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Changing attitudes

Some years ago, I went to my local MFI furniture store and bought louvre doors to complete a set of built-in wardrobes. Quite apart from the difficulty in transporting them on a roof rack, the real test was fitting them. A seemingly simple task proved close to an impossibility.

Several weekends ago, I spotted an article which continued to peddle the myth that all the low-earners of this country need is a decision tree and a low-cost plan and they are on their way to financial independence.

The article told us that half of those with a stakeholder pension earn less than £20,000 a year. Could it be referring to the builders&#39 scheme? This was the scheme which replaced the old holiday stamp scheme as this scheme did not sit comfortably with current pension legislation.

Or is it referring to the empty boxes?

Even if this statistic has not been sexed up, in how many cases will these contributions have an adverse impact on the minimum income guarantee?

If you want to empower the consumer, then you have to present with clarity. It is all very well panning the providers but since when have the Department for Work and Pensions&#39 own booklets been best sellers?

The target market in many cases is more in need of debt advice than investment options.

If we are to reduce the savings gap, then we advisers need to be prepared to help by delivering simple financial planning tips in schools and to those about to graduate or enter their first full-time job. Expecting teachers to deliver this and be competent to answer the myriad of questions that will naturally follow is naive.

To get this started, could we not provide an additional tax allowance to those who are passed as financially literate?

Soaps need to be asked to help by creating story lines that explain the need for people to be financially aware. We must raise this issue to the point where it is as natural as sitting the driving test.

I do not object to better charging structures. Instead of Raising Standards, we would have been better served by Reducing Penalties. The recent changes on personal loans should be a wake-up call to the product providers which hold clients to ransom through the device ironically entitled capital units.

Getting the right attitude is essential. Perhaps we need TV money doctor Alvin Hall on at peak times and not hidden away on BBC2. We need the financial equivalent of Changing Rooms with Carol Smillie, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and Handy Andy to motivate people into financial action. Suggestions for likely candidates will be welcome.

Lack of clarity in the Government&#39s plans for state benefits cannot be ignored when determining the reasons for many examples of inertia on the part of the public targeted by the Sandler proposals.

In the same newspaper, there was a letter which informed us that a series of lectures at the University of Birmingham on financial literacy was poorly attended. Although the need for financial education is generally accepted without question, it seems that the potential beneficiaries remain uninterested.

This does not seem to be in line with this Government&#39s perceived wisdom.

Let me close by explaining why the doors proved so tricky. After spending many an hour trying to hang them, I discovered that the doors were not squared up – they did not fit.

I just hope the policymakers realise that access and costs are not the solution. If they do not, then they will just become part of the problem.


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