Is Financial Insecurity Your ‘New Normal’?

Broke. Skint. Brassic. Bust. Insolvent. Whatever you call it, it’s official: Financial insecurity is the ‘new normal’ for many Britons.

That’s according to a study carried out by the Royal Society of the Arts. Partnering with Populus, the RSA survey revealed that a staggering 30% of respondents declared that they couldn’t afford to get by, living in a state described by the report’s authors as ‘chronically broke.’ A further 40% claimed that their finances were constantly precarious – meaning they could go either way from month to month. At the other end of the spectrum, only 30% said they felt they lived comfortably.

The study’s results might come as little surprise to those already struggling against the rising tide of ever-higher prices (and ever-dwindling wages). Further details revealed in the RSA study showed that 41% of UK workers have less than £1000 in savings and 32% have less than £500. It’s worth pointing out that financial advisors recommend that you keep savings worth around 3 months’ salary, to cover you for any unexpected outlays. Meanwhile, 43% of those surveyed said they had no-one to depend on financially, should the need arise; 30% are worried about their level of debt.

Is Financial Insecurity Your ‘New Normal’?

And it doesn’t look like work is much better, if this study is anything to go by. 44% said they don’t feel their career is progressing over the last five years, and just 40% believe there are opportunities for career development in the future. All in all, then, the RSA report paints a bleak picture.

Discussing the study, Brhmie Balaram, the senior researcher at the Royal Society of the Arts who authored the report, said:

‘Economic insecurity now stretches right throughout our labour market, including within jobs that appear safe on the surface. From retail workers to warehouse operatives, and from care workers to cleaners, we are beginning to uncover the hidden millions who are chronically broke year in, year out. The real danger for this group of workers is a childcare bill unpaid and yet another rent rise around the corner.’

To help make sense of this new, precarious working world, the RSA has identified seven new segments, described by the society as a ‘new class structure’. According to Matthew Tylor, the RSA’s chief executive:

‘Despite the differences between the seven segments persuasively described in this report we can clearly see how many people are impacted by common problems. Precarious work is a theme, as is a lack of autonomy or control at work. Both issues underline the call for good work in the review I undertook for government last year.’

The RSA’s new class structure characterises people by their earnings, savings and job-type. Which one do you fit into?

  • The chronically precarious have steady, low-paid work and very little in savings.
  • The acutely precarious have low-paid jobs with irregular hours.
  • The flexi-workers love their jobs, have higher savings amounts and prefer autonomy over job security.
  • The steady-staters are content, well-paid, but with low savings.
  • The idealists are most likely to be millennials and have mid-sized earnings.
  • The strivers have a high income and high savings, but worry that their hard work may not be rewarded with fair pay.
  • The high-flyers are the wealthiest in this new class structure, typically have over £10,000 stashed away and are best-placed to navigate new technologies in the world of work.
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