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More seniors face problems paying bills, credit firm says

The number of people over the age of 70 who have problems paying their bills in Finland has increased by 25 percent over the last two years, according to the corporate and personal credit data firm Asiakastieto. The company says the increase is due in part to a generational change in consumer behaviour.

eläkeläinen laskee rahoja.
Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

People in Finland over the age of 70 are increasingly having a hard time paying their bills, according to credit data company Asiakastieto.

Last year some 1,430 people over the age of 70 received their first payment default notices of their lives.

A total of some 11,300 people in that age group have continuing problems paying their bills.

The corporate and personal data company Asiakastieto's CEO Jukka Ruuska says seniors appear to be living beyond their means after retirement, as if they were still earning what they were in the working world.

Generational change in attitudes

"The over-70 set were the first to start using credit (in Finland) and are part of the large, ageing, post-war baby boomer generation," Ruuska says.

"We need to discuss this trend soon, because the trend will continue," he says, saying that Asiakastieto estimates that those over 70 will increasingly have payment defaults.

"We still send payment default notices the old fashioned way - a letter sent in the mail. That's when alarm bells should go off for the recipient," Ruuska says.

Not surprising development

A debt counsellor in Helsinki, Satu Sjöblom, says she isn't startled by news of the increase.

"I'm not surprised that the number of those over 70 are increasingly represented in this group. I see low income 70-plus people in Helsinki, whose entire finances can be shaken by lower health care benefits and cuts to pensions - and housing costs are high here," Sjöblom says.

She says that further government apparently-small cuts could be the straw that breaks the camel's back, and says that put together, the cuts are large to those who already have so little.

"People in their 70s may have already lost a spouse and it can be difficult for some to cope, also financially. Their adult children also may be unemployed and their families are often in need of financial help," Sjöblom says, pointing out that it is relatively easy to get credit these days.

Sometimes it's so easy to borrow money that consumers find themselves in further financial trouble, she says, adding that older consumers may also just be learning about digital banking and may need help from their children or grandkids.

Credit reports don't tell whole story

Ruuska says that it would be better if credit companies would be able to view a credit applicant's entire debt load, saying it's not currently possible to view all of person's debts at once.

He says that if credit companies could see all of a credit applicant's data, it would help them make better decisions about whether to lend them money - or not.

Even though those over 70 with problems paying their bills are on the rise, that age bracket still represents a relatively small portion of those with financial headaches.

Last year there were a total of 373,100 people in Finland on Asiakastieto's payment default registry - an increase of 3,100 people from the previous year.

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