The financial stresses and pressures of self-employment are taking their toll on family life, according to the latest report from Scottish Widows’ think tank, the Centre for the Modern Family. Findings of ‘Self-employment and the Family’ show that one in five relatives of a self-employed worker (20%) report increased stress levels in their household due to their career choice.

With the number of self-employed in the UK up by 133,000 in the last year (and now accounting for 15% of the total UK workforce)[1], the impact it has on family life is a worrying trend, especially as the research suggests that for many, the decision to leave traditional employment is driven by a desire for a better work-life balance.

Over half (53%) of self-employed people left traditional jobs in search of greater control and flexibility in their working life: 53% wanted to be able to choose their own hours, and 17% needed to fit work around childcare responsibilities. For women especially, it appears self-employment provides an opportunity to fit working hours around childcare, with nearly half of self-employed mothers (46%) choosing self-employment for this reason, compared to just 7% of self-employed fathers.

Family life – but at a cost?

As a direct result of being their own boss, over a third of self-employed people (35%) say they can spend more time with their family, a figure which rises to half (49%) amongst mothers.

However, nearly one in five people (19%) with a self-employed relative claim their family member has more financial worries since becoming their own boss, while 20% say this person is generally more stressed as a result of their career choice and one in ten (11%) say their whole family is under more stress as a result. What’s more, nearly one in five of those in a self-employed household (18%) say their family member is always on call for work.

Financial worries: a barrier for many

Despite the perceived benefits of self-employment, a significant proportion of the UK’s workers are hesitating to take the plunge. Two fifths (42%) of the workforce claim they want to be their own boss, yet only 5% have plans to do so in the future. Instead, one in four (40%) say they prefer the financial security of being a permanent employee and 39% enjoy the benefits – such as a pension, parental leave and sick pay – too much to become self-employed.

However, with more support, budding entrepreneurs say they’d have the confidence to strike out on their own; 27% say that better financial support from the Government would encourage them to become self-employed. For 50%, more practical support, such as online forums, local entrepreneur networks and Government guidance, would help overcome the barriers.

Anita Frew, Chair of the Centre for the Modern Family, said: “To a growing number of people, self-employment offers a chance to structure a rewarding career around family life. However, our research suggests that the pressures and stresses of being their own boss may, for some, be too much for a family. With more and easier access to practical and financial support, individuals may feel better equipped to make their path in self-employment less stressful for themselves and their families, and bring them more of the benefits which attracted them to self-employment in the first place.”

More than a third (35%) of UK broadband users who’ve experienced a period of internet access when they tried moving providers in the past say the thought of being without internet has put them off doing it again, according to new research by uSwitch. Yet those consumers are missing out on collective savings of £327 million a year. The average saving just for switching provider is £9.80 per month, but almost one in 10 (8%) customers save more than £240 a year.

Our dependency on broadband – a now essential service – is apparent when you consider a quarter of Brits (25%) now rely on their internet connections to work from home, a figure that rises to more than a third (34%) among under 35s. This might explain why little more than one in 10 (11%) has switched broadband provider within the past year and why more than a fifth (22%) have not moved in over five years. More than a third (35%) have never switched provider.

Of the 55% who have reported being without broadband between providers, the average length of downtime is 1.4 days. One in 10 (10%) report spending one to two weeks without broadband while 6% had to wait longer than three weeks. Regionally, internet users in London wait the longest for broadband switch-on – an average of 2.3 days.

Almost a third (32%) of those who experienced a gap in service say their broadband switch-on date was not delayed and that their wait was standard or faster than the time specified by the new provider.

Ewan Taylor-Gibson from uSwitch says: “You should generally allow around two weeks from the point of sale to get your new broadband installed. However, if this is delayed, or you’re forced to live without internet, now deemed an essential service, you have every right to be incensed. At the very least, it can be irritating for those who enjoy internet TV services, but it can also seriously impact those who are isolated, work from home or need access to critical services online.

“Unless you’re switching providers on the same existing line – a transfer that can happen automatically on the same day – there is often an element of physical installation involved. There are a range of factors that can hold up the installation process – such as if you need a new Openreach home phone line installed, or if you’re signing up to Virgin and your property hasn’t yet been connected to their cable network. These potential delays should be factored in when looking to switch.

Coventry Building Society is giving customers the ability to compare its savings accounts with competitor products on its own website – the only major UK savings provider to do so.

Customers can compare similar products across the whole of the market – on areas including the interest rate, the amount they can save and how they can operate the account – using independent data from Moneyfacts. There are also links to best buy tables from three well-known comparison sites.

Plus, visitors to the site can choose to see the interest they would earn on the Society’s savings accounts in pounds and pence throughout the site, personalised to the amount they are investing. The Coventry is again the only major UK savings provider to do this. It also has a whole new look and is much easier to navigate – particularly on smartphones and tablets.

Mark Parsons, Chief Executive at Coventry Building Society, commented: “Customers have told us that they want simplicity and transparency from their bank or building society and we’re proud to deliver the tools they said they would value most highly”.

“Our new product comparison tool is unique amongst major UK savings providers. Customers can see exactly how our savings accounts measure up against the competition on the things that matter to them. If a competitor’s account offers a better deal for them, they’ll be able to see that straightaway. We’ve also provided customers with a link to best buy tables, if they would rather check with a different independent source.”

“Some customers have also told us they don’t understand AER. We’re giving them the option to see what interest they would earn with our savings accounts in real terms – pounds and pence instead of percentages.”

Research from Equifax, the consumer and business insights expert, reveals that 90% of Brits have not heard of the Open Banking initiative, with 45% of respondents then going on to say that they are not likely to use Open Banking when it becomes available.

When asked about sharing personal data through Open Banking, 60% said they would not consent to this. Consumers’ concerns about data being shared included security (67%), and that third parties would be able to contact them (62%).

25-34 year olds are most accepting of the scheme, with 41% stating they are likely to use Open Banking (compared to 27% nationally). In this age group, 35% are also likely to consent to their personal data being shared (compared to 24% nationally).

The research found a lack of understanding when it comes to declaring information, with 43% stating they were not aware that the data they share with banks (e.g. if they have a mortgage or require a loan) can have a direct impact on the products that banks offer to them.

Respondents of the survey do however recognise the positives of Open Banking and would find the following tools important if they were made available through the initiative:

  • The ability to better monitor across their bank accounts to help protect against fraud (64%)
  • The ability to compare current accounts offerings from different banks (53%)
  • The ability to better monitor their spending or debt and see accounts all in one place (51%)
  • The ability to access lenders offering better terms for financial products (50%)

Jake Ranson, Banking & Financial Institutions Director at Equifax UK, said: “The implementation of Open Banking is quickly progressing and the start of this year will see personal customer transaction data available on a read-only basis. There is not much time till the Open Banking Standard’s full scope, including business, customer and transactional data is complete.

“It’s concerning that such a high number of the population are unaware of Open Banking, something the industry needs to remedy for all parties to reap the full benefits.  Not only will the initiative transform the customer banking experience by enabling consumers to compare and save on current accounts, it will also help them look for mortgages more easily and access better terms for loans.

“More needs to be done to educate customers of how they can personally gain from Open Banking. By working with customers to help them better understand how it works, banks can help their customers realise the advantages, especially when searching for the most suitable financial products for their individual needs.”

The latest figures for the Current Account Switch Service published this week show that over 3.5m (3,520,190) successful switches have taken place since the service launched in 2013.

During the last 12 months (1 January 2016 to 31 December 2016), a total of 1.01 million switches were completed, with 208,387 switches recorded in the last quarter alone (October – December 2016)

And, following the launch of a new multi-million pound media campaign, November 2016 saw awareness levels of the Current Account Switch Service reach a record high of 78 per cent –representing an increase of 20 percentage points since launch.

The final quarter of 2016 also saw Bacs appoint Jo Kenrick as the first independent chair of the Current Account Switch Service Executive Committee. The move fulfilled one of the undertakings set out by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), following its investigation into the personal current account market.

New research by Onbuy.com/gb has analysed data conducted by AXA Insurance to establish which cities are most at risk of debt in 2017 – with Brighton,Cardiff and Newcastle struggling the most.

Onbuy.com/gb looked to assess and evaluate how long cities will take to repay their debts – with Belfast taking the longest at 6.5 weeks and Cardiff taking the least amount of time at 4.8 weeks.

A spokesperson from StepChange Debt Charity exclusively told Onbuy: The first half of 2016 was the busiest six months we have ever seen at StepChange Debt Charity and more than 300,000 people contacted us for debt advice. Almost 60,000 of those people came to us in January, which is always our busiest time.

If someone is struggling with debt, it’s important that they first write down everything they owe and to whom. Next, they should look at everything they have coming in and going out and draw up a realistic budget that they’re able to keep to. Lastly, we would urge anyone who is worried about their debts to take free, independent debt advice as soon as they can.”

By Emma Huntington, Managing Director of Zurich FutureYou

  1. Keep on track by getting organised

With so many bills to pay each month, it can be stressful keeping up with how much is coming in and out of your account. You can keep up-to-date by creating a spreadsheet. Having a document that lists everything in one place will also help you to spot where you can make cutbacks. If you’re unsure about how to get started then there are many tools available online to help.

 

  1. Save your money and cash in your loyalty points

Most retailers have loyalty schemes to reward customers and keep them coming back to stores. You can collect points when you buy in-store, which you can then use as a discount when you purchase again. Most businesses offer the scheme, from supermarkets to high street coffee shops, and making use of these can make a real difference to what’s left in your back pocket.

 

  1. Keep on-the-ball with your direct debits

Do you monitor your account and direct debit outgoings? If not, you’re not alone. Millions wrongly let money drip from their bank accounts for things they don’t really want, such as an unused gym membership. Make sure you’re keeping track and cancelling subscriptions or membership you no longer want or use.

 

  1. Make the most of free activities

Going out with family and friends can often drain your bank balance, but there’s lots of free activities to do all over the country, from museums to park runs to going to a gallery. Try and encourage your friends to also save by offering to host a dinner party that you can alternate between the groups. To make it more of a challenge you could set a budget for the dinner too.

 

  1. Make the most of tax efficient savings

Saving for the long term, can appear daunting, , but if you don’t get on top of it now, you could be missing out on free money as the government essentially gives you money every time you pay in. For example, if you’re 30 and start saving the equivalent of just £10 a week more into your pension now, by the time you’re 65 you’ll have £48,400 more stashed away (equivalent to £20,400 after inflation) – and that’s before you factor in any added employer contribution you unlock. In addition, each year we also all have over £15,000 worth of tax free savings capacity in ISAs which can often offer attractive returns

A quarter of all card transactions are now made via contactless, new figures from The UK Cards Association show.

325 million purchases were made using contactless debit and credit cards in November 2016, accounting for 25 per cent of all card payments in the month.

The rise in contactless payments led to a record £2.9 billion being spent using the technology in November. This is an increase of 184 per cent from a year ago when contactless spending passed £1 billion in a month for the first time.

There are now 101.8 million contactless debit and credit cards in circulation in the UK. Nine in 10 (88 per cent) contactless transactions are made using a debit card, a higher proportion than for card payments overall (78 per cent).

Richard Koch, Head of Policy at The UK Cards Association, said:

“With 125 taps every second in the UK, it’s clear that people are opting for contactless when they are at the till. No longer is it just for the lunchtime sandwich, consumers are using their contactless cards wherever they go – for the grocery shop, in clothes stores, and, increasingly, for the commute too.”

The one in four milestone comes just three months after contactless reached a fifth of card transactions in August. In November 2015, 11 per cent of card transactions were contactless.

The average contactless transaction was £8.95 in November, up from £8.03 a year ago.

The remortgaging rush is expected to continue in 2017, with almost a third (31%) of eligible homeowners planning to cash in on low interest rates. One in four of those plan to act now and remortgage in January. The potential savings they could be making, however, are being underestimated by nearly half, according to a new report from TSB.

According to the survey of 2,000 homeowners, the average saving they expected to make from remortgaging their property was estimated at £49 a month. This compares with an actual average of £96 per month, or £2,300 across the life of a two-year fixed term on a £100,000 mortgage.

A third of people are planning to remortgage in 2017, with the majority (88%) doing so to free up monthly income, lock in at a fixed rate to better manage their money, or take advantage of the low interest rate environment.

Ian Ramsden, Director of Mortgages at TSB, said “Mortgage payments are often the biggest outgoing for many households. By remortgaging, homeowners stand to save up to £96 per month on average, which can make a huge difference to family finances. It could mean being able to afford a family holiday, carry out much needed home renovations, or simply help ease the pressures on household finances each month.”

TSB, which has witnessed a 27.5 per cent increase in remortgage applications in 2016 compared to 2015, has launched its Stay Nation Britain report to explore the outlook for remortgaging in 2017.

Forty per cent of UK savers have said they each plan to put aside more than £2,500 in 2017, research carried out by Charter Savings Bank has discovered.

The research found that those planning to put money away hope to save an average of £228 every month, a total of £2,736 over the course of the year.

The top three reasons people gave for putting money aside were for a holiday (18%), a deposit towards a new home (10%) and saving for retirement (9%).

A quarter of people said they were so committed to reaching their target that they planned to take on extra work to help them achieve their monthly target.

Paul Whitlock, Charter Savings Bank’s Director of Savings, said: “It’s encouraging that two-fifths of the UK adult population have a savings goal for 2017, but the fact remains that the majority have absolutely no target in mind.

“No matter how large or small, putting a target in place can be a huge motivation when it comes to regularly putting money aside. Knowing what you want to save for will also help determine the most appropriate type of savings account for your needs.”