People who fall in the R30 0000 to R100 000 a year income bracket, were the most vulnerable according to the survey.
"Although the rate of job losses declined towards the end of 2009 and in the first quarter of 2010, the number of people losing jobs is putting more consumers at risk," Finmark Forum said.
As the cost of living continues to skyrocket, some consumers are forced to pay off their debt over a longer period of time, resulting in higher interest while others had to cancel life policies just to make ends meet.
"Other indications of continued financial stress are the increasing number of consumers making arrangements to pay off their debt over a longer period or cancelling policies to cover household expenditures."
The good news is that the overall vulnerability of consumers did lessen during the first quarter of 2010 but the outlook for the future is not so good.
"The results indicate that consumer financial vulnerability, after first increasing in the third quarter of 2009, has now declined for two consecutive quarters as the economy picked up momentum and consumers adapted their lifestyles downwards."
"These include high levels of unemployment and poverty, low skills levels, low labour market absorption rates, high levels of indebtedness and defaults on repayments, ineffective service delivery, and the impact of HIV and Aids."
Some 70% of key informants said that the income situation of South Africans did not improve during 2009 and 65% said that the ability of consumers to service their debt did not improve. In addition, 60% indicated that consumers' ability to make ends meet did not improve during 2009. Given that nearly half the population are poor, this is serious and 61% of key informants said that the ability of consumers to save did not improve.
A total of 91% of key informants agreed that an increasing number of consumers cannot keep up with payment on financial obligations, 85% indicated that a growing number of consumers are in arrears on their accounts for three months or more and 96% said that an increasing number of consumers are making arrangements to pay off their debts over a longer period of time.
Key informants were asked to indicate the main reasons for the bad financial situation of consumers. The major reasons found were firstly, over indebtedness, secondly, consumers spending more than they earn, thirdly, bad financial planning, fourthly, job losses and, fifthly, not having sufficient savings to draw on.