Survey asks: ‘How would you deal with unexpected £750 bill?’

Caution still prevails as mood improves in Northern Ireland, according to Credit Union sentiment poll

Consumer confidence has seen another sharp fall across all four components of the Danske Bank index
Consumer confidence has improved in Northern Ireland, according to a survey for the Credit Union movement, though households still remain cautious

Northern Ireland consumers are less negative about the outlook for the economy and their own household finances, according to a sentiment survey by the Credit Union movement.

While they admit to remaining cautious, there has been a clear easing in the degree of concern and negativity between January and May.

Survey respondents pinned much of their optimism on general signs of stronger activity in the north’s economy since the turn of the year, as well as expectations for domestic policy initiatives with the return of the Assembly.

But there were wide differences across local households in the degree of their current financial difficulties when the survey posed a specific question in the May asking how they would handle an unexpected financial emergency costing £750.

While 47% of respondents would fund such an expense from savings, a further 28% said they would borrow from a financial lender or from family and friends.

But some 13% of Northern Irish consumers admitted they would not be able to deal with such an unexpected bill or outlay at present.

ILCU Northern Ireland manager Martin Fisher said: “It’s encouraging that Northern Ireland consumers are feeling less fearful about the economic and financial outlook in recent months.

“The return of Stormont has been significant for the credit union movement, with the recent commitment by the Economy Minister and the establishment of a working group to co-design future policy and legislation.

“This initiative will strengthen and enable the growth of credit unions, aligning with the minister’s economic vision for a prosperous future. It is important to emphasise, as always, that credit unions are on hand to support their members through the wide range of financial emergencies or opportunities they might encounter”.

Bearded man sitting on stage holding a microphone.
Economist: Austin Hughes

Economist Austin Hughes added: “The special £750 question in the May consumer sentiment survey highlights very wide differences in the ability of Northern Ireland consumers to handle an unexpected financial emergency.

“About three in five might be described as ‘comfortable’ in that they could meet an unexpected expense of £750 from their savings or income.

“Another one in five would borrow from a bank or credit union but as many as one in five say they would not be able to handle a bill of that size or they would have to borrow from family or friends.”

Key findings from the May survey (in partnership with Core Research) include:

  • 42% believe the economy will worsen over the next 12 months (down from 52% in January) while 29% believe it will improve (up from 26% in January).
  • 36% of respondents believe unemployent will rise in the next 12 months (39% in January) while 26% believe it will fall (29% in January).
  • 48% believe the financial situation of their household is worse now than 12 months ago, while only 25% believe it has improved.
  • 29% feel the financial situation of their household will improve over the next 12 months, while an equal number believe it will worsen.
  • 33% believe now is a bad time to purchase a big-ticket item while 8% believe it is a good time.