For the last 13 years, the Prince’s Trust has carried out a survey that looks at the thoughts and feelings of 16-25-year-olds in the UK. This year’s results are worrying: almost a quarter of young people (23%) believe they will never recover from the emotional impact of the pandemic. And after emotional wellbeing, money is the area of young people’s lives where they feel the least happy and confident. So how can you get through these tricky times, and what help is out there? We’ve got you covered.
The survey said: the current economic climate makes 61% of young people anxious about their future. Meanwhile, 30% of those in work or education agree that support with mental health would help them achieve their goals.
So, what can be done? “When it comes to finances, one of the best things we can do as a society is to talk about them more openly,” says Tamara Gillan, founder and CEO of the WealthiHer Network. “By doing this, we’ll hopefully make money a less taboo subject in the future.”
But it also has another effect: “I’m also a big believer that if you have real worries or concerns about finances – or anything for that matter – one of the most powerful steps that you can take is to talk to someone about them, because bottling things up can be seriously bad for our mental health.” There are no rules on who you turn to – whether it’s a friend, family member, teacher, colleague or even someone at your bank, don’t be afraid to share your concerns with someone you trust.
Managing your own expectations and the pressure that you’re putting on yourself is also very important. Remember that no-one has everything figured out in their teens, or even their 20s or 30s for that matter!
To learn more about the link between money and mental health, watch this MoneySense video, or read this article which offers tips on handling financial worries.
Finally, if you get to a point where you feel you are really struggling from a mental health point of view, make sure you ask for professional help. It’s never too early and no problem is too small. Martin Lewis – the Money Saving Expert – recommends Rethink, Mind and The Mental Health Foundation.
The survey said: almost half (49%) of all young people don’t think they’ll ever be financially stable. Nearly a quarter (24%) don’t feel confident managing their own money, and 59% feel they’ll never be able to afford their own home.
First things first: don’t panic, and don’t give up. Despite it feeling tricky, you need to be in the driver’s seat here – this is your life and it’s there for the taking, but you have to put the effort in.
Start by thinking, realistically, about the kind of life you’d like to live in the future, and the steps that you might need to take to get there. This article on building the life you want might be a good place to start.
Next, begin to set realistic goals and tick them off as you achieve them – the dopamine (aka the happy hormone) kick that you’ll get when this happens will make you want to cross more actions off your list. Perhaps you could set yourself a target of brushing up on finance in general – you could learn financial lingo, or get to grips with credit scores or investing.
It’s also worth remembering that, despite sometimes seeming a little intimidating, banks really do want to help you. Royal Bank of Scotland, for example, offers completely free personal reviews in the shape of Financial Health Checks. During these sessions, you’ll be given helpful hints, tips and ideas to help you make better decisions about your finances, both now and in the future.
“Financial health checks are a great way to assess what someone is doing well and what they need to work on. They’re open to anyone and are a helpful reminder to review your needs and goals,” says Milly Batchelor from Royal Bank of Scotland's Youth Banking team. “I get one done every other year, even though I work for a bank, and I’m always grateful for the help. They allow you to access professional support and tips to help you get or stay on-track.”
It’s also worth remembering that just because other people seem to have it all sorted on social media, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. “Social media has created unreal expectations of what's possible,” says Tamara from WealthiHer.
“If you see someone posing on Instagram with a new, flashy car – the chances are you don’t know the true story behind it. Was it borrowed, is the person in the picture heavily in debt? Maybe the car is theirs and they’ve worked hard to buy it – but in that case there will have been a journey behind it that you probably haven’t seen. Financial success isn’t instantaneous – it requires small, incremental steps.”
Not all social media accounts are misleading, however, and many can actually be educational and impactful. It’s just a case of remaining mindful of who you follow and why they’re posting.
The survey said: one in three (33%) young people are unhappy with the amount of money they have, and 47% never have enough money at the end of a month for savings and/or non-essential spending.
Learning from peers is always a sensible starting point when it comes to saving. If you have a friend, colleague or family member who is smart when it comes to looking after their finances, ask if they have any tips, tools or strategies that they find useful. Alternatively, you can seek this kind of information out online, like in our money diaries series.
Budgeting is an art that has to be learnt and practised, and then practised some more, but there’s no shortage of guides and resources out there. Look into different savings strategies such as the 50/30/20 rule (where you spend 50% of income on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% on savings/repaying debts) or check out this video on how to budget like a boss, and this article on five ways to save, make and manage your money. Most banks also offer clever apps that will help you look at your finances as a whole, help you make smarter spending decisions and even cancel unnecessary subscriptions.
“Successful saving is about having a rule of thumb for spending, and sticking to it,” says Angela Connor from Royal Bank of Scotland's Youth Banking team. “That could be having a plan of how much you spend versus how much you save and sticking to it – for example, for every £10 you earn, you could save £2 – or setting yourself a rule of how much you need to have saved up before you buy yourself a treat. It's always good to try and have a buffer of savings left over in case you need it for an emergency.”
The survey said: more than half (56%) of young people don’t feel prepared for work after education. Around 40% had no idea how to find a job when they left school and 44% said the pandemic means it is more difficult than ever to find a good job.
It goes without saying that the pandemic was tough on young people in education and those trying to make the leap into the workplace. But don’t forget that potential employers will understand what everyone went through and be sympathetic to any gaps on your CV that are a Covid side-effect.
That said, only you can control the direction that your life takes from here, and there’s no shortage of opportunities to upskill and get some training if you know where to look. Take time to think about the skills that you would most benefit from and look into courses that would support these. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice from teachers, relatives or older siblings.
Youth Employment UK’s careers hub and young professional training sites are both great places to start when it comes to choosing and developing a career, as is CareerSense – an education programme for 13–24-year-olds that includes free tools and resources to help you understand your own skills, navigate the job market and build your confidence as you enter the world of work.
It’s also worthwhile thinking about how the world of work is changing and therefore what skills you might need to develop. Create an account to try the Find Your Potential tool from CareerSense, which can help you understand your skills and strengths and show you some examples of the types of roles that might suit you. Barnardo’s and the Prince’s Trust also offer employment support, from free courses to apprenticeships and tuition funds.
Volunteering is another excellent way to expand your skillset while giving back to your community, and taking on a side hustle could help you earn some extra cash while perfecting and showing off your entrepreneurial spirit.