52 days to financial ruin

25 July 2008

The average Brit would run out of money in just 52 days if they were to lose their job, according to new research.

The Yorkshire Building Society says most people have monthly outgoings of £1,445, but only have access to £2,474 in savings – giving them just over £1,000 to live on if their income stream disappeared. To make matters worse, as much as 36% of the population would run out of money in just 11 days if they found themselves out of work, struggling to cope on only £500 worth of savings.

Younger people are particularly vulnerable, with those aged between 35 and 44 having money that would last for just 39 days if they were unable to work, while 16 to 24 year olds could survive financially for just 41 days. The Yorkshire says that nine out of 10 people have no form of income protection insurance to cover their bills if they were unable to work or lost their job.

The worrying findings come as leading economists warn that the UK is sailing dangerously close to a recession. With inflation currently at the 3.8% mark – nearly 2% over the government’s target - some experts predict the Bank of England may be forced to raise interest rates, putting even more pressure on cash-strapped Brits struggling to cope with the increasing cost of living.

Tanya Jackson, corporate affairs manager at the Yorkshire Building Society, says: "In the current economic climate, our research paints an extremely alarming picture for those consumers without any protection products in place.”

Among those who do have some form of insurance cover, the majority have policies that will only pay out if they die rather than lose their jobs; 47% have life insurance, while just 10% have income protection cover.

Protecting yourself in a downturn

* Whether you are struggling to cope with your finances or not, keeping a budget and monitoring your outgoings in a good way to ensure you don’t overspend, and can also help you cut back and save more instead.

* If your monthly budget shows you have some disposable income, then consider taking out some sort of protection policy. Matt Morris, a spokesperson for protection IFA Lifesearch, says: “An income protection plan can be a real lifesaver if you suffered an accident or illness. You can even add redundancy cover on top of this for a small premium, so for around £30 a month you could receive around £1,000 of cover a month.”

However, Morris warns that if you had prior knowledge of redundancy before you claim, your insurance would be invalid. “The insurance company will always check up on you if you were to be made redundant, so be honest else you could find yourself blacklisted.”

* Maximise income by finding out if you are entitled to any benefits, such as tax credits or disability living allowance. You may be able to raise money by other means too, such as renting a room, or by increasing the rent of non-dependants living with you.

* National debt advice charity The Money Advice Trust (MAT), recommends that once you have maximised your income you should tackle your most pressing debts first – the ones that carry the harshest penalties for default. Missing your mortgage repayments, for example, could lead to your home being repossessed.

* If you are facing financial difficulty then don’t bury their head in the sand. If your budget sheet shows you are unable to afford your monthly mortgage payments, the MAT advises contacting your lender to try and negotiate a short payment holiday, switch to interest-only mortgage for a short period or extend the term of the mortgage to reduce the monthly repayments.

If all else fails, the MAT urges you to seek advice. “The good news is that there is free confidential, independent money advice available if people do get into difficulty,” says Joanna Elson, chief executive of MAT. The National Debtline, Citizens Advice, advice UK or the Consumer Credit Counseling Service all offer free independent debt advice for information on the full range of options available to you.

For more ways to avoid financial ruin, read our article on ditching your debt for good!

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