Down under, a Record Number of Older Australians are in Financial Trouble.

Key Points

  • The National Debt Helpline — a federal government-run financial counselling service — said it's on track to receive a record number of cases through its call centers this year — many from older Australians who can't meet their mortgage or rent payments.
  • Many calls are from older Australians who can't meet mortgage or rent payments.
  • Counselors have started fielding calls from people struggling to switch to principal and interest mortgage payments.

Phones Never Stop Ringing

"The phones just never stop now," financial counselor Greg said. "They're just going day after day, after day. "You put the phone down, you pick the phone up again."

I sat with Greg while he took some calls. One man who called in had lost his job, and the bank was on his back about meeting his repayments. Greg coached him through his options.

"Have you approached the lender in relation to a hardship arrangement, or have you approached the lender to talk about reducing your payments, putting payments on hold, until you get back into employment?" Greg asked.

Short Staffed

Karen Cox co-ordinates the Financial Rights Legal Center, which runs the call center.

"Call volumes are huge," she said. "We're at capacity in terms of the number of calls we can take, in fact we're a bit short staffed at the moment."

Ms. Cox said hundreds of thousands of Australians struggled with credit card and mortgage debt — the most she has seen in her career managing financial help call centers.

Salvation Army Hotline

In addition to the National Debt Hotline, the Salvation Army is flooded with calls.

The Salvation Army's financial counselling service, Moneycare, warned it was at breaking point. In the 2017-18 financial year, Moneycare saw an 18 per cent increase in Australians seeking help.

The service has seen a big increase in the number of Australians over the age of 55 reaching out for help to deal with what it calls "severe debt", which is debt at more than six times a person's annual disposable income.

​Need Help?

Australians who need help can contact the National Debt Helpline on phone at 1800 007 007.

Gee!

Gee who coulda possibly thunk this could happen?

Didn't we hear that home prices only rose, and buying homes was a retirement plan.

It's So Easy to Buy a Home

It was so easy that 13-year-old kids were buying homes. Flashback July 23, 2017: 13-Year-Old Kid Buys $552,000 Home

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Buying a house can be quite scary, especially when it’s your first purchase and renovation – there are so many things to think about.”

I suspect there is a bit more to think about now.

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Mike "Mish" Shedlock