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INDEPENDENT VIEW

This year, more than ever, seems to have passed by in a blur and there is the normal mad scramble in the run-up to Christmas.

Hopefully, this year the flexible plastic will be spared a little with some of the windfall cash remaining among the many who have benefited this year, despite the recent market volatility.

For others, the old adage of "another year older and deeper in debt" rings true and it is the issue of debt that I want to look at.

I have recently been talking to prospective new members of a group personal pension scheme that I administer and, in two cases, the issue of an outstanding student loan arose and this issue, of course, is something we will increasingly come across in years to come.

In both cases, loans had been taken to the maximum levels and, although individuals have good jobs, their income levels are below the threshold where a repayment holiday is permitted, thus deferring even further the day when these loans catch up with individuals and have to be repaid.

Strangely enough, as part of life&#39s rich tapestry, many individuals want to put down some roots and possibly get married not all that long after leaving university and these same people are then looking for additional sources of finances to set up home.

Many of us, no doubt, have memories of stretching out finances, which is always a delicate balancing act in the early years of homeownership.

We thus have a position that is only going to escalate, where individuals with lim ited means are left with one outstanding debt to deal with while at the same time req uiring other additional mon ies to set up home and so on.

With the number of students at an all-time high, the likelihood of them all finding jobs with a high starting income, particularly in today&#39s climate, is exceedingly remote and one does not need to be a financial genius to recognise the problems being stored up.

I would not like to be an administrator for the Student Loans Company as it must be a nightmare having to keep track of monies advanced, particularly as the years go by and where some accounts inevitably fall into arrears.

Recently, a client told me of a conversation he had overheard among a group of students where one had borrowed a maximum of £3,000 and had managed to spend it within a month, which is hardly the best form of cash management.

This type of anecdotal evidence and the continued lack of financial education, particularly for individuals such as these who have to take responsibility for their finances straight out of school, must remain high on the agenda and it is clearly up to families, schools, colleges, consumer groups and financial advisers to ensure that the message is getting across like never before to ensure that individuals get every opportunity for help with regard to the management of personal cash.

Other than trying to eke out resources as best as possible for those already in this trap, as advisers, we are able to help parents who may want to assist with the current difficulties but, more especially, for those with younger children a few years away from higher education, there is no time like the present for suitable savings vehicles to be established.

There is no doubt that costs are escalating, perhaps more than in other areas of expenses, particularly with the charge for tuition fees proposed for next autumn.

The early stages of the financial cycles of life are difficult enough without increasing the size of the financial milestone and do not forget that these same individuals are our clients of the future.

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