Iona offers young a guide to managing money
Her book, Spare Change: Better Ways to Manage Money, will be launched tomorrow and is all the more remarkable because 27-year-old Iona was told at her Edinburgh high school that she had dyscalculia – the numbers equivalent of dyslexia – which is said to affect one in 20 people.
“I couldn’t work with numbers and still find it hard,” says Iona whose father Simon will retire this year from the personal finance desk at The Herald.
The book is an illustrated hardback with an endorsement by pensions minister Baroness Altmann and has grown out of a young money blog Iona created five years ago as a music graduate.
She as playing in bands in Glasgow in 2011 and stashing her cash earnings in a pottery piggy-bank – when it was stolen in a break-in.
“I was gutted and decided it was about time I found out how to manage my own money,” she says. The pottery pig became the logo for her website and now graces the front cover of the book.
Now a freelance journalist, Iona has also been involved with education projects, fronting a BBC Scotland documentary and twice judging Lloyds Bank’s ‘Money for Life’ competition for teenage enterprises. She says: “It’s a privilege to be able to help young people dodge consumer cons and financial rip-offs, and to take control of their future.”
Everyone can do it, she says, with the right back-up. According to the British Dyslexia Association, maths learning difficulties are “very prevalent and often devastating in their impact on schooling, further and higher education and jobs” with at least 25% of people affected.
But Iona says: “We all form a huge number of assumptions about money, such as ‘you’re either good with money or you’re not’, personal finance issues are too difficult, you need too much willpower, or you have to be good at mental arithmetic. There’s also a belief that the economic situation and the cost of housing makes it impossible to improve our situation. I think all of this is plain wrong.
“I believe savvy financial behaviour can be learned, it isn’t all down to personality or maths skills, or your earning power. We can master our money and achieve our personal financial goals, with the right strategy, information, support and attitude.”
MPs will this month launch a major inquiry into inter-generational fairness, investigating just why today’s young people may end up poorer, not richer, than their parents.
‘Generation Y’ is battling lower wages, difficulty getting on the housing ladder, and increased student debts, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission has said it faces the “worst economic prospects for several generations “.
Iona says: “Social media has added another layer of financial pressure. But the advances in web technology have also created a new world of savings and investment platforms which can help us can manage our own money.
“There are many more savings and shared equity schemes to help us get on the housing ladder than there used to be. You can achieve a huge amount through the right approach to borrowing and budgeting – and a surprisingly large amount of student debt gets written off after 30 years.”
She adds: “Perhaps governments have thought more about the ‘grey vote’ than about young people. But what matters is for our generation to understand what conditions our attitudes to money, how the system works, and how we can change our own situations for the better.”
As well as running the blog, Iona is now personal finance correspondent at the Herald newspaper and has written for the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Independent , The Times and The Sunday Times, among other titles. She has appeared on Channel 4 News and the Max Keiser Report and regularly speaks at events.
Iona was shortlisted for Consumer Article of the Year at the Unbiased Media Awards 2016.
Spare Change is launched at the One World Shop in Nicolson Square, Edinburgh, on Wednesday, 11 February at 5.30pm