Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Keep your hands off my balance sheet, Dave

I’ll be paying back my student debt for some time to come, thanks to the last government’s zeal for vast loans and my complete inability to secure ample part-time work while I was studying. Resigned to not being financially secure until my mid-thirties – and that’s an optimistic outlook – I now realise that the semi-detached, picket fence comfort of my parents’ generation will be much harder to come by.

Short of inviting himself to kitchen tables across the land, armed with an accounts book, a calculator and a pair of scissors to guillotine our flexible friends, the Prime Minister’s response to my domestic financial crisis has thankfully proved short-lived. An early draft of his conference speech announced that “the only way out of a debt crisis is to deal with your debts. That means households - all of us - paying off the credit card and store card bills."

All of this confuses the Government’s economic message; aren’t we supposed to be propping up fragile High Streets by spending on clothes, electrical goods, and holidays? Or should we be living as if we’re part of a religious order? What Dave has failed to explain is how we’re supposed to eke out a day-to-day existence in the meantime.

Yes, debts are terrible, nasty things that strangle our otherwise happy existences like a noose around the neck. Most of us enjoy luxuries such as shelter, food and clothes that make us look vaguely flattering, so we put off the inevitable. We limit your outgoings, dealing with one debt at a time. An instruction to pay off everything we owe on national television would have halted already fragile consumer confidence, plunging our retail sector into despair. The message is all the more insulting as when you consider that Britain’s Prime Minister and his consort are reportedly worth around £30million between them. Many of the Cabinet are also millionaires. They don’t have to borrow a penny to survive.

Here’s a better idea. ‘Plan A’ doesn’t work. Youth unemployment is at 20%, consumer confidence is at an all-time low. Cameron would be better off concentrating his efforts at macro-level, securing growth and jobs for those who really need them. That’s what he’s paid to do. Frankly, I’d rather be advised on my finances by the broadcaster and financial advisor,
Alvin Hall. He’s got bags more charisma and would make a lot more sense.

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