Young, female and bankrupt

The most recent bankruptcy statistics highlight a growing trend in the number of young women filing for bankruptcy. The majority of under 24s filing for bankruptcy are now female, suggesting that it is young women that are more likely to succumb to ever growing temptation to spend money that they don’t have. This may not come as a surprise since a passion for the latest in designer fashions and the associated shopping spree have become ubiquitous pop culture references to young women. Five years ago, 48% of young people that declared bankruptcy were female. By last year, this figure had risen to 55%. That’s 1,560 women to 1,250 men. So, what’s sparked this trend?

The numbers appear to suggest that young women are being lured into this cycle of bad debt and bankruptcy by the easy availability of credit and the transient glamour of the celebrity lifestyle. Women under the age of 24 can quite easily emulate the styles of the rich and famous, spending celebrity sized budgets that they simply cannot afford. The spending habits of footballers’ wives and heiresses shouldn’t be an impact on young women but so often are. This is why these celebs front advertising campaigns, launch their own scents and start their own designer label. They draw on the aspirations of young women who want to look like them, smell like them and spend like them. There is this fixation with the trappings of success but sadly, this all too often ends in severe debt.

A study by The Insolvency Service suggests that, in addition to emulating the glitz of the celebrity lifestyle, young women display a greater desire to assert their independence, leaving home earlier than men of the same age. This comes with the added stress of rent or mortgage payments.

The societal pressure on already status-conscious young women to emulate the lifestyles of female celebrities has grown immensely, as has the easy availability of credit. This all amounts to a false sense of affordability. Obviously, some feel there is a stigma attached to living at home. Almost 30% of 20 to 34 year olds live at home with their parents. However, when looking solely at women, this drops to 18%.

In the past five years, personal bankruptcies in England and Wales have increased by almost 90%, to nearly 68,000. The largest demographic in this group remains the over 45s at almost 40%. This is down to rising divorce rates, falling house prices and limited employment options. Bankruptcies in this age group have more than doubling in five years, from 10,594 in 2004 to 23,767 last year.