Recruitment consultants and money exp' />

A couple used to a joint income of almost $200,000 are among the "working poor" turning to budget advisers.

Recruitment consultants and money experts say the new face of poverty in New Zealand is high income earners who are made redundant and don't qualify for the dole because their partner's still working.

Jason Walker, managing director of recruitment company Hays, says many had borrowed huge amounts against their incomes.

Citizens Advice Bureaux chief executive Kerry Dalton says sudden, unexpected "huge loss of income" is significant even if one partner is still working, because often it's the higher-earning one who loses their job.

Mangere Budgeting Services chief executive Darryl Evans calls such families "the working poor" and says their numbers are increasing.

He's helping one family where the husband earned $115,000 and the wife $80,000. Both were made redundant within the space of nine weeks.

They have a home, leased vehicles and two children at private schools, and are so heavily mortgaged, indebted and over-committed, they struggle to put food on the table.

Evans' clientele has changed from exclusively low-income families and now includes former company executives who travel to budget services outside their home suburbs "for fear of being seen".

"They perceive it to be shameful," says Evans, who has eight clients who travel to Mangere from Hamilton.

Carol Dallimore, general manager of executive recruitment agency OCG, says many middle to senior managers are looking for work and one salary can't support their outgoings.

Some employers are reluctant to hire over-qualified managers in case they move on when the economy improves.

Frog Recruitment director Jane Kennelly said a business development manager who made more than $130,000 before his position was "disestablished" was willing to work for half that. His wife had returned to work.

A BNZ senior credit manager said there had been an increase in hardship applications from every sector.

Money coach Fiona Christie says it was common for high income earners who lost their jobs to "go into panic mode".

Many were too highly mortgaged and indebted before being made redundant.

She urged out of work executives to seek advice from a budgeting service or the Citizens Advice Bureau and talk to their bank as soon as possible.