The start of 2017 is a bit doom and gloom financial news wise.
Debt charities have reported that they are expecting this month to be one of the busiest Januarys in years as people struggle with their bills after Christmas. Citizens Advice said it expected nearly 400,000 people to contact them asking for money advice this month, while the Money Advice Trust said around five million people could run into financial strife after the Christmas period.
In fact, the Money Advice Trust has said that its Debtline service had already had its busiest December in four years.
This news comes as official figures show that household debt his increased to its highest level since just after the financial crash of 2008.
Data from the Bank of England shows that personal debt grew by 10.8% in the year to November 30th to £192.2 billion in the UK. The highest since December 2008.
The data also shows that personal debt, which includes credit cards and bank loans, has been growing an annual rate of 10% for the past six months. This debt does not include mortgages or student loans.
The gender pay gap is still growing for women in their thirties and forties, according to the Resolution Foundation.
The Foundation said having children carries a “sharp and long-lasting” pay penalty for women. Those born between 1981 and 2000 can expect to be paid 9% less than men by the time they hit their 30th birthday. That figure is reduced to 5% for women in their 20s.
In pensions, the death knell may have rung for one of the UK’s last major final salary pensions as the Royal Mail announced it was consulting with unions and staff on its pension scheme. It is estimated that there are around 90,000 people in the scheme, which has assets of around £7.4 billion and is currently in surplus of around £1.8 billion.
Royal Mail has said that it believes that surplus will run out in 2018 and the pension scheme is “unaffordable” in the long term. Any changes made will not affect those who have already retired. Royal Mail is asking its employees to consider switching to a stock market-linked defined contribution plan.
In other pension news, The Pensions & Lifetime Savings Association has slammed any proposals by the Government to increase the state pension age.
The pension industry body said any increase would cause “unacceptable detriment” to large sections of society, especially those with bad health and low life expectancy, further increasing the divide between rich and poor.
This statement comes in response to one of the two major reports the Government has commissioned into the future of the state pension age from expert bodies, as it prepares for a review.
Late last year former pensions minister Steve Webb said he found out about planned pension-age rises hidden in Department for Work & Pensions documents. Under current plans the state pension age will hit 68 in 2044 and, according to Mr Webb, could possibly rise again to 70.