E10: What are the effects of debt and what can you do if you find yourself in it with Chris Lees, Lynn Beattie and Tess Nicholson

Pension Confident Podcast

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26 Oct 2022 /  

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The following is a transcript of our monthly podcast, The Pension Confident Podcast. Listen to episode 10 here, watch on YouTube or scroll on to read the conversation.

PHILIPPA: Hello and welcome to episode ten of The Pension Confident Podcast with me, Philippa Lamb. Last month we spoke about what to do if you’re worrying about money. This time, we’ll be looking at what you can do if you are already in debt and how that can affect your day-to-day circumstances.

Music starts

We’re all seeing the domino effect created by global and national events on our finances. True, our energy bills are now capped, but they’re still a lot higher than last year. And of course, everyday life events will always be a factor in our finances. You may be out of work, about to retire or going through a divorce. So today we’re going to hear listener stories about their own debt struggles and we’re joined by two experts to talk about coping strategies. First meet Chris Lees, who’s a Research Officer at the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute. Hello Chris.

CHRIS: Hi. It’s good to be here.

PHILIPPA: And welcome back to Pension Bee’s own COO, Tess Nicholson. She was with us for the last episode. Lovely to see you again, Tess.

TESS: Nice to be back.

PHILIPPA: Before we start, the usual disclaimer, anything discussed on this podcast should not be regarded as financial advice. And remember when investing your capital is at risk.

The effects of debt

Now last month, as I said, we talked about how money worries can affect anyone’s mental health. We know that a lot of people who haven’t had to worry too much in the past are now watching their spending really carefully because they’re worried about getting into debt. Now given the current economic situation in the UK and that reality that more and more people may be fearing sliding into debt, is there anything that you two are doing to keep debt at bay right now?

CHRIS: Definitely, when going into the supermarket, thinking about the more expensive things and asking do I really need to be buying that? Probably makes sense just to be buying, you know, the basic versions.

PHILIPPA: Own brand.

CHRIS: Yeah, exactly. But also just, you know, do I need to be going to a restaurant this week so you know, I can eat in instead. And obviously these are the kind of things that I need to be doing, but lots of people at the moment, you know, are facing much harder choices. So for a lot of people right now, yeah, it’s a really difficult time.

PHILIPPA: Yeah, and it’s hard isn’t it, because I mean some spending you have to spend on, because I’ve been thinking about this with things like travel costs, trains, planes, that sort of thing, booking months in advance to keep the cost down. So I mean, and I have to say that is not something I was doing before. What about you Tess?

TESS: Yeah, I mean food I think is one thing, you know, that I’m keeping an eye on. I work from the office five days a week pretty much, which lots of people don’t now. But there’s obviously a temptation there to go out and buy your lunch. And so, you know, trying to think a bit more carefully about things like that is one of the things I’m doing.

PHILIPPA: Packed lunches.

TESS: Yeah, exactly.

PHILIPPA: Yeah because we were talking about this certainly before the recording - that thing of having notifications pop up on the screen of your phone every time you swipe for a coffee or a sandwich.

TESS: It’s a reminder.

PHILIPPA: It is, isn’t it? It makes you think.

TESS: Yeah.

PHILIPPA: I do that. Well as I said in episode nine, we spoke about the link between money worries and the effect that can have on your mental health. So, if it’s beyond the point of concern and you’re actually at the point where your money struggles have gotten the better of you then, I mean Chris surely that must put an even bigger strain on your state of mind. What kind of concerns are you coming across at Money and Mental Health?

CHRIS: Well, definitely, yeah, that’s something that we come across so much. So people who are in problem debt, where people are seriously behind on credit agreements and bill payments - nearly half of those people have a mental health problem. So there’s definitely that connection there and being in problem debt can drive these feelings of anxiety, depression, and then this feeling that it’s your fault. I think a lot of the time there’s this stigma around problem debt. So there’s this belief that it’s the individual’s fault, whereas there’s obviously a lot of different factors that are at play in society and the economy, etc. But that means that people really struggle to talk about it, whether that’s with their friends and family or then actually seeking help from different organisations or actually speaking to their creditors. And there’s also this other challenge where people are often getting quite difficult communications from their creditors. So, maybe aggressive debt letters or their phone ringing constantly.

PHILIPPA: Really frightening.

CHRIS: Exactly. And even things like bailiffs turning up at your door. That’s really difficult for people and they often don’t know what to do about it. And that just drives these feelings and unfortunately there is a connection between problem debt and suicidality. People in problem debt are around three times more likely to have thought about suicide in the last year. And unfortunately around a hundred thousand people in England per year have tried to attempt to take their own life if they’re in problem debt.

PHILIPPA: Yeah, I mean, as you say, it’s a vicious spiral, isn’t it? But how do we break that cycle?

CHRIS: Well that’s a really great question. There are obviously things that individuals can do, but I think I’ll focus more on what is needed from the wider infrastructure. One of the things is raising awareness of this connection between mental health problems and financial difficulty. So for example when people are getting treatment for their mental health problems, it’d be really great if there was this understanding for people about how that can impact their finances. But also then if doctors and medical professionals then spot that maybe it’s actually a financial driver that they can then be signposted or offered support and guidance so that they know where to turn to. And then I think on the other side of that is the role for creditors. So, make sure that the letters you’re sending out - that the creditors are sending out - that they’re clear, that they’re easy to understand, that they’re supportive, that there are links to where people can get support from and it’s easy for them to get in touch. But also, then there’s the training for frontline staff. Because obviously a lot of people who are struggling with their finances will also be struggling with their mental health. So when they’re ringing up they’re probably distressed and often maybe, they might get a bit angry because they feel like they’re not being understood.

PHILIPPA: Yeah.

CHRIS: So if frontline staff have this training to recognise, you know, there is this connection and they know what to do. That would be really great.

PHILIPPA: I mean, Tess, you mentioned last time I think that you’ve been hearing from customers at PensionBee, they’re worried about the cost of living crisis, the impact of all that market volatility on the value of their pension pots and how that’s affecting them. But what effects can already being in debt have on your ability to save for the future? Because I mean, the two must be connected.

TESS: Yeah, I mean I think, the one thing that you might imagine could happen is that people stop contributing to things like pensions. Actually what we’re seeing at PensionBee at the moment is that we’re not seeing a drop in contributions, which is promising.

PHILIPPA: Yeah.

TESS: I’m hopeful. I think hopefully that suggests that people are valuing their pension as a tool to support them in later life. But that’s something that could happen, somebody might decide, well that’s the thing I’m gonna stop putting money into. And, obviously the impact of that then is that you don’t have that money growing alongside you and, and you increase the risk of being in difficulty in later life. And then the other thing that we are seeing is an increase in people looking to withdraw from their pension before the age of 55, which is when they’re allowed to withdraw money.

PHILIPPA: Yeah. And you can’t do that can you?

TESS: No, you can’t do that apart from in very special circumstances. But yeah, you know, people are obviously wanting to do that and you want the money to stay in there as long as it can so that it has more opportunity to grow. So yeah, it can definitely have an impact on those kinds of savings.

PHILIPPA: Well for today’s episode we wanted to hear from you, the listeners on how you are currently coping financially. So before our recording, PensionBee reached out to its customers on social media and they asked people about their experiences with debt. So Tess, what sort of responses did you get?

TESS: The headline number is that 83% of respondents said that they had experienced debt at some point in their life.

PHILIPPA: It’s a big number. Is it higher than you thought?

TESS: It is very high, but I think it just goes to show what a universal problem it is, and I think we’ve talked a little bit about the shame that people feel around debt and I hope that hearing that number helps some people to recognise that it’s not your fault. It’s gonna happen to most people and it’s not something to be ashamed of. The biggest reason people gave for getting into debt was credit cards.

PHILIPPA: Right.

TESS: Personally, I’ve experienced what it’s like to use a credit card in my life and obviously it can be something that you sort of have there as a fall back. And so that can almost encourage you to think, oh it’s okay, I’ve got my credit card there. We also had over 50% of people tell us that they were concerned about going into debt this winter.

PHILIPPA: That’s a big number too.

TESS: It’s a really high number. And the things that people were particularly worried about were, unsurprisingly, the cost of energy and also groceries. So it’s such a universal thing - we all have to heat our homes and we all have to eat. So, these things are affecting everybody and we really saw that in the survey.

PHILIPPA: I mean Chris obviously we are talking about the current cost of living issue, but what circumstances do you see coming up most frequently from people when they, when they get in touch with you.

CHRIS: So we hear a lot from people who are struggling with their mental health. We find that common symptoms can often impact this ability to manage spending. So for example, when people are unwell, they might have difficulty processing information, they might struggle to control their impulses, but also things like memory problems. So this can make it really difficult for people to keep track of what they’re spending and make sure they’re getting the best deals. It can then be really hard for people when they’re unwell to then seek help and things like low motivation, low energy. But also avoidance is a common coping mechanism for people with anxiety and other associated conditions. So that could be really hard for people to then reach out.

And if you’re thinking then about people who are really struggling with their mental health, so maybe they’re in crisis support care, we often find this is where there is that worse financial impact. Because people just really can’t manage their finances. They might go into treatment and come out and find out they’re massively in debt now because they’ve just not been able to deal with that. Another common thing is that we know that people with mental health problems are often more likely to be on lower incomes.

PHILIPPA: Yeah. It’s quite closely correlated.

CHRIS: Definitely. Yeah. And we find that for people with common mental disorders, which might include things like anxiety, there’s a mental health income gap of around £8,400 on average. So that’s pretty significant and there are lots of different reasons for that. So for example, people might struggle to stay in full-time employment so they might turn to part-time work. But then lots of people might not be able to work. So then they have to rely on benefits which often really haven’t kept pace with increased costs. So lots of people then find it really hard to afford the essentials, which means then that’s how people can start to turn to credit and then they can struggle to afford the credit and they then get into debt.

Other things often I think you mentioned earlier about life events, that’s something that we hear about where people may be going through bereavement or divorce.

PHILIPPA: Yeah. I mean they just keep on happening, we don’t hear much about it.

CHRIS: Definitely. Yeah, well that’s, yeah as you said, that’s still ongoing and there’s the financial impact so maybe loss of income or whatever it is. But then there’s the impact on their mental health. But then there’s the final thing, just the cognitive overload that people have where there’s a lot going on, so being able to actually stay on top of your finances at the same time, that’s so difficult for people. And you mentioned the cost of living, that’s definitely something that is a real concern. So when we did polling recently around three quarters of people said they’ve had to make a change due to the cost of living crisis already.

PHILIPPA: Already?

CHRIS: Yeah. But then people are turning to credit to pay for essentials. So around half of people said they’re anxious about the cost of living crisis. But also one in five said they felt dread when they were opening letters from their creditors.

PHILIPPA: That’s sad isn’t it?

CHRIS: Exactly. And that then drives the feeling that this problem is too big.

PHILIPPA: There’s too many parts to it.

CHRIS: Exactly. Yeah, there’s just lots going on.

Customer stories

PHILIPPA: Look, let’s hear some personal stories from PensionBee customers who’ve very kindly given us permission to share them with you. You’ll understand we’re keeping their names anonymous. So the first customer told us…

CUSTOMER 1: The cost of living crisis has definitely impacted me. Unfortunately my last job ended in January this year, so for the first four or five months I was out of work and as my partner’s a teacher, we can’t claim any benefits. It’s been really difficult. We’ve had to cancel holidays we had booked pre-covid to try and get that money back to pay our bills. We’ve no spare money for going out and we’re cutting back on what we’re able to buy.

PHILIPPA: So you know, this couple, they were fine and then they suddenly found this year that their finances are just nowhere near as stable as they previously were. They’re clearly worried about getting into debt and they will not be alone with that, will they? Lots of people who thought it was fine, suddenly it’s not fine.

CHRIS: Oh, definitely. I think the mention of cutting back on the different spending and one of them was holidays. Now, holidays can be something that’s really great for people’s mental health and yeah definitely, a lot of that spending is stuff maybe when you’re socialising and that can mean spending less time with friends and family again, things like isolation can then make it harder for people with their mental health and then that just drives these feelings. When people get into that situation it can be scary but there are lots of organisations out there who have advice that people can turn to if they need to. But definitely when you first face those kinds of situations, it can be really scary.

PHILIPPA: Tess, your customer spoke about not having any money to spare, it must be really difficult to even think about saving in that situation.

TESS: Yeah, it is. Lots of people will obviously be considering the different places that they can cut back. I mean we would always say, you know, with pensions that, if you can try to keep contributing, even if you cut down the amount that you contribute, that can help keep your pot growing. Yeah and also just keep up the habit really because if you stop it altogether, starting again is quite tough.

PHILIPPA: Yeah. I mean Tess you say even if it’s a tiny amount, which seems like almost a waste of time to be saving it, this is where compound interest comes in isn’t it? Even a tiny amount gets bigger.

TESS: Yeah. You know, if you’re not gonna retire for 20 years, then even if maybe you’re contributing £20 a month and you cut that down to £5 a month, that £5 has got 20 years to grow and help provide you with a bit more support and income when you do reach retirement.

PHILIPPA: It’s mentally reassuring in a way, isn’t it, to know it’s there.

TESS: Yeah, I think it is.

PHILIPPA: I mean, Chris thinking about solutions, lots of us are not claiming the benefits and payments we’re entitled to. This is, I mean this has always been the case, hasn’t it? And right now people really need to know what they’re entitled to, don’t they? What is the easiest way to find that out?

CHRIS: Yeah it’s such a big problem because like you said there’s, there’s a lot of financial support out there for people but people just don’t know about it. And unfortunately at the moment there’s so much placed on the individual to try and work out where to go. But there are some great organisations you can turn to. So for example, Citizens Advice, they have a lot of information on their website about eligibility for benefits, but also other kinds of financial support and how you can access that.

PHILIPPA: I think especially if you haven’t claimed benefits before, or not claimed benefits for a while, the idea of trying to find out where you’re entitled to, it’s really daunting isn’t it? Cause you thinking I’m gonna have to wade through some government website and it’s gonna take half a day. But actually it’s not is it? Because I looked at some of these benefit checkers, it’s like a 10 minute job, isn’t it?

CHRIS: Yeah. I think there is that, that concern that it will take forever and that’s understandable. But these tools are quite simple and often the information they provide is in a way that people can easily understand.

PHILIPPA: It’s interesting you talked about Citizen’s Advice because I was reading some of their reports earlier in the week and they were saying that they’ve seen a 60% increase in helping people with crisis debt this year already.

CHRIS: I know it’s quite scary and we work quite closely with other debt advice organisations and speak to them quite a lot and yeah, the amount of support they’re having to give is really large and often it’s things like energy support where they were supporting people in the summer. Whereas normally this is an issue that we see in the winter when people are worrying about energy costs because obviously it’s so cold but this was something in summer. So yeah, it’s very scary and I think and then there’s the pressure on their staff and their ability to meet this demand.

PHILIPPA: Let’s hear another story from a customer. This one really shows that extra layer of difficulty that we’ve been talking of having a mental health condition as well.

CUSTOMER 2: A few years ago I became incredibly unwell due to a decline in my mental health and as a result had no job, I had no money to pay bills, therefore had to rely on help from my family, who could barely afford it themselves. I was denied benefits after a personal independence payment assessment due to the fact I had taken myself to the interview on the train. This was despite the fact I was having suicidal thoughts at the time. I felt the assessor wasn’t necessarily qualified to make that decision and as a result I was forced to apply for Jobseekers Allowance despite being in no condition to work.

PHILIPPA: Now Chris, it’s a terrible story isn’t it? I mean, looking for work when you’re suffering from mental health problems. It’s a horrible combination, but it’s true, there will be times when people simply aren’t well enough to do that, aren’t they? I mean, what advice do you give to people if the system is forcing them to seek work when they just don’t feel mentally capable of doing that?

CHRIS: I mean that is such a common thing that we come across and mental health problems can affect people in different ways and they can vary in intensity. And for some people they might go for periods where their mental health means they’re able to work, other times, there might be short periods where it’s just too hard for them.

For other people, it might be longer-term where they struggle to work. So there are three groups of people; people who obviously can’t work, people who can work, but they have to work part-time because they’re managing their mental health whilst trying to find work and, there are some people who can work full-time. And we do find in our research that people with mental health problems are more likely to be in receipt of benefits, especially if one’s more related to health. And one thing we want to see is more training for frontline DWP staff so that if people come to say that they’re struggling with their mental health and it means that they can’t work, that there is that understanding of how it impacts people.

So hopefully we’ll get into a place where people can feel free to come talk about their mental health. And also then when they’re approaching employers, we often find there’s this feeling that if someone has gaps in their employment history, which is due to mental health, that there is almost like a bit of discrimination going on there.

PHILIPPA: Still?

CHRIS: Still, exactly. Yeah. So hopefully employees will have more training there and more commitments to support people with their mental health and things like flexible working. But like I said, you know, for people in this situation who’re trying to work out where to go, and what your rights are is one of the crucial things. But again, it’s left to the individual so that’s just really difficult. There are ways that people can get that support whilst claiming universal credit, but it’s not a really great system at the moment. So one of the things we’re calling for is for that system to be easier.

PHILIPPA: Are you?

CHRIS: Yeah. So there is a system in place but it’s quite complicated to find and complicated to use. So we’ve called on the DWP to make that a bit easier. It’s something that is relatively simple when you’d think because you know, it’s, we’re not necessarily asking for them to completely change the way it’s done. Just make it easier for people to get that support.

PHILIPPA: Do you think you’re getting much traction with that?

CHRIS: Well we were starting to make a bit of traction. We were speaking to officials and ministers and it did seem that we were starting to make traction and then obviously there was a slight change in government and things started to happen there. So I don’t know where we’re at at the moment with that.

PHILIPPA: So, you have to start all over again with new people, do you?

CHRIS: Pretty much, yeah. And actually it’s quite, well I say it’s funny.

PHILIPPA: It’s good you can laugh.

CHRIS: We were about to launch a report on levelling up. So looking at where you live and how that impacts your money and mental health and then that was when a lot of the resignations happened. So we were like, oh there’s no one actually left it in the department to make these recommendations to. So that was a bit of a difficult period for us.

PHILIPPA: Yeah, because obviously benefits are being discussed at the moment aren’t they?

CHRIS: Yes. Well obviously yeah, there’s a lot in the news about it and whether they’re going to rise in line with inflation.

PHILIPPA: Which, presumably, you definitely want them to?

CHRIS: Yeah because obviously as I said, one of the big drivers for lots of people who struggle with their mental health is low income. And so if costs are rising and people are really struggling to make those costs, the money they’re receiving, we think that should be rising in line with that.That would be something that would make a big difference.

But things like, having an adequate Statutory Sick Pay system, and things like support for people when they’re struggling with their mental health earlier so that their mental health gets better so that they’re able to progress through work. That’s if they’re able to work. And then you know, things like flexible working by default, that would be something that would be really great. Cause we know that’s really important for people. So, these kinds of blunt instruments often don’t necessarily have the desired impacts because as you said, they don’t really take into account people’s lives and there’s not necessarily nuanced thinking around it.

PHILIPPA: It sounds like you feel that there should just be more compassion in the system?

CHRIS: Oh definitely. Yeah. And, lots of times people probably working on the frontline will have compassion but I think -

PHILIPPA: The rules are the rules.

CHRIS: Yes, yeah. That they have to work with. Yeah, exactly.

Escaping debt and improving your circumstances

PHILIPPA: Look, we’ve spoken quite a lot about the effects of debt and how serious the problem can get if you don’t take action. Debt, obviously it can affect anyone, and one of the biggest challenges is keeping perspective on your situation, because getting out of debt is possible. Let’s hear from Lynn Beattie. Lynn is a Personal Finance Expert. She’s founder of the Mrs MummyPenny website and author of The Money Guide to Transform Your Life. She’s also a PensionBee customer.

LYNN: So I used to be employed, I had a good corporate job, I worked for a telco company and earned quite a chunk of money. But I decided to leave that world and set up Mrs Mummy Penny and my income literally crashed down to nothing. I had £40,000 worth of redundancy money, and I’d set a budget that I had 18 months to spend that £40,000 and that’s just basically going on like mortgage and council tax and bills and food, feeding my three children.

And I ended up funding an unsustainable lifestyle via my credit cards. I knew things were getting worse after 12 months, but I literally buried my head in the sand. I know I did. Because I felt the shame of being in debt because I’m a Personal Finance Expert. Like, how embarrassing would that be to admit to people I was in debt? It took about six months to actually face up to my problem. And by then I was literally paying for food to feed my children on a credit card. I’d got into a complete pickle.

So, it’s constantly on your mind. I would think about it 50 times a day. So I’d wake up and the first thing I’d think about was, oh, I’m in debt but I’m too scared to add up how much I’m in debt. Or, I’ve got £10,000 on that interest free credit card, but that deal’s gonna run out soon and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get another interest free deal because I’m not employed anymore, I’m now self-employed. So all this sort of spiralling goes through your head. The mental burden of having that much debt is huge. Not only because of the impact it has on your own mental health, but it, you know, it causes arguments in relationships and it changes decisions you make with your children. So my light bulb moment was when I’d just returned from my 40th birthday celebration. Literally on the first day back from holiday, I was like, I’ve just gotta face this. And I added it all up and then it was £16,000. It was a sort of rock-bottom moment. How did it feel to realise I was £16,000 in debt? I think, a lot of emotions. So embarrassed, full of shame. It also empowered me that okay, I now know what my situation is. I know I’ve got £16,000 of debt, £12,000 of it is on 0% credit cards, some of it I need to restructure and get another 0% deal. And then you sort of go through the semantics of, right, what are the interest rates? How long have I got that 0% deal for? One of the debts was on a business credit card and I was paying like a 20% APR on it.

So, I then came up with a strategy of the order in which to pay off my debts. My first angle was to cut all of my bills back to the bare minimum. So I got rid of everything that was non-essential, you know, no gym memberships, only one TV subscription, you know, get rid of Netflix. I spoke to a friend and I told her my budget ideas and she went through my budget and she stripped out another sort of £200 a month. And then I did a few extreme, frugal challenges. I didn’t buy any clothes for me or my kids for a year. If we needed clothes, we just asked friends. I’m a makeup addict, like I love makeup and I didn’t buy any makeup for a year. And I know that sounds really ridiculous, but it’s something that I love. And I did some no spend months where the only thing you’re allowed to spend money on is your groceries and commuting to work. The only time where it got really difficult was in the summer holidays where my income dropped to like £1,000 a month and you know, you’ve got six weeks with your children at home. So that was a difficult one to explain to my children. Like, no we, we can’t go to the trampoline park. That was really, really hard. And my debt actually went backwards during the summer holidays.

I set an unrealistic challenge that I would pay my £16,000 off in 16 months - 16 months was so unrealistic. But I did manage to pay it off in two years. So by April 2019, I was credit card debt free. And that day I remember so clearly. It’s like you feel a physical weight being lifted from your shoulders. It’s incredible.

PHILIPPA: It’s an incredible story isn’t it? I mean Lynn mentioned common themes there that we’ve talked about. This idea of burying your head in the sand and not opening letters. I mean what are your best tips for not doing that? For getting out of that cycle of avoidance? Because it’s tempting isn’t it? If you know the news is gonna be bad, you don’t wanna open the envelope.

CHRIS: Yeah, I mean that’s something we hear about a lot through our research. Just the feeling that the debts are mounting up and that people then really struggle to reach out and seek help. I think it’s important, and obviously firstly thanks to Lynn for sharing that story because it’s a great story. And it’s really important to, to hear from people with lived experience about not only the drivers but also how they got help and support. Turning to free advice providers - that’s something people can do. So there’s lots of great providers out there like StepChange and Christians Against Poverty who can help people understand their debts, how much they owe, who to, and then the steps that need to be taken. And often they’re guided through that process. So that can be really useful.

PHILIPPA: I mean Tess, obviously Lynn shared a particularly hard time with credit card debt. It was just rolling and rolling and rolling and then she was using it to pay, you know, buy food. That links back to the poll that we were talking about earlier, doesn’t it? Even for people who’ve never been in debt before, a huge number of them mentioned credit cards. It was 73% who mentioned credit cards, didn’t they? Why do you think it is that so many people find their credit card debts so hard to control? Is it that invisibility, they just don’t see the money being spent?

TESS: It almost feels a little bit like free money, doesn’t it? Like it’s just, it’s there and therefore when you are getting maybe to the end of your actual income, maybe you’re thinking, well I know I can go a little bit over because I’ve got my credit card there. But then if you’re doing that every month, then it builds up and builds up and builds up. But also if you don’t actually know what’s going out. I know somebody, she’s in her 90s with dementia, living alone and she recently discovered that she was being charged - this is before the increase - being charged £500 a month for her energy bills. Which then went up to £750 a month with the increase. And so obviously if you are putting your head in the sand and not looking at things, there might also be things happening like that that you’re not aware of. If you leave it alone, you’re just giving the problem room to get bigger and worse.

PHILIPPA: I sometimes wonder whether doing away with paper statements hasn’t been such a great idea as we all thought it was at the time. I mean, I loved all that, not having the paper. But getting those paper bills - if you can bring yourself to open them and you see the lists of the stuff you spent on, you don’t have that now, do you? I mean, I don’t have that because I don’t get paper bills.

CHRIS: Yeah, I think that’s such a good point. And something that we hear a lot about is people can struggle to understand when they’re looking at their banking apps and saying ‘Actually what does this mean? How much money do I have in my account?’ Because there’s things like money going out at certain times -

PHILIPPA: Payments pending…

CHRIS: Yeah. So I think maybe, the idea of putting it back to basics and actually understanding yeah, how much is here and how much is there. That can be really useful.

PHILIPPA: Tess, we need to wrap this up, but I’m gonna ask you again. You mentioned on the last podcast about your spreadsheet. Tell us about Tess’ spreadsheet.

TESS: I do have a spreadsheet and I keep track of all of my outgoings and it’s just helpful because if you, I mean, I’m literally inputting every line on a spreadsheet, so I’m reminding myself every month where I’m spending my money. If you’re doing it regularly, then I think it’s helpful for you to sort of stop yourself getting in too much debt, I think. So, I think even if you feel like your finances are in a good place, I think it’s a good idea to be monitoring it in whatever way. You don’t have to have a spreadsheet like mine, but to be monitoring it in whatever way works for you so that you know what’s happening.

PHILIPPA: Tess, Chris, thank you very much. That is about all we have time for today. For links to all the resources and organisations we mentioned in the episode, take a look at the show notes on your podcast app.

You’ll also find links there to handy articles from the team at PensionBee. Just a final reminder that everything you’ve heard on this podcast should not be regarded as financial advice and wherever you invest your capital is at risk.

Join us again next month, we’ll be asking ‘What does a happy retirement look like?’ If you’ve got any feedback on any of our episodes, good or bad, or want to share your ideas for future shows, send us an email to podcast@pensionbee.com. We would love to hear from you.

Thanks for listening. See you next time on The Pension Confident Podcast.

Risk warning

As always with investments, your capital is at risk. The value of your investment can go down as well as up, and you may get back less than you invest. This information should not be regarded as financial advice.

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