Monday, 30 May 2011

Over-50s 'face longer in dole queue'

Over-50s who lose their jobs are more likely to suffer long-term unemployment than any other age group, according to an analysis by a leading think-tank.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) found that nearly half (46 per cent) of those out of work over 50 have been unemployed for at least a year, a total of 182,000 people, and up from 31 per cent in 2009.
In recent years companies such as B&Q, Marks & Spencer, BT and Sainsbury's have led the way in employing older workers – the so called "grey panthers" – but the analysis suggests that fewer are finding jobs amid harsh economic conditions.
The findings will come as grim news for older employees, who are already facing having to delay their retirements because of plans to raise the pension age to 66 by 2020 for both men and women, with the prospect of further rises ahead.
Long-term youth unemployment is also rising. In the mid-2000s just over 11 per cent of unemployed 18-to-24-year-olds had been out of work for more than a year, but now the figure has risen to 27 per cent – a total of 198,000 people. The group has already been dubbed a "lost generation" of British workers.
Latest government figures show there are now 850,000 people classified as long-term unemployed – the highest figure since 1997, when Labour came to power.

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Nick Pearce, the IPPR's director, said: "Being out of work for more than a year can have a scarring affect, making it harder to get a job as well as having a negative impact on one's health and wellbeing."
This month figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that overall unemployment fell by 36,000 in the three months to the end of March to 2.46 million, the second quarterly drop in a row.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Mobile phones bring the cashless society closer

Even for low-price purchases, a new generation of mobiles could eventually mean the end for coins and notes

Get ready to start paying for sandwiches, magazines and pints down the pub with nothing more than a swipe of your mobile phone as a payment revolution hits Britain's high streets.
The idea is that your mobile phone will be embedded with a chip that contains your credit and debit card details. For low-value items, selling for no more than £15, all you will have to do is wave the phone in front of the shop's sales terminal. For higher priced goods, you'll have to punch a pin number into the phone as well.
Orange last week unveiled its Quick Tap service, while rival O2 says it is lining up for a major launch in the autumn. Meanwhile, Google this week launched Google Wallet for Android phones which might soon make the traditional wallet stuffed with cards, notes and coins a thing of the past.
The UK Payments Council – which represents banks and card companies – also announced it was undertaking a major project into how to make paying by mobile "as easy, efficient and secure as any other way to pay".
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The transformation is going to happen with extraordinary speed, according to one thinktank, The Future Foundation, which, in a report this week, predicted that the "majority" of Britons will be using their mobile phone to purchase goods, pay bills and manage their bank accounts by 2015.
Will the revolution really take place? Will it make your phone even more of a target for thieves? And does it mean that every purchase you make, from a bar of chocolate and a newspaper upwards, will be logged and tracked? Money tried to find some answers.
Orange is the first company out of the blocks. Its Quick Tap system will let you buy goods up to £15 at "wave and pay" contactless readers already installed in 50,000 UK stores. But the system will initially only work with one handset – the Samsung Tocco Lite – though more are promised later, and is operated only through Barclaycard.
O2's more advanced offering will let your phone host several bank and credit cards and permit purchases above £15 while inputting a pin. It will also allow you to text money, so if you owe someone a tenner you'll be able to send it from your phone to theirs
The banks are hoping that the new mobile phones will kick-start contactless payments, which has until now been rather slow to take off.
Outlets such as McDonald's, EAT, Wilkinson, Pret a Manger and Subway, and some Boots stores already allow consumers to use their contactless credit and debit cards to make payments of up to the £15 limit. But so far these tills have yet to grab the public, perhaps a little fearful of security risks.
Orange's Jason Rees says mobile payments are set to take the sector to another level: "Users will be able to check their balance on the mobile phone's screen to see how much they are spending, which you cannot immediately do when touching your debit or credit card on contactless readers. Feedback from the trials we have done are overwhelmingly positive."
Alastair Lukies, chief executive of Monitise, which provides mobile banking services to high-street banks, says: "The driving forces are clear: people wanting to manage their money more closely; the arrival of the smartphone; and the development of 3G networks which transfer all information quickly, plus the creation of new apps and services by banks and retailers.
"Mobile banking has truly come of age as people no longer see the ability to effectively manage their finances by mobile as a novelty or a 'nice to have', but increasingly as the norm."

What about theft or misuse?

If you lose your phone, or it is stolen, the phone companies say you will report its loss in the same way as before, and the card balance is protected. They say you will not be liable for purchases that you can prove you didn't make; in the case of Orange, Barclaycard bears those losses.
Telefonica, O2's parent firm, says mobile phone users, on average, report their handset stolen within 13 minutes of its loss; it takes much longer for bank card users to realise that their purse or wallet has gone.
The O2 system the Guardian saw being trialled in Spain was designed to ask for a pin every few transactions, to prevent a thief making a series of small purchases in quick succession.
Phone companies also argue that smartphones already have a higher level of security, with most requiring a pin to be activated. Orange will require customers to select a new pin when they set up a Quick Tap account. Users can require a pin to be inputted on every purchase, including those under £15, but it is not mandatory.

When will it be on every new phone?

The mobile industry knows that the key to making this a success rests on the ability of the phone suppliers to offer "near-field" technology in a big range of handsets. Apple is understood to be working on introducing it in its iPhone range. Currently, Samsung is leading the way, but expect a raft of new handsets offering the technology over the next few months.
Google recently launched a Samsung-manufactured smartphone – the Google Nexus S – that contains the technology required to make wireless payments. The new Nokia C7 also has it. O2 says that it will offer a "range of handsets" when it launches its mobile payments offering, but could not give any details this week.

Where will I be able to use it?

Contactless payments are currently limited to certain food outlets and stores, but the idea is that eventually, the majority of point-of-sale tills will feature the technology. It's ideal for pubs – though many rounds will break the initial £15 barrier which has been set by the card industry. Expect to see that raised in line with prices, and as more stores come online.
In the Telefonica trial in Sitges, Spain, visited by Money last year, around half the contactless items were made in the supermarket. The 2012 London Olympics has been targeted as a major contactless event, and with Visa a major sponsor, expect further announcements soon.
Earlier this year Transport for London announced that customers will be able to make contactless payments (using Visa) for pay-as-you-go journeys on 8,500 London buses from February 2012, with the underground following soon after.

How much will it cost?

Orange customers will have to purchase the Quick Tap-enabled Samsung Tocco Lite phone, available at £59.99 on pay-as-you-go or free from £10 a month on 24-month contracts. There are no additional costs for using the payments service; you will not be charged any data charges for accessing the Quick Tap Wallet or the Barclaycard payment application when you are in the UK. O2 users will also need a new handset, but again these will probably be free to those on longish contracts.

The drawbacks

Anyone who has had to report a problem with mobile companies will question if their customer service will be up to this. We get lots of complaints about mobile phones, though the fact that Barclaycard is managing Orange's payments app may create more confidence. Several stories about poor service following a payments problem could set the project back years in the mind of consumers already rather distrustful of changes.

Could this be the end of cash?

Young people who have grown up with mobiles will not think twice about using these systems, but it remains to be seen whether older adults will embrace it in big numbers. Though you are no more at risk of fraud by embedding a bank card in your handset than you are using a traditional card, there are clearly perceived security issues. There's a feeling that there will have to be some benefit – faster-moving queues in shops or a discount to encourage people to go contactless. Also, the industry is going to have to avert concerns among some mobile users that this does not represent an extension of the "Big Brother" surveillance.
Banks and store chains prefer electronic payments because handling large amounts of notes and coins is expensive and time-consuming. They will be keen to get consumers to switch to contactless payments wherever they can. But any likelihood that notes and coins will disappear altogether is probably a very long way off.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Equity release pensioners in £25,000 of debt

Nearly a third of pensioners who unlock money tied up in their property are struggling with debts of more than £25,000.                        Nearly a third of pensioners who choose to release equity from their property do so because they are struggling with debts of more than £25,000, according to a report by Key Retirement Solutions.

Around 31pc of home owners who took out an equity release plan during the first quarter of this year used some or all of the money they raised to clear a mortgage, credit card or loan debt. People owed an average of £25,418, according to the equity release specialist.
People owed an average of £30,838 on their mortgage, £10,296 on credit cards and £11,386 on loans, although not everybody had sums outstanding on all three types of debt.
The group said in extreme cases it had come across pensioners who owed £90,000 on credit cards, while others had unsecured loans totalling £250,000 and mortgages of £340,000.
It blamed the high level of credit card debt that some people had run up on the combination of the credit crunch and hikes to the cost of living, saying many pensioners may have been forced to use the cards to fund day-to-day expenses, as they were unable to borrow money in other ways.
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High levels of outstanding mortgage debt may also be due to the endowment mis-selling scandal, which left many people with a shortfall between the amount they owed on their home loan and the maturity value of the investment they had taken out to cover it.
The number of retired people unlocking money tied up in their home to repay debt has increased to 31pc in the first three months of the year, from 23pc during the final quarter of 2010.
The group, which analysed 4,400 customers, found people were spending an average of £385 a month on debt repayments in 2010 – the equivalent of a quarter of the typical pensioner household's income of less than £18,000.
Dean Mirfin, group director at Key Retirement Solutions, said: "Pensioners in line with the rest of the country have struggled to borrow money in the past three years and have increasingly turned to credit cards to tide them over.
"They are also feeling the effects of the endowment mis-selling scandal as they're coming to the end of mortgage terms and struggling to pay off mortgages as their endowments have missed payout forecasts.
"It all adds up to a major squeeze on incomes but there is silver lining in that they are literally sitting on considerable wealth in their own home."

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Mortgage approvals fall to a new low... and economists warn it could get worse

The number of mortgages handed out in April has slumped to the lowest level since records began.
Just 29,355 house purchase loans were granted last month – 18 per cent fewer than the same month last year. 
This equates to 950 granted each day, compared with nearly 2,800 during the housing boom.

The figures, released yesterday by the British Bankers’ Association, emphasise that housing market problems are continuing. Banks are still demanding large deposits, and many families are too scared to buy even if they can get a loan.
Economists said they see little prospect of the mortgage drought coming to an end any time soon.
Paul Diggle, of Capital Economics, said: ‘The chances of a meaningful improvement in mortgage lending, at least for the foreseeable future, are remote.’ 
The average home in England and Wales costs £161,000 – and the average buyer puts down a 26 per cent deposit.


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    This means a typical buyer must find a deposit of about £42,000 when they buy a home, an amount which millions of families could never afford.
    For many other families, they can afford to buy a home, but they are too nervous about their finances over the next few years to take the plunge.
    There is a long list of worries from insecurity about their job, higher taxes, poor pay rises and the possibility that house prices could fall sharply.
    David Dooks, statistics director of the British Bankers’ Association, said: ‘Many people think: ‘If I don’t have to move, I’ll sit tight and wait for sunnier days.’ 
    Over the last year, house prices have fallen in every region of the country, except London, according to the Land Registry.
    The number of approvals has dropped dramatically in the last two years
    In the worst-hit region – the North East – prices have slumped by nearly 10 per cent, with the average house price only just above £100,000.
    Howard Archer, chief economist at the consultancy HIS Global Insight, predicts prices will continue to drop for the rest of the year.
    He said: ‘Furthermore, very low and currently falling consumer confidence will make many people reluctant to risk buying a house.’ 
    The Council of Mortgage Lenders said the April figures for the mortgage market may have been distorted by the extra Bank holidays.
    There was the four-day Easter break followed by the Royal wedding, which means many people will have shelved any plans to buy.

    Wednesday, 25 May 2011

    Car insurance premiums for young drivers soar to £3,688

    The average cost of insuring a car for young drivers has soared to a record high of £3,688, new research shows.

    Figures from and show that drivers aged between 17 and 22 would face monthly payments of as high as £546 when opting to pay in instalments, after the additional charge of around 10pc is taken into account. Newly qualified drivers now face annual premiums of around £5,957.

    Premiums have always been higher for young drivers, due to higher risk or traffic accidents. According to road safety charity Brake, one in five new drivers has a crash within six months of passing a test and newly qualified drivers are more likely to be involved in a traffic accident during the first two years after passing their test.
    But it is young male drivers that pose the biggest risk – figures from the charity show that 74pc of deaths among young adults are now on the road, and in 2009, more 16 to 19 year-olds died as passengers in cars than those who died as drivers.
    Chief Superintendent Geraint Anwyl told the Transport Select Committee meeting last November that for young drivers the greatest problem was "adrenalin, not drugs or drink".
    "The greatest risk for a young lady is being in a car being driven by a young man," he said.

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    With more than 448,000 of these young drivers passing their UK driving test each year, many cannot afford such steep premiums. As a result, figures from the Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB) show that 20pc of motorists aged 17 to 22 are estimated to be driving without any insurance.
    In a bid to cut costs, more parents are starting to insure a youngster's car in their own name as the main driver and then add their children as a second named driver – this is a practice known as "fronting" and it is illegal.
    Research from the Co-operative Insurance revealed that 41pc of parents illegally front their children's car insurance, with most believing this is harmless and does not hurt anyone.
    However, in the event of an accident, insurance companies can refuse to pay out all or part of the claim, cancel the policy, and even prosecute for fraud to recover third party claim costs from the policyholder or driver.
    Insurers can identify a fronted policy easier than you might think, as something as simple as whose credit card is used regularly to buy petrol or the address of the policyholder, can establish the true driver/owner.

    A new way to cut premiums?

    There is hope for young drivers and it comes in the form of a little black box – new telematics insurance policies may be the answer with our research showing this type of policy could reduce bills by almost half.
    A telematics insurance policy measures drivers' mileage, when they drive, and how they drive and they are penalised for sudden braking, excessive g-forces, or cornering.
    Peter Harrison, a car insurance expert at, said: "With big increases to premiums being seen in the market place, telematic car insurance is growing in popularity as motorists seek to cut the cost of car cover.
    "Young drivers, and specifically young male drivers, traditionally bear the brunt of a 'boy racer' reputation which is reflected in their premium prices, they are viewed as 'high risk' by insurers and therefore face huge car insurance costs."
    Insure the Box, for instance, charges policyholders by the mile. Motorists initially pay for 6,000 miles, have the option to top up and receive free reward miles if they drive safely.
    This is not the first time that this type of insurance has been on the market as, unlike the new pay-how-you-drive schemes, pay-as-you-drive has been around for some time. Five years ago, Aviva, formerly know as Norwich Union, started a pay-as-you-go policy which looked at how often and at what times of day a car was driven. But it didn't catch on and was withdrawn from the market just two years later.
    But the market has changed in the past few years and car insurance premiums have skyrocketed, meaning more drivers are looking for cheaper options.
    For instance, take a 17-year-old male driver of a Renault Clio – according to figures from, the cheapest standard annual policy comes in at £6,014, but if the driver opted for a telematic policy with Insure the Box or The Co-operative Insurance, the premium would reduce to £3,201 and £3,475 respectively.
    Or an 18-year-old driver in the same car would face a standard premium of £4,529 while Insure the Box and the Co-operative are much more competitive coming in with quotes of £2,668 and £2,367 respectively.
    However, Mr Harrison pointed out that while young drivers could make significant savings using this type of cover, it is important to pay attention to the terms and conditions of the policy, as with any insurance, to ensure that drivers stay within the guidelines.
    For instance, the policy from the Co-operative monitors time-of-day driving behaviour due to the added risk. And as figures from Brake show that young male drivers are 17 times more likely to get into an accident between the hours of 2am and 5am, drivers with this type of policy who drive at night will produce a negative driving score on the system, which could increase premiums by 15pc.
    Young men who are struggling to cope with rising premiums may also consider adding a named driver to a policy. However, this should only be done if the person is genuinely sharing the use of the vehicle or it is a fraudulent misrepresentation and against the law.
    Andy Goldby, director of motor underwriting and pricing at insurer Direct Line, said: "If the person isn't ever going to drive the car and it is just being done to lower the cost of their insurance, then it is fraud.
    "If an insurer gives a discount for policies covering couples, it may be possible to receive this discount if their girlfriend uses the vehicle."
    While it may seem like little comfort, provided young drivers do not make any claims or get any speeding tickets, at the end of the first year premiums should drop by about a third as a no claims bonus starts to build up.
    Some insurers such as Aviva offer a "rapid bonus scheme" which allows you to accrue your no claims bonus in a shorter period, typically nine months, so your premiums start to come down earlier.

    Tuesday, 24 May 2011


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