Money

Households in this European country are best placed to pay the bills on time, poll says

Twenty20

People in Germany are the most financially secure of any country in Europe, according to a wide-ranging poll.

Debt collection firm Intrum asked 24,000 consumers across Europe about their ability manage household finances.

It then scored each country's level of "financial wellbeing" on a scale of 0-10, according to respondents' ability to pay bills on time, save for the future as well as their credit freedom and financial literacy.

Germany had an overall financial wellbeing score of 6.89 out of 10, helped mainly by consumers' ability to pay bills on time, on which it scored 7.82 out of 10.

This level of financial security in meeting bill commitments, reflected "a healthy economy and strong saving culture," Intrum stated in the report.

Austria came in second for financial wellbeing, scoring 6.77 out of 10, also thanks to consumers' diligence at paying bills on time.

Nordic countries

Nordic countries like Sweden, Denmark and Norway were also among the highest scorers for financial wellbeing, with EU data confirming that these countries benefitted from a healthy level of disposable income.

Sweden ranked top on saving for the future, with 15% of Swedish respondents saying they set aside more than fifth of their salary each month — the largest group of consumers in any country managing to save this much regularly.

Intrum said this was linked to the high levels of financial literacy shown by Swedish consumers, with a third (32%) of those surveyed saying they had received excellent financial education and felt confident managing complex financial matters.

Finland came first for financial literacy and nearly all (92%) Finnish consumers polled who had children said they would teach their kids how to handle money.

However, Nordic nations were among the wealthier European countries suffering from increasing amounts of debt, resulting in them scoring poorly for "credit freedom."

Denmark was at the bottom of the list in this category, with Eurostat data showing it had the highest household debt-to-income ratio in Europe.

Hungary, on the other hand, had the lowest debt-to-income ratio in Europe according to Eurostat, putting it top for "credit freedom." More than three-quarters (76%) of consumers in Hungary had not borrowed money, apart from a mortgage, or reached their credit card limit in order to a pay bill, over the past six months.

Greece had the lowest financial wellbeing score overall, at 5.39 out of 10, with it also coming last for consumers' ability to pay bills on time and saving for the future.

Intrum pointed out Greece's average wage was among the lowest in Europe, while unemployment was the highest.

"The disparity between wage growth and rising living costs is ramping up the pressure on Greek consumers yet further," said Intrum, as over three-fifths (61%) said bills were rising at a faster rate than their income.

Wider Europe

More broadly, nearly half (45%) of Europeans said their bills were rising at a faster rate than their income, with a similar number (43%) saying this was negatively affecting their wellbeing.

Three-quarters of respondents are managing to save each month but more than half (52%) are dissatisfied with the amount they're putting aside.

Almost half (44%) of European were worried that a weakened European Union would have a negative effect on their finances, up slightly from the 42% who said so in 2018.

This figure increased among countries which took longer to recover from the financial crisis, such as Portugal (64%), Greece (63%) and Spain (62%), the study found.

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