Who has more debt: men or women?

Piggy bank smashedThe battle of the sexes that neither side wants to win - are men or women more likely to be in debt?

There are plenty of articles claiming to highlight which gender is worse with money or has more debt. One article may proclaim that men are worse; another will offer statistics to show that women are the more indebted.
A lot of stereotypes come into play in these articles, such as 'the male breadwinner' who failed when in charge of the finances, or 'the woman who frittered away her money on shopping'.

Such media coverage often points at 'reckless overspending' as the cause of debt. Buying plasma TVs seems to be the byword for male indebtedness; shoes and handbags are the bywords for women.

Such stereotypes can be cringeworthy (as are some of the less-enlightened user comments about thick men and profligate women) but in many ways they also provoke debate and awareness about personal debt. The good aspect to the debate is that it's slowly starting to lift the stigma associated with personal debt problems.

But as we've discussed before, overspending is not the root of debt problems (for both men and women) except in rare circumstances.

Men can be further in debt than women
Our figures show that there's quite a difference between the sexes when it comes to debt.

Our recent research highlighted that while our average female client with a home has a monthly budget surplus (money left over after all essential costs are covered) of £27, the average male has a budget deficit of £3 (in other words, they can't afford to live, before they even think about paying off debts).

That £30 difference each month can make a huge difference, especially as the average male client owes £6,248 more on average.

However, this doesn't necessarily mean that women are better at handling their finances then men.

Men are slow in coming forward
Our 2011 Statistics Yearbook shows that we have a higher proportion of female clients than male. This could partly be due to the downturn in the economy affecting women more than men. It could also be due to men in general being slow in coming forward and admitting that they need help with their finances.

While our female clients tend to have lower debts and more surplus than our male clients, this could highlight that in general women with problem debt will seek advice earlier than men. We find that some of our male clients have tried to ignore their situation and carry on, perhaps borrowing more money to try and "spend their way out of debt". This has the opposite effect, worsening their problem.

It may be an old cliché but if we do get lost on the financial journey of life women seem more likely to stop and ask for directions while men may be more resolute in their belief that they can find their way back onto the right path without any advice.

We can help with directions
While our reports and statistics help spot trends that can often be important, we know that needing debt help can happen to anyone, male or female.

We know debt and its causes and we don't judge anyone who's struggling to find a way to get on top of it. Men should perhaps consider seeking debt help in the same way they would consider speaking to a professional about any other financial product - mortgage, pension or investment. We're specialists in a particular financial area and we want to help (and we're free).

Debt problems make no distinction to gender; obviously nor does our debt advice.

This article is written by the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS).

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