Majority of UK adults do not understand finances

by Shelton on May 26th, 2014

filed under Finances

Over two-thirds of UK adults answered personal finance school exam questions incorrectly, with three out of ten scoring 43 per cent or less.

Now the OUBS has launched an eight-week online course aimed at people with all levels of financial literacy, with learners expected to commit to around three hours of study each week.

Todays youngsters are benefitting from the recent addition of financial education to the school curriculum.

But those lessons may have arrived too late for a generation of older Scots whose adult lives are blighted by poor numeracy and scant financial knowledge.

The school exam questions which so many failed covered savings, tax, currency exchange and utilities. Consumers admitted that their current lack of financial knowledge was stopping them from making informed decisions around mortgages (44 per cent) and pensions (43 per cent) right down to everyday products such as ISAs (32 per cent) loans (29 per cent) and credit cards (20 per cent).

The OUBS said: The research also suggested ignorance really isnt bliss, with 42 per cent of people admitting that their personal finances give them stress, anxiety and sleepless nights. This figure rises to 60 per cent for the 25 to 34 year old age group and falls to just 29 per cent for the over-55s.

The research also revealed that almost half of all UK adults never keep a household budget, while a third suffer a monthly deficit with more going out than they have coming in. This leads to more than one in seven adults regularly exceeding their agreed overdraft and incurring significant bank charges, adding to their financial woes.

A separate survey conducted by Scottish Friendly last month found that half of the population do not know the difference between a cash and an investment Isa. Their ignorance may have cost them dearly over the last five years, as the mutual calculated that an average UK all-companies investment Isa has earned pound;1,279 more than a lacklustre savings Isa.

Neil Lovatt, director of savings at Scottish Friendly, said: People will naturally sway towards a cash ISA as it is the simplest to understand and there are a number of misconceptions floating around about what it means to invest in a stocks and shares ISA.

With most cash ISAs currently offering poor returns, one thing that may be holding people back is a lack of understanding about how investment ISAs work.

Even those who pride themselves on being financially capable may be surprised at how much they fall short of their ideals. Confident consumers are being challenged to use Britains Money Management Barometer to find out whether their intention to save, invest, steer clear of debt and stick to budgets translates into reality.

Dr Martin Samy at Leeds Business School has devised the quiz, available on the TD Direct Investing website, to help people understand their true relationship with money. He said: Relationships of any kind are created through the two factors of perception and behaviour. It is the difference between how you perceive yourself and how you act that provides you with an index or score that simply assesses your relationship with money and, in turn, helps you to make effective financial decisions.

The online OUBS course is run with the True Potential Centre for the Public Understanding of Finance.

David Harrison, managing partner of True Potential LLP, said: Investing and finance can be simple to understand subjects that are frequently made very complicated and inaccessible. We have set up this centre to democratise finance and make financial education more readily available.

These courses will arm people with the knowledge and information they need to make informed decisions about their finances, or to ask the right questions of the right people.

If your financial weak-spots are keeping you awake at night, you may find a new tool from the Money Advice Service helpful. The Money Worries interactive tool asks a series of questions to determine the impact of financial concerns on your wellbeing before pointing you towards other resources, like the sites budget planner and money health check, that should help to get you back on track.

Ian Williams, spokesman for Debt Advisory Centre Scotland, says: Many of the people we speak to have left it so long to get help and support with their worries about problem debt they admit the stress has started to affect their wellbeing. Thats why its so important to seek out the support thats needed as soon as possible.

Meanwhile this week RBS launched a new version of its Pigby money-saving app for children.

Designed by Aardman Animations, it features an interactive playground to inspire kids to save in the banks First Saver account.

Provincial scoring of municipal finances doesn’t necessarily add up to reality …

by Shelton on May 26th, 2014

filed under Finances

It depends on how you are interpreting the numbers, Stewiacke Mayor Wendy Robinson said, of the online reports released by the province as a way to help alert the public to financial difficulties faced by local governments.

So one of our red lines talks about whether we have money in the capital savings department, Robinson said, of the provincial score of 0 the town received under the five-year contributions to capital reserves category.

The zero score compares to a 13.8 average mark that towns received across the province, but Robinson said the scoring method doesnt really reflect an accurate picture for Stewiacke.

We do have reserves but we put them in the operating side of things because it is easier to get at, she said. So we have money saved, its just in a different bank account.

The municipal indicator scores are shown through both numbers and colour coding, with green used to indicate that a given town or municipality meets both a threshold and a town average. Yellow means a given community meets the town threshold but does not meet the town average, while red means it does not meet the town threshold.

Stewiackes total score includes seven red lines, five greens and three yellow.

We always run a balanced budget, Robinson said, adding that while the town has a smaller commercial base than some communities, it is well poised for future growth and the existing commercial and residential base provides more than enough revenue to meet current demands.

So we feel quite comfortable looking to the future, she said.

The County of Colchester received a score totalling nine yellows, three greens and three reds.

But as with Robinsons assessment, Mayor Bob Taylor said the scoring results dont necessarily translate into a true, up-to-date picture of the municipalitys finances.

I dont know how they extrapolate the figures, he said, especially given that the information used for the report cards is more than two years old.

Its like a snapshot in time, he said. Pretty well everything we had, theres a good explanation for it.

A case in point is Colchesters score for reliance on government transfer, for which it received a yellow. The rural municipality threshold for that category is below 15, with the rural municipal average for that category set at 4.9. Colchester received a 7.7 score.

But that was the year we got the funds from the feds and the province for the civic centre, Taylor said.

While the scores may be useful to a point, Truro Mayor Bill Mills also expressed some skepticism about their overall accuracy.

Truros in pretty good shape and were well aware of where we are as far as our debt levels are concerned, he said, of the towns 1.7 or yellow score for outstanding debt, compared to town average of 1.3.

My first response is these are indicators and they are essentially about two-and-a-half, three-years-old, he said.

The town received nine greens, four yellows and two reds on its report card.

And while Mills acknowledged that Truro will have to pull back in some areas as far as major capital projects are concerned, for the most part, all of our ducks are lined up.

We are staying the course, he said. The good thing is, the librarys is the last town-owned building that will need attention on the scale that we have been dealing with over the years.

But at the end of the day, Mills said, quoting a favourite phrase of a former town CAO: Things could be a hundred times better and a million times worse.

The full municipal scoring indicators are available online at: http://novascotia.ca/dma/finance/indicator/fci.asp .

hsullivan@trurodaily news

Twitter: @tdnharry

Organizations:

Robinsons

Geographic location:

Stewiacke, Colchester