Financial ignorance is bliss, according to four in 10 British adults. Researchers investigating the nation’s attitude towards money matters have discovered millions of people are not getting to grips with their finances, and many have little or no detailed understanding of their own financial position.
The study of 2,000 adults shows 58 per cent aren’t sure about their hourly rate of pay, while 70 per cent can’t say exactly how much they pay in income tax. In addition, two thirds of people can’t say accurately how much is in their bank account, while 64 per cent aren’t sure of the precise amount they owe on their credit cards. But almost a third of adults believe life is too short to worry about money, and 62 per cent expressed no intention to try and get a better grip on their finances in the near future.
A spokeswoman for Newcastle Building Society, which commissioned the study of 2,000 adults said: “Our researchers discovered that in the first instance, most people – eight in 10 – think they have a good understanding of their current financial position.
“But when you dig deeper and ask those same people about the detail around their financial affairs, from what they earn to what they pay on things like mortgages, rent, and other bills, they’re less certain. Pensions is an area that baffles many. Forty per cent of those who have a pension aren’t clear on how much they pay in, or even that there are tax benefits to doing so.”
In reality, while people can guess roughly what they earn, what they pay in bills and what they what owe on credit cards, very few can say for definite. The study shows while four in 10 people can name every single bill they pay, only 15 per cent of them can say how much they pay on each to the last pound. One in 20 people don’t have a clue how much they pay on bills – either because a partner does it for them or because it comes out of their account automatically. And half of those polled only have a rough idea of how many bills are coming in and what they pay on them.
Astonishingly, only 45 per cent of people were able to say how much they spend on the mortgage or rent each month down to the last penny or pound. When it comes to spending habits, the average adult finds it hard to track their spending day to day. Indeed, researchers found that when conducting the weekly food shop, either online or in store, less than half keep a close eye on what they are spending. And despite 85 per cent of people commuting to work daily, of these only 38 per cent have a firm grip on what the journey costs. And only 23 per cent can confidently say exactly how much they spent on their last holiday. Just 17 per cent of those with a pension are clear on exactly what they contribute on a monthly basis. A further 46 per cent of those questioned didn’t know they could get tax relief on pension contributions.
While more than a third of people say they want to get a better hold on their finances, , a similar number find talking about money is awkward, uncomfortable, or confusing. Nineteen per cent of adults don’t talk about money with anyone. But of those who are prepared to talk to others, 59 per cent will confide in a partner and 20 per cent would rather talk to mum than anyone else. The spokeswoman for Newcastle Building Society continues: “For most of us, money is hard earned, so being prepared to put time into personal financial planning is a worthwhile investment.
“It’s significant that nearly half of people we surveyed (48 per cent) find that talking about money is reassuring, motivating or empowering, and those who want to fully understand their options to get a better grip on their financial future could consider seeking professional financial advice as a good start point.”