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Stress test

The pre-summer months should really be positive ones. The days are longer, the weather is getting warmer (we think), we are past the Budget announcement, the summer – and hopefully a holiday – is on its way.

Unfortunately, when you are stressed, it is slightly more difficult to be positive because everything seems worse.

Problems are magnified, the good-natured among us get somewhat less good natured as fuses get shorter and tempers are less easy to control.

For the majority of us with full-time jobs, however, work stress is almost inevitable. Sadly, it seems to be part and parcel of the corporate world nowadays.

Even before the dreaded words global recession became part of everyday parlance, stress was definitely a by-product of living in the modern world.

Having said this, the bi-annual PruHealth Vitality index, the results of which were published in mid-April, found that it was not work-related stress but rather life outside work that was the greatest cause of stress.

Forty-one per cent of respondents cited financial security as a cause of stress and 27 per cent had worries about maintaining their standard of living.

By contrast, just a fifth of respondents said that increased workload and worries about redundancies at work and job security were causing them stress.

Although it may seem surprising that it is not the workplace that causes us the most stress, in fact, from an adviser point of view, this could be a good thing.

Advisers cannot control what goes on in the workplace or how individuals cope with the obstacles that need to be overcome in a work environment on a daily basis but life outside work is something that advisers can definitely help with.

If financial security and maintaining a current standard of living are the key causes of stress for people in the UK today, then advisers have at least some of the answers as to how these concerns can be addressed.

Now is the time when people most need help. This has truly been a winter of discontent and now, thankfully, the summer is coming but how do you pay for that badly needed holiday if you are worried about financial security?

How do you organise your finances so that you can still go on a holiday that does not seem too much like roughing it compared with the holiday you had last summer?

The index also found that the top three priorities for people in the UK were their family’s health (77 per cent); their own health (65 per cent) and financial security (55 per cent).

As product providers, we have the capacity to help on all three counts by creating and offering products that could alleviate some of the stress and worry.

Good quality and good value financial products give consumers peace of mind from feeling that their priorities are being addressed. However, although products can make all the difference, they do not mean much in isolation.

A strong relationship between providers and advisers enables both to continue to support consumers collectively. If product providers can design solutions to the problems faced by consumers and advisers can get these solutions in front of consumers, the impact for these consumers on a day-to-day basis could be huge.

Shaun Matisonn is CEO of PruHealth

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