• New MoneyHelper service launches online programme to boost UK’s financial fitness
  • As it reports 1.2 million more visits to money guidance websites during the pandemic
  • Nation urged to start building financial wellbeing at pivotal time for personal finances

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.2 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 topics4 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 retirement5. 60% of people have since said the pandemic has added to their financial concerns.6

20 million adults7 (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.8

For more information, please visit moneyhelper.org.uk.

-ENDS-

For media enquiries contact:  

MaPS Press Office: 020 8132 5284 / media@maps.org.uk 

Mia Cochrane, senior press officer: 020 8132 4937 / mia.cochrane@maps.org.uk

Grace Christie, Press Officer: 020 8132 4069 / grace.christie@maps.org.uk

Kindred Agency: 020 7010 0888

Notes to editors

Case studies who have been taken through relevant sections of the Couch to Financial Fitness online tool and are available on request to talk about their experience with journalists.

Josie is to be described on a first-name basis only.

  1. Couch to Financial Fitness programme in full:
    • a) Money Essentials
      1. Manage your budget – the first step to financial fitness is getting a sense of how much money is coming in, and where it’s going, making a budget and understanding how to stick to it.
      2. Staying on top of bills and payments – this week’s focus will be on debt and how to stay on top of any missed payments.
      3. How to cut costs – the week will focus on how to get the best deals and look at where to save on things such as household bills.
      4. Building up savings – the final part of the four-week programme focuses on what you can do with any money left over and where to put it
    • b) Money Milestones  
      1. Become a ‘savvy’ borrower – this will help people get to grips with credit and how to choose the right credit for you.
      2. Mortgages – for anyone looking to buy a home, this section concentrates on helping people understand the costs involved in the mortgage process.
      3. Starting a family – growing your family can impact your finances too, so this module looks at the money basics when starting a family.
      4. Give yourself a pensions boost – whatever stage you’re at in your working life, it is always important to boost your retirement income.
      5. Protecting yourself – this final step explains how to protect your income, should you become unable to work either due to job loss, ill health or disability.
  2. Face to face services are currently suspended due to Covid-19 restrictions and will resume in line with government guidelines.
  3. Based on website visits to the Money Advice Service, The Pensions Advisory Service and Pension Wise, May 2019 – June 2021.
  4. This refers to services previously provided by the Money Advice Service legacy brand.
  5. UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing, Money and Pensions Service, 2020.
  6. Shame, upbringing and burdening others: why 29 million UK adults don’t feel comfortable talking about money despite feeling worried about it, Money and Pensions Service, 2020. A nationally representative survey of 5,225 UK adults aged 18+ was conducted from 9th-19th October 2020 by Opinium for the Money and Pensions Service.
  7. Financial Lives 2020 survey: the impact of coronavirus, Financial Conduct Authority, 2021.
  8. Pension Wise, which provides guidance for people aged 50 and over about their pension options, will continue as a named service under the MoneyHelper umbrella.

About the Money and Pensions Service

The Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) is here to ensure every person feels more in control of their finances throughout their lives: from pocket money to pensions. When they are, communities are healthier, businesses are more prosperous, the economy benefits and individuals feel better off. MaPS delivers free and impartial money and pensions guidance to the public through MoneyHelper, which recently brought together legacy services the Money Advice Service, The Pensions Advisory Service and Pension Wise.

MaPS is working to make sure the whole of the UK understands that financial, physical and mental health are all deeply connected. MaPS’ role is to connect organisations with the shared purpose of achieving the five goals set out in the UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing.

MaPS supports innovation so that everyone can use the most effective methods to help people feel more in control of their money, targeted to those most in need and inclusive of people from all backgrounds. MaPS is an arm’s-length body sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

For further information visit www.maps.org.uk

Members of the public can get free guidance about their money and pensions via: MoneyHelper / 0800 138 7777