Making Cents: Planning for your financial future

Most of us in Ireland have the means to cover day to day costs and current commitments but a worryingly high number still struggle and most of us could do better when it comes to long-term planning.

They were some of the findings of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), which recently published details of the first financial well-being study conducted in Ireland.

The research examines the behaviours and circumstances that influence financial decision making and well-being, the extent to which Irish people are able to meet their current financial needs comfortably and their financial resilience.

It found that people in Ireland are faring well in terms of general financial well-being, with an average score that is lower than Norway but higher than Australia and New Zealand and on a par with Canada.

However, financial well-being is also the ability to have financial comfort now and into the future.

The report found that a significant number of people have little financial resilience beyond meeting current commitments and that 52% of people are meeting current financial commitments, but have little provision against financial shocks.

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This finding is backed by an Aviva survey which showed 40% of us do not have a back-up plan to fund if we were to fall ill.

This is despite the fact we know it happens - 60% of Irish workers know someone that has been out of work on sick leave for more than four weeks at some stage in their working life.

“The feedback from this survey is quite enlightening, as well as worrying, when it comes to understanding public perception of what people would fall back on financially if they were unable to work for an extended period,” Karen Gallagher of Aviva said.

“The research also shed some light on what people consider their biggest expenditures, and what they might struggle to pay for.

We asked the CSO, and their most recent figures reveal that an Irish household’s average weekly expenditure is approximately €1,132. That’s a significant sum of money to have to replace to meet bills and other payments if you are not in receipt of a wage.

So now we know what can we do about it? The CCPC’s research found that for many people, financial well-being is improved through two key behaviours: ‘active saving’ and ‘not borrowing for daily expenses’.

Financial confidence is also important and financial education can help to improve individuals’ financial well-being. As the CCPC report acknowledges, if a household’s precarious situation is due to low income, there are limits to what can be done to improve the situation.

“For some consumers, information to promote better financial capability is unlikely to provide either comfort or help,” it said.

Having said that, if one considers the longer term, the report suggests that a lower proportion of consumers may find themselves in financial difficulty if interventions are made, particularly at an early age.

So while you may not be able to wave a magic wand and change your income or circumstances, you can take steps to increase your knowledge.

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) is one excellent source of financial information, as is the CCPC’s own website www.ccpc.ie.

Parents should also take note of the research as I believe this research proves we can have a powerful influence on our children’s financial future; talk about money with them from an early age.

There have long been calls for more financial education in schools but you are the most important educator your child can have.

Get them involved in the family finances as soon as possible, even explaining the budget while doing the weekly shop will engage them and increase their awareness of price and the need to manage spending.

If they are used to discussing money and feel comfortable asking questions, they are far less likely to fear their finances as adults.

As we begin a New Year, I will be looking at these issues in more depth, with columns in January devoted to getting your finances on track for 2019 and teaching kids about money.

DEAL OF THE WEEK

AIB customers have four days left to avail of a 20% discount on a new Fitbit device.

FitBit physical activity trackers - which are designed to help users become more active in daily life, eat a healthier diet and even sleep better - have become increasingly popular with a health-conscious public.

Extra functions are also being added and the latest aims to make life easier for AIB customers.

Fitbit pay means they can now tap their wearable device to make payments of less than €30 from their AIB current account.

“We are delighted to be launching Fitbit Pay as our latest mobile first innovation and addition to our digital wallet,” Fergal Coburn, AIB Chief Digital and Innovation Officer, said.

To launch the new service they are offering a 20% discount on new devices over €150 but it is only available until Friday December 21.

To avail of the offer, customers must register for the AIB Everyday Rewards programme, find out more at aib.visaoffers.eu.

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