Tuesday 21st May 2024

The UK has contracted “Martin Lewis” disease – it’s time to earn and build more

Our Editor, Edmund Greaves, participated in the MRM Money Matters Index Summer 2023 Roundtable Report. Read his views on the issues that were discussed during the roundtable.

Money Matters Index Roundtable Report Summer 2023

This Summer Mouthy Money collaborated with its sister business MRM to produce the latest Money Matters Index report.

To follow on from the report a group of financial services experts, including Mouthy Money editor Edmund Greaves, joined a roundtable to discuss its findings.

Other experts on the panel included interactive investor’s senior personal finance analyst Myron Jobson, Sarah Marks, chief executive of financial education charity RedSTART, financial wellbeing consultant Paul Chedzy and founder of Money Means and Mouthy Money contributor Helena Wardle.

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Here’s what Edmund told the panel, including why the UK has a problem with “Martin Lewis” disease, why we need to earn more, and why we need to build for the good of the country.

If you’d like to read the full roundtable report, click here.

Should people in the UK accept that they are now worse off financially?

I don’t think people should just accept they are financially worse off from now onwards, although the past two years have been bad, and people are currently worse off in financial terms.

But we’ve developed a kind of ‘Martin Lewis disease’, where everything is about pinching pennies, ‘where can I save?’ and ‘what costs to cut?’ – and we’ve totally forgotten about what it’s like to earn more money.

How do we go out there and make more of our wages? Wages are rising above inflation, which means many will start feeling better off again. We need to get out of the mindset of having to scrimp constantly.

Although this can be important, it shouldn’t be at the expense of thinking about how to get a wage rise or how to start a business that will earn more money than being a salaried employee.

Another issue is that many places don’t talk about pensions, investing, and long-term wealth – that piece of the conversation is often missing. While there are obviously people on the knife edge at the moment, I don’t think it’s beyond redemption at this point.

How will it change the way people in the UK think and feel about money over the long-term?

Rising energy prices are one of the big drivers for the cost-of-living crisis, but these impact different people in different ways, as the energy bill goes up similarly for households despite income differences.

However, some people are still taking holidays and still paying for things, and those who can spend are still spending rather than cutting back.

On top of this, other companies have happily pushed up their prices by more than inflation and people are still buying them. In terms of outcomes, the one big thing is the return of pay bargaining, which could be transformative for the economy and country more widely.

Meanwhile, renters are typically struggling, and could create an entire generation who’ve been unable to fulfil life choices that they want – such as affording to buy a house, getting married or even starting a family while you don’t have that stability at home. We’ll only learn the consequences of that in years to come.

How will this new era impact things like financial aspiration or financial inclusion?

A demographic shift to an ageing population would be a real issue, with a decreasing tax-payer base. Building more houses is the simple solution, so that more people can have their own homes and start their own families – and have a fair shot.

What can we do to diffuse some of these ticking timebombs in the short to medium term?

It’s easy to be pessimistic about it, and a change of government may not necessarily change the outlook. Even a seemingly simple solution of building more houses becomes extremely complicated when you look into it – as you need things like schools and doctors to go with it.

It’s economic growth that creates solutions, but there are coalitions of voters against this – where MPs are anti-development because it plays to their constituents’ views. The upshot is real progress must come that some people are not going to want, but unless something is done to rectify the problems we face then other more powerful changes could take over.

We need to fix retirement policy and create a better way to help people retire than we have currently. People have been encouraged to hoard their wealth in their homes and other property which has created a lot of unintended consequences that are the source of many of the UK’s biggest issues.

Another bugbear we have with the government, regulators, and financial services is financial products are quite complex and make people need advice to understand them. The whole system is not easy to navigate, and we need to make things simpler.

if there’s one conclusion to draw from the discussion around the cost-of-living crisis and the financial services industry, what do you think that should be?

Ultimately, people’s future should be in their own hands. Financial services and government just need to help people make the right choices on their own terms and empower people to come to the right decisions that benefit their long-term future.

Significant change in the way we have conversations around long-term wealth is needed too. The cost-of-living crisis is now changing and when it comes to pay bargaining and people talking more openly about money, then maybe it’s time for this change to take place.

Edmund Greaves is editor of Mouthy Money, a personal finance community comprising real people talking about real dreams, successes, and failures when it comes to their money.

Formerly deputy editor of Moneywise, Edmund covered the full spectrum of financial services, from investing, pensions and savings to day-to-day budgeting.

Edmund started in journalism as a political writer, editor, and consultant in the European Parliament in Brussels, before moving into financial journalism in London and later financial PR and latterly content as Head of Editorial at MRM.

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