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Risky rainy days: who plans for their financial future?

Press release issued: 12 May 2008

How much does your background and the social and cultural groups you belong to affect your financial planning? asks new research from the University of Bristol, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

David Abbott from Bristol University’s Norah Fry Research Centre, with Deborah Quilgars and Dr Anwen Jones at the Centre for Housing Policy, University of York, talked to people aged 25-50 who were in one of four different groups: disabled people; Christians and Muslims; gay, lesbian, bisexual people; Black and Asian people.

They found that:

Disabled people faced risky and uncertain futures.  Job security was closely linked to worries about people’s present and future health.  Some financial products like insurance which might provide some safety net were often not available to Disabled people and the extra cost of being Disabled made it hard to save and plan for the future.

Religion – in this case being Christian or Muslim – had some impact on people’s attitudes towards money and debt.  Christians in the study felt that their faith could provide a ‘buffer’ against possible risky life events.  Muslims said they resisted debt (or paid it off as quickly as possible) in order to save money for their families futures.

Gay, lesbian and bisexual people sometimes manoeuvred themselves into jobs where they would feel safer from discrimination and increase their job security.  Most said they didn’t believe in a ‘pink pound’ and resisted pressure to over-spend as part of a so-called ‘gay lifestyle’.

Asian men in the study prioritised work – and working hard – as a way of obtaining some financial security.  Black people in the study did not think that being Black had much impact upon their views about planning ahead.

Across all four groups, how much money people had still made a big difference to their ability to plan ahead.  However, views and behaviour were also affected by other factors: the way their parents had dealt with risk, the balance between work and other aspects of life they aimed at, and their beliefs about how much help people can expect from the government.  For religious groups and ethnic minorities, parental traditions were important.  All the religious groups, ethnic minorities and gay people tended not to expect much help from the government if they hit hard times.

The research involved focus groups followed by interviews with 80 people in Bristol and Leeds.  The study is part of an ESRC Research Network looking at Risk in Social Contexts (directed by Peter Taylor-Gooby at the University of Kent).

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