Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Money Advice Service sending right message

I have been a sharp critic of the Money Advice Service (MAS) in the past.

I felt it was an organisation that was clearly too paternalistic and top down in its approach and as a result it wasn't reaching the people it ought to.

I suggested that it ought to focus on a few core messages – a little like the successful don't drink and drive campaign – and hammer away at them in order to change behaviour.

Rather this than constructing online tools that frankly are so couched in financial health warnings and not wishing to make a judgment as to be almost worthless. At last, though, it seems MAS is taking criticism such as I have offered on board.

For instance, I was in the car the other day and heard a rather funny advert. It featured the brilliant comedy actor Matt Berry referring to ordinary things around the house including a boiler and "Monty the Cat" as a ticking timebomb and saving just £3 a day for a year would mean that an emergency fund of more than £1,000 could be built up enough to take care of emergencies.

It was a good message and one I hope MAS repeats ad nauseum.

You see, somewhere along the line we have lost sight of certain financial truths in this country from Shakespeare's Polonius cautioning "never a borrower or a lender be" to Mr Macawber's warnings on debt.

Too many of us think we should pay later while living for today on the never never.

It is as much a cultural shift we need as straight financial advice. It is in bringing about this shift that MAS should focus its efforts.

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