Here’s a new one in the grand list of rhetorical persuasions that has glossed the UK since the onset of the financial crisis. According to Barclays, Britain is “a nation of Financial Ostriches” – on account that its good citizens bury their heads firmly in the sand when it comes to the state of their finances.
Collectively, we suffer from chronic Banxiety, the bank says – the dextrous art of deliberately ignoring bank statements. Over one third (36%) of those that receive one of the nine million paper statements issued per year admit to being reluctant to open them or preferring not to do so at all.
The younger generation are particularly fearful, with 55% of 18-24 year olds admitting that they shun their statements. Overall, 45% of people are unable to say how much money is in their main bank account.
So, what are the reasons given for burying our heads in the sand, so to speak?
- Anxious about looking: 18%.
- Too busy: 12%.
- Can’t be bothered to look: 9%.
- Pretending their finances are fine: 7%.
- Constantly in their overdraft and don’t like being reminded: 7%.
So, there’s a mixture of the irresponsible and the self-conciliatory here. While there are some who remain in denial about the state of their finances, an equal proportion are all too aware of the problem and cannot cope with the constant reminders of their predicament.
But the end results are the same, Barclays has stressed. While many of us choose to ignore the problem, the overriding result is that we could be out spending with no idea of our spending power. Up to a third of women have confessed to having spent time shopping without knowing if their credit and debit cards would be accepted at the till.
Trepidation of our finances, like many other issues, is subject to a regional divide. Those in London and the South West are the most pragmatic, with only 25% avoiding their bank statements. Around a third of people in Yorkshire and the North East avoid checking their statements, while as many as 44% of people in Scotland admit to leaving their statements unchecked.
|East of England||40%|
|Yorkshire & Humberside||35%|
Commenting on the findings, Dan Wass, Barclays managing director of current accounts, said:
We’ve all been guilty at some point of sticking our heads in the sand when it comes to our finances. No-one really wants to know they don’t have enough money for something they’ve spotted in the shops do they?
While the research may reveal that Banxiety is more common amongst the younger generation, luckily, there are some pretty quick and easy cures. Services such as mobile banking apps, SMS balance and limit alerts to keep people in touch with their bank balance at any time will help remove the dread-factor and reduce the nation’s symptoms.
The Bank recommends using a text alert service to keep on top of your finances in a way that’s more immediate, convenient, and less foreboding. Barclays and most other banks now offer a text alert service to inform you of when you are near your limit or when large transactions in or out of your account have been made. There is also a number of Smartphone apps, such as Barclays Pingit (on which, see more here!)
The current economic climate has taken its toll, and the “all in this together” political collectivism has ground down much of our resolve as the squeeze in living standards has tightened. However, the reward of ignorance is often peril. And here, I think, we might be reminded of our responsibilities by Margaret Atwood: