Millennials trapped by debt

Debt worries impact mental health of 1 in 5 millennials

One in five millennials suffers from mental health problems as a result of problem debt, according to research that underlines the knock-on effects of high living costs and low savings on younger workers.

Britons start to worry about money at the age of 26 on average, while 28 per cent of millennials fear that they will become bankrupt and unable to afford basic living costs, a survey found.

Those aged between 18 and 24 were the most severely affected. Just under a quarter of this group attributed their concerns to technology creating a “buy it now” culture that makes tracking expenditure difficult and 14 per cent feared they were addicted to spending, according to a poll of 2,000 adults by B, the digital banking arm of bank CYBG.

Helen Page, B’s group innovation director, said the people no longer saved up for purchases, choosing instead to click “buy” and worry later. “This approach shores up stress and anxiety,” she said. “More should be done to educate young adults so that they feel better equipped to manage big life moments like starting a new job and adopting a positive attitude towards money.”

The average level of unsecured debt for millennials aged 18-24 is £8,862; or £12,189 for those aged 25-34, according to data published this week by PayPlan, a debt management provider.

Kyle Rushton McGregor, 31, a marketing executive at Chester-based law firm Ellis Whittam, has recently taken counselling sessions, paid for by his employer, to cope with the £15,000 of debt he accumulated over the past 10 years on holidays and cars.

Pressures from social media and societal expectations of “men being the main breadwinners” were the main causes behind his spending spiralling out of control, he said. “I was trying to keep up with the Joneses, if I’m being completely honest.”

The interest on his mortgage later proved an insurmountable burden. “The constant pressure to achieve all of these outward indicators of wealth and success took me down a road of struggle,” he said. “It took me a long time to realise that none of this value is real and doesn’t lead to happiness.”

One millennial graphic designer, who declined to give her name, became depressed and anxious while working in London and struggling with low wages and high living costs. “I was unable to put away any savings each month and fears over my career progression made me depressed,” she said. After switching careers and become a hospice nurse, her situation and job satisfaction improved.

Some millennial couples have taken more drastic measures to address the cost of living in the capital. Ryan and Keira Crabbe, a freelance digital strategist and an operations manager of an online art dealership, recently moved to Mallorca, Spain, to try and save £2,000 a month for a deposit on a property in London.

“It’s just not possible to save in London,” they said. “Our living costs have reduced by more than half since we moved and travelling from Mallorca has been cheaper than regularly commuting by train from London to clients around the UK,” they added. “We’re finally able to meet our savings targets.”

Date published: 30 May 2018

Rianna Croxford


Word count: 526

Rianna Croxford

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018

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