Not everyone can afford to save more during lockdown

The financial regulator’s latest report hints at a bleak prospect of an uneven post-virus recovery

Food banks, like this one in Burnley, have never been busier while many, particularly older people, are saving money during lockdown.
Food banks, like this one in Burnley, have never been busier while many, particularly older people, are saving money during lockdown. Photograph: Jon Super/REX/Shutterstock
Food banks, like this one in Burnley, have never been busier while many, particularly older people, are saving money during lockdown. Photograph: Jon Super/REX/Shutterstock

Last modified on Thu 18 Feb 2021 05.58 EST

In recent years, the Financial Conduct Authority has started running major surveys to examine the public’s financial vulnerabilities. I’m a big fan of this from the regulator of our financial markets and firms – after all, the point of regulation is to improve people’s lives. So it’s good to see their latest Financial Lives report.

The results are pretty bleak. You’ll have heard a lot about the extra saving going on during lockdown. People not being able to spend on holidays or restaurants has led to a staggering £125bn in extra savings. But this report crucially notes that not everyone is racking up the cash. Pre-Covid, 10.7 million of us were over-indebted or had low savings. That has now risen to 14.2 million.

The generational aspect of this is huge. Overall, the number of financially vulnerable adults rose by 3.7 million (or 15%) to 27.7 million. For those aged 18-34, the rise is 40% while it has actually decreased among retirees. There’s some rubbish written about income inequality having soared during the pandemic (it hasn’t, although the savings increase has been top heavy since it’s the rich who splurge on holidays). However, I’m increasingly worried by the prospect of an unequal recovery in the coming months with the rich and old out consuming while unemployment rises and the young (particularly, poorer parents) are left to struggle with higher debt. That’s not a society building back better, it’s one growing apart.

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