“It’s hard, I’m drowning” – older women face bigger financial problems

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Personal debt is at record levels in the UK and 17% of pensioners live in relative monetary poverty. Now, new research from the University of Manchester has found that women aged 55 and over are more likely to struggle financially than older men – especially low-income women who are separated or divorced.

Using survey data and interviews with older women in debt, researchers Kingsley Purdam and Jennifer Prattley found that 44% of women 65 and older who were divorced reported having difficulty “coping bills and credit commitments”, compared to 19% of married women. women.

Among women aged 55 to 64, those working in routine and semi-routine jobs such as nursing aides, sales clerks and cleaners are significantly more likely to report financial hardship than those in occupy management positions – 52%, compared to 24%%.

The dramatic impact of debt was evident to all the women the researchers spoke to. Many had hidden their financial problems out of fear and shame, and all had made financial sacrifices to support their children. Some of the women were facing eviction and were dependent on food banks, and the debts were affecting their relationships and their health.

One woman, who had two children and debts of around £3,400, said: ‘It’s hard, I’m drowning. They won’t give me any more working hours. I chase myself all the time. Someone told me to sell myself on the street.

Lack of employment and low pay were key factors linked to debt, as the mother of a child who was in debt of around £1,300 said: “I paid, but it really kills. The boss closed the chip shop for three nights and I didn’t get the salary. I was paying for pieces. In my eyes at least, I was paying something.

Some of the women had been subjected to coercive control and economic abuse from their former partners – one woman, a divorced mother of two with debts of around £6,000, said: ‘He had the habit of wishing me death on the phone… if I do. If you don’t talk to him politely enough, he won’t pay the bills. I have to do what I’m told. He will always have control. He still has the keys to the house and all the bills are in his name. He comes back again and opens the letters and tears them up or burns them. I never see the letters!

“The financial problems facing older women are linked to issues of long-term poverty, precarious employment, low wages, high interest credit and coercive control within relationships,” Kingsley Purdam said. “Many have spent their lives in low-paying jobs and juggling debt, usually trying to support their families.”

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