A new online programme inspired by the popular training app Couch to 5K has today launched to help people recover their 'financial fitness' after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘Couch to Financial Fitness' has been launched by government-backed service MoneyHelper (formerly known as the Money Advice Service and Pension Wise). The new online programme is a four-week plan that coaches people to improve their financial wellbeing week-by-week, just as Couch to 5K helps beginners build up stamina to run 5 kilometres.
Caroline Siarkiewicz, MoneyHelper's chief executive, said summer was "a pivotal time for personal finances", with commuting and socialising starting again and government financial support being scaled back.
“As we continue to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re encouraging people to think about how financially fit they feel right now," Siarkiewicz said.
"Throughout these challenging lockdowns, millions of people used fitness apps and trackers to get started with exercise or to improve their mental health, to give them goals to work towards, or simply to help them cope. Couch to Financial Fitness uses this familiar format to help people make the same sort of gains in their financial wellbeing."
The programme consist of activities to help people with budgeting, bills, cutting costs, and saving. It is followed by a five-week extension that explains issues around borrowing, mortgages, the financial costs of starting a family and saving for retirement.
MoneyHelper has already been trialling the programme across the UK. Josie, a 27-year-old single mother of two from Plymouth, took part in trials and said the programme helped her learn "how to manage and organise my finances".
Josie was made redundant during the pandemic and relied on buy-now-pay-later schemes to provide a "good life" for her children.
"The programme put me face-to-face with debts I’d brushed aside over the years," she said. (Josie declined to giver her full name). "Thankfully, MoneyHelper put me in touch with a free debt advisor to get the emergency support I needed. Now I’m able to save at least something every month, and hopefully, in just over 18 months, I should be debt-free.
"Being more financially savvy has made me feel a lot better and I’m now feeling a lot more confident and positive about my future.”
MoneyHelper already offered free money and pensions guidance over the phone, online and face-to-face, although the later has been suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Demand for financial advice has jumped during the pandemic. Visits to MoneyHelper's website rose by 1.2 million last year to reach 49 million.
20 million adults have seen their financial situation worsen because of Covid-19, according to a recent survey by the Financial Conduct Authority. Almost 9m people were forced to borrow more due to COVID-19, according to The Money Charity.
Even before the pandemic, 11.5 million people had less than £100 in savings and 22 million said they didn’t know enough to plan for retirement, according to the UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing. 60% of people said the pandemic has added to their financial concerns.
Watch: How to save on a low income