Life’s full of things that can shake up what we thought we’d be doing with our cash, from inheritance and promotion to recession, redundancy and Covid. If these strange days have shown us anything, it’s that we need a national wealth service, or NWS, to provide regular financial healthcare. Like preventative medicine, it would help us individually manage our resources, and help keep the country’s bank balance fit. You could see it as a gym or a flu vaccination for the micro and macro economy.
You can’t really make it a legal requirement to use this facility, but many would grab the chance for professional guidance, to nip a problem in the bud before it’s out of hand or get a pointer toward safe investment information.
The surgeries would be free, via Zoom or as phone conversations and offered at certain life stages, the first just ahead of leaving school. This one is mainly a cautionary message. Equipped with mobiles and computers, teens may already have been targeted by scammers or phishing. On their 15th birthday, they’re invited to a webinar about money, which could include a straight-talking slot from a trailblazer like the rapper Stormzy. Apart from advice on bank accounts, savings and budgeting, the emphasis would be protecting card details and avoiding over-borrowing and debt.
The next consultation would be around your 18th birthday, when offers of credit cards and loans for cars, holidays and just about everything else rain from the skies. Credit and store card warnings are reinforced, along with the impact of a bad credit rating on mortgage applications. Those in work will be asked if they’ve joined their workplace pension scheme and taken advantage of anything else, such as pension advice.
The 25th birthday meeting will look ahead to starting a family and/ or career progression. Mortgages are explained and policies such as child benefit can be mentioned, as well as saving toward childcare. At this point, there can be discussion of start-up capital and business budgeting for entrepreneurs. A financial advisor could be on hand for detailed help on investments and the importance of adequate pension saving would be stressed.
Every subsequent five years you’ll be prompted to book your financial health-check, and asked about financial concerns, if necessary being referred to debt charity StepChange or the Money Advice Service (similar to the NWS but you have to seek it out and it doesn’t remain in touch). At 55, topics might include updating a Will, locating past workplace pensions, whether NI contributions need a top-up, and saving in case you can’t find work up to 67.
And at all times, there will be a helpline to call before you make a wild decision, or if you find yourself in uncharted financial waters.