Aussies win gold at Debt Olympics

Aussies win gold at Debt Olympics

By Andrew Willink
12 August 2008

As the intensive weight training kicks in, fed by high employment figures, Australia’s economy is in better shape than ever to defeat arch rivals, America and the UK in the race for gold at the Debt Olympics.

Over the last 10 years households in Australia have borrowed an additional $770bn. Of this, 90% was used to buy assets. $420bn for houses to live in, $240bn for houses to rent and $40bn for shares. If borrowing was an Olympic sport, we would have to be a big chance for gold at the Debt Olympics.

In the glamour event, the Debt Olympics marathon, the Australian economy is gaining ground, thanks to a great start off the blocks. Our level of debt is still increasing and running on very strongly. Unfortunately for them, the USA dropped out of the race with a severe case of mortgage stress fracture. Team America blames their running shoes for being sub prime and causing this major default in the marathon.

The Debt Relay has seen business pass the baton to households which are now shouldering the lion’s share of monies owing. The ratio of personal debt to income in Australia is one of the highest in the world – higher even than America and the UK. For every $100 we earn, we owe $130. Credit and charge cards account for $26 billion of the debt.

Households have become more financially astute and have learnt how to utilise their most important asset, cashflow as well as mange the tax system, by using negative gearing.

Where has the debt gone?

While some are saying we are living beyond our means and the “we want it now” generation suggests that debt has gone into consumer spending like plasma TV’s, cars, holidays etc – this isn’t the case, says Deputy Reserve Bank Governor, Ric Battellino. A wider range of debt options such as home equity borrowing, credit cards, personal loans, margin loans has allowed households easier access to debt. Additionally competition from non-bank lenders has opened up the market even further.

This is in stark contrast to the 1960s when the level of household debt was very conservative at 5%. It may be difficult to imagine now but in years gone by people actually owned 95% of their household assets outright. Admittedly, a large number of households have NO debt but the ability to borrow is higher at present.

The borrowing isn’t spread evenly across the population with most of the debt accumulated by those who can afford it. In other words it’s not young couples with the large level of borrowings – it’s middle aged and higher income households. These households are trading to better quality housing, buying investment properties or buying shares. They have identified that using cashflow to buy assets is better than paying tax.

More than 80% of the households in the top half of the income distribution have debt, as opposed 30% in lowest decile. Thus it would be a mistake to conclude that a rising ratio of debt to income is necessarily a sign of financial stress among households.

Despite the rise in the level of debt, the debt servicing level for those in the top half of income distribution (who are taking on most of the debt) is less than 20 percent of gross income. This has only marginally increased over the last decade and it’s lower than the bottom half of the income distribution which average 30 percent of gross income in debt payments.

Commentators at the Debt Olympics have forecast that rising household debt is likely to continue as higher income groups still have room to fund more debt. The factors that assisted with the credit growth, being strong economic conditions and deregulated financial system are still in place.

Much recent debt has been created by people borrowing to invest. Normally, in Australia, people borrowing to invest account for 25 percent to 30 percent of debt. However, encouraged by the lower interest rates and increasing property prices of the last property boom, borrowings to purchase residential property rose dramatically.

It’s looking like Australia is well and truly on its way to smashing world records to grab the gold for team debt at the Debt Olympics. What remains to be seen is which countries stand either side at the gold medal presentation.

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Learn more about personal loans

What is debt consolidation?

Debt consolidation is the process of rolling several old debts into one new debt, usually to save money or for the sake of convenience.

How do I consolidate my debt if I have bad credit?

The worse your credit history, the harder you will find it to consolidate your debts, because lenders will be less willing to lend you money and will charge you higher interest rates.

However, people with bad credit histories can make debt consolidation work by following this three-step process:

  1. First, find a lender willing to give you a bad credit personal loan. This process will be simplified if you go through a finance broker or use a comparison website like RateCity.
  2. Second, make sure the interest repayments on your new loan are less than the repayments on the loans being replaced.
  3. Third, instead of spending those savings, use them to pay off the new loan.

What are the pros and cons of debt consolidation?

In some instances, debt consolidation can help borrowers reduce their repayments or simplify them. For example, someone might take out a $7,000 personal loan at an interest rate of 8 per cent so they can repay an existing $4,000 personal loan at 10 per cent and a $3,000 credit card loan at 20 per cent.

However, debt consolidation can backfire if the borrower spends the extra money instead of using it to repay the new loan.

Can I get a no credit check personal loan?

Personal loans with no credit checks are available and called ‘payday loans’. These are sometimes used as short-term solutions for cash-strapped Australians. They often carry higher interest rates and fees than regular personal loans, and individuals risk putting themselves into a worsened cycle of debt.

What can I use a bad credit personal loan for?

Generally, bad credit personal loans can be used for the following purposes:

  • Debt consolidation
  • Paying bills
  • Buying vehicles
  • Moving expenses
  • Holidays
  • Weddings
  • Education

Some lenders restrict how their bad credit personal loans can be used as part of their commitment to responsible lending – be sure to check before applying.

What are the pros and cons of bad credit personal loans?

In some instances, bad credit personal loans can help people with bad credit history to consolidate their debts, which can help make it easier for them to clear those debts. This is because the borrower might be able to consolidate several debts with higher interest rates (such as credit card loans) into one single debt with a lower interest rate and potentially fewer fees.

However, this strategy can backfire if the borrower spends the loaned funds instead of using it to repay the new loan. Another disadvantage of bad credit personal loans is that they have higher interest rates than regular personal loans.

Are there alternatives to $2000 loans?

If you need to borrow $2000 or less, alternatives to getting a personal loan or payday loan include using a credit card or the redraw facility of your home, car or personal loan.

Before you borrow $2000 on a credit card, remember that interest will continue being charged on what you owe until you clear your credit card balance. To minimise your interest, consider prioritising paying off your credit card.

Before you draw down $2000 in extra repayments from your home, car or personal loan using a redraw facility, note that fees and charges may apply, and drawing money from your loan may mean your loan will take longer to repay, costing you more in total interest.

Can you get an emergency loan on Centrelink?

When many lenders assess a borrower’s income to determine whether they can afford a loan’s repayments without ending up in financial stress, they may not count Centrelink payments as income for this purpose.

Before applying for an emergency loan, it may be worth contacting a potential lender to find out if they accept applications from borrowers on Centrelink.

Is it hard to improve your credit score?

It can be hard to improve your credit score, as it usually requires sacrifice and discipline, but hard doesn’t necessarily mean complicated. Some simple ways you can give your credit score a boost include closing extra credit cards, reducing your credit card limit, pay off any loans and make loan repayments on time.

As a general rule, the lower your credit score, the more remedies you can apply and the greater the scope for improvement.

Can I get a $2000 loan on Centrelink?

If more than half of your income comes from Centrelink benefits, it may be more difficult to have a $2000 loan application approved. Many lenders will check if you can afford a loan’s repayments on the income from your job before they’ll approve an application, and many won’t count Centrelink payments when assessing your income for this purpose.

Some lenders may offer $2000 loans to borrowers on Centrelink – consider contacting potential lenders to check before applying.

How long are $3000 loans?

Medium amount loans can be repaid between 16 days and 2 years. Many personal loans have terms between 1 year and 5 years, though some are as short as 6 months while others last for 10 years.

Generally, the shorter a loan’s term, the more expensive your regular repayments may be, but the less total interest you’ll pay. Loans with longer terms mean more affordable repayments, but more interest charges over the full term.

Do $4000 loans have no credit checks?

Many medium amount loans for $4000 have no credit checks and are instead assessed based on your current ability to repay the loan, rather than by looking at your credit history. While these loans can appear attractive to bad credit borrowers, it’s important to remember that they often have high fees and can be costlier than other options.

Personal loans for $4000 are more likely to have longer loan terms and will require a credit check as part of the application process. Bad credit borrowers may see their $4000 loan applications declined or have to pay higher interest rates than good credit borrowers.

Should I get a fixed or variable personal loan?

Fixed personal loans keep your interest rate the same for the full loan term, while interest rates on variable personal loans may be raised or lowered during your loan term.

A fixed rate personal loan keeps your repayments consistent, which can help keep your budgeting consistent. You won't have to worry about higher repayments if your rates were to rise. However, on a fixed loan you’ll also potentially miss out on more affordable repayments if variable rates were to fall.

Is a personal loan a variable or fixed-rate loan?

Depending on the personal loan lender, you may be able to choose between a fixed and a variable interest rate. But, there are a few distinct differences between the two, so it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons before deciding on what’s right for you.

A fixed interest rate loan gets you the convenience of knowing exactly how much you need to repay each fortnight or month. On the other hand, you generally won’t be able to make lump sum or advanced payments to close your personal loan early - or at least not without a penalty.

With a variable interest rate personal loan, you may be able to get a longer loan repayment term, with the option of paying off the loan early. You typically won’t need to pay any additional charges for an early full repayment either. The potential disadvantage with an interest rate that can change is that your repayment is not entirely predictable, as it can fluctuate with the market. However, you’ll likely have more options as more lenders offer a variable interest rate personal loan.