by Iona Bain
SO the dust has settled following my recent appearance on Channel 4 news – I thought I’d take the opportunity to look back on what the experience taught me, as well as expand on the big themes that were really skimmed over in such a short time slot
In case you missed it, I was asked to comment on the latest report from the Office for Budget Responsibility, which articulated the need for serious cuts in public spending to keep our fragile economy in balance in years to come. I was asked to provide the young person’s perspective on what the future holds, and my views were contrasted with those typical of the older generation, outlined very thoughtfully by Mervyn Kohler, special adviser to Age UK;
Now you’ve seen the clip, check out some of my thoughts – treat it like a written DVD commentary, if you like!
- Firstly, it taught me that you should always, ALWAYS, look smart, no matter where you’re going and what you’re doing. Put on something that makes you feel brilliant every morning, even if your diary consists of Jeremy Kyle followed by Bargain Hunt that day. You never know when you’ll get the call to do something incredible, or even life-changing, and when it happens, you’ll want to look the part. FYI boys, you don’t have to pop on a flowery dress and tan wedges, though I’m not judging anyone…
Look sharp – even if you’ve only got Jeremy Kyle lined up in the diary
- More seriously, while we touched on some of the report’s findings, this was really a sounding board for a wider, more philosophical debate, and a 5 minute TV segment could never do this discussion real justice. Nevertheless, it is heartening that a major news programme (which just added Newsnight supremo Paul Mason to its team) is inviting young people to comment on big economic news, which you rarely see on TV. Is it a sign of things to come? Could the government and mainstream media finally be facing up to all the predicaments facing young people, and are they finally looking into the precipice to see what lies ahead for *our* children?
- There are still signs of an ostrich mentality among politicians when it comes to our renting trap, financial education is *well* overdue and there’s little awareness in the real world about the effect of degree inflation on young people’s prospects. The pensions debate is really in its infancy by comparison, which is why I was so keen to highlight the question marks over auto-enrolment for young people like me. What many older people may not realise is that many young people aren’t even at first base with budgeting and saving, and this needs to be urgently addressed before we start looking at the long-term.
- It was inevitable that some older viewers felt I was ganging up on pensioners. I wish I had more time to say that I’m aware of the pensions devastation that many of them have experienced, and that they have a huge amount to teach young people in terms of hard work and diligent saving. I also wanted to say that a more ‘get-up-and-go’ spirit is just not optional any more, not if young people are going to survive this fierce jobs market. I started my blog because nobody was lining up to give me a job when I graduated. If our woes start when we leave university because of inadequate degrees – this was the degree inflation I alluded to in my opening gambit – then we need a plan B, and the support to put that in place, until we find that golden career path.
- Life is easier for a young person if a) they can stay at home and b) find work that is commensurate with their training and education nearby. Sadly, many young people have to go a long way to find a better biscuit, spending more money by living in expensive places or having the extra cost of long-distance commuting.
- Young people can’t necessarily stay at home because of personal reasons. But if a parent or guardian can help a young person in these tough times, either financially or emotionally, it can make a huge difference.
- That’s what I was referring to when I spoke about keeping up morale. This really touched a nerve among viewers, which took me by surprise. The technical descriptions of auto-enrolment, the impact of cheap labour on job opportunities – none of this seemed to strike a chord in the same way as a simple yet obvious sentiment, which rarely gets heard – we have to keep young people’s spirits up!
- The older generation has a huge role to play in this ‘re-moralisation’, as I’d like to call it. We don’t want to see people give up their hard-earned benefits necessarily, but please, how it can be helpful to tell young people that they face an impoverished retirement and will suffer from squeezed public spending, without giving them the realistic tools to tackle these challenges? Education, as well as charity, has to start at home where possible, and in our schools as a necessary backstop.
- Many kind people contacted me to say that I was ‘representing’ the younger generation, giving young people rare voice on a big platform. That is very flattering but not necessarily true. I would only say that I speak for myself, based on my own experiences and what I have seen around me, and anyone is free to disagree with my thoughts. I simply hope that I can sum up what many other people might be thinking, but don’t have the means or ability to say it.
- The reaction to my appearance suggested that other young people do not feel they are represented enough in the media, and I sincerely hope that this starts to change.
- There is undeniable substance to the theory that a) the younger generation do not have a secure life path ahead and b) it is the fault of babyboomers both in power and in the electorate. However, that is not to say that many citizens and organisations have left young people in the shade. Check out my blog from last year on this issue: http://youngmoneyblog.co.uk/should-the-babyboomers-be-blamed-for-our-financial-woes/
- These TV items on these issues bring so many people out of the woodwork to talk about their experiences and views, and a super debate was had on Twitter as a result. Yes, there were a couple of trolls who got in touch, but I used to collect those as toys when I was a wee girl, so they hardly scare me.
Trolls aren’t so vicious after all
- The vast majority are prepared to take the time to thank you and earnestly respond to your points. It was wonderful to have people react openly and sincerely to the ‘young money’ cause, not trying to get anything from you in return. In the two years that I’ve been writing this blog, I have seldom received honest feedback, either praiseworthy or critical, from the people who really matter – you. So never hesitate to get in touch, even if you disagree with my views, because I relish any reaction (within reason!)
- If you do plan to go on television anytime soon, bear in mind that you never know who’ll get back in touch to congratulate you on your appearance. Ex-boyfriends, former piano teachers, family friends who last saw you swimming naked in a paddling pool as a toddler…you’ve been warned.
- My best email came from a librarian at my former university. He congratulated me, saying it reminded him that I owe £4 in overdue book fines and he was wondering when I might clear my debt. The perils of instant fame…
So I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to all the people who got in touch. To all you new readers, please do subscribe, follow me on Twitter and, most importantly, have a look at my back catalogue of articles. I hope you’ll find something helpful in there!