On the Money

There are ways to beat the stress of saving

Alan SteelEverybody knows the dice are loaded, Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed,
Everybody knows the fight was fixed, The poor stay poor, the rich get rich,
That’s how it goes, Everybody knows ….

– Leonard Cohen

When I was in my  twenties back in the late 1960s/1970s the financial lessons I’d learned from my parents and before them from my grannies came in handy.  Especially advice that went… “always spend less than you earn, save what’s left and keep something back for a rainy day.”  Simples.

It wasn’t easy mind, what with much higher basic income taxes ravaging your  wages. And it wasn’t a bundle of laughs for borrowers back then either with interest rates high and volatile. Like those on a Viagra and prune juice diet you didn’t know if you were coming or going.

I reckon my first mortgage cost about 8% in interest rates, a number which bounced all over the place for the next 20 odd years from a bit lower to as high as 16 %.  Inflation wasn’t much fun either, averaging around 14% for  25 years, peaking in 1976 at 26%.

And today we hear that everybody knows when it  gets up to 3% we’re in soapy bubble.  Wimps.

And us Baby Boomers are told we had it easy!  Everybody knows it was easy then to save, invest in pensions and buy homes unlike today.  Aye right.  Mind you we weren’t collecting packs of credit cards, and we were lucky enough to exist pre selfies and so-called smartphones.  What’s that all about?

Nowadays income tax rates are much lower, as are interest rates,  but all we hear is how awful it is for young adults today and how the over thirties and forties have nothing left to save, or if they have, outrageous investment charges leave nothing left to grow for their futures.  

A couple of survey results this year on UK levels of personal debt conducted for the Money Advice Trust make further depressing reading.  Last week YouGov survey found over a third of 18 to 24 year olds have already accumulated debts of around £3,000 each and they worry about money.

And that excludes Student Loans which average over £25,500, never mind mortgages if they can find an affordable home to buy.  Further findings are that over half of young adults regularly worry about money, with women worrying more for some reason.

I have to say the results surprised me. As far as my observational research is concerned I’d have thought most young adults are too obsessed with smartphones and social media to have any time left over to worry about anything.  But perhaps I’m being overly critical in my dotage.

Five months ago a Scottish Widows study found worrying trends within 35  to 49 year olds too.  Now this is a concern.  For by the time you get to your mid thirties (as I recall) you do wake up to the realisation that to achieve your dreams of early retirement at 50 or 55 it’s time to get your finger out.

This survey found that 37% of 35 to 49 year olds admitted to saving not one penny over the previous 12 months.  And almost half of them concede they’d prefer to spend, spend spend, rather than save or invest for their future.  

The survey blames all this on a background of not being able to buy a home, continuing low interest rates and …wait for it…. “the reality of working beyond state retirement age”. If you can make sense of all that would you please explain it to me. 

Meanwhile, the survey concludes YOLO (You Only Live Once) generations are endangering their financial futures by splashing the cash and ignoring opportunities to get good advice. They may only live once, but for a growing number, their later years will be guaranteed to be spent close to the poverty line.

For those who think advice is too expensive I have a suggestion which costs about the same as three Starbucks lattes.

In the late 1990s Michael MacMahon’s business ran into trouble and he faced bankruptcy and the severe stress that accompanies such trauma.  

The lessons he learned he has put down in print in a wonderfully written no nonsense easy to read book Back to the Black (How to become debt free and stay that way). The paperback is a mere £8.99.  No doubt for the computer literate among you you’ll find it even cheaper on Kindle etc. Could be the best nine quid you’ll ever spend. 

Even if you just want to know how to manage your financial life, better go get this book. What a pity it’s not available in schools and colleges. Take control of your financial life without stress.  Go read it.

Alan Steel is chairman of Alan Steel Asset Management

Alan Steel Asset Management is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. This article contains the personal views of Alan Steel and should not be construed as advice. Do check your individual circumstances with your advisers.


This is a regular column submitted via the DBdirect service. For details click here.



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