I personally believe an understanding of Personal Finance should be a more integral part of our lives. However, it can intimidate us. I see it for myself every day when reading financial news and trying to figure what is the best personal finance product for my own needs. All forms of educated people, intelligent individuals from all walks of life in professional occupations are often the authors of these complaints. They have managed to come to grips with law, the working of the medical professions or indeed the law of the land but when it comes to tackling the policy documents of a mortgage protection insurance plan, they tend to be totally bewildered.
I am not surprised. For far too many years the financial service industry has smothered itself in complete jargon, essentially to bewilder the consumer and conceal poor value for money . Successive UK governments have not helped, making some areas of personal finance such as pension or tax related issues impenetrable to understand, to some of the finest brains in Britain. Indeed, on such occasion they have been instrumental in causing some of the biggest problems to impact up personal finance world.
Last Wednesday was a difficult day at the stock market. Behold a lesser mirror image of Wall Street market in the States; wrecking the bank shares, and feeding the speculation about upcoming inflation, the index of FTSE 100 stocks dramatically dropped by 160 points. The market in the States is suddenly dumbfound with realization that sub-prime lenders are far from being healthily well-off, to say the least. If New Century’s potential bankruptcy is any indication of the times, it comes with no surprise that banks are feverishly reviewing their assets and are revising their terms and policies.US sub-prime lenders are hit by highest wave of late payments and repossessions in the history of this service. It is a relief to know that for a number of reasons such crisis in unlikely to occur in the United Kingdom. The percentage of sub-prime mortgages compared to regular mortgages is smaller, property in Europe being an attraction for large number of foreign investors, different lending policies, and finally, British financial common sense, are the beneficial factors that will likely outweigh the threat of market instability. Ian Giles, director of marketing at Kensington Mortgages, for instance, comments that “By introducing a tiered approach to risk we are allowing those people who can afford to do so, borrow more, and helping more people to buy their own homes.” In the light of the present situation, the words “those people who can afford to do so” acquire a new profound significance, and are the key.
Amidst the anxiety and the controversy surrounding the sensitive issue, fixed rate mortgages reign supreme. According to the Council of Mortgage Lenders, 85 % of first-time buyers select the fixed- rate option. Within last week eight major mortgage lenders, including such major players as Direct Line and Britannia, have reduced their fixed-rate offerings in a bid to ensure stability and to promote better budgeting. Another product, suddenly big and bold on the top of a ‘must – have’ list is financial insurance. No big surprise there either. The Royal Bank of Scotland Group’s Direct Line Insurance is certainly blossoming. With RBS Global Banking & Markets being a leading banking partner to major corporate and financial institutions worldwide, Direct Line has financial support second to no other company in the UK. At the time when almost all mortgages come with mandatory insurance on all lending products, Direct Line provides its customers with a full range of insurance, debt financing and risk management, offering discounts on its insurance for those who take out their loan or mortgage. After receiving a recent blow, the banks aim to stay on top of the game. Not a single lender, not even Direct Line, offers Inflation Insurance, really.