Accessibility Tools

Senior woman on phone call and holding credit card

According to the Salvation Army’s financial counselling service, people aged 55 and over are requesting assistance and advice when they experience difficulties with their finances. Credit card debt is a major problem with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) noting that nearly 2 million Australians are affected.

An unfortunate claim Australia can make is that it has one of the highest levels of household debt in the world.

ABC 7.30 Report in July 2019, featured a number of people affected with one person forced into debt when his partner became sick and was unable to work. Their income was halved in an instant.

To make ends meet he began using a credit card and obtained a personal loan which has now led him to owe nearly $50,000 with no way of paying it off.

Feelings of despair and loss of pride are common when people find themselves in such situations. This couple tried so many ways to make ends meet, from cutting back on electricity by turning the lights off at 6 pm and going to bed, reducing their food, taking cold showers, not using the heater, using more blankets. To add pressure to their situation, the woman suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure, which were the catalyst for her ceasing work.

Her partner even accessed his holiday pay and long service leave and perhaps most humbling, asked family to help pay the bills. Still, the situation was dire leading to sleepless nights and the worry of being homeless.

To assist with such situations, the Salvation Army has a financial counselling service called Moneycare

As already alluded to, the most common circumstances leading to the request for assistance is credit card debt, followed by personal loans and then electricity bills.

Mission Australia also provides financial counselling with many clients seeking advice following an illness, marriage separation, or loss of employment. While they were previously able to manage their debts, one or a number of these ‘curveballs’ meant a disruption to their payments. Visit Mission Australia Financial Support

Paying the minimum on a credit card is a natural reaction to financial stress however this can compound the problem and lead to a more serious situation.

Wesley Mission has questioned the bank's tactics of interest payments being so low on accounts and term deposits but still so high on interest rates for credit cards. A representative said it was so sad to see older people being burdened with credit card debt. Lower and possibly unstable incomes make it so much harder to tackle the debt.

As well as the organisations mentioned, there is the National Debt Helpline which provides a free and confidential national service. The number is 1800 007 007. Assistance is provided to people in financial stress and it can refer them to local counsellors who will work with them free of charge and in total confidence.

In closing, the most notable piece of advice relevant to people of all ages is to seek assistance as early as possible.

Information sourced from 

Credit card debt overwhelming older Australians 

IDEAS does information so you can do life.