Not waving but drowning

Over 8 million people in the UK are unable to pay off debts or household bills according to the National Audit Office’s most recent report. And this worrying statistic has subsequently generated considerable concern and column inches. However, in terms of the problem of financial distress, the millions of people in actual debt are only the tip of the iceberg.

Just this week the FCA published its Financial Lives Survey raising some serious concerns about the number of people in the UK who are not in debt at the moment – but whose finances are so precarious that one minor crisis or unforeseen expenditure could tip them over.

The survey reveals that:

* 3.1 million adults have high-cost loans

* nearly 6 in 10 (57%) of UK adults have no cash savings or savings of less than £5,000

* 7 in 10 (71%) of UK adults have no investments at all

* 31% of adults have no private pension provision

* 44% of UK adults rely or will rely on the state pension for their main source of income in retirement

Push them over the brink into debt

For many of these adults or families the unexpected cost of a boiler breakdown, a car MOT or a funeral would mean taking on more credit to cover the cost and would push them over the brink into debt.

And for some people it’s even more precarious, as a thread on Mumsnet made painfully clear. Responding to a discussion about a statistic that 2 out of 5 people have less than £100 in savings, one respondent said:

“Yep. I am in that statistic. Low paid job and crippling childcare costs. I’ve already had a cry today about my financial situation.”

Desperate times for many people.

So what can we do? We must look deeper than the tip of the iceberg to the people under the water who aren’t waving – but who are drowning.

Create a safer financial world

Our entire business is built on the objective to “create a safer financial world” and one of our key principles is to do this by helping people assess and then control their finances. There are plenty of admirable debt charities doing a tremendous job in the UK, and plenty of lenders looking to support customers too, but in order to help they need information. They need to know exactly what an individual’s income is as well as their essential, committed and discretionary expenditure. And then, armed with this transactional data, they can review arrangements or provide debt advisory support.

Our Affordability Passport uses open banking technology to allow an individual to share their transactional data with lenders or debt advisers, providing them with a real-time profile of their financial position in just a few minutes.

When money is tight or precarious, people need answers and solutions fast to ensure that disaster is averted. And the Affordability Passport allows that journey to be fast and efficient.

At Castlight we often use the image in our branding of a lighthouse casting light into a dark sea. It’s important to us that the light we cast penetrates beneath those icebergs to what lies beneath and helps to rescue the millions of people for whom debt is perilously close.