Almost one in four adults in the UK is now struggling to pay their bills, after a dramatic leap in those falling behind on their payments in the past year.
The number of people who have missed at least half, if not more, of their payments in the past six months has jumped to 5.6 million – meaning one in seven UK adults is behind on at least one bill.
Laura Suter, head of personal finance at AJ Bell, comments on the FCA’s Financial Lives data: “It’s no great leap to hear that half of UK adults are increasingly stressed about the cost of living, with price rises causing people anxiety about how they will pay their bills. And it’s not just a case of missing the odd phone bill or subscription service, for many people this will be missing payments on their mortgage or not meeting a credit card payment, that could drag them further into debt. When we consider that the FCA has already forecast that 356,000 people will have missed a mortgage payment by the end of June 2024, we can see the real impact that these squeezed budgets and missed bills will have.
“While lenders are being urged to be supportive and lenient with customers, the nation faces a ticking time bomb of defaults, whether that’s on mortgages, debt or council tax. With prices rising and wages failing to keep up, it’s inevitable that many households can’t make ends meet. While inflation is expected to be near peak, the outlook isn’t that rosy. More than a million people are due to remortgage onto higher rates before the end of the year, leaving many with a price shock they can’t afford. On top of that, the latest Bank of England figures show that many people have blitzed through their lockdown savings, meaning more will be forced to miss payments as they no longer have a financial cushion to fall back on.
“Anyone struggling with repayments needs to face the issue head on: they should approach their lender to at least find out their options and weigh up which might work best for them. If they want an independent opinion they could speak to a charity like Citizens Advice to get more advice.”