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BBC announces online financial health check

Controlling your finances in the UK has never been more difficult; national levels of personal debt spiralling out of control, house prices out of reach for most first-time buyers, high street banks warning of increased numbers of people unable to pay off their debts, and the oncoming pensions time bomb looming in the distance. The question exercising economic analysts and institutions is what can be done to resolve?


Over the past few years, due in part to the expansion of online services, there has been an explosion in the number of sources providing financial information to consumers. You can find the address of your nearest financial adviser (www.searchifa.co.uk), compare credit cards or loans (www.moneynet.co.uk), check your credit score (www.mycallcredit.com/), and seek help when difficulties arise (www.citizensadvice.org.uk or www.nationaldebtline.co.uk). These sites provide a wealth of information, however often the problem is simply down to knowing where to start looking for help, or even acknowledging that there might be a problem in the first place.


Now the BBC along with the Financial Services Authority (FSA) have just announced the launch of a new collaborative initiative to help people gain a better understanding of their financial situation, and provide useful links to information and checklists that can be used to sort out your budget and plan for the future.


With just a few mouse clicks the (BBC) aims to give consumers access to articles and tips to take some of the distress out of sorting your finances. Although it may not be the most exciting site on the web, it is extremely informative, containing up-to-date information and links, and with the backing of the FSA financial regulators, there is an assurance that the information is kept accurate.


Hopefully this new resource, coming from the BBC, will mean there is an increase in the level of financial awareness in the UK. The timing of the new service corresponds with calls in Scotland, by the Executive, for “not-for-profit” organisations to come up with new innovative ways to prompt the working population to save for retirement. The Scotsman newspaper asserts that this “translates as hammering home the message that we must all save more to support ourselves in old age: as the government has no intention of doing so.”


Those organisations with the best ideas will be given money from the new Pensions Education Fund, which is part of a programme that, according to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), will enable people to make their own decisions about their income in retirement.


The feeling from many, including HBOS, the UK's largest mortgage and savings provider, is that the financial services industry must help to provide more accurate and effective sources of information to customers. Education at an early age needs to be a key focus of any future plans, with the Scotsman recommending that, “incorporating loans and interest rates into maths problems or teaching youngsters how to open a bank account in social education - could go a long way towards ensuring our children are not let loose in the world with no financial clue”.


Proposed solutions need to be practically implemented as soon as possible, in order to enable the aging population to provide for its own long-term needs and not to end up depending on an increasingly financially clueless younger generation.
Richard works in Edinburgh for http://www.bigmouthmedia.com, occasionally writing for the personal finance blog Cashzilla ( http://cashzilla.blogspot.com/ ), and drinking too much coffee.

Richard