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


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.


1 Comment

Filed under Personal Finance Education, Scotland

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.”

Read the rest here

Leave a Comment

Filed under Banking, Consumer Affairs

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, 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, 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.


Leave a Comment

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?


Leave a Comment

Filed under Budgeting, Consumer Affairs, Credit, Debt, Personal Finance, Personal Finance Education, Student Finance

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.

Embedded image permalink

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 !!

Leave a Comment

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


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…………”

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.


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 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

Leave a Comment

Filed under Banking, Bargain hunting, Budgeting, Careers, Christmas, Consumer Affairs, Credit, Debt, Economy, Graduate finance, Payday loans, Personal Finance, Personal Finance Education, Politics, Scotland, Train travel

Do women have it tougher than men in the workplace? REPORT from the 30 per cent club

Today, I went to an event organised by the 30 per cent Club on ‘nurturing young female talent’ in the UK – here’s what went down.

The 30 per cent club was founded four years ago by Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investment Management, and her high profile movement to increase female representation on boards has inevitably sparked questions about how to inspire the next generation of female generation.

The event heard from the CEO of Girl Guides – Julie Bentley – as well as Elizabeth Passey of the 30 per cent Club University Project and Lynda Gratton, professor of management at London Business School, who announced the winners of two new scholarships available for young women.

2014-12-02 17.26.53

Professor Gratton said: “Women are horribly underrepresented in Britain’s business schools – that’s why young women should badger, badger, badger their employers to send them on these courses, to invest in their education because the men sure do that. I want to be able to look out on a room when I’m lecturing and see 50 per cent men and 50 per cent women.” Attendees at the event also told me that big businesses only advertise vacancies and recruitment opportunities at Russell League universities – one company ran a recruitment scheme where the majority of students were white male economic graduates from Warwick University.

Helena Morrisey added: “The focus is definitely shifting from [equal representation] being a women’s issue to being a business issue.”

Hanna Naima McCloskey, founding director of Fearless Futures, also told attendees that the traditional image of inequality has been “a pinch on the bum by a senior director” before going onto talk about hidden inequality like unconscious bias and the effect of networks.

Hanna said that young woman surveyed by the organisation reported a stereotype of fewer girls studying science but acknowledged that this perception is rooted based in reality, as seen in UK schools and all over the world. Hanna said there is now a project in one school, instigated by both boys and girls, to buck this trend.

She added that media representation was another problem: “‘In films over the last three years, there have been only 3 female characters who have been political leaders with power: one was a mute, one was an elephant and the other was Margaret Thatcher”.

Fearless futures runs a programme which allows young women to “speak up, play big and be leaders in their communities”.

Hanna spoke about how her own grandmother was an illiterate child bride from Algeria who, nonetheless, recognised the value of education, making sure here mum went to school even if she had to surreptitiously “throw her satchel out of the window” as she left for school to hide this fact from disapproving neighbours. This paved the way for her mum to study in the UK in the 70s – and the rest is history.

Niamh Corbett, vice president of Morgan Stanley, said the 30% club was aimed to help young women decide “what kind of career they want and equip them to get skills – hard or soft – in order to get it”.

She said there is always a stage in a woman’s career where “it gets hard and “women realise it might be different”. However, one attendee at the event told me: “There is a danger that young women start to buy into the idea that they have it harder than men, and certain careers will not be for them. When I was 16, I didn’t think life would be more difficult for me than for a man but I hear my 16 year old nieces say “oh, it’s tough out there for a woman” – awareness of the problems is good but it can go too far and be counterproductive and demoralising.”

Nonetheless, Niamh said plans were afoot to launch a media database full of female experts who could speak on TV and radio about business, the economy and finance – not just ‘women’s issues’. The initiative will also survey women at all stages in their careers to find out what it takes to make it, with both developments slated for 2015.

2014-12-02 18.37.57

Finally, we heard from Robert Peston, BBC economics editor, who said official statistics had shown women’s’ wages creeping ahead of men’s between the ages of 20 and 40 in recent times, only for the gap to widen dramatically and in a “scandalous” way thereafter. He said: “We need to foster a generation of young people who regard inequality as unacceptable.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Get in touch at ionabain[at]…

Leave a Comment

Filed under Careers

Credit unions are for life–not just for Christmas!

Iona Bain

CREDIT unions are for life, not just for Christmas. That’s the message from the Scottish League of Credit Unions, which is concerned its 31-strong network has been misrepresented as an alternative to the payday loan sector and a way for Scots to access quick cash during the festive season.

Dermot O’Neill, chief executive of the organisation, argued credit unions are now being expected to offer smaller loans to vulnerable citizens in December, typically charging only pound(s)2 in interest on every pound(s)100 loan made over three months, at a time when they need to attract financially stable members who save and borrow all year round in order to survive.

The Church of Scotland encouraged its 450,000 plus members last year to shun payday loan companies and “take advantage” of locally-run credit unions instead.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has said desperate borrowers can access money “in a short timeframe” from some credit unions in the run-up to Christmas.

One of Scotland’s largest credit unions, Scotwest, now offers same-day approval on pound(s)500 loans for existing members who work for certain companies, while unsecured loans of the same amount can also be provided for all-comers, both at an APR of 26.8 per cent.

Capital Credit Union has a similar Swift Loan product with free insurance, and both credit unions say they are “ethical” products, with no hidden charges and plenty of time to repay. But Mr O’Neill said smaller credit unions have resisted political pressure to lend anywhere near their maximum legal rate, 42.6 per cent APR, to avoid being seen as an “emergency solution to a lack of financial planning” in the run-up to Christmas.

Mr O’Neill said: “The language being used to describe credit unions needs to be tempered.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Christmas, Consumer Affairs, Credit, Debt, Loans, Payday loans, Personal Finance, Politics, Savings Accounts

Black Friday, weddings, getting paid to do a degree and switching from the courtroom to the jewellery studio: this week on Young Money, Young Rights

The expense of weddings, and how a barrister switched careers and became a jewellery-maker to the stars, were in the spotlight this morning as the weekly Young Money Young Rights show, co-presented by Iona, went on air at Share Radio.

Iona’s quick consumer tip was don’t fall for expensive make-up and beauty products when you are not necessarily getting better value than buying cheaper ranges. “It’s so easy to go down to your local department store and hit up all those designer make-up counters and have an extremely expensive makeover, appealing when you are there in the moment but actually you will probably save a huge amount by going down to your local Boots, Superdrug or even discount store.”

Asked about the ‘Black Friday’ shopping rush, Iona said Bangor University researchers have found that people stop calculating the value of discounts after 23minutes, and after 40 minutes “we begin to shop emotionally”.

Watch out for samples, making you feel indebted and obliged to buy, take out cash with you rather than cards, and don’t forget about the Boxing Day sales.

Iona said it seems most people are not buying Christmas presents at all today but shopping for themselves. “Try not be too selfish when you are out in the shops…I try to take a measured approach to shopping otherwise it can be a recipe for overspending.”

She also commented on today’s survey which found 11-year-olds gadget-obsessed and spending hours in front of screens. She noted that some people are now using online savings accounts such as Quiddle, where kids can see how much they are saving then use it to spend in online stores.

Iona said the tuition fees controversy re-emerged this week with the principal of Kings College questioning whether a drop in maximum fees from £9000 to £6000 would make any difference, “It highlights the huge dilemma facing any politician of any party who wants to revamp our troubled student loan system.”

But Iona said there was some good news this week – you won’t necessarily have to choose between an honours degree and an apprenticeship scheme with the new Degree Apprenticeship Scheme. “It’s worth pointing out that these qualifications are for digital roles, so it’s obvious the government is putting a lot its eggs in the technology basket when it comes to careers for young people…it makes a lot of sense, they are on the hunt for the next generation of software developers, technology consultants and other digital experts, but I do hope the government rolls out that scheme to cover other professions where is a skills shortage.” More information at

Ed Vaizey speaking at the Tech Partnership launch event

Minister Ed Vaizey speaking at the launch

Iona’s feature was on weddings. More couples are getting married in November. – as a “clever ruse to save money” on the big day – many venues caterers and bands offer a cost saving of 15%. The average bill for a modern wedding is between £15K and £20K, which could also be the reason people in their 20s are not getting married.

The Office of National Statistics now reports that the percentage of young married men has collapsed since the 1950s, falling to just 58,000 or just 1.7 per cent of the young male population.  In 1970, the peak year for marriage, 564,818 men and women aged 25 got married. In 2010, just 56,598 did, a fall of 90 per cent.
Many factors have been blamed for this decline in marriage among young people. The rise of feminism is encouraging more women to go out in to the workplace rather than settle down in their twenties. Young people are also leaving home later – one in three 20 something men are thought to live with their parents – while co-habitation is increasingly popular for young couples, who no longer need to get married to live together and have children thanks to birth control.

However, the mounting cost of weddings is a potential deterrent for young couples who would otherwise have no qualms about tying the knot – this is why brides are resorting to extreme measures to save money so they do not have to compromise on their “dream” wedding. After all, a growing number of couples – now thought to be 42 per cent – are footing the bill themselves, rather than falling back on a parent, if an article published today on This is Money is to be believed

Iona went to London Met University to meet two ex-students who are getting married in a traditional Roman Catholic ceremony tomorrow. She asked Tunde and Judith about two of the latest money-saving strategies – getting guests to cover the costs of their meal and a share of the entertainment, with bank details at the bottom of the invitation. Their photographer had been invited to a Ugandan wedding and had been asked to pay for his food. Judith said: “If you can’t afford to get married, then just wait.” But the couple was all in favour of blagging free make-up or hairdressing from beauty brands.

Judith, who is getting married tomorrow

Iona concluded: “We can all buck the trend we don’t have to conform to this expectation of a big white wedding, try and be creative, go off the beaten track, have a buffet-style picnic in a park if you don’t want to have a lavish meal for all your guests, there are many ideas out there, you can search for ingenious tips online for how to save money on your big day – the message is if you want to get married, you don’t need a huge amount.”

Iona reported on the crafts industry for this week’s young careers clinic.

The Crafts Council has urged the government to put creative pursuits at the heart of the education system. Participation in craft-related GCSEs has dropped by 25% and higher education craft take-up by 46 % in the last five years.

Iona said the council wants to see a much higher take-up and more high-profile and accessible routes into the craft world for young people.

Craft generates £3.4bn for the UK economy and employs 150,000 people, with craft skills vital in industries from fashion to medicine and engineering.

Crafts are not just for girls, with the Craft Club reaching out to boys with projects such as “knitted graffiti”, according to a 2011 report.
The Review of Cultural Education also discussed the Graffiti*d project, which saw a group of 13-16 year old boys working with ceramicist Cj O’Neil to develop public graffiti pieces.
It said: “The boys, who were excluded from school, used the graffiti to transform ceramic plates into installations which commented on the closure of the Ainsley Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent. In the process, they gained a voice on local issues within their community through media coverage, whilst developing pride in their work and enthusiasm for work opportunities in the creative industries.
Iona spoke to David Breckenridge, chief executive of the Scottish Textile & Leather Association, while she was in Edinburgh this week. David said young people get excited at the prospect of being involved in the manufacture of products for the likes of Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Hermes, and the association goes into schools and colleges to tell kids about the industry. “We are encouraging them to get involved in projects and schools to bring their pupils along to different businesses to see how what happens in industry and how products are manufactured. Once they see that they become enormously enthused.”

David said the textile industry workforce was ageing and the industry had to find a way to attract them, with a structured modern apprenticeship scheme.

The show then welcomed to the studio Lucy Sherwood, founder of Rock n Raw jewellery, whose pieces are worn by the likes of Mel C and Kelly Hoppen.


Lucy and Iona in the studio

Lucy helped to make her career dreams happen by studying jewellery making at City Lit, which runs night-time courses in the City for those wanting to hold down a job. Her story shows us that you can learn new skills in the course of your everyday life – don’t wait for the “perfect moment” to come along because it never will.

Lucy backed the Crafts Council’s manifesto. “It demonstrates that it is time for craft to be seen as a real business opportunity and a real career.”

Lucy described her journey through part-time study, mentoring and learning on the job, to set up her business, and her own attitudes to budgeting and “facing up to your finances”.

Iona says: “ Lucy was superbly articulate about the need to “face your financial fears” as early as possible. Having responsibility for your income and outgoings, keeping track of your expenditure through spreadsheets, religiously holding onto receipts so you know how much you’re spending…be your own accountant.”
Co-host Georgie Frost admired the ‘Lotus’ piece (as worn by Mel and Kelly) and posted immediate photos to Twitter.

Embedded image permalink

Finally Lucy promised to give youngmoney listeners a DIY project. “I want to show you something quick and easy to make at home for family and friends, easy to personalise and quick to do.”


Iona also told listeners she would be volunteering for her local food bank at Tesco Kensington (near Earls Court) tomorrow afternoon.

“Christmas is coming, it’s a fantastic time to reconnect with your community, volunteering is a great way to give back, but it s’ also an excellent way to improve your skills, your teamwork, your work ethic. So do pop down and see me!”

Leave a Comment

Filed under Bargain hunting, Beauty, Careers, Consumer Affairs, Student Finance, Weddings

The ABC of banking, accents…and blinking robots: this week on Share Radio’s Young Money Show

School banks and young people’s attitudes to money were centre stage this morning as Iona co-hosted the weekly Young Money Young Rights show on the newly-launched Share Radio.

Iona began by reminding train travellers that they can claim for delayed journeys, and commented on today’s news stories on the state of the housing market and the cost of private education.

Following up on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s plans for an initiative in schools to get young people more clued up about finance, and prevent them resorting to payday lenders, the show went to Eastbury Comprehensive in Hampstead to sound out the views of teenage pupils. They talked about lessons on banking, budgeting, and the minimum wage.

Today’s guest was Geraldine Walton, education officer at MyBnk charity, which delivers money workshops to 11-25-year-olds and has worked with 100,000 young people in the past seven years.

MyBnk makes money lessons fun. “What we don’t do is go in and tell them how things are, we get them involved,we make it relevant to what they are doing right now in their lives,” Geraldine said.

Asked by Iona whether banks should be allowed to go into schools given the risk that they might market their own products, or whether this was part of what kids needed to know, Geraldine said: “There can be some issues around banks wanting young people to become their customers so I think it’s important they get independent advice.”

She said the programmes aim to “ encourage young people to become informed consumers”. The most popular is the bank’s Money Twist programme for 11-16-year-olds (three 100-minute sessions) but there is a university finance programme for sixth-formers too. There are also student-led banking schemes across London which train youngsters ‘how to be bankers and they share that information with the rest of the school’.

Asked by co-host Georgie Frost why it had taken so long to get money onto the school curriculum, compared with the likes of sex education, Geraldine said families “don’t have open conversations about money”, and it is an awkward topic among friends.

“But we are realising that years down the line there is huge consequences for not having enough knowledge to make sound financial decisions…what we do at MyBnk is preventitive.”

Geraldine admitted: “There is a lot of worry about debt.” Iona commented: “You saw this week, with the riots outside Parliament, just how many young people are exercised about the whole student loan issue, and it also coincided with that report from the Higher Education Council saying three-quarters of loans may never be paid back by students in the end, so people are very well aware this a flawed system and in the process they have become politically engaged with that whole topic, so it’s not surprising that the kids you are meeting are thinking about it because it’s bound to get through to them.”

Geraldine said a lot of the fear comes from “not understanding what they are getting into, getting mixed messages about debt and the future, and what it holds for them if they take out these loans.”

MyBnk aims to give them accurate information. It tests pupils’ knowledge at the beginning and the end of courses and monitors what it is doing thoroughly. @MyBnk

In the young rights/careers segment of the show, Iona looked at the importance of your voice in presenting yourself.

Employment minister Esther McVeigh had told young people it was important to ‘keep it real’ and not change your accent, Iona said. “I’ll be explaining how young people don’t have to change their accents to get on but I’ll be bringing some simple ways to harness the power of your voice.”

David and Victoria Beckham had both tried to make their voices posher over the last 10 years, Iona reported, though many celebrities had not. “I recommend that everyone listening stays true to their voice.”

Interviewed by Iona, media mentor and vocal tutor David Spencer said the key was to know how you sounded. “How we perceive ourselves is very different to how other people perceive us.”

People preparing for an interview probably failed to think about how they speak. In a presentation, you need warmth, confidence, connecting with the listener – just as in radio, David said – and with so much time spent on the smartphone there was a risk of “face to face skills” being neglected.


In a final discussion, Geraldine stressed the importance of communication in the classroom. “The worst thing you can do when you are working with young people is to pretend to be something you are not.”

Don’t miss next week’s show, Friday at 9.15!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Banking, Careers, Personal Finance Education