The Star Early Edition

SA CONSUMERS SEEKING HELP WITH DEBT HAS GONE UP BY 31 PERCENT

- | Given Majola

SOUTH African consumers who sought help to manage their debt increased by 31 percent compared to the same time last year, the DebtBuster­s debt index for the first quarter has found.

Debt counsellin­g company DebtBuster­s head Benay Sager said yesterday the sudden increase was the culminatio­n of consumers becoming more proactive about their debt and the lack of increase in real income. “Although nominal income is 7 percent higher compared to 2016 levels, when cumulative inflation of 24 percent is factored in, real incomes have shrunk by 17 percent in five years. Many consumers are compelled to borrow to make up the shortfall,” said Sager.

The index, which tracked client trends quarter-on-quarter and over the past five years, also found people applying for debt counsellin­g with take-home pay of more than R20 000 a month were spending more than 60 percent of their monthly net income to service debt and had a persistent­ly high debt-to-income ratio of more than 130 percent. Unsecured debt was 53 percent, on average, higher than in 2016. For those with a net income of R20 000 or more, unsecured debt levels had increased by 76 percent. For these consumers, unsecured debt was the most common way to supplement the decline in real income. Despite the grim numbers, Sager said there was some positive news as more consumers, particular­ly men, were proactivel­y seeking help.

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