Money Advice Trust > Media centre > News > Two thirds of young people borrow from ‘invisible safety net’ of family and friends

Two thirds of young people borrow from ‘invisible safety net’ of family and friends

  • ​New research shows 67% of 18-24 year olds have borrowed from family or friends

  • Average total borrowed stands at £2,248, with 39% borrowing for the basics

  • 13 percent find it awkward or embarrassing to discuss their borrowing

Two thirds of 18 to 24 year olds are borrowing from an ‘invisible safety net’ of family and friends, including to help them cover basic living costs, according to new research from National Debtline, run by the Money Advice Trust.

The newly-published findings from the charity’s Borrowed Years research, based on a survey of 2,042 18 to 24 year olds conducted online by YouGov, found that 67 percent of young adults have borrowed money from family or friends and 39 percent had done so to cover basic expenses such as food, rent or travel.
Those who had been lent money by family and friends reported having borrowed an average of £2,248 overall, with the most common sources found to be parents (57 percent), friends (23 percent) and siblings (17 percent).
National Debtline says the research further highlights that too few young people are seeking free debt advice when they are struggling to cope.
Borrowing for the basics

The research found that many young people are turning to family and friends to meet even their basic living expenses.
  • A quarter of 18 to 24 year olds (25 percent) have borrowed from a family member or friend to pay for food
  • 15 percent have borrowed to cover one or more rent payments, with other housing costs also driving informal borrowing including deposits (nine percent) and moving costs (four percent)
  • A similar proportion (15 percent) of young people had borrowed to cover the cost of travel
Acting as a safety net

The research paints a picture of family and friends providing a vital safety net for many 18 to 24 year olds, helping them to avoid financial difficulty.
  • More than a quarter (29 percent) of 18 to 24 year olds who have borrowed from family or friends said this had helped them to avoid financial problems
  • 63 percent had either repaid the money they had borrowed, or were confident that they would be able to repay it
  • However, one in 10 (10 percent) said that it had taken or was taking longer than expected to repay
Impact on relationships

A significant minority found their borrowing from family or friends difficult to discuss, but the findings reveal little negative impact on relationships as a result overall.
  • 13 percent of 18 to 24 year olds who had borrowed from family or friends said they had found it awkward or embarrassing to discuss paying the money back
  • However, only three percent reported that the borrowing had a negative effect on their relationship with the person who had lent them the money
  • More than half (51 percent) had been offered the money by the person who lent it to them without having to ask
The charity says that more young people need to seek free advice on dealing with financial problems.  While 63 percent have turned to a parent for advice about money at some point in the past, just two per cent had sought expert advice from a money or debt advice charity.
Previous research published by the charity found that 37 percent of 18 to 24 year olds are already in debt, owing an average of nearly £3,000 (excluding student loans and mortgages), with 51 percent regularly worrying about money and 21 percent losing sleep as a result.
Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline, said:
“These figures will be a familiar tale to many parents, in particular, and further underline the money management challenges facing many young people.
“We should all be concerned that so many young people are finding themselves having to borrow money to meet even their basic living costs. It is little wonder that so many under 25s are regularly worrying about money, and one in five lose sleep as a result.
“The good news is that many young people do have a safety net of family and friends to turn to, and many will see this as the norm – but we should remember that this can often have a big financial impact on the person doing the lending, too.
“I would urge anyone who is struggling to cope, or worried about the impact that lending to a friend or family member is having on their own finances, to contact a free, charity-run service like National Debtline as soon as possible.
“The earlier you seek free advice, the quicker and easier the problem will be to resolve.”
In its recent Borrowed Years report, the Money Advice Trust outlined a series of steps that could be taken to help under 25s avoid financial difficulty, including more comprehensive financial education, support for first-time borrowers, reforms to student finance payments and a greater role for employers in fostering young workers’ money management.
National Debtline is offering 10 tips for under 25s on managing money and borrowing at
National Debtline offers free advice at or on 0808 808 4000, Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm and Saturday 9.30am to 1pm.
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