Families still money conscious

THE divide between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is on the rise, but the average family is said to be money conscious in 2010.

An independent wellbeing index, assessing family finances, has found living standards have fallen away in NSW due to financial uncertainty.

It appears more households are scraping to cover rising petrol, food and electricity costs, while battling ‘unfriendly’ home affordability.

In Coffs Harbour, 200 new families are seeking financial counselling each year.

Anglicare North Coast executive director Estelle Graham said the service had experienced a gradual rise in the number of calls for advice and help.

Currently it takes two weeks to book an appointment with a local financial counsellor.

“The numbers of new clients seeking financial counselling assistance is around 200 per year,” Ms Graham said.

“Many clients need several appointments to sort through their issues.

“We have also had a substantial increase in client numbers in the Clarence Valley in the past few months.

“Clients seeking assistance often have many complex issues to deal with, however, the amount of credit card debt problems appear to be unchanged.

“Utility debt problems appear to be increasing while mortgage problems have decreased.”

The independent wellbeing index, produced by ING, found the average Australian family has tried to whittle away credit card debt, personal loans and mortgages this year.

However, the sense of wellbeing is offset by concerns over weak household savings.

This combined with the rising cost of living is said to be the main reason why low income families may be feeling worse off.

Australians continue to embrace credit cards with more than 80 per cent of households owning one, while the average family owns two.

Only three per cent of families say their card balances each month, while four per cent of surveyed families say their card debt is out of control.

Despite, higher interest rates, mortgages appear in check with 48 per cent of families saying they’re ahead in their repayments.

Just 17 per cent of households are struggling to cover the bills.

But the index found personal savings are the nation’s Achilles heel.

Just 14 per cent of homes said that they were comfortable with what they’ve got in the bank.

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