The Financial Fairness podcast
Episode Five: How to manage your finances for life
Guest: Paul Lewis
In this episode we are joined by award-winning money journalist Paul Lewis. He talks to Mubin about his latest book, Money Box. Bearing the same name as the popular Radio 4 programme, which Paul has presented for over two decades, Money Box takes readers through each financial stage of their life. From choosing credit cards and buying your first home, to marriage and will-writing, Money Box has it all covered.
Paul discusses people’s experiences of fraud (not-so-fun fact: you are more likely to be a victim of fraud than any other crime) and how to prevent falling victim to fraud.
He reflects on the cost of living crisis, how people are coping with rising bills and what people are doing to manage their bills. Pensions are also discussed in depth, auto-enrolment, how to ensure you are saving enough for old age and what you can do it you are not.
Mubin: Paul, thanks for joining us. We’re all big fans of Money Box, it’s a regular listen for me. And there's a lot of cross over between areas of work we do at the Financial Fairness Trust and your work at Money Box. Can you just tell us a bit about how long have you been presenting Money Box for and what you enjoy most about it?
Paul: Well, I've been presenting it all century, as I often say. I started in September 2000. I had done other presenting at the BBC on Wake Up To Money. And then I had this offer to do money box, and I jumped at the chance. And I've done it ever since almost every week.
What I enjoy most about it. I think the feedback from listeners is great. And we always now, every programme we have at least one or two listeners on the programme, who've had a problem or had an idea or what want to ask a question. And I think that listener feedback is one of the very most important aspects. And of course, it's very gratifying when, because of the work we do, I - or my colleagues - very often manage to get somebody all their money back if they've been defrauded, for example, because there were hundreds of millions of pounds defrauded out of a 100,000 people last year. And banks are very reluctant to give it back in many cases. About half of it is ever paid back.
Intervention by Moneybox can make that happen, it doesn't always sadly, but it can make that happen. And that's very gratifying because people are losing life changing amounts of money. And getting it back for them is very nice for us to do.
And there are smaller things. There was a man the other day, we did an item on how to get a disabled persons rail card and how the rules were being misinterpreted by National Rail. And, sure enough, he applied as we suggested, and he got his rail card and he has to use the trains a lot, it's a third of every fare. So that's a much smaller amount, but it's very gratifying. Or people get their tax rebates or they get their pensions or their benefits. And we often get emails from people saying, well, thank you, I listened to your programme and I, I got this or I got that or I understand this. So it's that sense of interaction and you are actually doing some good in the real world, you know, you're not just reading out the footsie 100 index, you're actually helping people's lives.
Mubin: And so I guess you pick up a lot of potential news stories in terms of what's bubbling underneath the surface as well for your listeners. You've got your ear to the ground? Is that right?
Paul: That's absolutely right. And certainly with something like that, and we have done items on crypto assets - and we have used listeners on those. And as you’ll have gathered from the book, I'm not a fan is perhaps a mild way of putting it. I always say if you want to dip your toe in crypto, make sure it's a toe you're willing to lose because you probably will. Some people say that it’s a speculation which they think is different, but I would say they're a gamble. So I'm - I am more than a sceptic. I'm very much against people believing that cryptocurrency is an investment or a way to make money.
Mubin: Yeah, and some people have made quite a lot of money from it. But that was possibly in the early days when it was, worth pennies, and now they’re searching rubbish dumps for computer hardware, that they’ve lost and now want to retrieve.
Paul: That's absolutely right. I think obviously, we can go back in time, if we had a time machine, it would be the greatest money making machine ever invented - it would go back in time, buy Bitcoin for $1, then yes, you would make money. But a lot of people say they make money. And if you talk to people very often, it's their sort of third cousin’s wife's brother, who has actually made the money. And you're never quite sure if they've got the money, if it's come out if it's actually there physically, in 10 pound notes and their bank account. So you have to be very skeptical of people who say they've made a lot of money. The ones who have, are the ones who operate the platforms and things, they've made money. But then even that, you know, we saw Sam Bankman-Fried, who was a billionaire, one of the richest men in the world, and he lost a lot or appears to have lost a lot and a billion, a billion dollars, a billion dollars of invested money has vanished. I mean, that’s the risk you take.
Mubin: Yeh, huge sums aren't they. So Paul has it, actually - in terms of our finances, and over about a 20 odd year period - have things got worse? Or are they roughly the same, or is it better?
Paul: I think this particular cost of living crisis that we're in now, that's affecting more than half the population, probably 80, or 90% of it is the worst I've ever seen. And I said, I'd been doing moneybox for 22 years, and I've been a personal finance journalist for almost twice as long as that. So it's, it really is very bad.
And I've been asked a lot over the last few weeks, why, what is worse about it? And I think one of the things is that the doubling fuel prices, I mean, this winter fuel prices for heating our homes, putting the lights on and so on, are twice what they were last winter, on average - worse for some people. And they'll go up again in April, when they go up again anyway and then we lose the 400 pounds that almost all of us have had off our bills. So that will be like a 40% rise. So that really is the killer, because everybody has to have power, and light and heat in their homes, whether it's electricity or gas. That's the killer. A lot of people don't, 2 million people a month can't top up their prepayment meters, so they are left in the cold and the dark. The second thing is that inflation has been hitting worse at basic foodstuffs and food prices, which have gone up I think, the latest figure I saw was 16.7% in a year. Now, overall inflation is about 10 and a half percent. But we know, low-income families have higher rates of inflation than better off.
And I think the third element is housing rents really going through the roof, I mean, it's a pun, but literally, rents are going up. And don't forget more than a third of the population now rent third, just over a third own their homes outright and just under a third have mortgages. So the renters and the people who've got mortgages to pay are suffering very badly, because mortgage rates have gone up, when your mortgage or fixed rate comes to an end, there are people dreading that moment, and there's well over a million of them this year alone, because their mortgage will go up two or 300 pounds a month on average, very likely. That's a huge amount to find. So those three things the essentials housing, fuel, food, they have never been hit so hard in other previous financial crises that I recall.
Mubin: And I mean, what you paint is an incredibly grim picture. But in terms of wider finances, have there been any real improvements? I mean, you've been troubleshooting and shining a light on lots of this, what do you feel proud of?
Paul: Well, there have undoubtedly been improvements. I mean to take what is in a sense, a trivial example, but it's one we all use every day.
If I wanted to give you some money, I could go to my mobile phone, and it will be in your bank account, in a nanosecond, that is completely new. It used to take three days to move money. And Money Box did play its part in campaigning, though, of course, being the BBC, we don't actively campaign. But in raising all the issues about this and asking people, why does it take three days? Where is that money in those three days, and eventually, we got instant, Faster Payments. And everybody uses those, practically everybody, every day.
So there have been improvements like that. I think I mean, I'm a great, I'm a great critic of the Financial Conduct Authority, the regulator that regulates all financial services, a great critic, I think it doesn't act fast enough. It's too slow. It's too ponderous. It takes years to do something it should do very quickly. But the fact we have it is a very good thing.
I think it's fined banks and financial organisations, four and three quarter billion pounds. Now, that must have affected their behaviour. They still behave badly in many cases. But I think the regulator effects their behaviour, and we have a proper system of regulated financial advice. It's getting too expensive for most people, it has to be said. But if you find a good, independent financial adviser, they don't earn commission on investments or pensions anymore. That was another major change in the last few years, what, nearly 10 years ago now, they don't earn commission. So they're not tainted by that conflict of interest, good, independent financial advice is better than it has ever been.
Mubin: So Paul, you've now actually put down some of your wisdom into this book, which is handily called ‘Money Box’. So did you have some naming rights there? Or was it an easy one with the BBC to call it that?
Paul: The publisher was convinced probably rightly, that if we called it Money Box, it would be good for the book. And of course, it's great for the Money Box brand, which of course, people at the BBC are very happy about. So yes, I think it was a good move. But Money Box in a way doesn't describe the book. The book takes you from the age of naught to the age of 99 and sets out really what you need in your finances and apologies you know, to the Centenarians, they can read the last chapter as well.
And by doing it that way, you avoid having a chapter on tax, which no one will read or a chapter on pensions that will send everyone to sleep.
Mubin: In the book, you say, money is like sex? Can you just explain what you what you mean by this?
Paul: There are all sorts of answers that could be given to that question. But what I mentioned in the book was, I was talking about teaching children about money. And I was drawing the analogy that money and sex are both things you should teach children about, in an age-appropriate way, as soon as they can understand it. So you know, even a two or three year old has to understand the basics of, you know, reproduction, and who's mummy, who's granny, and all that kind of thing. And then as they get older, you teach them a bit more, a bit more. And it's the same with money. And I think you can't start teaching money too young for children. When you're three or four, you can play games, and I suggest having some coins around, which, you know, to those children, oh, I remember coins, I used to play with those and those the child. But of course, when they get older, they will realise that that money is a physical thing. It does have an existence. And it's not just numbers in a bank account. But it has a physical existence. And that's why a lot of people rely on cash, because it helps you manage your money. I like Monopoly, for example, because not only does it teach you about money and giving change and notes with values on and buying things, buying houses, and so on. It also teaches you the key lesson about money. It's all completely unfair. So when you go away from the game, feeling very sulky, because you've been treated unfairly, that is financial life, and it's best to get used to it as young as you can.
Mubin: What you talk about are some real practical ways in which people can interact with money and learn about it through games, etc. But, there's a big emphasis particularly in my field on financial education, this idea that, you need to be formally taught, and if only people knew about APRs, if only they use spreadsheets to budget, if they only just shopped around for utilities, that's been the real mantra of the day, this real strong focus on individual responsibility? How, much do you think that's relevant? How much do you think that actually changes people's behaviours?
Paul: It's very hard to be against financial education. And I'm very pleased that it is at least on the curriculum, though, in England, and Wales, but in a fairly small way. But, you know, if I look back - I know I'm getting on a bit now - but if I look back to my time at school, what would I have been taught? There weren't any credit cards. Most people didn't own their house. Later on, mortgages we’re all at a fixed rate, there was no competition between insurers. There was no online banking, I mean, all the things I would have been taught completely useless today. But I do think it's important to teach children about money. And I say in the book, there's research from Cambridge University that if you tell your children about money, when they're seven or eight, they follow your example. So let them know, let them know when you've got a debt, let them know when things are difficult. Let them know that money isn't infinite as sometimes they might think.
You mentioned APR. APR, the Annual Percentage Rate is the way that all credit has to be advertised. So if you advertise a loan, you have to say 8.8% APR. And that means, of course, if you borrow 100 quid, you'll pay eight pounds 80 in interest. But people don't have to know what that 8.8% even means. If they're borrowing money, the bigger the APR, the worse it is. And if you're saving money, the bigger the AER, the better it is. And that's all you need to know about APR and AER - you don't even have to know what it stands for. Percentages aren't that difficult. And I do go through it a bit in the book and say, well, this is all the percentage is, it's just so much per 100, which is exactly of course what it means. But beyond that, I think it's better to have almost no financial education than bad financial education, and traditional education about investing and shares and things like that, I don't know that that really has a place in schools. I think arithmetic plus scepticism, is what you need to manage your money.
Mubin: Yeah, I think you're definitely right about scepticism and trusting particular sources. But what you've touched on there with APRs and AERs is there's a lot of jargon relating to finance. Do you think that's intentional by the industry?
Paul: I don't think it's accidental. And I think the other aspect of financial education, why do we need it, is because a lot of the finance world talks in absolutely impenetrable language that is very, very hard to understand. And is it deliberate? Certainly, if people don't fully understand things, they may well make the wrong choices. And the wrong choices are usually worse for them, and better for the financial firm. So, I think there is a bias towards what I call complexification.
In their defense, I think they would say, well, it's all this regulation, you know, we have to, we have to send you a 94 page booklet when you're going to buy an insurance product, because and you've got to tick a box saying I've read the terms and conditions, when you know, absolutely, you have not read them. Or even if you tried, you didn't understand a word of it. But you check the box, you know, box checked, move on. So, I do think there's a lot of regulatory pressure for things to be less than clear.
And one of the good things that's happened with loans, particularly and credit cards, things like that, is that the key terms have to be set out on the first page in clear language. And that's a big change, too. And if something isn't on that first page, and is to your detriment, and things go horribly wrong, then you have a good claim to get your money back. So, I do think that's another plus that regulation has done that. We need a great deal of simplification and that would solve a lot of the financial education – what can I call it, ‘deficit’ - that we probably all have.
Mubin: Partly this goes to one of the bugbears I have, which is what's been termed as a big transfer of risk from, the state and employers and industry to the individual. Is that what you've seen as well or is that oversimplified?
Paul: Well, I don't, I don't think it is. I mean, there is a transfer of risk, particularly around pensions and things like that. Because, nowadays, we're all encouraged through auto enrolment, to understand about investing our own pension, those people haven't got a clue. And so they go with the default option. And that, that's probably not unreasonable.
What they don't realise, I think, is that they're not putting enough into their pension, auto enrollment will not give you a comfortable retirement, it will give you a very meagre, meagre retirement. But yes, risk is being moved, because defined benefit pensions, as they're now called final salary schemes, that give at the end of your working life, a percentage of your salary for every year you’ve been in the scheme. And you don't have to worry about it, and it goes up with inflation, part of it mostly anyway. That's how a pension should be. That's what MPs have. That's what civil servants have. That's what people in the public sector doctors and teachers and so on have, though, they do pay into it quite a lot in many cases, the police have it. It's much less common in the private sector for banks, banks used to have those that some of them still do. The Bank of England has a brilliant scheme where, but it costs the bank 50% of salary to pay into this pension scheme. So no wonder no one else wants to have one like that.
So, there is that transfer of risk, we pay in some money, our employer pays in a bit, the Treasury pays in a bit at the end of our working life, or whenever whatever age we choose after 55. We take it out, and we have to buy a pension. And we think, well, it's 30,000 pounds. That's Jolly good. I'll go and have a nice time. A year later, it's all gone. Or two years later, it's all gone. And you think, what am I going to do now? Because people don't understand just how much money you need in a pension pot to give you the 20 or 30,000 pounds a year you need nowadays, to have a reasonably good retirement, people don't have that. So yeah, the risk is being moved from, from the firms who used to have these good pension schemes to us.
Mubin: And you're absolutely right about people not being on track to have enough in their pensions because of this move to DC schemes, which is, again, more jargon. But we did a report with the Resolution Foundation, which found that just one in 20, low paid workers were on track to actually have a decent standard of living via these pensions. One of the other things you mentioned in relation to pensions is parasites.
Paul: I’m just trying to remember who I said the parasites where. They're different from sharks, but there are sharks and parasites, both after your pension. The sharks are the criminals, generally, the parasites are the people who are perfectly respectable, I call them parasites. And as I said, I use it in a very strict biological sense that, you know, they are simply one group of creatures that makes their living by taking a bit of another group of creatures’ livelihood.
When you save up for a pension, we talked about a pension pot, we put money in, the chancellor puts a bit of money in, and our employer puts money in. So there's a nice pot money's going in the top from all these different places. What we often don't notice is that the bottom there's a whole series of little taps on this pot, and other people have the right to turn them on, and they are taking money out of our pension. They used to charge typically one and a half percent of our money every single year, which meant over a lifetime, they will actually take out everything you'd put in all you would have would be whatever growth there'd been in that fund through investment over the years.
So all those little taps are there, all sorts of people who, you know, trustees and managers and financial advisors and so on. And the thing to have the biggest possible pension pot is to keep all those taps firmly shut and have the least charges on your pension. That is my one bit of advice - actually I've got another - put as much as you can in, keep the charges as low as you can nowadays maybe 0.4 or 0.5% is not unreasonable. It's still too much in my view, but it's not unreasonable. Because all those other people are living off your pension and of course if you've got 10,000 customers, and you take 1% of the money from all of them, you're doing very well, you've got 100 times more money than each of them have. So, you've got to be careful of those parasites, I don't use it in an insulting way. You know, we've all had parasites in our body, and they're very good for us. It's a biological term, not an insult.
Mubin: Yes, I'm not sure we'll get a pension firm calling itself ‘Parasite Pension Provider’ - quite catchy but…
Paul: It’s a ‘Parasite Free Pension’ that you want
Mubin: Though, interestingly, on that, with auto enrollment, you actually can't choose your provider that's done for you by your employer - so you're locked in.
Paul: Yes, it's an appalling problem. Everybody who earns more than 10,000 pounds a year or weekly equivalent, is put into a pension scheme. And people can have lots and lots and lots of different small pension pots, and they lose track of them.
One of the problems with pensions and auto enrollment and the fact of how the job market works now is that we all have several jobs in our lifetime, in the past, we might have had one or two now we're probably going to have a dozen. And that means you're going to have dozens of pension pots, you can track them down, there's a free way through Gov.uk, the government website to track them down to great extent anyway. And there are other places that will help you. And then you can combine them into one bigger pot and try again and keep the charges as low as you can. The firms that aggregate them, I think maybe charge a bit too much. But try and keep those charges as low as possible, then they're all in one place. And you know, they're there, you know, how much is in that. And you can work out, wow, £80,000, what can I buy with that? Well, the answer is not very much.
I think there is a problem that if you're in auto enrolment, every job you go to, you can't move your pot with. Now, the sensible thing would be that you work for Joe Bloggs, and he pays into the pension and you've got a little pension pot, then you go and work for Mary Smith. And when you go to work for Mary Smith, you should be able to say Oh, hang on a minute, Mary, I've got a pension with Joe, let me move it over to your scheme. It's very, very, very difficult to do that. You can't do that it's not automatic. So you end up with this huge number of mini pots. And that isn't a good way. So what they should do is make sure that when you move, you can move your pension with you.
And the other problem with auto enrollment pensions is you don't choose who the provider is. Now, you may not want to choose where it's invested. Because most of us haven't a clue about that. But you might want to say, hang on that firm where you're investing my pension charges one and a quarter percent a year, I want something a bit cheaper, you can't do that, because your employer has picked it. And guess what, sometimes they'll pick it because that firm pays them to pick it. So, you've got to be very careful about that, too. So if you could move it to a pot followed member they call it that's the jargon. If you could do that, then you could make better choices for yourself and your money. And if you made no choices, which most people make no choices at all, it would still end up better.
Mubin: We recently launched a report on savings, again, that was with Resolution Foundation with a catchy title of ‘ISA ISA Baby’, and thanks for being on the panel at the launch event, Paul. Can you just explain briefly, why ISAs are a waste of time for most people?
Paul: Can I say that the higher interest rates go, that might not be as big a problem as it was, it still is a problem. But an ISA, it’s just a cloak of invisibility that hides your money from the tax man. You only need that cloak of invisibility if you pay tax. And there are something like 4 million people with a cash ISA - that's cash in a savings account - whose income from the data we have appears to be too little too low to pay tax. So it's completely pointless for them. Does it matter? It does because banks pay less on ISAs, than they pay on ordinary savings account. The difference used to be bigger than it is, but it's still there. So you're earning less, you're not saving any tax because you don't pay any. So that is why that ISA is a waste of time for you.
Even if you pay tax, unless you have used up your savings allowance, which is a tax free allowance, we can all basic rate taxpayers can earn 1000 pounds in interest. So you've got, you know, 20, 30,000 pounds in the bank to earn that much. They can all earn that much without paying any tax. So again, if you haven't used up your tax-free allowance, no point in getting the lower rate of an ISA. And for most people, that means they're a waste of time.
Who are they good for, they're good for people who pay higher rate tax, they're good for people with lots of money who've used up all their tax free allowances, then they can be worthwhile because that tax saving is good for them. But they are the people who are already better off, they've already got money. And so that's why I say the huge cost of ISAs, which you set out in your report, is a waste of public money. Because really, that should be used to help people who can't save very much save money, like the scheme for people on Universal Credit, where you can save, there are strict rules about it, but you save up some money. And for every pound you've saved within the rules, you get an extra 50 pence at the end of two years. Now that is worth having if you're a low income person, that's where the money should be spent on encouraging saving, so that the worst off people have a little savings nest egg to tide them over, you know, the next energy bill or a cost of living crisis, not benefiting people who pay higher rate tax and have got, you know, 10s of 1000s of pounds in savings. So I think that's where the imbalance is in public spending, and for individuals.
Mubin: And just to put some numbers on that, we’re projected to spend 4.3 billion pounds in the next financial year on ISAs. And the amount we've spent in total on Help to Save which is helping those on the lowest incomes is 43 million pounds in total. That's quite a disparity in terms of spending huge.
Mubin: But you do like one ISA in particular - I'm not sure if you call it ‘LISA’, or ‘LISA’
Paul: Well, I suppose it's called LISA really, because it's an ISA isn't it, it’s a lifetime ISA. And there, you do get a bonus from the government, you get 25% extra, you have to follow the rules. Again, there's always rules around these things aren't there. You can only use this money either once you reach 60, because that's when you use it to help with your retirement or what you hope will be your retirement. And you can use it to buy your first home. within certain limits. There's a cap on how much you can spend on that. And so that is a direct subsidy. It's not saying oh, you can have this money tax free. It's actually saying we will give you extra money, just as the government does with pensions, you know, you put 1000 pounds in a pension pot, you get an extra 250 from the kind old Chancellor, not a phrase I often use. So it makes ISAs of that sort more like pensions and I think that is a good way to save. But be aware of the rules and if you break the rules, if you take your money out early you are fined. They don't just take away the tax relief, they take away some of the money you've saved as well. So that is really a big penalty I think quite a lot of people did pay that penalty in the last two or three years since these things have been around.
Mubin: Fraud. We started talking about it earlier, and you highlight a lot of this in your book. Is it increasing?
Paul: Oh, absolutely. Fraud is 40% of recorded crime. This is an absolutely staggering figure. You are far more likely to be defrauded than come across any other crime, any other crime. So yes, it's growing. And it's growing hugely and the type of fraud that to me is the worst are the ones where you don't get your money back from the banks. And I do think that the banks have got to start doing something more about that. They give your money back in about half the cases, there’s a voluntary code of practice. But I come across an awful lot of people who contact me and contact Moneybox who are completely blameless, they might have been a tiny bit gullible for a few minutes. But goodness, we're all guilty of that, aren't we in our lives. But for them, that tiny bit of being gullible for a few minutes has cost them their life savings in some cases.
I was talking to one man recently, he's lost over 35,000 pounds to a fraud, because he believed the man ringing him up really was from his broadband provider.
But you know, we all carry with us the thing that can stop fraud in its tracks, you see castles with walls around them and things like this, we have that wall, and it's this – it’s our finger. And as soon as you get a cold call, don't listen to it, do not listen to a word of it, just press End. If you get a cold email, delete it, if you get a cold text message, delete it, don't engage with these people, because they use psychological warfare against you. They are experts at persuading you that your money is at risk, that they will protect it. The moment you start conversing with them, you're in their dark psychological world. And just like, you know, we have no idea how they saw the lady in half we just know they don't really do it. So you won't know how the thieves get your money. But one feature of it is that within normally a few hours, sometimes a few minutes, sometimes a couple of days, the person who's been robbed will realise and they'll get that sickening feeling. They have lost their money to a thief. And that's when they start trying to get it back. And it's often too late for the banks to recover it. So it is a pernicious and horrible crime. I've had more people in tears on the phone and indeed on the programme about that than about anything else.
Mubin: Yeah, there's this sense of actually being gullible and also losing your financial security isn't there. Do you think we're doing enough in terms of regulation, in terms of government response to this?
Paul: No, I don't. There are discussions going on at the moment about whether the bank should refund everyone and I have to say one bank, TSB does refund everyone 99 point something percent of people get all their money back with TSB, because it doesn't seek to blame anyone. It's says, okay, you've lost your money it was done through the banking system, we accept responsibility. Here it is. And no other bank does that. And the figures from the finance industry show that about half the money is refunded now.
There is a code of practice and if you as a customer are blameless, then you should get all your money back. But of course, it's how you define blameless, if you believe that liar who says they're from your broadband company, or indeed from your bank, or indeed a police officer. If you believe them, then the banks begin to take the view you're not blameless. So there are discussions about whether you should get all your money back in every case that is rumbling on at the moment, and there are arguments about it, and who should refund you and how it would work and what about the people who set it all up to make money and all this kind of stuff. But I think it will happen. I mean, after all, if somebody steals your credit card, or you drop your card, all that money is refunded. And I think, my own view is that all of it should be given back. And that would make the banks much more likely to find a way to stop it..
The other thing I'd say on this is that the thieves have to have a bank account. So the banks have let the thieves open an account. They've watched the money go into that account. They've missed the money going out of that account. And they haven't noticed when you've been making unfeasibly regular large payments over the course of a few hours, to completely new accounts. So they've missed all that. So they are complicit. They have let the proceeds of crime pass through their system. And yet they say ‘nothing to do with us guv, they were a bit gullible.’
Mubin: Yeah, there's, there's some rough justice there. Definitely. Now, Paul, you have created your own acronyms as well. And one is ‘TABIS’, tell us about that. Particularly given we are based in Edinburgh
Paul: Well, I have to say, I did use that abbreviation in the book once, in brackets after things are better in Scotland, T, A, B, I, S. I didn't use it ever again in the book, I have to say.
Things are better in Scotland. Well. Scotland has used its independence, as far as it's got it, to have a different tax system, and a different benefits system. And of course, when Scotland became part of the rest of the United Kingdom, in 1707, it kept the judicial system and it kept the education system. So it already had those two things. And now it's also got power over money, to a great extent through devolution. And in almost every one of those fears, Scotland is better than the rest of the UK.
In law, for example, if you live with someone not married, but you live with them, you have children, you're you know, you are a couple you have far more rights in Scotland than you do in the rest of the UK. Not equal rights with married people but far more rights. In terms of education. There are no tuition fees in Scotland, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland they're over 9000 pounds a year which students have to borrow to fund their university education. And in the field of benefits. Scotland is introducing its own benefits, extra money for children, extra money for babies, some of it tied to means tested benefits, but it is trying to develop a new system and a new more humane I think is the word they view Social Security system. So disabled people don't have to jump through lots of hoops to prove that they are really disabled and can't work. It's a much more person-focused way of judging disability.
And in tax. A lot of people, sometimes I will, I will criticise you know Scotland on Twitter or something. I'll say well, you know if you earn more than 27,000 pounds odd, you pay more tax in Scotland. And I always get flooded with tweets from people say, yes, but prescriptions are free here, you know, travel is free over the age of 60, and all this kind of stuff. So people value what Scotland is doing with this extra tax they raise from people who are earning probably more than roughly what is probably the average pay in Scotland. But if you do earn more than 27,000 odd, you do pay more tax in Scotland because they have their own tax bands and their own tax rates. So they do get more tax off people, better off people. And I use that to mean sort of above half way. But they use it to improve the other things in their society. And you know, I mentioned free prescriptions responses, but they're free for everybody in Scotland and in Wales and in Northern Ireland. In England, people have to pay - is it £9.35 an item now for their prescriptions. So they use the money for social good as they would see it. And I don't know of any evidence that it's driven, higher paid people - there's a lot of financial people in in Scotland in Edinburgh, and Aberdeen and Glasgow who earn a lot of money - it hasn't driven them out of Scotland. So it seems to work is what I say. And that's why I say TABIS, things are better in Scotland, because they often are.
Mubin: What’s on the horizon in relation to money issues that's worrying you? What might be happening, but isn't really high up on our agenda, but your antennae are twitching in relation to particular issues?
Paul: Well, I mean, to be really sort of mundane about it, debt is a problem because people are going into debt to pay for their daily needs. Now that is a road to disaster. Debt is fine, if you pay it off within a short period of time, that's no problem. People are going down the debt route, they're getting they think it's free debt they buy clothes, and it's interest free and all that kind of thing. But they are clocking up a lot of debt. And that certainly worries me. I'm no means unique in realising it. But I don't think there are quite the controls there, there should be and as I said earlier, the Financial Conduct Authority takes a very long time to control things when they become a problem.
I'm also very, very worried about investment advice from unregulated people. That's not to say it's always good if you get it from regulated people, but it's a lot better. And there are a lot of unregulated people on social media. A lot of young people, where do they go for investment advice? Oh, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter. No, don't go there. Those people are unregulated. They haven't a clue. And at best, they'll be telling you things that aren't right. And you will lose money through that, at worst, they'll be trying to take your money off you.
The control of unregulated investment advice, I think is a real worry. Now, of course, if they do offer advice about pensions or certain other things, they should be regulated, though, generally they're not. But there's also a lot of unregulated investment advice around too. It's what the Financial Conduct Authority calls its perimeter.
So, unregulated advice whether it's in the real world, like or on social media worries me a lot and I do not think that the financial regulators are doing enough about that at all.
And I suppose the other thing I worry about is leasehold, I think leasehold is pretty much out of control in this country. And I really hope that Michael Gove who has actually done a lot of good things as Secretary of State for housing, and I think he wants to control it, but there are so many vested interests that I doubt if he'll be in power long enough to do that. I really hope the government gets down to addressing it, as it has promised to do.
And also renting because they want to give, at least the government has said it will give tenants more rights. They need them, a landlord can evict you at two months’ notice generally, that doesn't help you settle down for a family life in rented accommodation, which is all that many young people will ever know.
Mubin: Brilliant. Thanks, Paul. You’ve been a font of knowledge and such a champion for these issues. So, long may it continue.
Paul: Thank you very much. I hope it does.