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Debt fret: Australians too embarrassed to talk about $18 billion debt

Published on 23/01/2020

Research reveals stigma and anxiety is stopping Aussies talking about their finances – leading to missed opportunities to take back financial control

New research commissioned by ING reveals that almost two thirds (61%) of working Australians are in debt*, outside of home loans, and have racked up $18.1 billion over Christmas alone – an average of $934 per Aussie.

The research shows that a quarter of the population (25%) and half of millennials (51%) are ignoring their debt because they don’t want to talk about it. Aussies are feeling “anxious” (47%) and “embarrassed” (38%) about the subject. And two-thirds (61%) agree they’d rather open up about anything else, including relationship troubles (58%) than debt.

One in three respondents said that they are not sure what they could be doing differently to manage debt (37%) and are concerned they will never get out of it (38%). In fact, most didn’t know about the solutions available to them to tackle repayments, with the research revealing that 6 in 10 Aussies have never considered debt consolidation as an option to get out of debt sooner.

ING spokesperson, David Breen, said, “The problem with not talking about debt is that options to solve the problem don’t then readily present themselves. For those struggling to manage multiple debt repayments, consolidating debts into one low-interest loan can reduce the stress of multiple repayments and high interest rates.

“A personal loan can be a great way to put all your debt in one place, so you know when, and how much, you’re paying off. January is also ideal timing for structuring solutions which will set up good habits for the year to come.”

The research has also shown that a surprising third (35%) of those in debt have not considered cutting back spending as an option to get out of debt, and worryingly another one in three (33%) admit to turning to gambling or lotteries.

David Breen continued: “Stigma related to loans and debt mean we’re a nation too embarrassed to discuss our finances. The research revealed that it can lead to Australians turning to gambling, rather than looking at options like debt consolidation to help manage repayment of their debts. We need to get people talking about their debt and workshopping management options, whether that’s opening up to friends, family or a financial advisor.”

For Australians looking for help to manage their debt repayments, ING’s Personal Loan Repayment Calculator can assist.

The ING research also revealed:

  • Debt concerns facing Millennials: this generation is worried they will never get out of debt (45%), are unclear of their total debt figure (44%) and aren’t sure about how to tackle their debt (42%).
  • Holiday woes: While Christmas is a time of joy and celebration, more than 1 in 3 (36%) said they were unable to fully enjoy the festive season due to financial worries, while another 30% revealed they accumulated more debt this holiday period than ever before.
  • Debt, a table talk taboo: debt is the last thing Aussies want to discuss and they’d rather talk about health (68%), problems at work (66%), trouble with relationships (58%), emotions or mental health (58%) instead.
  • How Aussies are managing debt: other than cutting back on spending (65%), the main strategies Aussies are taking to get out of debt are; taking on more work or getting another job (36%), gambling or lotteries (33%), or borrowing money from family (19%).
  • The 2020 Aussie finance dream: paying off debt (31%), saving money (83%) and being financially fitter (46%) are amongst the top New Year resolutions. More than a quarter of Aussies (28%) are living from paycheck to paycheck and are having difficulty saving.
  • For Love or Money?: Money is more important than romance for young Australians, with more than half of all Millennials (53%) listing saving more among their top priorities for 2020, compared to just one in five (20%) who say that finding love is their biggest priority for this year.
  • Time to consolidate: 58% Australians say they intend to consolidate their debts ahead of the 2020 Christmas period to ease their financial pressures.

For more information about Personal Loans or debt solutions, head to


What is debt consolidation?

Debt consolidation is a form of debt refinancing that involves taking out one loan to pay off many others. This allows you to have one regular repayment, one interest rate and one set of loan fees so you can have better control over your debt.

You can apply for an ING Personal Loan to consolidate a maximum of 5 debts (i.e. loans or credit cards).

To find out if you’re eligible for a ING Personal Loan, you can fill out an Equifax form online.

Notes to editors

This survey was commissioned by ING and conducted by YouGov in September 2019. The sample comprises 1,072 Australians aged 18+ years distributed throughout Australia.

A second study was commissioned by ING and conducted by YouGov in January 2020. The sample comprises 1,052 Australians aged 18+ years distributed throughout Australia.

*Credit card or loan debt (excluding mortgages).


About ING

ING changed the way Australians bank 20 years ago by launching the country’s first high interest, fee free online savings account. Since then, we’ve brought continued value to customers with home loans, transactional banking, superannuation, credit cards, personal lending and insurance.

ING manages $42 billion in savings and $45 billion in mortgages and is Australia’s most recommended bank, with the highest Net Promoter Score of any Australian bank. Source: Nielsen Consumer & Media View May’19-October ‘19 (n=11613) when compared by customers of 18 other banks operating in Australia.

About ING Personal Loans

The ING Personal Loan offers a low fixed rate of 8.99% p.a. (comparison rate 9.13% p.a.), no ongoing monthly or annual fees, and no early repayment fees. Other features include:

  • No establishment fee for those with an Orange Everyday account (otherwise $100).
  • Fixed loan term of between 2 and 5 years.
  • Loans of between $5,000 and $30,000.
  • Fortnightly or monthly repayment options.

Media Enquiries

Megan Landauro
ING Public Relations Lead
0413 317 225

Peter Gurney
Head of Stakeholder Relations
0417 633 467

60 Margaret Street
Sydney NSW 2000

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