Belfast Telegraph

Almost 2 million in Ireland struggling to survive as cash dries up

By Sarah Stack

More than 1.8 million people are struggling to survive on 100 euro (£79) or less a month after bills are paid, a study showed.

Four out of 10 adults have borrowed to pay a household bill in the last year, with the most desperate 10% using a moneylender, it revealed.

The survey, by the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU), also found half of all bank account holders do not know what bank charges they pay on accounts.

Kieron Brennan, ILCU chief executive, warned it has never been more important for people to get in the practice of managing their money tightly.

"The issue of personal debt is something we are hearing more and more about and the issue is a growing concern, particularly for those who are relying on their credit card to make ends meet every month," he said.

"Even more concerning is that of those who are borrowing each month to meet payments on their household bills, 10% are turning to moneylenders.

"The ILCU recently called on the Government to put a legal cap on the interest rates charged by moneylenders in Ireland. No such cap currently exists but in practice, the ceiling is just below 190% APR.

"With the level of personal indebtedness and financial exclusion in Ireland, there is a real danger of compounding the problem by allowing legal moneylenders to charge excessive rates."

The "What's Left" Tracker survey quizzed 1,000 adults in June.

It calculated 1.82 million adults across Ireland have less than 25 euro (£20) left each week to spend after bills - a jump of 200,000 people in the last year.

The ILCU said Irish disposable income has dropped in the past three months, with 69% having less than 12 months ago.

It also found Irish consumers owe an average 1,100 euro (£873) on their credit card, with a quarter using a credit card to make ends meet each month.

To help customers in debt, the Credit Union has launched www.fixyourfinances.ie, the smart phone budgeting tool MYBUDGETBUDDY, and has tips and a budget planner to download on www.creditunion.ie/whatweoffer.

Its tracker study revealed consumer sentiment has weakened among those with less than 5% of their income left at the end of the month.

Almost nine out of 10 vulnerable people worry about how they will cope if unforeseen expenses arise and over their ability to cope financially if further changes are made to social welfare or income tax in the next budget.

Elsewhere mortgage and rent continue to be the most expensive bills for the majority of Irish adults (72%), followed by groceries (57%), utility bills (54%), and transport and car-related costs (27%). Almost half of all consumers struggle to pay all of their bills on time.

And child care comes in as the greatest work-related expense at 520 euro (£413) per month, this is followed by car fuel (145 euro - £115), daily lunches (110 euro - £87) and public transport (77 euro - £61).

Mr Brennan said many people may not be in a position to pay off their credit card bills in full each month and will be subject to high interest rates.

"Worryingly in this tracker only 54% know what interest rate is charged on their credit card," he added.

"We would urge people to take some time to understand their bank charges and credit card interest rates and certainly look at their personal and household budgets to ensure that these costs are covered."



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