DX6516_2905414b[1]“The amount UK consumers owe on loans and credit cards grew by £1.9bn in March 2016, the highest figure in 11 years, driven by a sharp rise in spending on plastic.”    (The Guardian)

If personal debt really is increasing again at a worrying rate, then a growing number of people could soon be facing the stress of a debt crisis.

For anyone facing this kind of problem, debt advisers might say things like this:

  • Don’t ignore the situation. Open the demand letters, make a list of the balances.
  • Always respond to every communication from a creditor. That shows you’re serious about dealing with the situation.
  • Make an offer. Explain if you can’t offer more.

To those basic steps, I’d add another:

  • Always communicate in writing. You’ll have a record of what was said and agreed; and it’s less stressful than dealing with creditors on the phone.

Avoid the phone

Many years ago I was in that situation, when my small business failed and I owed money to 26 creditors. Negotiating with all of them took a long time but eventually I came through it without permanent scars on my sanity (as far as I know).

I always negotiated in writing, never on the phone.

Dealing with a creditor on the telephone is stressful. My voicemail took a lot of the strain (what a great invention, whether you have an actual machine or a service from your phone provider) but if a creditor left a message I always responded … in writing.


One of the complications that I occasionally encountered was the involvement of intermediaries. Some were bogus law firms which were actually departments of the creditor company, with stationery designed to give the impression of being a genuine law firm, in order to intimidate.

When dealing with intermediaries of any kind, I was always extra-polite, working on the assumption that they hadn’t been fully informed, so I would write things like: “maybe you don’t know, but in the letter of so-and-so from your client …” and I’d enclose or attach a copy of the previous correspondence.

Not keen on writing letters? Help is available!

You might say that writing letters (or emails) is not your strong point. That’s no problem, because lots of debt management organisations can help you. For example, here in the UK, Citizens Advice Bureaux are all over the country and their advice is free and impartial. They helped me greatly. The other major nationwide debt advice charities are StepChange and National Debtline. There are also many local not-for-profit advice providers: for example in Bristol, where I live, there’s Talking Money. There’ll be one near you.

Buying time: it helps your negotiation

The other benefit of working with one of the debt advice charities, or any adviser, is that it creates a little distance between you and the creditor and it buys you some time. So, if a creditor calls you rejecting your offer and gives you a counter-proposal, you can say (politely, of course!) “thank you; but could you put that in writing, please, because I have to refer it to my advisers.”

Letter templates

Templates for standard letters / emails are available from some of the organisations I mentioned above. You can also find templates in my book Back to the Black.

Want to know more?

This article is an extract from my book Back to the Black … how to become debt-free and stay that way.



advice centreOne of the debt charity StepChange’s  advisers moved on earlier this year. His farewell blog post was very informative: a good example of the advice that’s available regularly on their blog. I am sure he – and StepChange – will not object to my quoting it.

“Six truths about debt I’ve found from working at StepChange Debt Charity” (Matthew Cooper)

Truth 1: Creditors will generally accept your best offer of payment

Provided that they are convinced it really is your best offer, I’ve usually thought this to be true. But Matthew’s evidence in support of the theory is amazing: only one proposal rejected … out of 300!

“My job was to give advice on debt solutions and draft the actual individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) documents for clients. I drafted around 300 IVA proposals in about two years. All but one of them were accepted by creditors. I learned that if you make your best offer to creditors they’ll generally be willing to accept.”

Truth 2: Debt can happen to anyone

That’s something I found when researching stories for my book ‘Back to the Black.’ Matthew confirms this:

“While working as an IVA drafter I heard many stories of how people ended up in debt. In most cases debt problems are caused by life-changing events such as unemployment, relationship breakdown, accident or illness.”

Truth 3: Bust out the budget

Here’s the painful part, when you move out of the “denial” phase and start to analyse your financial position. Some humourist once said “A budget is a mathematical confirmation of your suspicions” … but it’s surprisingly true that knowing the worst is less stressful, compared with suspecting the worst but not being sure. Then, when you have an accurate picture of your current situation, you can start to draft a budget (maybe a few versions for different scenarios: see my book) that’ll help you decide what to do next. Matthew says:

“In my time here I’ve helped a lot of clients to put together a budget; as someone who is keen on budgeting I was sometimes amazed that some had never put an accurate budget together before. Over the years I’ve seen the clients who paid careful attention to their budgets be successful in repaying their debts. I now spend at least an hour a week looking over my budget to make sure I stay on track. An emergency fund is also a vital part of a budget, whether you have debts or not.”

Truth 4: Credit isn’t necessarily bad

“I’ve learned that credit isn’t necessarily a bad thing in itself and, like most things in life, it can even be good in moderation. It’s vital not to over-commit yourself though and you should be prepared as your life can change at any time. Despite their bad press creditors aren’t all bad either, as long as you’re honest about your situation. As a charity we want to help the ‘can’t pays’ rather than the ‘won’t pays’; creditors tend to share this attitude.”

That’s an interesting statement right there at the end: the “can’t pays,” as he puts it, are the group that StepChange exists to help; and they are the group with whom creditors are more likely to negotiate reasonably.

Truth 5: Never pay for debt advice

Matthew says:

“I’ve also learnt that there is genuinely no need to EVER pay for debt advice. Our advisors are brilliantly trained and highly knowledgeable and will always strive to give the best advice for your personal situation. We’re not for profit but we are for giving best advice.”

Truth 6: My colleagues are great at helping people in debt

I’ve never spoken to those colleagues personally; my own crisis was back in the ‘90s. However, judging by the quality of the info on their blog, I would support that statement 100%. So I’m sure Matthew won’t mind if I repeat in full his plug for his colleagues:

“I’ve made some great friends while working for the charity and together we’ve served a great common cause – ‘free debt advice’. My colleagues are knowledgeable, committed, ethical, funny and warm and they treat people who contact us with a great deal of empathy and never judge them. It’s time for me to hand over to another person to take on my role now. I hope they enjoy it and learn as much as I did during my time with this great charity.”

Citizens Advice was the charity that helped me with my debt crisis, largely because they had a Bureau near me where I could have face-to-face meetings. However they are a generalist advice charity, whereas StepChange is a debt specialist.

And judging by their blog, an excellent one.


For Stepchange’s “Moneyaware” blog, click HERE.

For info about my book “Back to the Black”, click HERE.


Payday loan providers have attracted column inches from many writers, including yours truly. Now these firms have been summoned to a “summit” hosted by Government ministers.

Will concrete action follow?

Here’s a précis of a story in the Independent today.


 Payday lending: adverts to face ban?

Payday lending advertising could be banned, under hard-hitting new rules being considered by the new City Watchdog the FCA.

The high-cost credit industry (that’s a new term to me) also faces a crackdown on the number of times they can rollover loans; and they may be forced to introduce time-lags, so borrowers don’t end up choosing a lender on the basis of how quickly it can get the cash.

This emerged from a Westminster summit yesterday. Consumer Minister Jo Swinson, who hosted the summit, said there is a need to control the number of loans borrowers are allowed to take out. She intimated that lenders could be forced to set up a central register of borrowers to cut the practice of multiple loans. One borrower reportedly had 34 different loans at the same time.

Ministers were told of far-reaching proposals that could ban daytime adverts on television that target the unwaged and vulnerable people. However the FCA’s Martin Wheatley didn’t rule out a blanket ban on lenders. “That power will be available to us,” he said.

Delroy Corinaldi of debt charity Step Change called for all payday loan advertising to carry a health warning that includes information about the risks of using high-cost credit. “In particular, companies must be clear that loans need to be realistic and affordable and are not a way to deal with long-term financial problems,” he said.

Citizens Advice’s Gillian Guy was keen to see new action on advertising. “Payday lenders need to be clear about who they are targeting. We see daytime television adverts with glamorous celebrity endorsements, targeted at the unemployed and those on low incomes.”

The FCA also announced at the summit that a consultation will be launched in September to decide its approach to controlling payday lenders.

However Richard Lloyd of Which? said: “Positive noises about tough new rules have come out of the summit … but these must now be backed up with more concrete actions than we’ve seen today.”



Here’s the full story from The Independent.

Here’s my last post on this issue.


According to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), even higher earners are  falling foul of payday lenders nowadays.

Martin James of the FOS – quoted by Holly Thomas in the Sunday Times on 2 June –  said that “in some cases, lenders (that’s both payday lenders and mortgage providers – Ed.) were found to be unsympathetic with borrowers on higher earnings, assuming they were not in financial difficulty because of the high value of their homes. Many asset-rich people are cash-poor.”

In cases of payday lenders “assuming they were not in financial difficulty”, that sounds like a good excuse. But I don’t imagine too many people would seek funds from a payday lender unless they were in financial difficulty, even if it were only a temporary cashflow problem. And the lenders must know that.

Holly Thomas’s article continues with advice from a variety of impartial experts on how to clear debts:

  • Don’t prolong the situation.
  • Consider downsizing your home if it’s feasible. (That of course assumes you can sell in today’s market.)
  • Ask your lender to vary the terms of the loan; e.g. to extend a mortgage term, or even switching to interest-only. (but the latter only for a period – Ed.)
  • Negotiate a debt management plan with the help of one of the free advice services. (National Debtline, Citizens Advice or StepChange)


For the full Sunday Times article (but note there is a paywall), click HERE.




BBC2’s Newsnight ran an informative and inspiring piece this week, highlighting the wide range of support provided by the Citizens Advice organisation. Demand for their services is increasing – nationally it’s quadrupled since the start of the recession – while funding has been cut.

Volunteers: the backbone of the CAB service

We saw the workings of the Coventry CAB (that’s what the individual bureaux are called here in the UK), staffed mostly by volunteers including Brian Adams, a 75-year-old former miner who has been a volunteer there for almost ten years. He says he finds it “fulfilling to help people” and the feeling is shared by three generations of his family. His daughter began volunteering at the bureau and then made the switch to paid work as the receptionist; and his 16-year-old grandson, who is still at school, volunteers too.

School outreach: a win/win collaboration

Talking of schools, we saw a most innovative collaboration with local schools, through whose involvement confidential referrals can be made. And while the school is acting as a kind of outreach branch of the local CAB, we heard from a head teacher who reported a fantastic impact on the pupils: measures of academic achievement had doubled and absenteeism had halved.

Personally, I cannot speak highly enough of the benefits that Citizens Advice brings to communities in so many ways. Watch the film, I urge you!

Debt advice

This blog is about debt. When I had my own problems in the 90s, the local CAB were a fantastic help to me, as they have been to countless others. You can book a face-to-face meeting – though you might have to wait a little because, as I said, they are overstretched – or use their excellent online help service.


For the Citizens Advice online help service.

For details of your nearest CAB (UK only: sorry, folks, if you don’t live here), there’s a search box on their home page.

For the full Newsnight TV piece (only 12 minutes).

AVOIDING REPOSSESSION: dealing with mortgage arrears

This week I read in the papers that there’s a risk of increased repossessions in the UK, as mortgage costs are predicted to rise next month. Several lenders have already announced rate increases and others will probably follow.

Obviously mortgage is a priority debt and any arrears need to be sorted as soon as possible. In “Back to the Black” I felt I could do no better than quote what Citizens Advice say on the subject.


DEALING WITH PRIORITY DEBTS: mortgage arrears (source: Citizens Advice: see below for link)

If you are in mortgage arrears then your first priority must be to find a way to clear them. If not, your lender can take legal action to have you evicted.

However, if the lender knows that you are making a serious effort to sort out your debts, they might allow you more time. Once more, the key is early communication: don’t sweep the problem under the mat.

Reducing your costs

There are several options for cutting down your mortgage costs. Depending on the type of mortgage, you might be able to:

  • switch from repayment to interest-only mortgage
  • increase the term
  • reduce your monthly interest payments
  • shop around for a cheaper deal with another lender. However, you may have to pay charges for the switch and you’ll still have to pay off the arrears.

Sadly, none of these is entirely pain-free. Solving the short-term problem could either involve fees, in the case of changing lender, or it could increase your interest payments long-term. Consult an independent financial adviser first if you are thinking of taking any of these steps and, once again, consult the lender. They may be able to help; but only if you get in touch with them.

Paying off arrears

Before you do discuss paying off the arrears, you should first work out your discretionary income; see elsewhere in this book for how to do that.

You will also need to decide how to pay off those arrears. You may have several options for doing this:

  • pay extra towards the arrears each month on top of your regular payments
  • have the arrears added to your capital and paid back over the remaining term; this will, of course, increase your overall interest costs
  • give up your endowment policy, if you still have one, or sell it to an investor, and use the lump sum towards your arrears; however, you will need to find another way to pay off the capital and you might also need to find alternative life insurance cover, so consult a financial adviser first.

Dealing with your lender

Once you have worked out a way of dealing with your mortgage arrears, write to your lender and set out your offer. It should be one which you can keep to and it should clear the arrears within the period of the mortgage. Include a financial statement showing how you have worked out the offer. If the lender resists at first, stress that an affordable offer is in both of your interests, because you are more likely to keep to it.

You should start to make regular payments against the arrears, even small ones. Even if your lender doesn’t accept the offer, it may help your case if you are ever taken to court.

If you haven’t been able to reach agreement on how to pay off your arrears, they will probably take you to court and try and get possession. However, the good news (if there is any good news in all this) is that, before they take you to court, they have to follow a fixed procedure called a protocol. This involves their taking a number of steps, such as discussing the reason for the arrears with you and giving you notice that they will start legal action if you have broken a payment agreement.

If you do go to court, the judge may allow you to stay in your property as long as you keep to an agreement to pay. The judge will take into account whether the mortgage lender followed the protocol. If you are in this situation, get help from an adviser.

If you can’t pay your arrears

If you aren’t able to clear your arrears, a court will probably give your lender permission to evict you from your home and your lender will sell the property. If they don’t make enough from the sale to cover the money you owe on your mortgage, you will have to pay the difference, which is called a shortfall.

If you can’t find any other way of clearing your arrears, it might be better to try and sell the property yourself, rather than wait to get evicted and let your mortgage lender sell it. This is because they are likely to get a lot less for it than you would, leaving you with a debt to pay. Properties which have been repossessed often sell for a lot less. Also, lenders often sell at auctions where sale prices tend to be lower.

Selling the property yourself and downsizing, or renting for a period, would give you a lump sum which you could use to pay off your mortgage; if you have enough left over, you may even be able to use it to pay off other debts.

Another option you may want to think about is a mortgage rescue scheme. These schemes are also known as buy back, sale and rent back or a sale and lease back scheme. These are schemes which offer to buy your property and rent it back to you. However, be very careful about signing up to a mortgage rescue scheme run by a private company. Not all these schemes are trustworthy and some companies will buy at below the market value. Schemes run by local authorities or housing associations are generally better, but there aren’t many of these.

Don’t be tempted to just leave the property and hand back the keys to your mortgage lender unless you’ve sold the property or there is a court order to evict you. You won’t gain anything because you will still be responsible for mortgage payments and buildings insurance until the property is sold, and will still have to make up any shortfall if the sale doesn’t make enough to cover what you owe.

If your lender asks you to give up the keys, you don’t have to do so unless they have a court order.

NOTE: This section on mortgage arrears has been based on an extract from the Citizens Advice organisation’s “Adviceguide” website. Readers who are in mortgage arrears should check that site for any changes to protocols.



Citizens Advice “adviceguide” website: LINK








In my book “Back to the Black”, I talk about the psychological effects of being in debt. In fact Chapter 2 is entitled “Mind Over Matter.”

I was pleased to see that this important issue was covered in a recent article by Simon Read in “The Independent” (17 March 2012). I’ll take the liberty of paraphrasing:


Being in debt is a depressing experience.

“A trouble shared is a trouble halved”; but the annual report of Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) shows 25% of those in debt don’t share their troubles with friends or family.

It’s understandable that people don’t want to discuss their debt problems. They’re embarrassed that they might be judged.

Admit the problem; don’t delay

However, admitting you’re in financial trouble is the first step towards solving the problem.

CCCS also revealed that 45 per cent of people delayed seeking advice for more than a year after they started to worry they had a debt problem. Many of them had probably carried the worry alone.


Many tragic suicides are caused by the worry of debt (and for every suicide there are ten attempted suicides). If those people had been able to talk about their problems, who knows what kind of future they may have had?

Talk to someone

Don’t just worry about debt. Instead look for a way to deal with it. There are many people and organisations that can help.

Help is at hand

CCCS (and the other debt advice charities: see below) are on hand to help.

All of them can help those in debt find ways to put their finances back on track.

Friends and family

Just talking to friends and family could be a good first step on the way to coping with the deep anxiety that money worries cause.


I had intended to add some thoughts of my own to this; but I think that the article says what needs to be said. I’ve just added information about organisations that can help; see below.






Citizens Advice (“The CAB”)

 Free advice provider; registered charity. Funders include central and local government, charitable trusts, companies and individuals.

Face-to-face interviews and telephone advice available at local Citizens Advice Bureaux (CABs). Find your nearest bureau in the phone directory, or search at

E-mail advice available at some CABs

Advice line: 0844 499 4718

Online help also available:

CCCS (Consumer Credit Counselling Service)

Free advice provider; registered charity. Supported almost entirely by the credit industry.

Telephone counselling 0800 138 1111

Online help

National Debtline

 Free advice provider; registered charity. Part of the Money Advice Trust, (see below) funded by a mix of private sector donations and Government grants.

Phone advice and free factsheet orders: 0808 808 4000

Credit Action

Money education charity, in partnership with CCCS (see above). Free online advice provider, plus the Spendometer (see Chapter 8), Money Manuals and other resources:

Their “Money Advice Map” signposts to local debt advice centres:






AdviceUK (to find a local money advice centre)

020 7407 4070


Debtors Anonymous (worldwide community with telephone & online meetings)

… and to find contact details for local meetings inUK:


Mind (charity & helpline that helps with mental health problems)

0845 7660 163


Samaritans (confidential emotional support)

0845 790 9090


Saneline (support for mental illness)

0845 767 8000


Shelter (free housing advice helpline)

0808 800 4444


For the “Independent” article in full: LINK


For info about my book “Back to the Black: how to become debt-free and stay that way” (paperback and eBook): LINK



I appear to be stalking Simon Read of The Independent. If so, that’s because payday loans are again in the news and this is a story and a cause he has taken up and because he writes well on the subject.

The latest twist in the story: research by Shelter (a UK housing charity) reveals around seven million people are turning to credit to try to keep a roof over their heads.

A million use payday loans to cover rent or mortgage

In the past year alone, almost one in seven of those – i.e. just under one million people – have resorted to payday (i.e. emergency) loans to cover rent or mortgage payments.

The Independent has warned that payday lenders are cashing in on the struggles of millions who are unable to borrow from mainstream lenders and those companies charge interest rates of up to 5,000 per cent.

The impressive Campbell Robb, CEO of Shelter, said that this “… shows the extent to which millions of households across the country are desperately struggling to keep their home.

“Turning to short-term payday loans to help pay for the cost of housing is totally unsustainable. It can quickly lead to debts snowballing out of control and to eviction or repossession and ultimately homelessness.”

 What’s the alternative?

I cannot disagree with anything that’s been said above. It’s a sad state of affairs and I’ve no doubt payday loan companies in general are cashing in on the misery, despite what was said by the boss of Wonga to Simon Read and which I reported in an earlier post. There have been calls for these firms to be outlawed. But for the people who feel they have no alternative, what will they do if that happens?

Anyone in debt crisis who consults an adviser at one of the debt charities – such Citizens Advice or National Debtline or CCCS, here in the UK – would probably be told to avoid payday loans. But I wonder how many of the million people mentioned in Shelter’s report have actually talked to such an adviser.

I know that these resources are stretched; and as the charities reply to some extent on grants from the public sector, they may well become even more stretched because of spending cutbacks.

Need for financial advice

I don’t know the full answer – and of course it’ll be different in every case – but wider access to free, impartial and high-quality financial advice must be part of it. What’s more, financial education has to have a higher priority than it does now.


For the Simon Read article (4 Jan) click here:

For information about my book “Back to the Black”, click here:






I heard recently about what seems an excellent source of independent advice for anyone with mortgage payment problems. My informant in this case was that much-hyped, but also much-maligned, social networking and microblogging service: Twitter.

Twitter the time-waster?

Many people (including many of my friends) are scornful of Twitter, calling it nothing more than a self-indulgent waste of time and / or a gossip-mill. I used to be one of them.

However, now that I use Twitter more-or-less regularly, I find it worth the effort of keeping up with the sure, there is some rubbish on there. But if I see that one of the people I “follow” tells me nothing more interesting than where they went for coffee or what movie they planned to see tonight, then I hit that useful button called “unfollow”. For those of you who find themselves swamped with “too much information” but who have never found the “unfollow” button, that’ll be because it is not obvious. If you are following sometone who flooding your timeline with dross, find their profile and you’ll see a large green icon with a tick, and the word “following”. Simply hover your cursor over  that icon and the green changes to red amnd the word “unfollow” appears. Simply click and hey presto, that person is now an ex-followee.

Twitter the information goldmine?

On the positive side, and I do like to be positive, the amount of useful stuff I have first heard about on Twitter has been massive.

Many (but by no means all) of the people I follow are financial journalists or related experts. Some of them are household names and they appear regularly on TV talking about the national economic situation, such as Paul Mason; some write for the newspapers; some are independent advisers.

YouGov guide for hard-pressed mortgage-holders

One of these very journalists recently recommended on his Twitter feed a very useful guide for hard-pressed mortgage-holders. It is published by those helpful people at YouGov (i.e. the government). So I think you’d have to agree it is free of commercial bias.

I have to admit that I can’t remember who recommended this guide, otherwise I’d give him or her a credit. And as it was a week or so back, trawling through my Twitter feed to find this particular recommendation would take too long. Moreover it would keep me from an important task; switching on the TV at 2 pm to watch Shane Williams’ last international rugby match:Walesv.Australiaat the Millennium Stadium. Bound to be an emotional occasion; however the famously competitive Australians are unlikely to cooperate by making it easy for him to cap his career with (yet another) try.

PS: the result went against Wales, in the event. As a keen supporter of that country’s rugby, I have to admit that the scoreline flattered them slightly, because the aforementioned and surely legendary Shane Williams skipped out of a tackle and ran in for a try in the final minute (in fact the 81st) of his final match for Wales. You couldn’t have scripted it better and from the crowd’s reaction you’d have thought that Wales had won the World Cup at that moment.

Citizens Advice Guide

Finally: I would suggest that this YouGov guide should be read in conjunction with the excellent information and personal advice available from Citizens Advice (the CAB).


For “Mortgages and repossessions: a YouGov guide”, go to:

Topics covered:

Struggling with your mortgage payments? Put together a simple action plan to help you keep your home

What you can do to avoid repossession – a guide

What you can do if you are facing repossession to make sure you keep your home

Mortgage advice – who to see and what to take

Where to get advice about managing housing costs and how your lender may be able to help you manage your mortgage payments

What to do if your mortgage lender takes you to court

What to do if your lender takes action to repossess your home, and how repossession can be postponed

Housing advice – how to get free legal help in court

Make sure you attend your court hearing and find out how to get free legal help on the day

Mortgage Rescue scheme

This scheme may help if you are having difficulties making mortgage repayments and are in danger of becoming homeless


For Citizens Advice (CAB) AdviceGuide:


Today I read a great piece from Simon Read of the Independent, calling for the wider availability of financial advice. I posted a comment as follows:


Great piece! More strength to your pen! I absolutely support your call for wider availability of quality financial advice; ten years ago I narrowly avoided personal bankruptcy and found a better solution with the help of two excellent advisers at the local CAB; but not everyone is as lucky and I know what the queues are like at the CAB in Bristol.

Have RTed your tweet.

I too quoted Mr Micawber in a book about my debt experiences (“Back to the Black: how to become debt-free and stay that way”). The version of Micawber I used was worded slightly differently from yours, in that mine was income / expenditure, ending: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds, ought and six, result misery.”

The debt-to-income comparison you mention is interesting. I found some alarming debt / income ratios in the Times a year or so back, which I interpreted in my book as follows:

As Credit Action’s website succinctly puts it: “Individuals owe more than what the whole country produces in a year.”

The trend of increasing personal indebtedness, a by-product of our consumer culture, certainly contributed to the financial crisis.

In early 2010, a typical UK household containing one wage-earner on average pay has, according to the Halifax (a division of the Bank of Scotland plc), outstanding mortgage debt that’s equivalent to 507% of income (i.e. of the ONS figure for average annual income). By way of comparison, the UK Government’s ratio of debt to income – a ratio that was widely castigated as unsustainable during the election campaign of spring 2010 – was “only” 170%. (“Worried about national debt? Mr & Mrs Average are in a far worse state”: Ian King, Deputy Business Editor, The Times, 19 Feb 2010) Go figure, as my American friends might say.

Most personal debt is of course, at least in the UK, secured mortgage debt: levels of home ownership have traditionally been higher here than in most other European countries. It has always been considered that mortgage debt is safe debt; that was true for as long as the housing market continued its customary rise but at times of recession in the housing market …. Etc, etc

One could also add the risk of rate increases leading to a rise in the numbers of mortgages in arrears, repossession or forbearance … a number that’s already high, as you mention.



To see Simon Read’s original piece (The Independent, 16 July 2011):

To sample or purchase (£0.70 / $0.99) my eBook on managing debt: