Liam Halligan: Is the British public ready for the cost-of-living squeeze?

Nearly half of all UK adults say they need 'urgent help' managing their day-to-day finances, according to a new poll

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As the cost-of-living rises, with rising energy bills threatening to plunge millions of households into the red, nearly half of all UK adults say they need “urgent help” managing their day-to-day finances.

That’s the result of new polling carried out by Opinium on behalf of the Westminster-based think-tank, the Centre for Social Justice.

The finances of countless UK families are now being stretched in a way we haven’t seen for decades. Rising inflation, as prices soar, is drilling into living standards.

And in April, of course, we face pre-announced tax rises and that much-discussed impending spike in utility bills as the household energy price cap is raised.

As the pressure mounts, nearly half – 44 per cent – of adults say they need urgent help managing their cash, this new polling suggests, pointing to the dire state of the personal finances of millions of people.

That rises to 68 per cent of 18-34 years olds saying they need help managing their finances.

Young people, in particular, say a lack of financial education is one reason they so often get themselves into debt and financial difficulty. And this research has also been backed by the credit management company Lowell.

The government’s own Money and Pensions backs up this new evidence, having previously found that 24 million adults - again, approaching half - confessed to lacking confidence in managing their money.

These lockdown years have seen a huge rise in “buy now, pay later” services. Almost a tenth of us, including a fifth of 18 to 34 years olds, used companies like Klarna and Clearpay to spread payments while doing their Christmas shopping.

Internationally, the UK scores poorly on measures on financial literary compared to other developed nations – something which, I believe, is linked to a lack, over many years, of decent popular financial journalism.

Back in 2014, financial education WAS made part of the National Curriculum in England. But, since then, we’ve seen patchy provision, with a lack of common teaching standards and many schools claiming they struggle to find class time.

Well, in my view they must.

Is the British public ready for the cost-of-living squeeze?