Many Kiwis stretched, wary of extra debt

JAZIAL CROSSLEY
Last updated 05:00 05/02/2013
Debt
VANITA PRASAD
FINANCIAL PLANNING: Kiwis are becoming more cautious of debt.

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Kiwis are becoming more cautious of debt, with only one in 10 willing to extend their credit cards or take out a bank loan this year.

According to the Westpac Waitangi Day Kiwi Perspectives survey, 90 per cent of New Zealanders do not want any new bank debt this year. Almost half felt they had taken on too much already and were financially over-committed.

Federation for Family Budgeting Services chief executive Raewyn Fox said it was very good news that so many people did not want their bank debt to rise.

"We have seen over the last several years, with the recession, a heightened awareness of the consequences of debt, which is good," Fox said. More than 50,000 people approached the service last year for help managing their money, about a quarter more than in 2011.

"We definitely are seeing people over-committed, particularly over Christmas. We are still seeing families struggling."

Newtown Budgeting and Advocacy Services co-ordinator Jeff Drane said many people who approached him for advice were at the lower end, often beneficiaries focused on survival, many who had debts to Work and Income for periods in which they had been unable to pay their rent.

"Definitely a percentage of the group who find things really tough, quite a large proportion, do have debts as well . . . also a lot have been getting loans from what are commonly known as loan sharks.

"However I would say there is a percentage of people who are learning and don't want to borrow, some because they have got into trouble through their borrowing."

In Westpac's survey of 2000 Kiwis, two-thirds said increasing savings was a key financial goal.

Attitudes towards the opportunities to be financially independent in New Zealand were split, with 50 per cent of those surveyed rating the local environment good to very good for financial independence and 50 per cent saying it was average to very poor.

Westpac general manager of business banking Mark Fitz-Gerald said that it was encouraging to see Kiwis increasingly determined to live within their means and that they were seeing some patches of sunlight in the economy, with 53 per cent believing the local economy was improving.

"But if we want to see that optimism sustained, and justified, then, in the not-too-distant future, we need to move to the sort of environment where people believe they can create wealth and help the economy to grow."

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