Are you letting your money wither away in a ‘scrapheap’ account?

By Iona Bain

Herald Scotland

The financial regulator is finally cracking down on high street banks who have let a huge swathe of our savings wither away in scrapheap accounts that earn as little as 0.1 per cent.

Half of the nation’s savings, worth £354bn, is housed in easy access accounts, but most consumers who hold onto the same account for years may not realise their interest rate has dwindled and that better-paying accounts have come onto the market.

That is because the big four banks, including two partly owned by the taxpayer, are keeping us in the dark about this two-speed savings market, according to the Financial Conduct Authority, which has identified a junkyard of 1000 accounts paying pitiful interest.

In its market study published this week, the FCA said big names had capitalised on their market dominance and consumer inertia to drive down interest rates on older accounts, with as much as £160bn held in products that paid less than the Bank of England’s base rate of 0.5 per cent in 2013.

Of that amount, £145bn was kept in moribund accounts with balances of at least £5,000, making it a no-brainer for many to switch to a more attractive deal.

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Filed under Banking, Consumer Affairs, Personal Finance, Savings Accounts

Why money and mates shouldn’t mix: Mr Anonymous gives us his take on financial feuds among friends

In the first of an occasional series, Young Money Blog’s Mr Anonymous (no, not Iona but a terrific young financial journalist!) will be giving his unvarnished views on the tricky issues affecting young people and their finances today…this week, he asks why young people are borrowing and lending among themselves, and why it can go badly wrong

By MR ANONYMOUS

It’s getting towards the end of the month and money’s running tight. Unopened bills are stacked beneath the letterbox and the rent is due. Payday still feels an eternity away.

Circumstances like these gave rise to the much-maligned payday loans industry. For many though, looking to a friend for financial assistance is far preferable to the exorbitant interest rates and aggressive collection tactics of the payday lenders.

Borrowing from our nearest and dearest can certainly seem a tempting proposition – a loan with zero percent interest (if they are charging, you might want to consider what kind of friend they are), without a credit check and from someone you trust.

But turning friends into creditors isn’t without risk. A recent survey showed 15 percent of people in the UK have lost a friend following a financial dispute. That figure rose to 28 percent among those aged between 24 and 35.

That it’s Generation Y who are most likely to fall out over money is hardly a great surprise.

The squeeze on young people’s finances coupled with the growth of the private rented sector has led to flat-sharing becoming increasingly popular, and sharing until later in life too.

As rent is the biggest regular expense for many, and the one people are most likely to struggle to pay, a flatmate may seem the natural person to turn to in a pinch.

But what starts as an act of goodwill can turn sour if the flatmate doesn’t pay the money back. However if the loan is well managed there needn’t be any cause to come to blows.

When the loan is agreed, make sure a repayment plan is understood and agreed by everyone involved. The sum could be paid back incrementally or all at once, depending on circumstances, but either way make sure firm dates and sums are set.

If the loan is to be paid incrementally, arranging a standing order with the bank to make regular repayments will help put everyone’s mind at ease.

Crucially, make sure not to lend a sum that will put you in hardship – this is sure to worsen the blow if the money isn’t repaid. Similarly, neither party should feel they have been pressurised into the deal – this could lead to resentment even when the debt is repaid. Being honest about expectations upfront will help avoid this.

But perhaps a more difficult situation is not when a flatmate asks for money, but when they don’t pay their share of the rent or bills. As rent is frequently taken out of just one person’s bank account – the lead tenant – a flatmate who doesn’t contribute can leave the lead seriously out of pocket.

The date for transferring funds between flatmates should be set well in advance of the day rent is due. That way, if the flatmate doesn’t transfer the money at the agreed point there’s still time to gently remind them – maybe with a pointed joke or two – before the rent is due.

If that doesn’t work then it may be the moment to do what good friends do: find out if they are struggling, see if you can help them find a better way to organise their finances, and finally – if you can both afford it and believe they will be able to repay – you might consider offering to help financially.

What do you think? Get in touch and let me know what you think. ionabain[at]hotmail.com

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Filed under Debt, Loans, Social pressures

Students – what’s the strangest purchase you’ve ever made?

Iona Bain

A BUST OF ELVIS, A MONK’S ROBE AND KANGAROO STEAKS – THE NATION’S SECRET STUDENT SHOPPING LIST REVEALED

  • One in five students has bought at least one unusual item with their student loan

  • The same number admit to lying to their parents about where their money goes

A new study, carried out by the free personal finance service Money Dashboard, has found that one in five students (20%) admit to buying bizarre items with their student loan. The strangest buys range from a life-size statue of Nicolas Cage to an elephant’s foot umbrella stand, decorative swords and a bust of Elvis Presley. [1]

Fancy dress parties are clearly still a major motivator for strange buys, which include a monk’s robe, a Where’s Wally onesie and a chicken suit. There is evidence of evening excess as well, in the form of drinking horns and a glass that can contain an entire bottle of wine.

TOP 10 MOST UNUSUAL STUDENT PURCHASES

  1. A bust of Elvis Presley

  2. An elephant’s foot umbrella stand

  3. A life-size statue of Nicolas Cage

  4. Decorative swords

  5. A monk’s robe

  6. Kangaroo steaks

  7. A giant inflatable bat

  8. Krill oil

  9. A Newton’s cradle

  10. A ceramic owl

The research also found that over a fifth of students (21%) admit that they are rarely or never honest with their parents when it comes to money. While almost one in ten (8%) never discuss their finances at home. 

Using your student loan to buy wacky items and extravagant outfits is understandable.

We are under constant pressure to keep up with our peers and be the life and soul of the party when we’re young.  Buying trophy items or splashing out on fancy dress shows what an absolute legend you are, and this helps to oil the wheels of your social life – crucial when you’re away from home for the first time, perhaps in a strange city, and needing to feel that you ‘belong’.

“Undergraduates also have the freedom and space to spend how they like, often for the first time in their lives. This can be very liberating but it can also present problems. Firstly, many students haven’t had the ‘talk’ about finances with Mum and Dad, and compulsory financial education on the English curriculum has come too late for many young people. They haven’t been well drilled about budgeting, recognising value for money and resisting frivolous purchases.

“We also feel grown-up and entitled to make our own financial decisions when we leave home. But for students, there is no connection between how much work they do and how much money they receive in the form of a student loan. This means that they can take their income for granted. Psychological research has also found that the adult brain doesn’t fully mature until the age of 25, which means that many students can’t handle their new-found financial freedom. That is very clearly demonstrated by worrying levels of unnecessary debt among undergraduates, caused by excessive reliance on payday loans, credit cards and bank overdrafts.

“Many believe that debt is an inevitable part of life once you attend university, due to the burden of student loans and so-called “higher eduflation”. But university can be a golden opportunity to find out what smart financial management entails. We’re bound to be experimental with our income, buy questionable items and make mistakes, especially when we’re young. But no-one has to learn about debt the hard way, and it’s essential to use our precious funds to fulfill our personal needs, not to fit in with friends or conform to materialistic expectations.

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Zero hour = zero ethics? The tricky politics of short-term working contracts

By Helen Lawless

ACCORDING TO SCOTTISH FIENDLY, unemployed people have 9.3 per cent of income left over after essentials are paid for – compared to 7.8 per cent for zero-hour workers. What does this mean for Britain’s army of young workers on short-term, short-notice contracts?

There has been a great deal of controversy around zero-hour contracts of late, and this condemning piece of evidence will justify many previous claims that the UK’s current economic recovery is uneven, and at the expense of those who had the least economic security to begin with. Zero hour contracts offer the false promise of a decent livelihood, taking advantage of those who need income the most, but they fail to provide the basic standard of living that unemployment benefits do. And young people are one of the most vulnerable groups in this skewed economic recovery, as they are more often likely to be reliant on part-time employment and zero hour contracts.

Part-time work is often taken up by young people because it requires less experience and because it can fit in alongside other commitments such as studying. Zero-hour contracts have become an increasingly common strategy amongst larger retail chains, namely Amazon, which brought them into the forefront of the public eye; as they help cut costs and allow retailers to flexibly adapt their workforce according to volumes of trade. Essentially not having to guarantee hours to workers, or let them know their shifts more than a couple of hours in advance, means that a firm rarely needs to pay more workers than it requires, or be short-staffed: both common problems in an industry as mercurial and fast-paced as retail. So from the employers’ perspective it makes perfect sense; but for the people who rely on this kind of work, it creates a great deal of psychological and financial insecurity.

The unpredictability of these contracts means that it is near impossible to plan your social life, studies, or basically anything else. You aren’t able to commit firmly to anything in advance or form a comfortable daily routine, because when you’re offered work, it is vastly too much of a risk to turn it down. It’s too high a risk not just because there is the phantom possibility that you will be fired for doing so, although that has been known to occur, but more saliently because you don’t know when your next shift will be offered, or how many hours it will be, so you can’t afford to say no to immediate income. Moreover, not knowing when your income is coming, or what it’s likely to be, makes it extraordinarily difficult to make sound financial plans about your spending and thus your life. Zero-hour contracts are also often associated with a lack of benefits or advancement possibilities, and an inability to attain credit.

This news comes as a damning edict to the current government, who will no doubt be running their re-election platform on the amount of jobs they have generated whilst in office. Not all employment is created equal, and zero hour contracts take advantage of people trying to make the best of things, and cope with rapidly rising living costs. For example, a recent report from Ofgem has shown that energy prices have risen twice as fast as inflation, and four times as fast as the average wage. Let alone a wage that is inferior to jobseekers’ allowance. This exploitative form of employment has been denounced by many activist groups and trade unions already, one of the most significant of which is the University College Union, which is campaigning to stop “casual employment” in university staffing. Another effort which has been growing in support and causing quite a stir as a result is a Christmas boycott of retailer Amazon, organized by a group called Amazon Anonymous, which pledged to spend nearly three million pounds with other retailers during Christmas.

Being a low wage worker, which so many young people are, affords you very few forms of workplace security: you are more replaceable to your employers, you have less experience to call upon, and you have fewer alternatives to fall back on should you need to. Zero hour contracts exponentially heighten this insecurity within the workplace, and make you even less likely to feel valued by your employers. Now the evidence confirms what many have long suspected: zero-hour contracts are an unacceptably insufficient form of employment. The recession and cost of living crisis are still very much aspects of the present for some, often along gender, geographical, and age lines. Young people are being punished for simply trying to work and secure their financial well-beings, whilst Amazon has been widely expected to make $23bn over the holidays alone. Happy New Year indeed…

The views expressed in this piece are those of the writer. This post is kindly supported by Scottish Friendly. Please do get in touch with your views or leave a comment below.

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Investigation: Is financial education being left to chance in Britain’s classrooms?

BY IONA BAIN

Herald Scotland

A leading financial education provider has warned that money can all too easily fall to the bottom of a vague “wish list” of topics to be taught in Scotland’s classrooms.

The Stewart Ivory programme has revealed how schools are still struggling to fulfil their statutory obligation to provide financial lessons, wrestling with a loose requirement to fit these into any of the core subjects on the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence.

The scheme’s chairman, Hamish Buchan, said many teachers “lack the confidence” to tackle this subject properly, while some fear that external teaching material offered by the banking sector is based on a “subliminal need to sell products”.

Mr Buchan called for more support and funding to be given to independent charities, which can provide the impartial resources and knowledgeable experts necessary to make financial education happen.

His view has been echoed by MyBnk, an English charity which is urging the government to introduce “a funded and kite-marked system” that helps schools draw on “tailored, non-profit services”. Plans for a rubberstamped database of reputable charities that could spread financial literacy have been recently shelved by the government-backed Money Advice Service, according to MyBnk.

The Centre for Social Justice has also warned that funding for this sector is “in short supply”, with many financial services organisations pulling the plug in the mistaken belief that “the job is done” now that financial education is on the English syllabus.

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Investigation: is customer satisfaction REALLY improving at Britain’s big banks?

Herald Scotland

One of the UK’s biggest banking trade unions has claimed that a “performance rating bias” against branch staff of Lloyds Banking Group is proof that a sales-driven culture still dominates retail banking.

iona bain

The allegation, made by Lloyds Trade Union in a recent newsletter, raises questions about how much customer service is improving in Scotland’s bank branches.

The Financial Conduct Authority said earlier this year that banks had all cleaned up their rewards systems to ensure staff were not motivated to push products to customers, following the PPI scandal which has seen the banks pay out £16billion, and Lloyds itself make provisions of over £10bn for mis-selling.

Banks have typically moved staff onto ‘balanced scorecards’ which put a strong emphasis on customer feedback.

But Mark Brown, general secretary of LTU, claimed: “Balanced scorecards are anything but balanced at the moment and sales performance is still the key driver of performance ratings.”

He went on: “During a wide-ranging discussion, last week we told the Financial Conduct Authority that if they were to ask front line retail banking staff in Lloyds Banking Group, and other similar organisations, which factors on their ‘balanced scorecards’ had more influence on their performance ratings, the overwhelming majority of staff would say it was sales performance, however it’s described.”

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Young Money’s special CHRISTMAS episode–what went down?

Making Christmas a time for giving rather than just buying presents was the theme of Iona’s festive Young Money show on Share Radio this morning.

She welcomed to the studio guests from Triodos Bank and Care International – whose scheme to lend small amounts to people setting up micro-businesses in the developing world we heard being promoted by Joanna Lumley.

The festive season is also a time for reflection, Iona said.

“You have the ability to take yourself out of day to day life, look at the world around you, and ask yourself how can I make a difference – and that chimes with young people who maybe feel they don’t have a huge opportunity to do good but are quite idealistic in nature.”

You don’t have to be rich to donate to charity. A study found that between 2010 and 2012 there was a big upsurge in the average donations by 16 to 24 year olds, from £6.40 to £13.20, driven by the new opportunities on social media.

Facebook and Just Giving in particular make it easy for young people to support their friends’ charitable activities.

Websites and apps also encourage the instinct. Iona cited Pennies.org, which rounds up card purchases, Giving a Bit And Give as You Live, which pass on retailer commissions to charities, and Help from Home which offers participation in socially useful projects without leaving the house – or even the bed!

There are also ethical banking options, such as the Charity Bank Isa, from the bank that passes on profits to a wide range of charities, paying 1.5% but only till January 15 when the rate drops to 1% – still competitive with standard banking Isas.

Triodos, the Dutch ethical bank, also has savings accounts including an Isa, and head of personal banking Huw Davies joined the show to talk about them.

“Young people have a desire to be part of positive change in many ways and this extends to the use of money,” Huw said. “People realise money is central to so many things and can be used for good –there is more and more awareness of this and a desire to question and look for alternatives in how we use it.”

He said Triodos lends its savers’ cash to “organisations in key sectors which we think are important – farming, clean energy, social projects, fair trade and also certain areas of cultural life”. He said the societal projects, engaging with disadvantaged parts of communities, appeared to strike the loudest chord with the bank’s younger customers.

Next into the studio was Jo Broughton, press officer at Care International, to talk about lendwithcare.org, who began by revealing she had been on hand at Joanna Lumley’s recording of the charity’s promotional trailer.

The scheme has so far loaned more than £5m to over 14,000 people in poor countries since it was set up only four years ago. It works with microfinance agencies to grant loans averaging £300 to people who by setting up their own micro-businesses can escape poverty and send their children to school. It is a crowdlending model, so you can go onto the lendwithcare website and pick your own deserving cause, lending from as little as £15. And you can get it back, because the loans all get repaid within six to 12 months. Then you can decide whether to re-lend to another deserving story.

The Christmas connection is that you can go online and buy a lendwithcare voucher as a gift.

“In terms of an ethical gift, not only are you helping poor people but it is done in an ethical way,” Jo said.

She revealed that out of the 14,500 loans, only five have defaulted, usually because of a death, in which cases the loan is written off. The microfinance agency partners used by the charity have to offer microsavings and support services, not just loans, and must ensure that the business plans they support are ethical and good for their communities. The scheme is now into its tenth country across Africa and Asia.

Jo said donating is fine, but for cash-strapped young people the lending model may have a particular appeal, as it does not mean signing up for a direct debit.

Iona asked Jo about the organisation’s survey on ‘regifting’ – passing on your unwanted presents, and suggested that sometimes we are “giving presents just for the sake of it”. A third of women admitted to doing so in the survey, though it is still something of a taboo. Sometimes it amounted to “the same box of chocolates being passed around from one family to another”, Jo said. “We say that’s a waste. Everybody knows it’s the thought that counts, and a thoughtful gift can benefit people in the third world – but it’s also a nice thing for people to do on Christmas Day.”

If you are short of a family present, downloading a voucher on Christmas morning – and inviting the recipient to choose their own deserving project – is a neat solution. “Our research shows that the most highly-valued presents are those which get the family together,” Jo said.

Iona closed the show with a few timely warnings on office parties, quoting surveys which found 40% of people admitted to “misdemeanours” at a festive workplace event – and one in ten had even been fired for it.

She and co-host Georgie Frost – ahead of ShareRadio’s own Christmas bash tonight – mused over the fact that younger workers are keen to impress, less experienced, perhaps even less alcohol-tolerant, and more vulnerable to embarrassing mishaps. Iona suggested that young employees should join in the fun, but not adopt an over-trusting approach to the office party which might come back to bite them.

DON’T MISS THE NEXT LIVE YOUNG MONEY SHOW ON JANUARY 2 at 9.15 on SHARE RADIO!

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Filed under Banking, Christmas, Consumer Affairs, Ethical Finance, Moneysaving tips, Personal Finance, Technology

Preparing for the financial quagmire that is university

Investment analysis, news and views. TRUST Online from Baillie Gifford

Iona Bain

Are parents doing enough to prepare their children for the financial minefield that is university life?

The Rising Cost of University

That is the unavoidable question triggered by recent research from education firm Blackbullion, which found that 51 per cent of undergraduates have, at some point, run out of money in-between student loan instalments.

Of course, this frightening figure is partly a manifestation of what I call ‘higher eduflation’. That means the rising cost of university basics, from textbooks to bus tickets, is making it far harder for students to stretch out their meagre income. Indeed, separate research from Family Investments confirms that undergraduates are cutting back on basic living costs, as they adjust their budget to reflect the increased pressure of higher tuition fees. Meanwhile, the Money Charity has been warning that freshers are “set up to fail” due to expensive digs that swallow up their income.

So far, so what. Students aren’t supposed to be rolling in dough. Besides, who on earth could be financially functional in those circumstances? A fresher is technically in debt the moment they step on campus as a result of the student loan system, so living outside their means is not just inevitable – it’s practically a requirement of their degree.

In fact, the ‘skint student’ is a bit of cherished British institution now, a ubiquitous media cliché and arguably the only model of poverty that seems universally understandable and acceptable.

According to the stereotype, the ‘skint student’ can hail from almost any background (even a relatively affluent or middle class one) and can be seen at any university. They embrace their lopsided budgets, with more money going out than coming in, making ridiculous economies based around baked beans, Pot Noodle and other nutritiously dubious products. But hey, they’re happy because they party all night long, sleep in till midday and generally live for the moment, right?

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Generation Pause, Candy Crush Saga, financial education and doing what makes your heart sing; this week on the Young Money show

Forget Candy Crush Saga, what about the latest app that teaches young people something about finance? On this morning’s Young Money show on Share Radio, co-host Iona talked about Generation Pause and led a studio discussion on how youngsters can find the career that will inspire them.

A new report says Generation Y are becoming Generation Pause – putting their lives on hold and having to remain dependent on their family. It found fewer than 1 in 5 adults under 30 were proactively managing their finances and budgeting, with the big life decisions increasingly being put off into the 30s.

“So many young people don’t know what they will be doing in 2 or 3 years never mind 5 or 10,” Iona said, making it difficult to decide to get on the housing ladder or think about marriage.

In most cases young people require some help from bank of Mum & Dad, if it’s available, and it is frustrating if you have to put life events on hold.

Next up, Iona spotted an Esurv survey which found the tightening of criteria for approving mortgages has disproportionately affected first-time buyers – the so-called ‘mortgage market review’ means lenders now have to take into account outgoings such as pension payments and student loans.

She quoted pensions minister Steve Webb’s concern that young people will be put off long-term saving if they think it will affect their ability to buy their first home.

Steve Webb

Following the fuss over Tory MP Nigel Mills caught playing Candy Crush Saga during a pensions debate in the Commons, Iona wondered whether there should be a must-have app that will help young people budget at Christmas?

The Topcashback website has found most young people haven’t done any planning – so what about the YourMoney app, which makers hope will be as addictive as Candy Crush Saga?

To test people’s knowledge on a couple of key numbers, the Chartered Securities and Investment Institute (CISI) – put questions to the public: what is the minimum wage for an 18-year-old (£5.13) and how much does it cost to send a student to uni for a year (£17,000).

“These are the biggest issues facing young people, the cost of university and the world of work,” Iona said.

She then welcomed to the studio Matt Bolton, teaching and learning specialist at CISI, which has devised the YourMoney app.

Matt is a former business teacher now working with schools which teach CISI qualifications at key stages 4 and 5.

He said the new app aims to get young people to compete with one another over financial knowledge – “App technology appeals to young people, it is something where you can have a bit more fun”.

Matt said a massive part of the CISI’s work was to educate young people about the careers are available, when the financial world tends to be by pupils and by undergraduates seen as just accountancy.

Iona wondered whether financial education can be picked up and put down like a game and should young people have more concentrated exposure to financial concepts.

Matt said the app complements other ways of talking about financial education and literacy, there has been a lot of progress in financial education over the last few years including the inclusion of PF in maths and citizenship after a lot of campaigning involving PFEG and CISI among others.

“An app isn’t the solution but is something that will complement existing initiatives.”

Iona said apps have been around for a while, why has it taken so long?

Matt said timing is right now because “we are starting to establish it in the curriculum and it is becoming more important to young people”.

CISI will also be developing materials that teachers can use in the classroom based on the app, which already has different levels of difficulty, which will range across numeracy challenges and other areas.

Iona said this might be the first app that could be taken into account in assessing educational qualifications. May we be seeing digital education playing a bigger part?

Matt said alternative methods of delivery already exist and teaching is no longer just about blackboard or whiteboards, schools have virtual learning environments and this is a trend that we are building on.

Iona moved on to talk about a recent conference which questioned whether too many youngsters being controlled by pushy mothers and fathers with a “spreadsheet approach to education”, with young people going into certain careers to please their parents, and under big pressures to gain top grades to get the only jobs worth having.

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Matt Bolton

She asked whether this is a sensible precaution, or can it be counter-productive? Can young people be unaware of lucrative and fulfilling careers that are out there?

Iona said it’s been said that 90% of primary school pupils will go into careers that haven’t been invented yet, and there is a big emphasis on STEM subjects ( science technology maths and engineering) that have an image problem.

For instance, girls are inclined to see engineering and technology as uncool. That’s not the case in countries such as India where there is an equal split in young people studying computing sciences, Iona said.

Co-host Georgie Frost asked whether it is largely down to family influence. Matt said much of it comes back to what kind of careers advice is available and some of the things that aren’t being said or done in schools and about the careers are available.

CISI did a YouGov survey on financial services careers and the two main perceptions were that it is “boring and full of numbers”, Matt said. In fact relationship-building and technology are major parts. One of the main sources of misinformation is parents being pushy but out of date.

Matt said the government’s recent announcement to fund a new initiative on a careers company was welcome – because how many things does a teacher need to do?

Iona said what about connecting employers not just with teachers and children but also with parents who have out of date perceptions about careers? Matt said getting the message across to young people now will mean the next generation will be better informed parents.

Iona said kids do have to pick certain subjects at GCSE and A level to have certain pathways open. You can’t always have the luxury of waiting until school is finished to decide what you want to do.

Matt said all the same we shouldn’t pigeonhole people at too young an age, people nowadays do move from job to job, and there are options later when your qualifications don’t necessarily lead to a particular pathway

Matt said there are now far more options for young people, with apprenticeships becoming more accessible. “It is not all about going to university, employers are now more open to giving opportunities to people without a degree. “

Georgie said it is about parents understanding that the world they grew up in is different. Iona said surely the annual meeting between teachers and parents is an opportunity to talk about kids’ strengths and possible options?

Matt said schools have had responsibility for delivering careers advice since 2012, some schools do it fantastically well, others don’t. Some schools have great work-related programmes where employers come in to talk about their firms. A career is a massive decision, and it comes back to the quality of support and advice for young people.

It’s more confusing and stressful but there are also a lot of opportunities .

Iona said there had been 62 per cent rise in calls to Childline about exam pressures between 2012 and 2013.

Hannah Naima McCloskey on right

Iona asked Hanna Naima McCloskey from the 30% Club whether she had chosen her career early. Hanna, in an inspiring conclusion to the show, told Iona said what was clear that young women in particular needed to see they had far more options than they were told by the media, their families,and society more broadly.

Hannah said: “Do what makes your heart sing, find your passion and what inspires you, that is my advice to young people.”

Tune in next week for another great show, Share Radio, Friday morning, 9.15 !!

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Filed under Careers, First-time buyers, Pensions & Retirement, Personal Finance, Personal Finance Education, Technology

Autumn Statement, rapping, money mentors and the joys of a packed lunch; this week on Share Radio

Young money mentors – two 14-year-old high school pupils from Lancashire – were the star guests invited by Iona onto on this morning’s Young Money Young Rights on Share Radio!

Co-presenter Iona also looked at this week’s autumn statement by George Osborne and at whether credit unions should be seen as an alternative to payday lenders – as celebrated in a credit union rap!

Iona said most of the financial world had this week been focused on what George Osborne was doing for the grey vote but there were two big announcements affecting young people

For the first time there will be automatic entitlement to a student loan of up to £10,000 a year for postgraduate and Masters courses for those under 30.

Improved funding for postgrads will be across all areas, but Iona suggested it could be a shot in the arm for the government’s campaign to encourage more children to go into the vital STEM subjects – science,technology, engineering and maths

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Iona with Emily and Patrick

Dr Steve McCabe of Birmingham City University said there had been a massive drop-off in postgrad education in recent years He said it is the postgrad degrees that are more about finding creating solutions for industry, and we need these skills to help us out of the economic crisis.

But he worried that we are loading people with ever more debt

Richard Lloyd of Which? said that when students are now paying more than £9000 for their course they need to do their homework to find out what they are going to get for their money

On the importance of non-academic factors in choosing a course, Iona said this matters when employers are looking at you in the round – sports and music for isnatcne allow you to become more disciplined and better at time management. But she stressed that it’s the quality of your degree that really matters

The second big item in the Autumn Statement was on apprenticeships – Iona said we all know how important they are for young people and for industry, and the Chancellor’s scrapping of the requirement for employers to pay National Insurance for those under 25 can only be a good thing.

Iona said stamp duty has long been under attack, and according to an EMoov survey 29 per cent of buyers are deterred from buying at all by stamp duty. Iona said: “I have known young people who have put off buying a home even if they have as deposit because the extra cost was just too much for them.”

But one fly in the ointment could be upward pressure on prices, with more people encouraged to become private landlords, and potentially higher rents

Iona in the studio with Georgie, Emily, Patrick and Brian

Iona has been looking into why young people are more likely to turn to a payday lender than a bank to fund their festive purchases

Citizens Advice Bureau recently revealed that 62 per cent of callers aged between 17 and 25 are struggling with debt as a result of payday loans, with only 8 per cent are having problems with credit cards and other borrowing

Payday loan companies are specifically targeting students and young people with broker websites, many of which are specifically targeting students and other vulnerable consumers

“If you type payday loans into Google you will find ‘loans for young people’ ‘loans for 18-year-olds’ even ‘loans for poor people’,” Iona said.

“You could argue that bank loans are an option and they should be stepping up to the plate and providing short-term loans. I gave a talk at one of the big four banks recently and senior figures they told me there was no way banks could do it.”

Iona went on: “Credit unions have been put forward as the obvious ethical alternative to the high-cost borrowing phenomenon, in fact there has even been been a rap commissioned by the Church of England to celebrate credit unions…………”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9j0GYKzVuU

Iona said the problem is credit unions can only legally charge a maximum 42 per cent APR making it difficult for most to offer short-term borrowing “Only a handful of them have moved into the quick loan market for that reason….what they need are financially stable members who are saving into their coffers all year round.”

Credit unions believe if you can’t afford to save you can’t afford to borrow.

“ I think it’s time to get back to basics – have a look at your recent bank statements, if the cost of that night out shocks you, if you spent more than you bargained for at a particular online store, it’s time to get some strategies in place.”

Iona talked about the marshmallow experiment – where people prepared to wait for two marshmallows rather than take the one in front of them were found to be more successful in life – suggesting that deferring gratification might be the way to go.

She also mentioned the ‘free money’ current accounts from First Direct and M & S Bank which offer incentives to switch your bank account

Iona was joined in the studio by two young money mentors “who are so good with money they have been teaching other young people” – high school pupils teaching primary school pupils about money.

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The merry band of Money Mentors from Southlands High School

Emily Cook and Patrick Farnworth both aged 14 came all the way from Chorley in Lancashire with project champion Brian Souter of the Debt Advice Foundation

Emily said everyone has to deal with money at most stages of their life and “we strongly believe it is something people should be strongly educated in, but unfortunately it has it has been missed out of the educational system”.

They work with a programme of 6 lessons on dealing with money which are taught to years 5 and 6 in primary schools

Patrick told Iona young minds were easier to mould. “They will listen to people, older ones don’t see the point, people in our secondary school for instance listen to these lessons and say –‘ so what, I’m not really that bothered’. Grown-ups make rules they don’t understand, but we are their age and our voices are more valued by them.”

Emily: “We go right from the basics, prioritising what they are spending on….. looking at the world of work, planning ahead, making sure they can avoid bad debt.”

She told Iona they had used a puppet show to illustrate the dangers of payday loans. “Being student teachers we can do tasks with them in a fun way so they enjoy the lessons.”

Iona put the young mentors to the test. “If I gave you £40 right now, what would you do with it?”

Patrick said he would spend it – or three-quarters of it anyway.

Co-host Georgie Frost asked what he would spend it on. Patrick: “Not sure, I’m sure I’d find something once I were outside.”

Patrick told Iona there was such a thing as good debt. “When you go to university you are inevitably going to end up in debt unless you are from a very rich family and not many people are, so you go and buy a course and get a loan for that. That is good debt because you only pay that loan off when you are in an job, earning at a certain threshold.”

Iona asked where Emily and Patrick get their knowhow from. Parents had helped, Emily said. She told Georgie pocket money was a good starting-place.

“When you go to a shop and say ‘oh Mum I want that little pony there’– it’s like with the marshmallow thing you were saying before – if the kid wants the pony now they might be able to get it, but if they saved up for a bit longer they might be able to get the whole big set with all the accessories and that’s a bit more exciting.”

Patrick said he got a £5 weekly allowance and could get school dinners or a packed lunch. “It’s up to me how I spend it, it’s like giving me a little responsibility and dipping my toes in the world of money.”

Iona asked Patrick whether packed lunches were the way to go. “I think they are definitely, because there’s nothing wrong with a good packed lunch…When you buy meals at work it is usually quite expensive and it might not be as high quality as your packed lunch could be.”

Brian Souter, education manager at the Debt Advice Foundation, said the project had started from one money diary in one class, comparing a family that got into debt and one that didn’t, had been turned into a lesson, and had spread.

“We now have 11 secondary schools who are money mentor schools going into 80 primary schools receiving the lessons.” Pupils were now writing a lesson on university and what you should and shouldn’t do, for use in secondary school.

Iona asked how the project fitted in around exam pressures.

Emily: “ When you want to do something you get it done, it has become a priority as I enjoy doing it and it is not a burden to me…I started it last year before my exam year began..you get great feedback and a great experience.”

Brian: “We want people to be well qualified and get good exam grades but it is not many hours and look at what the young people gain in terms of confidence, communication skills, working together, writing materials……. We have quite a few money mentors who want to be teachers…what a way to find out whether they like this or not, at the age of 14.”

Is it cool to learn about money? Brian: “We have found out that the whole concept of financial education in primary schools should have started in primary schools, as Patrick said, because attitudes are formed at a young age.” But making it cool to learn about money was crucial. Children reacted very differently to being taught by pupils only three years older than them, and “the results we are getting are very very positive”.

Iona asked how the project had affected the two young mentors’ career ideas. Patrick is intrigued by money but wants to go into science. Emily likes the idea of teaching.

Listen up again next week!

Young Money Young Rights on Share Radio

9.15 on Friday mornings

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