Almost half of Scots have no savings for retirement, a survey found this week, as the financial industry launched a major political campaign to reverse the neglect of savings in the UK and counter the debt culture.
At an event in London, the Tax Incentivised Savings Association said its non-partisan campaign was being backed by over 50 leading industry firms, trade bodies and consumer groups, who were "actively working on developing solutions" to the savings crisis across society.
It came as one of them, Nationwide, published research showing 44% of Scots plan to rely on the state pension, currently £110 a week, for their retirement.
Loading article content
Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, head of public policy at Nationwide, told the London event that current conditions in the UK "mitigate against a savings culture for those who have most to gain by saving".
He said: "People are facing massive inducements to spend money all the time everything they see on the telly on their Facebook and webchat and the way they run their lives is being funded by advertisers encouraging them to spend money."
He said an increasing number of purchases, such as smartphones, offered no incentive to save.
"We lose track and understanding of the relative costs of these purchases because of the way we buy them, and we lose the opportunity to benefit from having cash up-front."
Mr Baddeley-Chappell said: "At a time when we have a massive gap between savings and borrowings, we should have mechanisms that support people."
Nationwide wants transfers of equity Isas back into cash Isas at appropriate life stages, and sharing of industry data on savings as well as credit to reward savers.
Charlotte Clark, head of pensions and savings at HM Treasury, said the UK savings ratio was a "rather depressing picture compared with most other countries".
She admitted: "We have not wanted an increase in savings over the past few years. It will be interesting to see whether there is a push to change the balance of the economy from consumption towards saving."
Mick McAteer, founder of the Financial Inclusion Centre, said half of the UK had savings of less than £1,500.
"Even if base rates had risen by a full 1% the typical household would have benefited by 17p a week." He said a "failure of individualism" had let to a "culture of consumption", and people had to be "not nudged but shoved" onto the journey towards financial security.
He said: "One of the most vulnerable groups, almost entirely ignored by the public policy agenda and the financial services industry, is the self-employed."
Veteran campaigner Mr McAteer, an adviser to the Financial Conduct Authority, said the industry had to change. "There has been a chronic market failure not just mis-selling."
The industry had created "layers of intermediaries" in the supply chain who had profited from "value extraction" at the expense of consumers. He said too many products "brought into the market in the guise of innovation have not added value to the consumer or led to enhanced or improved risk-adjusted returns. It is spurious innovation".
Mr McAteer said misselling might have cost £40 billion over the past few decades, but inefficiencies, high-charging, and underperformance may have had an effective cost of between £7bn and £25bn every year. "That is the real scandal of the City, that is the problem we have to confront if the industry is to play a bigger and better role in enhancing savings and capital for householders."
James Charrington, a global executive at Blackrock, said: "Our industry has let savers down in the past, too many products were designed to deliver economics to the host company, we have got to draw a line, show a bit of humility and say actually we have got to do better than that and rebuild trust."
He added: "Somebody's savings should be something they can read on one sheet of paper not a forest of stuff they can't understand. It is regulatory a**e-covering that has completely snowed us under."
Mark Fiander, strategy and innovation director at the Money Advice Service, said almost one in five of the population was in debt arrears. For those who had been hit by an income shock and were agreeing repayment plans, it was important to build in a small savings element "so they can see something is growing rather than paying money into something of no benefit".
He said MAS had tested an app that showed the benefit of paying the cost of a daily £3 coffee into a savings account, and 80% of people had said they would use it.
He added: "It is about making the act of not spending not hurt."
Mr Charrington said: "We are asking people not to go out and buy a new television or a new foglamp but to put some money on one side - we have got to make it more interesting and more do-able."
Brian Davidson, platforms manager at Dundee-based Alliance Trust Savings, commented: "TISA has this year set itself and its members the ambitious task of gaining cross political support on how to solve the savings gap in the UK.
"The idea that by the next general election the UK could have a single savings blueprint that all stakeholders are united behind is one that is fully supported by Alliance Trust Savings.
"We believe that only by taking a collective approach can we start to change the attitudes to saving in the UK."