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Debt and Women

Men owe twice as much money as women, but women are more likely to struggle with debt, according to a study by the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for equal pay and equal rights. The survey, which focuses on unsecured debts such as loans, credit cards and mail order, shows that young women are more likely to be in arrears and to use expensive sources such as door-to-door money lenders.

Three-quarters of young women are in debt - with a quarter of those owing more than £15,000, according to a survey commissioned by Company magazine. Women in their late twenties have accumulated the most debt - with 81% of women between 26 and 28 years old living in the red.

There is a wide-spread image that young women’s with debt are due to ‘frivolous’ spending, in particular on clothes. This isn’t completely true as most women who have debt problems get into trouble because they are more likely to be single parents, or working part time and caring for relatives and earning less than men.

Paul Mullins, chief executive at charity National Debtline, says: 'There are clear triggers for getting into debt, such as a relationship breakdown, loss of a job or illness and financial and social exclusion. 'Low levels of financial capability can also lead people to take on loan commitments without understanding crucial terms and conditions, such as interest rates. It is rare that frivolous behaviour is a key factor, as this research also confirms.'

Bankruptcy amongst women is on the increase with 45% more women declared bankrupt from 2003 to 2004 than two years previously. There are two types of women bankrupts - those who had spent the money sustaining a lifestyle that they thought they deserved but could not afford, and those who suffered financially as single mothers or divorcees.

Patterns of borrowing are changing too. "Credit is more available than it has ever been, and we've become used to having things when we need them rather than when we can afford them."

'Credit used to be about buying the big things in life just before we could afford them outright. These days, we're using our credit cards every day to fund clothes, weekends away, expensive restaurants and more extravagant lifestyles generally

New research from reveals that one in every 14 women has missed a credit card bill in the past six months. That's around 1.6 million credit-happy people each being charged around £12 for every time they don't pay a bill on time.

The figures also show that women are more likely to miss a council tax bill than men, with five per cent saying they missed their monthly bill to the council on at least one occasion in the past six months.

It all adds up to a worrying statistic: almost one in six women have missed an important bill in the past six months, from credit cards to loans, mobile phones or even mortgage repayments. Missing bills can lead to serious consequences from losing a service to being taken to court.

If you're struggling to pay the bills, you need to take advice now on how to cut your monthly expenditure. There are ways to reorganise your finances but missing bills and hoping for the best is not a good strategy.

If you're looking to break the cycle of debt and sort out your finances, here are some top tips:

  • Taking control of your debts
  • Don't dwell on it - things will only get worse unless you take action
  • Draw up a list of priorities for your spending and your debts - what are you really spending your money on?
  • Your mortgage or rent payments should be your main priority - we all need a roof over our heads so make sure this is covered first by your monthly income.
  • If you're entitled to benefits, don't forget to claim them!

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