BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 3 March 2008, 11:21 GMT
Call for free money advice scheme
A man writes a cheque
The government set up the review in early 2007
A free national advice service to help consumers with money matters should be set up, according to a major review.

The final report of the Thoresen Review of Generic Financial Advice, commissioned by the government, suggests a 12m two-year pilot project.

It said a telephone, internet and face-to-face advice service should be funded by the government and by levies from the financial services industry.

Financial jargon can confuse consumers wanting help with money matters.

Everyday help

Otto Thoresen, the head of the financial services firm Aegon, was asked by the Treasury to design a national money guidance service.

Our service is busting at the seams with demand from people needing help with debts
Teresa Perchard, Citizens Advice

His review suggested that people would use such a sales-free service for significant life events that affect finances, such as starting work, buying a house, having a baby, divorce or retirement.

"I believe that good money sense needs to be as much part of people's lives in the 21st century as healthy eating and keeping fit," said Mr Thoresen.

He said a free, national service using the telephone, internet and face-to-face advice would help people to budget and understand the technical jargon used by the financial services industry.

Costs and benefits

The review estimated that a money guidance service, used by four million people a year, would cost 49m annually.

HELP THAT WOULD BE OFFERED BY A NEW SERVICE
Budgeting household spending
Saving and borrowing
Protecting and insuring the family
Planning retirement
Understanding tax and welfare benefits
Translating financial jargon

It suggested that the cost of the project be split between the government and the financial services industry.

The industry share would be raised from a levy by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) on firms regulated by the watchdog, businesses in the credit industry, and National Savings & Investments.

The benefits of the service, according to the review, would be savings of more than 15bn for consumers by 2060.

Financial benefits of safer saving and better money management would also far outstrip the costs to the government and the financial sector, the report said.

Next steps

A key recommendation in the report was for a pilot project, lasting two years, serving up to 750,000 people. This would cost between 10m and 12m.

Mr Thoresen said the service should build on the expertise of current advice services.

Teresa Perchard, public policy director of Citizens Advice, which already runs similar services, said more investment was needed in advice services and described the blueprint as "very exciting and much-needed".

"Our service is busting at the seams with demand from people needing help with debts," she told the BBC.

The announcement that the government wanted people to have "quick, easy and simple access" to good quality financial advice was made by the then Treasury Secretary Ed Balls at the start of 2007.

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific