Friday, 9 August 2013

Financial capability or what?

Great PR for the Money Advice Service’s new report The Financial Capability of the UK last week.  They even got the Daily Telegraph to consider some 26 million people struggling financially.  That’s no mean feat in the euphoria of rising house prices and low interest rates, but hey, between our live for now culture and poor financial skills, what do you expect?

However, a couple of things don’t quite add up.

If “Over half the population state they are struggling to keep up with bills and financial commitments”, how come “85% are still saving, with over half (53%) saving each month”, as suggested on page 10 of the report?  It doesn’t make sense to save money that’s needed for bills - so, poor financial skills maybe, but saving on this scale as a live for now culture - surely not?

Then there’s the survey question on page 36, “Look at the following list of loan and credit products, and select any that you currently have, either in your own name or jointly with someone else.”  Only 19% replied that they had a mortgage.   Home ownership has been falling, of course, but the 2011 Census recorded owner occupiers with a mortgage at 33% of households. This video from the Office for National Statistics sets the context.

To be fair, I’m not comparing like with like: 19% of adults sampled to represent the population are not the same as 33% of every single household in the country.  However, at Zero-credit, our quantitative methods tend to sample only one adult per household, and with fellow members of the Social Research Association employed at Ipsos MORI (the research agency commissioned), I’m fairly sure theirs do too.

That this sample of 5079 adults, comprising 4,000 online and 1079 face to face responses, has been weighted - I assume to represent the UK population - makes me all the more circumspect about the mortgage gap.  From the technical appendix, it is clear that “The Money Advice Service desired a statistically robust, cost effective survey returning a large sample to allow for analysis by a significant number of different subgroups, notably for adults and young people“.

Both the original sample and the weighting reflect an emphasis on young people:

% unweighted sample

% weighted sample

% UK population

















The good news is that Caroline Rookes, Chief Executive of the Money Advice Service, states “We have made the data set available and are keen to hear what others find of interest” (page 1).  My problem is that I cannot access this without signing up to a set of Terms and Conditions that do not allow me to question the research.  So much for open data, section 3 of the Social Research Association Ethical Guidelines and rules B49-61 of the Market Research Society Code of Conduct.

Thursday, 8 August 2013


And the living is all about catching up on the "to do" list!

The great thing about working in the research and development sector is that no one really wants work between July and August. Here, at Zero-credit, our co-operative is using our quiet season to update all our digital channels and that includes a long overdue import of the blog we had on Posterous to Blogger.

We've not quite got all the images and videos to view as they did originally and may just have to settle with leaving them as they are, because there's rather a lot of them since 2008 and not as much time as we'd like to do everything - talk about living with your means ;-)

Monday, 1 October 2012

Which is more shocking?


A few years ago there was an outcry when Carol Vorderman advertised debt consolidation loans that put borrowers' homes at risk. But what of that bastion on pensioners' settees, David Dickenson? Does any celebrity really need to scrape a living from ads for one of the world's oldest professions? It's not as if we've never heard of pawnbroking, Dave.

Promoting 500 stores, hunting for a bargain that borrowers can pawn, Dickenson presents The Money Shop's offer with sickening ease. Never mind that these chains are often strategically located next to betting shops, nor that their expansion fuels a whole new wave of family tensions, likely to be heightened by a Universal Credit paid to households and not individuals. No mention of the fact that for the young and vulnerable, these places look like some nirvana stacked with readies. And if you ask the police to investigate a personal property theft these days? Well, heaven help you!  Cashing in shops were a haven for the rioters last summer.

In Parenting for Pawn, we illustrated just how much a minefield these off the shelf pawn-brokers can be, cutting everything down to the lowest common denominator. No experts here, to cast an informed eye over your heirlooms and assests, just a quick check on E-bay to see what something that looks like what you're selling is fetching these days. A Bargain Hunt indeed.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

#CfRCconference2012 - what was that all about?

Karen Michael from the London Borough of Southwark talking about the Universal Credit pilot in Southwark

On Wednesday 26th September, Emma Bryn-Jones went to the annual conference of the Centre for Responsible Credit, in London, a fantastic charity that works under the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion.

The CfRC conference is always a highlight because it brings together an effective mix of alternative and mainstream thought. For instance, alongside government ministers and their shadows, you will find international authorities on evaluating credit use, as well as local projects to tackle indebtedness and promote financial inclusion. This year was no exception.

Our focus was to learn more about welfare reform, so we skipped debt advice with the Money Advice Service and payday lending with Stella Creasy, to get stuck in with ideas and experiences we know less about. Highlights of the day included a superb presentation from Toynbee Hall, about development research to map the impact of money advice and other financial inclusion work, and some inspired community participation that harnessed Buy As You View customers from Teeside, with the company that serves them.

“I take away more questions than conclusions,” said Emma.“The immediate issue seems to be how Universal Credit will be paid, to a household rather than to an individual, potentially into a managed or prepaid account, if you are unbanked or not paying bills on time, and this raises all sorts of issues about independence, risk taking and decision-making. We are in very real danger of some of the poorest people paying for the right to bank in this country, which feels very wrong,” said Emma.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Life is too important to be taken seriously

I may get into trouble for posting this pic, but I don't care!  It seems to be cached at Pinterest but I am pretty damned sure they don't own the copyright, since it has been engraved on my memory for well over 30 years. That said, I'll give them #duecredit for allowing me to share it with you, because it has guided me throughout my entire adult life.


You see, this photo, together with the caption "LIfe is too important to be taken seriously" was on a motivational poster, illustrated with photos of animals, in my form room, when I was at school. I loved it and still do.

Perhaps because my parents collected models of elephants and religiously pointed them facing the doorway, I have a thing about elephants. Elephants never forget.

Every day in my work at Zero-credit, I never forget my childhood. It looms as an atavistic call to stand by what generations of my family have strived for, social justice, human rights, empathy with one's fellow man. Life is so important that you just have to embrace, nurture and love it for every second of every day. It makes me cry until I am overwhelmed with joy at the sheer blinding and blissful simplicity of it all.

You cannot destroy me with all your regulations and reforms, your ducking and diving to avoid these, or your connivance to come out on top, for you are at one with me. There is nothing which places one human being above another in this world, nothing whatsoever.

Lift me out of poverty, destitution and debt, would you? Quit standing on my shoulders and I shall achieve the greatest heights. No. We shall achieve our greatest heights together. I am reminded of Will Smith at Live8 citing our "state of interdependence". So, before you frown, why not laugh with me?  Life is way too important to be taken seriously.