Chicago (March 3, 2010) – Dismal news about debt in America: a new consumer survey from Mintel, a leading provider of market intelligence, says 36% of Americans claim to have had trouble paying their bills in the past two years. Of those adults, less than four in 10 sought help from a lender or credit consolidation agency to try to modify their loans.

Women struggled with their debt more than men: 39% said they had trouble during the last two years compared to 33% of men. People aged 25-44 and black survey respondents also reported more difficulty than the general population (42% of 25-34 year-olds, 48% of 35-44s and 53% of blacks). In addition, adults living in urban and rural areas were more likely to struggle when compared to those living in suburban areas.

Susan Menke, Ph. D and behavioral economist at Mintel Comperemedia, comments:

“With the recent economic crisis impacting people’s finances, it’s not surprising that a substantial portion of the population has been struggling with debt. It is surprising, however, that we saw unemployed respondents report less trouble than those with jobs. This could be because they’re contending with fewer debts, or it could mean they’ve given up trying to pay their loans. “

Less than half of those in trouble with debt reached out for help (37%). Going directly to their credit card or mortgage lender was the most common avenue: 28% of respondents said they went to their credit card-issuing bank, while 24% went to their mortgage lender to seek help. Still, more than one-third sought assistance from a credit counseling or debt consolidation service.

” a tremendous opportunity exists for lenders to help struggling customers with debt solutions. While not everyone’s debt can be relieved, millions of potential new clients are up for grabs. Mintel’s survey showed most people who received assistance were satisfied, which means that debt assistance can be a positive part of lenders’ brand positioning,” comments Susan Menke.

Overwhelmingly, those who sought help with debt did so for credit card loans (50% of survey respondents). Mortgage debt was the second most common at 36%.

When asked which loan they’d pay if they could afford only one, most respondents said their mortgage (48%), instead of credit cards (17%) or auto loans (13%). “People want to stay in their homes, even though real estate values are down,”says Susan Menke.

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