From Couch to Financial Fitness: New programme launched to help the UK build their money muscles

12th August 2021

A new online programme inspired by the popular step-by-step training app, ‘Couch to 5K’, has been launched today to help people build back their financial fitness during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Couch to Financial Fitness’, available on the recently launched MoneyHelper website, coaches people to improve their financial wellbeing week by week, whether they are a complete beginner or getting back on track, in the same way they would their physical or mental health. The programme guides people through three simple activities per week over four weeks, to help them master the money basics, followed by a five-week extension to strengthen financial habits. Taking small steps, at their own pace, could make a huge difference to people’s financial confidence.

Topics users will cover as money essentials include cutting costs, staying on top of bills and strengthening savings, followed by an extra five extra weeks of activities to prepare for life’s money milestones including starting a family, buying a home or saving for retirement. People will be prompted to measure how they feel before and after completing each step, to help track the impact the programme can have on their wellbeing.

The government-backed MoneyHelper is a new single destination providing free money and pensions guidance over the phone, online and face-to-face. It also signposts people to expert and free-of-charge debt advice, if they need it. It brings together the services previously provided by the Money Advice Service, The Pensions Advisory Service and Pension Wise.

The demand for money guidance during the pandemic

Couch to Financial Fitness incorporates MoneyHelper’s trusted guidance and tools. New data reveals that during the pandemic, there were more than 49 million web visits to these (1.2 million more than the year before), which were previously provided by legacy services.

The most frequent money guidance topics people sought help with were debt, homes and mortgages, benefits, budgeting and managing money and births, deaths and family.  

Top reasons for visits to the Money Advice Service website

Top reasons for calls to the Money Advice Service helpline
1. Homes & mortgages (34%) 1. Debt (23%)
2. Births, deaths and family (11%) 2. Home & mortgages (14%)
3. Pensions and retirement (8%) 3. Benefits (12%)
4. Work and redundancy (8%) 4. Budgeting & managing money (5%)
5. Budgeting & managing money (7%) 5. Births, deaths and family (4.5%)

Even before Covid-19, 9 million people were struggling with debt, often borrowing to buy food or pay bills. 11.5 million had less than £100 in savings and 22 million said they didn’t know enough to plan for retirement. 60% of people have since said the pandemic has added to their financial concerns.

20 million adults (38% of the nation) have seen their financial situation worsen because of Covid-19. Government support schemes have helped millions during the pandemic, but as these initiatives are scaled back, MoneyHelper sees this summer as a crucial time for those who have been financially impacted to build up their resilience so they can feel more in control of their money and pensions.

Caroline Siarkiewicz, Chief Executive at the Money and Pensions Service comments: 

“As we continue to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re encouraging people to think about how financially fit they feel right now. Throughout these challenging lockdowns, millions of people used fitness apps and trackers to get started with exercise or to improve their mental health, to give them goals to work towards, or simply to help them cope. Couch to Financial Fitness uses this familiar format to help people make the same sort of gains in their financial wellbeing.

“Similar to a step-by-step approach to training for a 5k run, Couch to Financial Fitness can help people to improve their finances starting with just the basics. It’s designed to build ability and comfort levels over time through taking small, simple actions each week that will make people feel more secure and in control of their money – key ingredients of good financial wellbeing.” 

“We’re coming into a pivotal time for personal finances; the next weeks and months will see support measures end and the return of day-to-day expenses as many of us start commuting or socialising again. Now is the time to make a plan for what comes next. Managing our money can seem daunting at first. It can be difficult to get out of the starting block. But just like the journey to improve your fitness or mental health, starting with a few small steps and building your confidence gradually can bring big benefits, and often quite quickly.”

James Sanderson, Chief Executive of the National Academy for Social Prescribing comments:

“This past year has been so difficult for so many people. It has also shown how important interventions like social prescribing are – and how they can help people access the support they need, based on what matters to them. A big part of this work is helping people look after their physical and mental health, including supporting their financial wellbeing.

“We know how important small changes are to improving overall wellbeing. Tools like this can empower people across the country to better manage their lives in easy step-by-step approaches, and can improve their overall wellbeing as a result.”

Josie*, a 27-year-old single parent from Plymouth, England says:

Two weeks ago, I was in quite a bad place when it comes to money. I’d wake up in the morning and the first thing I thought about was my bank account. I’d check to see what’s coming in and what’s going out every day, and just generally worry. Yet it wasn’t until I took part in Couch to Financial Fitness that I realised just how crippling my debts had become.

“The programme put me face-to-face with debts I’d brushed aside over the years. Thankfully, MoneyHelper put me in touch with a free debt advisor to get the emergency support I needed. Now I’m able to save at least something every month, and hopefully, in just over 18 months, I should be debt-free.

“In just two weeks, I feel much more positive and, while the actual amount coming in hasn’t necessarily changed, because I’ve learned how to manage and organise my finances, I feel like I have more money. Being more financially savvy has made me feel a lot better and I’m now feeling a lot more confident and positive about my future.”

What is MoneyHelper?

MoneyHelper is a single destination to make peoples’ money and pensions choices clearer and put them in control. Backed by government, it provides free money and pensions guidance over the phone, online and face-to-face. It was launched this summer by the Money and Pensions Service. MoneyHelper will empower people across the UK to manage their financial wellbeing with greater confidence and clarity throughout their lifetimes by bringing together the services previously provided by the Money Advice Service, The Pensions Advisory Service and Pension Wise.

For more information, please visit moneyhelper.org.uk

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