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No Financial Future?

Our financial lifestyles have changed dramatically over the last three decades, and not for the better. At 26 years old my parents were married, both in full-time employment, raising a four-year-old child and had been on the property ladder for over 5 years. Life was by no means straightforward for them and they worked consistently hard, but it appears that even that isn’t enough nowadays.

For “twenty-something’s” in the “naughties” life is somewhat contrasting - targeted since birth by marketers with their branding cross-hairs accurately aimed at selling you material possessions you just don’t need. The credit industry no longer require you to be suited and booted for an interview with the bank manager, instead you just sign on the dotted line and “cross your heart and hope to die” that you’ll pay it back – one day.

University has become the norm, as has the student lifestyle, with many teenagers opting for university for all the wrong reasons. Often finishing with a degree that provides them with little or no head-start on a career. Graduates leaving university this year had average debts of over £13,000, according to NatWest Bank. Barclays Bank conducted their own research into the expected value of student debts at the end of the decade, the results showed an estimated £26,000 – for each graduate.

Over the last 10 years, house prices have doubled and with salaries only increasing 50%, the financial security of property investment is firmly out of the clutches of the potential first-time buyer. The average house price for first-time buyers as of June 2006 was more than £149,000.

So those who already own properties are able to remortgage using their newfound equity and invest in additional properties, which further exacerbates the first-time buyer conundrum. An alarming number of people have realised just how easy it is to quit your job and become a Property Developer, buying up smaller houses and flats, updating them and selling them for a profit, or alternatively renting them to the younger generations who are unable to purchase for themselves and then living off the rental income.

Recent articles have highlighted the astronomical bonuses paid to city workers after a five year high for the London Stock Market; over 4,000 employees of the financial services sector will receive bonuses in excess of £1 million each. This is a major cause of the continued rise in house prices in the UK, especially in London.

And the governments’ solution? Flat pack homes made from recycled cardboard, cheap yes, but an investment for future generations? I think not!

Many housing associations have attempted to increase the availability of shared-ownership schemes, where half the property is mortgaged and the other half is rented to you by the housing association, but when the rent and mortgage repayments are nearly as high as cost of mortgaging the entire property – what is the point?

So we are advised to save hard for a deposit and stamp duty (currently £29,000 is required on average) if we want a chance of buying a home, which is very tricky when the average household debt in the UK is £8,577 and rising. But we must also remember to put at least one quarter of our gross salaries into our pensions if we want to put food on the table by the time we reach retirement (oh and we might have to work for another 2-5 years before we are entitled to retire!)

With a quarter of those in debt receiving treatment from their GP for stress, depression and anxiety, the chances are we wont make it to retirement age anyway!

So where is all the money going? It would appear the UK public don’t have their life savings stashed under their mattresses and Gordon Brown keeps telling us there isn’t enough money to go around? So lets take a look at the credit industry – HSBC had pre-tax profits of £7.7bn in 2005 with an expected growth in 2006 – that’s nearly as much as Shell Petroleum! The “Big Five” generated over £32billion in 2005, that’s more than the gross domestic product of Luxembourg!

Some positive action is required immediately to redress the balance, the government should consider charging credit companies every time they force an individual to go bankrupt or become insolvent, as it is their failure to correctly assess the customer’s ability to repay the debt. This should be supported by a clear limit on the interest and charges that creditors can add to consumer debts, forcing them to take a more responsible route to lending.

If action is not taken now, subsequent generations will have no financial future.

About the Author: Having worked in the Financial Services sector for the last 8 years with a main focus on personal debt advice, Matthew has gained an extensive knowledge of the issues surrounding the UK's debt crisis.

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