Your finances – a pause for thought

Research shows that we’re not just failing to look at our personal finances, but that few people are taking action.

woman managing her finances

Brits spend longer making a cup of tea than pausing to look at their finances

  • Three in five people (57%) spend half an hour a week or less looking at their finances
  • This equates to less than 4 minutes a day – about the same as making a cup of tea
  • More than half (56%) don’t prioritise making time to manage their finances

We spend longer each day on making a cup of tea than we do pausing to look at our finances, according to new research from Skipton Building Society which interviewed 2000 UK adults about their financial habits.

Around three in five (57%) spend half an hour a week or less (29 minutes) looking at their finances. This equates to less than 4 minutes a day, about the same as brushing your teeth or making a cup of tea.

The research highlights that we’re not just failing to look at our personal finances, but that few people are taking action. Just one in five (22%) say they take the time to actively manage their money each week, be that working out budgets, paying bills, looking at their internet banking, setting up new savings or investment products or visiting a branch.

Londoners spend the longest managing their finances each week (2.52 hours), well above the national average (1.9 hours). 

What are we spending our time doing instead?

Over half of those surveyed (56%) say they don’t tend to prioritise their finances at all and two in five (42%) say this is because they have other more important things going on in their lives. When asked why they don’t prioritise their finances, one quarter (23%) said they find it too boring and one in six (16%) blamed a lack of time for the reason they can’t pause to do this.

The research indicates that we are spending our time elsewhere during the week, with cleaning coming top of the list:

  Hours spent each week Time spent each day
Cleaning the house 3 hours 52 minutes 50 minutes
Doing the weekly shop 2 hours 36 minutes 33 minutes
Commute 2 hours 77 minutes
(4 hours 39 minutes for Londoners)
39 minutes
Streaming content or browsing online 11 hours 5 minutes 1 hour 57 minutes

Those aged 25-34 were the most likely to make time for their finances, with over half (51%) doing so compared to 40% of over 55s.

The perfect financial pause

Skipton’s data also explores how the amount of time people spend on actively managing their finances impacts how they feel – to identify the optimal time for a ‘financial pause’ that can lead to better financial health.

The data reveals that the people most likely to feel positive about their finances are the ones who are getting under the skin of their money regularly: doing so on average 2.7 times each week, for an average of 40 minutes each time.

Those who feel most negatively are spending longer on their finances each week (174 minutes), and typically spend on average one hour each time. Just one in five of those surveyed (20%) think that their finances are in a good state, with the research highlighting that many of us fail to find the time to pause and focus.

Responding to the survey findings and our lack of focus when it comes to jobs we're not comfortable with, Dr Richard Wiseman, Psychologist and Author at the University of Hertfordshire explains: “The human attention span tends to be at its best for a maximum of 40 minutes at a time and after this point, our attention usually starts to wane. This new research from Skipton demonstrates just how difficult we tend to find long-term thinking. This is because short-term options usually give a quick emotional win, whereas longer term options, such as planning for retirement require more logical thinking, which we can find more difficult to process.

“By actively trying not to think about something, we often end up thinking about it more. Skipton’s research shows that we last thought about our plans for retirement 56 days ago so when it comes to finances and in particular looking at retirement, it would be far less stressful for people to think about it in the present, than avoiding it and spiralling into problems further down the road.”

Top tips to make time to manage your finances

1.       Find a time that works for you. Only a quarter of people (26%) say they set aside specific time to consider their finances, so try planning a pause in the same way you would arrange a meeting or social event. Allocate time on Sunday evening to plan your budget for the week ahead or pop into a branch on your lunch break. This will help you to feel more confident about achieving your goals.

2.       It’s good to talk. Talk to friends and family members to understand how they might approach a particular financial situation. If you’d prefer to keep things private, do your research by checking newspapers or listening to related podcasts instead. Don’t be afraid to seek expert advice in confidence; even if it feels awkward.

3.       Achievable goals. Set yourself goals for the short, medium and long term and review your goals on a regular basis. Keep on top of your short term goals by checking progress every week, or month. For longer term goals, once a year should be enough to make sure you continue achieving your ambitions.

4.       Treat the long term the way you treat the short term. Data shows that the majority of people in the UK have not thought about their retirement plans for 56 days on average, but they have paused to check their internet banking (6 days), pay bills (10 days) and check on their savings (15 days ago). Although retirement may seem more distant for some, a little pause today, could have a big effect tomorrow.

5.       A little action is better than none at all. Although finance can sometimes seem like an impossible task, the smallest steps are better than nothing. Read the personal finance pages or try some online research about different savings products to identify the ones that could be right for you.  

Last modified: March 16, 2017

Written by 9:55 am Finance