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Personal finance pessimism hits record low; but debt worries remain high – R3

  • Equal numbers of adults now taking out payday and credit union loans
  • Results from survey of 2,000 British adults by ComRes/R3 – 16th edition of the Personal Debt Snapshot

Economic pessimism has hit a record low, with just 16% of British adults expecting their personal finances to get worse in the next six months, according to a long-running poll of British adults by ComRes and R3, the insolvency trade body.

By comparison, 26% of British adults expect their finances to improve – the third highest proportion on record. This is the biggest ‘lead’ economic optimists have had over the pessimists since July 2010.

Giles Frampton, R3 president, says: “The improving economy is finally starting to affect how British adults see their own personal finances. It’s taken a while, but the personal finance picture is finally looking up after years in the doldrums.”

“However, the number of people with debt worries or repeated financial struggles remains a source of concern.”

Graph showing proportion of British adults optimistic or pessimistic about their personal finances

Debt worries remain high

Despite the improving economic optimism, 46% of British adults say they are worried about their debts, while 41% say they struggle to payday. Among working adults alone, three-in-five (58%) say they struggle to payday.

Credit card debts are the most common cause for debt worries, while the cost of living is most frequently blamed for the struggle to payday.

Giles Frampton adds: “Despite increasing economic optimism, there is a group of people who consistently struggle from week-to-week or month-to-month.”

“Although falling inflation should ease cost of living problems, relief is only coming after years of prices rising far faster than wages. It will take a while before families can regain some financial breathing room.”

“Given the sizeable number of people already worried about their debts, it’s a concern that the Office of Budget Responsibility expects the gross household debt to income ratio to exceed 170% by 2020. Such high levels of debt are not always sustainable. According to the research, 5% of British adults are currently in some sort of debt management plan. ”

Of those who are ‘extremely worried’ about their debts, 79% say they also struggle to payday. Three-in-ten (29%) of those ‘extremely worried’ about their debts say they are likely to seek a payday loan in the next six months.

Giles Frampton adds: “It’s all too easy for financially vulnerable people to get caught in a debt trap where debt is needed to finance other debts, leading to a vicious cycle from which it is very difficult to break out of without help.”

The research also found that:

  • 47% of British adults worried about their debts are worried about credit card debt, followed by mortgage repayments (24%), overdrafts (20%), and loans from family or friends (14%).
  • All age groups are more optimistic than pessimistic about their personal finances except for those aged 45-54 (22% optimistic; 23% pessimistic).
  • 23% of British adults don’t have any savings at the moment.
  • 2% of British adults have taken out a payday loan in the last six months – this is the first time in the Personal Debt Snapshot that this proportion has not been higher than the share of British adults who have taken out a credit union loan in the last six months (also 2%).
  • 8% of British adults say they are likely to take out a payday loan in the next six months.
  • 52% of British adults who struggle to payday blame the cost of food, 39% blame rising household energy costs, 29% blame rising fuel or transport costs, 29% blame credit card repayments, and 25% blame rent.


ComRes interviewed 2,011 GB adults online between the 13th and 15th March 2015. Data were weighted to be representative of all GB adults aged 18+. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Data tables are available on the ComRes website,


Notes to editors:

  • R3 is the trade body for Insolvency Professionals and represents the UK’s Insolvency Practitioners.

  • R3 comments on a wide variety of personal and corporate insolvency issues. Contact the press office, or see for further information.

  • R3 promotes best practice for professionals working with financially troubled individuals and businesses; all R3 members are regulated by recognised professional bodies
  • R3 stands for 'Rescue, Recovery, and Renewal' and is also known as the Association of Business Recovery Professionals.