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Household debt dips to 14-year low as net worth at €800bn

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Household debt has fallen to a 14-year low as increased disposable income is being used to pay down mortgages and credit card bills.

The Central Bank's latest quarterly accounts for Ireland found household debt fell by €176m in the third quarter of 2019 to €135bn, a level last seen in mid-2005.

The bank said this equates to €27,453 in debt per man, woman and child in the State.

By contrast, the bank found, our average net worth continues to test new heights, driven by surging gains in the value of investments.

Households' net worth rose by 2.5pc to €800bn - that is €162,577 per person - as financial assets including pension schemes gained €11.5bn in the quarter amid particularly strong gains in US stocks.

The value of housing rose by €8.2bn to €545bn, its highest mark since 2008.

Personal debt levels peaked at €202bn that year, when the Celtic Tiger collapsed amid the international banking crisis. Those debt levels have since fallen by a third.

The Central Bank attributed the continuing post-crash run-down of personal debt in part to a €1.4bn increase in disposable incomes over the past year and the regulator's own tight rein on lending rules for mortgages.

It said the level of household debt as a proportion of disposable income fell by 1.6 points to 115pc, a level last seen in 2004.

Households reduced new investment in insurance and pension schemes by €148m over the quarter to €657m.

Despite the virtually non- existent returns on bank deposit accounts, much of that money instead went into cash savings, which rose by €110m to €1.7bn, their highest level since 2007.

The national debt, meanwhile, declined in the third quarter by €1bn to €232bn.

Irish Independent