Many families around Ireland are deep in preparations for the Christmas holidays and though it is a time of joy, it puts a lot of pressure on hard pressed parents who are likely to be struggling to manage the household budget. It is so important to know your limits in terms of your finances and to avoid unnecessary debt this Christmas. This week we published the results of our Christmas spending survey and we are urging people to be mindful about what they are spending this Christmas. We would also strongly urge people to avoid using moneylenders. Borrowing from high cost moneylenders can result in many getting trapped in a cycle of debt from which it is very hard to break free.
In terms of sentiment ahead of Christmas 2014 - 29% people feel better about their financial situation in the run up to Christmas 2014, this represents a slight improvement compared to 25% in 2013. Men (32%) compared to women (27%) are happier about their finances. 48% feel that the recent Budget will have little impact on ability to spend this Christmas with 49% feeling that money will be as tight has it has been in the past years.
We all know that December in particular is an expensive month which can put a serious strain on household budgets. Our survey finds that three-quarters find managing their household bills and expenses much harder over the Christmas period with 51% struggling to heat their home, 40% struggling to manage their utility bills, 39% struggling with the mortgage/rent payments and 35% struggling with food costs.
While many people tell us that they are feeling a little bit more positive about the economy, 30% fear money worries will spoil Christmas 2014. This is down from 33% in 2013. 60% say that Christmas will still be enjoyable regardless of money worries. The numbers who say they will really struggle to give their families a happy Christmas (5%) is down from 10% in 2011 at the height of the economic crisis.
Irish consumers expect to spend on average €600 this Christmas compared to €590 at Christmas 2014. Men are expected to spend more than women this Christmas, spending on average €614in 2014 (€600 in 2013 / €513 in 2012) compared to women €588 in 2014 (€585 in 2013 / €537 in 2012)
The provincial breakdown of spend in 2014 is as follows: Dublin - €608 / Rest of Leinster - €611 / Munster – €592 / Ulster - €590 / Connacht - €578. Parents in Ireland plan to spend on average €180 on Santa presents this year, this is a slight fall from €185 in 2013.
There is a strong belief (71%) that Irish people spend too much money on Christmas but 60% said there is nothing better than a proper Irish Christmas. For 59% spending time with family is the most important part of Christmas.
36% will have sufficient money in their monthly income to pay for Christmas, this is a drop from 40% in 2013. More males (39%) than females (34%) are in this position. A further 26% are likely to dip into their general savings or 18% into savings specifically for Christmas. 51% find that they will have to borrow money to pay for Christmas 2014. On average the amount being borrowed is €417, up from €410 at Christmas 2013. More females (52%) are likely to borrow than men (49%). 7% are likely to use their credit cards as their main source of finance to pay for Christmas celebrations, with more men (9%) than women (5%) likely to do so in 2014.
In 2014, 6% people have approached or will consider approaching a moneylender to borrow for Christmas expenses. Young adults are the group most likely to approach a moneylender with 9% having done so and a further 8% considering doing so. More men than women are likely to approach or consider approaching a moneylender.
On average it will take consumers 8 ½ weeks to recover from over-spending at Christmas time, this is down slightly from 9 weeks in 2013. A further 6% are taking 6 months to recover and 4% 9+ months to recover. Males consumers recover more quickly (8 weeks) compared to females (9 weeks)
35% of consumers will do their Christmas shopping outside of the Republic of Ireland (up from 29% in 2013). Females are more inclined to their shopping elsewhere (38%) compared to males (30%)
28% of all Christmas food shopping is likely to take place in Tesco (drop from 31%) in 2013, 21% are likely to shop in Dunnes (on par with 2013) Aldi & Lidl continue to increase in popularity (combined 30% of consumers likely to shop) up from 26% in 2013.
Consumers continue to show mixed sentiment towards perceived value of goods and services on the high street in Ireland. 39% feel there isn’t good value at all, 45% feel that they need to shop around to get good value. Only 16% felt that there was good value to be found on the high street.
55% of all consumers feel that there is not good value when it comes to having a night out a Christmas, up from 51% in 2013. 20% felt that there was good value in restaurants, hotels and pubs. 25% feel that there is good value when going on a night out but the costs of getting a baby sitter and transport costs make it very expensive.
67% plan to / are shopping online for Christmas presents this year, compared to 65% in 2013. Females (68%) and young adults (74%) are most likely to shop online in 2014. Better value continues to be the primary reason for shopping online (58%), followed by convenience (51%). Amazon is still the most popular online shopping destination for shopping in 2014.
81% of shoppers tend to spend time browsing online first and then go into an actual shop to make a purchase. 79% of all shoppers feel secure when paying for goods and services online, up from 72% in 2013. 15% sometimes get worried that their details will get stolen while 6% don’t feel secure at all.
We all need to remember that Christmas really is about giving.....not robbing the family finances. People can be savvy when it comes to shopping at this time of year. Setting a Christmas spending budget is more important now than ever, as is writing a list. This will allow people to keep a tight rein on the Christmas shopping costs. It is worrying to see that some people are considering using a moneylender this year. We would echo warnings from the Central Bank last week about avoiding high interest rate moneylenders. If you feel that you need to borrow, speak to your local credit union first. Using a moneylender can result in consumers getting trapped in a cycle of debt which can be hugely difficult to break free of. To all of our credit union members in Ireland, we wish you a happy holiday season and all the very best for the New Year.”
We have recently launched our new creditunion website and some of the new features we have included are Social Media, such as Facebook, Twitter and this our Presidents Blog.
I hope to maintain a regular blog here, where we can share inclusive and informative debates on how we can progress in terms of services.
I hope to maintain a regular blog here, where we can share inclusive and informative debates on how we can progress in terms of services.
Monday, November 10, 2014
It is that time of year again when we in the credit union movement launch the annual All Ireland Credit Union Schools Quiz. Each year the quiz sees over 25,000 school children under the age of 12 take part every year across Ireland and this is certainly an event that we all very much look forward to.
The quiz is one of the most exciting and highly anticipated events in the primary school calendar, consisting of two knock out stages at local and regional level and culminating in a National Final in Dublin’s RDS on April 12th 2015 where 100 qualifying teams will compete under the watchful eye of our ever popular Quiz Master RTE’s Marty Whelan.
The Quiz will be run throughout communities all over Ireland by volunteers from over 300 credit unions and seeks to encourage teamwork among young children under the age of 13. The questions are compiled by primary school teachers and will cover topics such as geography, history, music, literature and sport. I would like to take this opportunity to say a very big thank to those credit unions and volunteers who make all of this possible.
The Quiz provides children from around the country with the chance to have lots of fun while learning the importance of team work in achieving success. We’d like to wish everyone the very best of luck at the local & regional levels and look forward to seeing all of our finalists next April.
The Quiz is divided into two sections: Competition A for children up to 11 years and Competition B for children between 11 and 13 years. Local quiz winners go through to the Regional Final and the regional winners and runners-up will compete for the National titles in April 2015. Local winners will receive prizes from their local Credit Union. Regional winners and runners-up will also receive prizes and their schools will receive cheques. The National winner and runner-up receive a silver salver, significant personal prizes – and their schools are each awarded a substantial cheque. Every finalist receives a special certificate marking their achievement.
Registration for the 2015 Schools Quiz is now open, for registration forms or further information, please contact your local credit union or visit the ILCU website at www.creditunion.ie.
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
The Irish League of Credit Unions has this week given an overview of figures for credit unions ahead of year-end 2014. There is no denying that the past number years have been very difficult for credit unions like many others in the financial services sector. However, as the first signs of possible economic recovery begin to appear, the credit union results show a more positive outlook for the movement in 2014.
The vast majority of credit unions are currently making a surplus and while credit unions continue to see loan demand decrease - falling arrears, falling loan write offs and the increasing number of credit unions making a surplus reflects a more positive picture for the credit union movement. Membership of the country’s credit unions has also increased by 70,000 to 3.3 million members, a reflection of continued loyalty to the not for profit, community lenders.
As of the end of June 2014, total assets in ILCU affiliated credit unions in the Republic of Ireland amounted to €12.7 billion (up from €12.47 billion in Sept 2013). Furthermore, savings in ILCU credit unions are up to €10.7 billion. Perhaps most encouraging of all is that gross loan arrears have reduced substantially in recent years and now stand at €644 million. Total gross arrears have fallen for 10 consecutive quarters in a row since arrears peaked in December 2011,
Taking a closer look at figures for credit unions in the Republic of Ireland, we see that gross loan arrears were €644 million in June 2014 this figure is down €130 million or 17% year on year. Gross loan arrears peaked at €925 million in December 2011at the peak of the economic crisis but have fallen by €281 million since then. Loan provisions now exceed gross loan arrears by a buffer of €59 million (June 2014) and net arrears are covered by a buffer of provisions of €207 million. Loan write offs are 30% lower than in 2013.
The decline of credit union loan books is a continuing concern in the movement. The loan book in June 2014 totals €3.69bn which is down 8.3% or €335 million year on year. However, credit unions understand that families and individuals have been hit hard by the recession over the past years and have been prioritising their household bill payments and domestic expenses and not looking to borrow.
Looking to the year ahead, addressing the fall in loans is now the biggest challenge for credit unions. Although loans fell by €50 million in the last quarter, there is some evidence that the trend is slowing. It is hoped that as the economic recovery gathers pace, members will feel more confident to borrow from their local credit union.
In the 9 months to June 2014, credit unions have issued €1.2 billion in new loans to members and we estimate that €1.5 billion in new loans will be issued for the full year. These are small, modest loans on average €3,029 for things like third level education, back to school, Christmas, home improvements, Christmas for example.
In terms of volume, credit unions in Dublin issued the most new loans - €988 million for the year to date. The next biggest was Cork with €610 million in new loans. The average new loan in 2014 is €3,029 while the average loan outstanding is €6,267.
Credit unions have been acting responsibly over the years of austerity and ensuring that loans are fully provisioned. Loan provisioning now stands at €703 million or 19.1% of the total loan book. Provisions have been built up over recent years and now exceed total gross arrears by €59 million and net loan arrears by €207 million. Savings attached to loans remain very high, this is unique to the credit union movement. Of the total loan book of €3.7 billion, there are savings of €1.5 billion attached (i.e. 40% of the loan book is covered by savings).
Credit unions in the Republic of Ireland are seeing an increase in savings for the first time which is also a positive sign. Savings at the end of June 2014 were €10.7 billion, up €222 million. Savings were up €71 million for the last quarter (April - June 2014), with some 288 credit unions reporting savings growth for the full year to date.
It is likely that more credit unions will be in a position to pay a dividend to members in the coming months with over 300 extending dividends to their members last year and it is hoped that credit unions can build on that success next year. The average dividend in 2013 was almost 1% which is down slightly on previous years. However, it is clear that the reduction in dividends being paid is not impacting savings. This may be due to the fact that the banks are offering historically low returns on savings. However, the main objective of the movement will continue to be to provide a safe and secure environment for savings and to offer modest, affordable credit to members.
Credit unions can to look to the future with positivity as we continue to expand our service offering to best meet the demand of our rapidly growing membership. It is a testament to this movement that in times of economic crisis, many still turn to their local credit union for a helping hand. We have a rich history in this country and our ethos will never change. We will continue to serve our members as we have done over the past 50 years.
Martin Sisk, President, Irish League of Credit Unions