Savvy Southerners still fall short when it comes to debt

More than five out of ten Southerners with outstanding debts don't know how much they owe but eight out of ten say that it doesn't concern them according to the latest research from credit reference agency Callcredit.

The research revealed 80 per cent of Southerners are comfortable with their borrowing, equal to the national average, and 46 per cent know exactly how much they owe, 5 per cent higher than the national average.

Southerners generally have a better grip on their debts than other areas of the country with only 9 per cent of respondents reporting they were clueless about their borrowing compared to 28 per cent in Yorkshire, 22 per cent in Scotland and 21 per cent in the North and Borders.

However, they are also feeling the pinch more than the majority of other areas in the UK. Southern England and Scotland jointly top the stretched table with 8 per cent of residents saying they are concerned about keeping up their payments.

Callcredit director Alison Nicholson warns:

"Southerners may be close to the top of the league when it comes to knowing how much they owe but it's still less than 50 per cent of the population so there's a long way to go.

"People need to monitor their levels of debt so they can manage it effectively, having a carefree attitude towards their borrowing is leaving people open to financial fraud and indebtedness."

Overall men, it seems, are more conscientious than women when it comes to checking the state of their credit finances. Nearly one in five women confesses to being totally in the dark about the scale of their personal debts whereas for men the figure is closer to one in 10.

Callcredit's survey also revealed that people become far more credit-savvy the older they get. Over 60 per cent of people aged 65 and over said they knew precisely how much they owed and 90 per cent said they felt they were living comfortably within their credit limits.

By contrast young people aged 16-24 are the most credit ignorant. Although 92 per cent said they were comfortable with their debts, almost 80 per cent in this age range said they weren't sure what their outstanding commitments added up to while 33 per cent confirmed they had no idea.

People aged 45-54 appear more concerned about debt with the highest number of respondents (26 per cent) saying they are either at their credit limit or overstretched. A similar percentage (24 per cent) in the 25-34 age range feel the same way.

"With identity fraud increasing year on year the serious underlying message from this survey is there is too much consumer ignorance and apathy towards debt. If people don't know what their commitments are how can they be expected to spot fraud before it becomes a major problem for them?"

added Alison Nicholson.

Callcredit offers online access to the information lenders use to assess their creditworthiness through www.mycallcredit.com. It shows people what credit commitments are registered in their name and provides an alert service via text message or email if a significant change takes place on their record.

"myCallcredit empowers consumers to take better care of and more responsibility for the state of their finances,"

emphasised Callcredit's Alison Nicholson.