borrowers some room to do something about their debts before a debt collector will take any action. This has become more important in recent months, with the economic downturn putting pressure on many people’s finances.”

However, the spokesperson reminded borrowers that their situation with debt doesn’t have to go as far as dealing with debt collectors, as taking the right action early can often set the borrower on their way to becoming debt-free.

“A debt collector will rarely get in touch with a borrower unless they have fallen quite significantly behind on their debts. With that in mind, the best course of action for anyone struggling to repay debt is to get in touch with a debt adviser at the first sign of problems.

“Debts can grow very quickly – and the higher the interest rate, the more rapidly they will grow. That means that the further the borrower falls behind on their debt repayments, the more costly it may become.

“We advise that people who are having difficulties with their debts should not hesitate to get expert debt advice. The sooner the problem is addressed, the sooner it can be solved.

The spokesperson added that finding the right kind of debt solution can be a huge step forward for people who are looking to clear their debts.

“There are a number of debt solutions available to help people in various situations with their debts, and a professional debt adviser can offer guidance on the most suitable solution for a borrower’s circumstances.”

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Saving & Debt: Base Rate Should Not Discourage Caution

Commenting on the recent spate of base rate cuts – and the resulting 0.5% base rate – financial solutions company Think Money pointed to the potential implications of the Bank of England’s actions over recent months, and urged savers not to risk debt problems by turning their backs on saving.

“In the short term,” a Think Money spokesperson began, “it’s important to realise that many people – the vast majority of the country – haven’t benefited from these cuts in any way at all. A full 50% of the UK’s 11.75 million mortgages are fixed-rate deals, 40% tracker and 10% SVR (standard variable rate).

“Clearly, anyone on a fixed-rate mortgage won’t benefit any more than someone who’s renting their home. As for SVR deals, lenders aren’t obliged to pass on any reductions, and many have passed on only part of these cuts. Even people on tracker deals haven’t universally seen their interest rates drop by the full 4% since October, as many of those deals have come up against their collar.”

In the longer term, there’s the question of what lessons people will take with them once the recession is over. Many people on fixed-rate mortgages will be looking at the low rates on offer today, calculating how much they could save if they switched and comparing this against the cost of the early repayment charges they would pay if they left their current mortgage early.

“In future, they may be unwilling to sign up to fixed-rate deals – or at least reluctant to sign up to the longer-term fixed-rate deals which come with more substantial charges for early repayment.

“In other words, some may be tempted to sign up to a tracker or SVR deal the next time the base rate reaches 5 or 6%, believing that another fall will soon follow. There’s nothing inherently wrong with variable deals, but they’re not suitable for everyone: people whose monthly finances can only just cover their mortgage payment should think very carefully before committing themselves to a deal with an interest rate that could go up as easily as down. For people in that situation, erring on the side of caution – and taking a fixed-rate mortgage – could be far more sensible.”

The other long-term effect of these base rate cuts, of course, could be in the country’s attitude to savings. Now that the average interest rate on instant access accounts has plummeted to little more than 0%, interest is simply not keeping pace with CPI (Consumer Price Index) inflation – and for people who aren’t paying variable mortgages, this figure is more relevant than the RPI (Retail Price Index) measurement.

“We would, however, stress that interest is by no means the only reason people should build up their savings. With or without interest, a savings account is its own reward, helping people cope with financial challenges without running into debt problems.

“Even so, the thought of watching savings shrink in real terms may be enough to put many people off saving in a standard savings account. This could be terrible news: whether they stop saving altogether or feel they need to ‘gamble’ their money in higher-risk investments, they could be leaving themselves open to all kinds of debt problems in the future.”

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Debt Advisers Direct Have Underlined The Importance Of Seeking Debt Advice Before Financial Problems Reach The Stage Where They’re Insurmountable

“In the midst of a recession, professional debt advice has an even greater role to play than usual,” said Melanie Taylor, Head of Corporate Relations for Debt Advisers Direct. “With repossession and unemployment figures rising and many households living with the threat – or the actuality – of reduced income, people across the country are realising that once-manageable debts are suddenly taking up much more of their monthly budget. In many cases, the strain is simply too much.”

debtadvisersdirect.co.uk

The insolvency trade body R3 recently expressed its concern ‘that those with financial problems do not think they ‘need’ debt advice‘. Quoting from YouGov’s quarterly ‘DebtTracker’ of February 2009, R3 pointed out that only 37% those who had fallen behind with many bills or credit commitments had actually taken action and sought debt advice in the previous six months.

Of those who acknowledged that they were struggling with bills and commitments, a full 65% were of the opinion that they simply did not need advice about their financial problems.

“It’s alarming to see so many people in trouble and not looking for help,” Mrs Taylor continued. “Financial problems rarely resolve themselves unless the individual takes positive action. Clearly, many people are able to do so on their own, but while it’s good for people to have confidence in their skills, even the most financially capable people may find they benefit from the insights which someone who specialises in debt could supply.

“Particularly worrying is the thought of people who desperately need to look for debt advice but have yet to do so – either because they’ve not realised the severity of their financial problems or because they’re nervous about asking for help.

“Regarding the first of these two groups, we would like to stress the need for everyone to keep a close eye on their income and expenditure at all times – and this is especially important during challenging economic times when incomes are more likely to fluctuate and access to debt solutions such as debt consolidation or remortgagingmay be relatively restricted. One call to a debt adviser should help them gain some clarity on their situation, helping them understand exactly where they stand and what their options may be.

“Regarding the second group (those who acknowledge their financial problems but may be embarrassed about seeking help), we would like to make three specific points. First, that there are plenty of people in their situation; second, that debt advisers are there to help, not to judge; and third, that the solution to their debt problems could well be much simpler than they expect.

“Many people don’t want to face up to their debt problems because they dread hearing that bankruptcy, repossession, or some other ‘extreme’ scenario is the only way forward. In the vast majority of cases, however, these fears are unfounded. It’s true that there were 10,400 repossessions in the final three months of 2008, yet this only represents 1 in 1,100 mortgages – just as the 19,000 bankruptcies in that period represent an extremely small percentage of the people facing debt problems.

“Once they take the step and talk to a debt adviser, borrowers may be surprised to realise their lenders are willing to consider ways of repaying their debts in a way that’s actually quite manageable.

“Nonetheless, the earlier they seek debt advice, the more options they’ll probably have open to them. By taking action sooner rather than later, they’re likely to save themselves a great deal of time and worry, as well as money (in the form of fees, legal costs and interest charges).”

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Saving Is Important, But Debt Should Be Priority

Debt management company Gregory Pennington (www.gregorypennington.com) has welcomed news that more consumers are concentrating on putting money towards their debts rather than making savings, saying that this may make the best financial sense in the current economic conditions.

Gregory Pennington

However, the company added that consumers should be careful about where to draw the line, as savings can be a particularly important and useful aspect of people’s finances.

In Nationwide’s latest Savings Index, its senior economist Martin Gahbauer said that households were looking to increase the amount of money put towards their debt repayments “in response to the uncertain economic environment”.

He added that the negative level of housing equity withdrawal reported by the Bank of England earlier this month reflected this trend, and showed that households were using their available cash to reduce their mortgage balances more quickly, rather than spending it on non-essentials or putting it into a savings account.

Indeed, the Bank of England’s figures showed that in the final quarter of 2008, homeowners put a collective £8bn more towards their mortgage debt than they took out in equity withdrawals. It was the third consecutive quarter in which homeowners repaid more than they withdrew, although 2008 was the first year in a decade in which this had occurred.

A spokesperson for Gregory Pennington said that given the current state of the economy, repaying debt should be a priority for anyone who feels that their debt could become a burden.

“Debt repayments can be a burden on anyone’s finances, and that can become even more the case in times of financial hardship. In a time when many essential costs are rising, and when the risk of unemployment is higher than usual, reducing debt is particularly important.

“Even if a person’s debts seem relatively manageable now, a few unexpected events could change that. It’s essential that anyone who borrows money considers their long-term ability to repay the debt. Equally, anyone who finds themselves struggling should contact an expert debt adviser as soon as possible.”

However, the spokesperson added that savings are still very important, and people should look to save money whenever it is sensible to do so.

“Technically, it makes more sense to repay debt than save, even if that means using up those savings,” she said. “That’s because interest on debt nearly always grows faster than on savings, meaning that the person will spend less in the long run by tackling their debts first.

“However, being in debt doesn’t always mean people should avoid saving. If the borrower’s debts are entirely manageable – especially if their terms and conditions do not allow them to make overpayments – then there is no real reason why they should not put money into savings at the same time.

“Savings can offer a great deal of protection against debt, as well as long-term security. For example, a person who puts money aside every month is much better placed to manage any unexpected costs that may arise, or to get by in a period of unemployment.

“It can be difficult to decide whether it’s worth saving money or putting it towards debt repayments. We advise anyone who is unsure what to do with their money to seek free, impartial advice from a professional financial adviser.”

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Debt Advice Important For Struggling Borrowers

Responding to news that total personal debt levels in the UK have risen over the past year, Debt Advisers Direct have warned of the dangers of getting into debt in this difficult time for the economy, and advised anyone who finds themselves struggling to repay debt to seek expert debt advice.

Debt Advisers Direct

New lending figures released by the Bank of England this week revealed that total personal debt in the UK stood at £1.458 trillion at the end of February – a rise of £34 billion compared with the previous year.

That means that despite increased caution amongst financial institutions with regard to lending, the average UK adult has taken on approximately £680 in additional credit over the past year.

However, Bank of England statistics also show that the rate at which personal debt is growing has slowed compared with February 2008, when the total increased by £111 billion compared with the previous year.

A spokesperson for Debt Advisers Direct commented: “A £34 billion increase in total personal debt may surprise some people, given the relatively cautious nature of the lending industry over the past 18 months, even though it is only around a third of the levels seen in the previous year.

“On the one hand, it may suggest that the market for loans and mortgages is not as difficult as many people believed. Lenders have still issued a relatively large amount of money in the past year.

“On the other hand, it could also indicate that people are making more use of the credit they already had. For example, whereas people may have used their credit cards and overdrafts sparingly in the past, many people who have been put under pressure by the economic downturn may have found it necessary to spend more on credit.

This is fine in the short term, so long as those debts are repaid, but if the borrower can not afford to repay those debts in full, then the situation can become more serious.”

The spokesperson added that consumers could benefit from avoiding getting into debt wherever possible, and ensuring that they promptly pay back any credit they do use.

“With more people currently at increased risk of redundancy or a reduction in income, it makes sense for people to ensure that their finances are well prepared for the future. For most people, that should involve reducing debts wherever possible.

“Of course, that is difficult for people whose finances are already stretched to their limits. We have seen massive rises in many essential costs of living over the last 18 months, which have led to many people falling behind on their commitments.

“That’s where a professional debt adviser can help. There are a number of debt solutions that can help people in difficult financial situations to reduce their debts and make their monthly outgoings a lot more manageable. It’s important that anyone who finds themselves struggling to repay their debts seeks debt advice as early as possible to prevent the problem from becoming any worse.”

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Workers Must Ensure They Are Prepared For Pay Cuts Says Gregory Pennington

In response to a new report claiming that 70% of UK companies may be planning to freeze or cut wages this year in an attempt to get through the recession, debt management company Gregory Pennington has advised workers to take what steps they can to prepare for any potential reduction in income.

The company added that anyone with debts to their name could be at a disadvantage if their income is reduced, and as such they should look to address their debts as a matter of priority.

The latest monthly business survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) claimed that of 400 companies questioned, around 70% planned to freeze or cut wages later this year.

58% of companies said they planned to freeze wages this year, while 12% planned to actively reduce wages.

Most of the rest of the companies, however, planned wage increases of between 1% and
3%, with almost one in ten companies saying they would raise wages by more than 3% –
suggesting some areas of business are not struggling, despite the recession.

Even so, half of the companies were considering making staff redundant in the next six months in an attempt to survive the economic downturn, according to the survey.

A spokesperson for Gregory Pennington said that despite some surprising optimism amongst the 9% of companies which would be raising salaries, most people would be best advised to ensure that their finances are as healthy as possible in preparation for the next few months.

“We are in a difficult situation, in which many costs of living are rising rapidly while the equity in our homes is falling. Along with the prospect of high levels of unemployment, it’s unclear whether the situation will get better or worse in the coming months.

“In any situation involving that kind of uncertainty, it’s especially important that people are quick to ensure that their finances are in the best possible shape for getting through potentially difficult times.

“Perhaps the most important factor is savings. People with savings have a ‘safety net’ they can fall back on if they find their finances are hit particularly hard, and this could help families and individuals alike to compensate for any reduction in income.

“However, getting on top of any debts is also very important – and if the borrower has savings they can fall back on, it’s often most important that those savings are used to repay their debts. The logic behind this is simple – the interest on debt usually grows more quickly than the interest on savings, so the borrower will spend less overall by paying off their debts as quickly as possible.

“However, workers need to consider this carefully. If they are facing potential redundancy, they may wish to hold on to their savings so that they can continue to repay their priority debts, such as their mortgage.”

The Gregory Pennington spokesperson added that there are many people who may be experiencing problems with debt who do not have any savings to fall back on – and those people should seek debt advice as soon as possible.

“A lot of people may be facing a reduced income or even redundancy with little or no savings. If those people also have debts to repay, the situation can be quite worrying.

“However, a professional debt adviser can help people to find the best way of tackling their debts – which can offer a lot of relief in difficult times.”

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New Research Shows That 15% Of Homeowners Taking Out A Remortgage In Late September And Early October Either Had Deals Turned Down Or Moved Onto Their Lender’s SVR

Financial solutions company Think Money have advised homeowners who are looking to remortgage that speaking to a professional mortgage adviser has become more important in recent months, as the availability of mortgage deals has remained lower than 2007 levels.

The new NMG Research Survey, carried out for the Bank of England, showed that at the end of September and beginning of October, 15% of people who had taken out a remortgage had previously either had applications turned down or had moved onto their lenders’ standard variable rate.

Standard variable rate mortgage deals – a lender’s basic mortgage rate – tend to be noticeably more expensive than the lender’s discounted variable-rate mortgages at any given time, according to a mortgage expert for Think Money.

“Most mortgage deals advertised in the shop window or online are introductory deals,” she said. “Fixed-rate mortgages are usually priced based on the lender’s own long-term projections, but most new variable-rate deals are actually discounted from the standard variable-rate. So the only time homeowners will usually pay the standard variable-rate is when the pre-agreed terms finish – unless they remortgage.”

The Think Money spokesperson added that the recent base rate cuts by the Bank of England have meant that remortgaging can save homeowners a significant amount of money.

“The base rate has fallen from 5.75% to 2% in just under a year and a half, and while mortgage rate cuts have not been quite so pronounced, they still represent good savings for people who entered mortgage deals two or three years ago.

“For example, while at the peak of the market in July 2007 the best mortgage rates stood at around 6% to 6.5%, we are now typically seeing rates of 4.5% to 5%, and even 4% for homeowners with a particularly high LTV (loan-to-value) ratio.

“To put that in perspective, on a typical £120,000 mortgage, a homeowner moving from a 6% interest rate to 4.5% can save around £104 per month, or £1248 per year.

“What’s more, many economists are predicting further base rate cuts – so homeowners with tracker mortgages could benefit even more in the future.”

The spokesperson was keen to emphasise the importance of mortgage advice in the current market. “With lenders still cautious about offering mortgages, it can take a little longer to find the right mortgage deal compared with, say, 2007. That may explain why so many people questioned for the Bank of England’s report had been turned down by some lenders.

“A professional mortgage adviser can take a look at the homeowner’s circumstances, and based on that can search a range of lenders for the best mortgage deal available to the homeowner.”

The Think Money spokesperson urged homeowners to consider their remortgage deal early to allow plenty of time to find the best rates. “It’s often possible to‘reserve’ mortgages with lenders, so if the homeowner likes the look of a deal a little while before their current mortgage terms finish, they can ensure they get the lower rate later in the year. Of course, it’s possible rates could fall more, so homeowners may want to wait and see what happens in the mortgage market before making a move.”

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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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Following the first rise in consumer confidence since December 2007, debt management company Gregory Pennington have said that while this may bode well for the health of the economy in some respects, it is by no means a sure sign of economic recovery, and consumers should not be complacent about their finances in the coming months

Following the announcement from Nationwide Building Society that consumer confidence has improved for the first time since December 2007, debt management company Gregory Pennington commented that this is an encouraging sign that the Government’s recent actions aimed towards economic recovery may be working, but warned consumers that difficult times may still lie ahead – and those facing financial worries, particularly debt problems, should tackle those issues as soon as possible.

Nationwide’s overall Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) rose 8% in the month, bringing the index up from 51 in September to 55 in October. Most significantly, this is the first rise since December last year – a sign that some form of economic recovery could be on the horizon, possibly as a result of the recent Government bank bailout scheme.

The number of people who thought the economy would be performing better in six months time almost doubled from 14% in September to 27% in October.

However, Nationwide’s figures showed slightly less optimistic opinions amongst consumers regarding the current state of the economy: three quarters (75%) of those questioned believed the current economic situation is bad, compared with two thirds (66%) in September.

A spokesperson for debt management company Gregory Pennington said that increased consumer confidence for the future is encouraging, but added that consumer confidence should not be confused with expert’s predictions.

“The Consumer Confidence Index is to do with how people feel,” she said. “It’s likely that consumer confidence has improved on the back of the recent Government bank bailout scheme, as well as cuts in the base rate. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we are much more likely to avoid any of the issues highlighted by economists in recent months.

“On the one hand, consumer confidence is very important for the economy and could be pivotal in terms of how soon and how quickly the economy recovers. When consumer confidence is high, people are more willing to spend their money and less inclined to save, therefore pumping more cash into the economy and maintaining a healthy cycle. Conversely, when consumer confidence is low, less money flows through the economy – and that puts the economy at risk of recession.

“The Consumer Confidence Index is a reasonable indicator of how the economy could fare in the coming months, as long as attitudes remain the same. But it doesn’t tackle the underlying issues that continue to threaten the economy – issues which could cause consumer confidence to fall back down.”

The spokesperson added that even though consumer confidence on the whole is recovering, there are many people facing financial hardship due to fast-rising inflation over the past year, many of whom find themselves struggling with debt.

“We have been through an unusual situation for the economy over the past year, in which affordable living costs suddenly became unaffordable for many households,” she said. “The sharp rises in food, energy and petrol prices have prompted many people to cut back, but many people who were already stretched financially may have been forced into debt in order to make ends meet.

“We advise anyone who finds themselves struggling with debt to seek professional debt advice. The right form of debt management could help to bring down monthly outgoings and really relieve the pressure on those hardest-pressed by the financial crisis.”

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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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