Simon Read: Making hundreds of pounds in a couple of hours is child's play

 

I appeared on BBC1's consumer programme Watchdog last week talking about outrageously high admin charges on insurance policies and others.

My appearance generated a lot of feedback on Twitter (@simonnread) from people hit by charges of £50 upwards just for changing a name or address on their policies.

But the most telling feedback came from my nine-year-old son Freddie. After viewing my brief appearance, he said: "Don't take this the wrong way, dad, but that was a bit boring."

Sometimes children have the greatest insight. But when it comes to money they have no real interest or knowledge. That was brought home to me by some research from Legal & General this week.

The insurer asked a panel of 200 six-year-olds a series of questions about money matters. The answers were not terribly surprising. Apparently, they expect to be able to pay £10,000 for their first house and plan to own their first car by the age of 12.

What about pay? The average six-year-old expects to earn a whopping £100 when they grow up – that's a year's salary, mind!

Their confusion about finances is understandable. But the problem is that for many people the confusion and boredom with finances continues right through to later life. And anyone who doesn't pay attention to money matters runs the risk of making a lot of expensive mistakes.

Yes, thinking about finance can be boring. But get them under control and they can help give you choices in life.

As a simple rule of thumb, I reckon that an hour or two spent checking your savings, debt, investments, pension (or even your regular bills such as energy and telecoms) could make you hundreds of pounds better off. In short, a bit of budgeting could free you up for the things you really want to do in life.

That's not something that children should worry about now, of course, but it is something they should start to learn. However, in my experience, educating the parents – and grandparents – is the first priority.

There were cheering bankruptcy figures published yesterday which showed a 4.7 per cent drop in personal insolvencies during the first three months of the year, compared to 2011.

But analysis of the official figures by Experian suggests that – while poorer people make up the bulk of those going bust – the number of wealthy, rural dwellers and pensioners turning to bankruptcy is actually increasing.

That confirms fears that more middle-income families than ever are close to living on a financial knife-edge.

As the problem grows, so lenders must be more tolerant and understanding. Just because folks could afford a bigger mortgage, doesn't mean they won't experience financial difficulties.

s.read@independent.co.uk

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