No blame, no shame

No blame, no shame – your lender is in the wrong, not you

Loan sharks are expert manipulators, it is often how they persuade people to borrow from them in the first place, and later it’s how they keep people trapped in a cycle of debt.

They will pretend to be a borrower’s friend, and appear to be offering a favour, turning up with a promise of cash just at the point when they need it most.

But instead of finding the expected relief from their financial struggles, borrowers find themselves plunged further and further into debt, and feel trapped with no way out.

In 2023, Stop Loan Sharks supported almost 800 people who had borrowed from loan sharks, helping them escape the clutches of their lender.

Of those, 17 per cent had borrowed more than 10 times and 14 per cent did not remember exactly how many times they’d borrowed.

This shows how people can end up in a cycle of borrowing again and again to repay what they owe. The amount they owe keeps rising and they never manage to repay the total.

Stop Loan Sharks statistics also show that it can sometimes that borrowers more than two years to finally report a loan shark.

So why does it take so long for people to seek help?

The loan shark’s manipulative tactics don’t end when someone takes a loan.

In order to maintain control of the borrower, the lender can use a variety of tactics – sometimes it is violence, or threats of violence, but often it is intimidation and the fear that the borrower will be exposed and shamed.

Borrowers are made to feel as though they have done something wrong and become fearful of their family or friends finding out. But they should feel no blame or shame as they have done nothing wrong.

They have been targeted and exploited by a criminal – the loan shark – and it is them who should carry all the blame and shame, not the borrower.

Of the victims support by Stop Loan Sharks last year 81 per cent were in a state of extreme stress, worry or depression because of their involvement with the loan shark.

Stop Loan Sharks has a team of specialist officers who recognise this and have the tools and experience to help people in this position escape the clutches of the illegal lender and start the journey back to financial safety. They are there to help and will not judge.

This year is the 20th anniversary of Stop Loan Sharks. Over the past two decades, it has supported over 31,500 people, written off over £91.2 million worth of illegal debt and secured over 416 prosecutions for illegal money lending, leading to 598 years in jail.

A loan shark,or illegal money lender, is someone who lends money without authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority. They are not bound by rules that exist to protect borrowers.

The signs of an illegal lender include:

– Being given no paperwork or details about the loan
– Being told to make repayments that add up to much more than you initially borrowed
– Being intimidated or threatened you if you struggle to pay
– Being told to hand over items like bank cards or a passport until you can pay

If someone does need to borrow, there are options available, Credit unions, for example, offer a safe alternative to the mainstream banks and lenders. Visit www.findyourcreditunion.co.uk to find one nearest to you.

If you think you have been targeted by a loan shark, you can contact Stop Loan Sharks by calling the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222 or joining the live chat which is available on the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk from Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.

For further information on the support available and how to get in touch, visit the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk.

Helping children save: why goals matter

In today’s busy world, teaching our children about money is important. As parents or grandparents, we know saving for the future is key. And guess what? Goal setting is a big part of that. Let’s chat about why setting savings goals for children is so crucial and share some simple tips to help them get started.

Why goals matter:

Goals are like maps for our savings journey. They give children direction and purpose, teaching them to be smart with their money. Whether it’s saving for a “cool” toy or planning for college, goals help children learn how to make smart choices and feel proud of their achievements.

Easy ways to set and reach goals:

Start early: Get your children excited about saving from a young age. Try using piggy banks or jars to show them how saving works. You can even open a Junior Savers Account.

Make it real: Help children see their goals by making vision boards or drawings. It makes saving feel more fun and achievable.

Set SMART Goals: Show children how to make goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Here’s how you can do it:

  • Specific: Clearly define the goal. For example, “Save £50 to buy a new toy” or “Save £20 to go to the movies.”
  • Measurable: Make sure the goal is quantifiable. You can track progress by keeping a chart or using a piggy bank to collect coins and notes.
  • Achievable: Ensure that the goal is realistic and within reach for the child’s age and allowance. Avoid setting too lofty goals that might discourage them.
  • Relevant: Tie the goal to something meaningful for the child. It could be saving for a desired toy, an outing with friends, or a contribution to a charity they care about.
  • Time-bound: Set a deadline for reaching the goal. For instance, “Save £20 in two months” or “Save £10 by the end of the month.”

Lead by doing: Children learn best by watching you. So, involve them in family money talks and show them how you save and budget.

Celebrate wins: Every time your children reach a savings goal, celebrate! It could be a small treat or just a big high-five. It helps them stay motivated.

Think ahead: While short-term goals are great, talk to your children about saving for big stuff too, like college or a car. It gets them thinking about the future.

Related articles:

4 fun and creative ways to teach children the art of saving money
A guide to raising financially savvy children
How to talk to your children about money
How to teach children develop good money habits
Unforgettable summer adventures: budget-friendly activities for kids in the UK

Empowering women: balancing life and achieving dreams with Hertsavers Credit Union

Women today are unstoppable. They’re smashing career goals while building loving families, proving they can be amazing at everything they do. This juggling act takes incredible strength and adaptability, and it’s what makes women so powerful.

More than multitasking

We often see women compared to jugglers, keeping everything in the air. They lead in boardrooms, manage households, and somehow find time for themselves – all while staying calm. But this balancing act isn’t easy. Trying to excel at work and at home can be a struggle. Still, women persevere, driven by a desire to succeed in every aspect of life.

Financial empowerment: a key to success

Financial security is essential for this balancing act. Organisations like Hertsavers Credit Union understand this and offer support specifically designed for working women.

  • Saving made easy: The Salary Savings Scheme encourages women to save regularly through their payroll, building a safety net for the future and gaining financial independence.
  • Help when needed: Payroll loans provide a lifeline during emergencies, offering quick access to cash without turning to high-interest lenders.
  • Supporting working mums: Child Benefits Loans and Savings Plan help cover childcare costs, easing the burden on working mothers.
  • Savings goals for every dream: Hertsavers offers a variety of savings accounts to fit any goal, from education to retirement to that dream vacation.

Beyond the balance: shaping the future

Women’s power goes way beyond their careers. They nurture families, overcome challenges, and leave a lasting impact on the world. With the support of organizations like Hertsavers Credit Union, women continue to break barriers and prove their strength is limitless.

Loan sharks have many faces – make sure you know who’s behind the mask

What does a loan shark look like to you?

The chances are the image that springs to mind is the TV soap gangster. But in reality they are not always that easy to spot.

They could just as easily be that neighbour who always stops to chat, a parent who you know from the school gate, a popular work colleague, even a long-standing family friend.

The one thing they have in common is that they are expert manipulators and masters of deception, often befriending victims and offering a quick-fix loan.

And with Christmas fast approaching they may be more active than usual, aware that with the cost-of-living crisis, people may be under increasing financial pressure.

Victims often aren’t aware that they have borrowed from a loan shark until it’s too late. Things can quickly turn nasty as they demand extortionate repayments and issue threats of violence when you can’t pay.

Figures from the England Illegal Money Lending Team, an organisation that works in partnership with trading standards authorities to investigate and prosecute illegal lenders and support victims, show that in the first half of 2023, 56 per cent of the people it worked with said they thought they were borrowing from a friend.

But there are warning signs to look out for, and alternatives available for those who need access to affordable credit but who might have been turned down by the mainstream banks.

What is a loan shark?

A loan shark is another term for an illegal money lender – someone who lends money and asks for repayments, but who does not have the necessary authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Why do people turn to loan sharks?

Often someone may be looking for a small amount over a short period to cover unexpected expenses. They may have been refused credit elsewhere and need cash at short notice. In the cost-of-living crisis, more people are being forced to borrow to cover basic living costs such as bills and food.

What are the warning signs that someone is a loan shark?

There are a number of giveaways that indicate the person you are borrowing from is not a legitimate lender.

They can include:

• You are given no paperwork or details about the loan
• The lender demands repayments that add up to much more than you initially borrowed
• They intimidate or threaten you if you struggle to pay
• They demand you hand over items like bank cards or a passport until you can pay

Where can I go to borrow money if I have been turned down by the banks?

Credit unions offer an alternative, ethical and safe way of borrowing for people who may have been refused credit elsewhere. They can offer small loans at affordable rates. Visit www.findyourcreditunion.co.uk to find one nearest to you.

What should I do if I think I have been targeted by a loan shark?

Contact the England Illegal Money Lending Team. There is a host of information on its website www.stoploansharks.co.uk.

You can:
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text a report to 078600 22116
Join a live chat on the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk
E-mail reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk
Private message on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject

Remember you have done nothing wrong if you have borrowed from a loan shark. It is the lender who has committed a crime.

ENDS

Article written by the England Illegal Money Lending Team

What is an emergency fund?

An emergency fund is a savings account that you set aside to cover unexpected expenses. These expenses can be anything from a car repair to a job loss to a medical emergency. Having an emergency fund can help you avoid going into debt or having to sell your belongings to cover these expenses.

How much should I save in an emergency fund?

A general rule of thumb is to save 3-6 months of living expenses in your emergency fund. This means that if you lose your job, you will have enough money to cover your rent, food, and other essential expenses for 3-6 months. However, the amount you need to save may vary depending on your individual circumstances. For example, if you have a lot of debt or have a high risk of losing your job, you may need to save more than 6 months of living expenses.

Where should I keep my emergency fund?

Your emergency fund should be kept in a separate savings account that is easy to access but not so easy to access that you will be tempted to use the money for everyday expenses.

How do I build an emergency fund?

The best way to build an emergency fund is to start saving small amounts of money on a regular basis. You can set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account, or you can make a point of saving cash every day or week. Even small amounts of money can add up over time.

Here are some tips for building an emergency fund:

  • Create a budget and track your expenses so you can see where your money is going.
  • Cut back on unnecessary expenses.
  • Set realistic savings goals.
  • Get a side hustle or sell unused items to make extra money.

Benefits of having an emergency fund:

  • Peace of mind: Knowing that you have an emergency fund can give you peace of mind and reduce stress.
  • Avoid debt: An emergency fund can help you avoid going into debt to cover unexpected expenses.
  • Better financial decisions: Having an emergency fund can help you make better financial decisions, such as saving for a down payment on a house or retirement.

Here are some examples of how an emergency fund can be used:

  • To cover the cost of a car repair
  • To pay for a medical emergency
  • To cover your expenses if you lose your job
  • To make a deductible on your insurance

An emergency fund is an essential part of any financial plan. By saving for an emergency fund, you can protect yourself from the unexpected and improve your overall financial security.

‘Do One Thing’ for financial wellbeing: Talk Money Week 2023

This year, Hertsavers Credit Union is excited to participate in #TalkMoney Week, an initiative encouraging individuals, stakeholders, partners, organisations, and businesses across the UK to inspire financial wellbeing by doing one thing. We believe that it’s the small steps that count, and we want to make some noise about it.

Our goal is simple: get everyone talking about money together.

1. Review your budget

Start with the basics by reviewing your budget. This is a small but powerful step in understanding your financial health. Take a closer look at your income and expenses to identify areas where you can save more.

2. Save automatically

Setting up automatic transfers from your checking account to a savings or investment account can make a significant difference. It’s an easy way to ensure you’re consistently saving for a rainy day or future goals.

3. Address your pension

Checking the address on your pension might sound minor, but it’s crucial. Ensuring that your pension information is up to date can prevent issues down the road and secure your financial future.

4. Talk to your children about money

Start financial education early by discussing pocket money and financial responsibility with your children. Teaching them good money habits from a young age can set them up for a more secure future.

5. Use financial tools and calculators

Take advantage of the free tools and calculators available on the MoneyHelper website. Whether you’re planning for retirement, managing debt, or setting savings goals, these tools can provide valuable insights.

6. Review subscriptions

Take a few minutes to go through your monthly subscriptions and cancel any that you no longer use or need. This can free up extra funds.

7. Shop with a list

Before going grocery shopping, create a shopping list and stick to it. This simple step can help you avoid impulse purchases and save money.

8. Negotiate bills

Contact your service providers, such as internet or cable companies, and negotiate for better rates. You might be able to lower your monthly bills.

9. Set up an emergency fund

If you don’t already have one, establish an emergency fund with a small initial contribution. Even a modest fund can provide peace of mind during unexpected financial challenges.

10. Sell unused items

Declutter your home and sell items you no longer need online or at a garage sale. The extra cash can be a great boost to your finances.

11. Plan meals

Plan your meals for the week, reducing the need for takeout or dining out. Cooking at home is not only cost-effective but often healthier too.

Why it matters

Talking about money may seem intimidating, but it’s essential. When we share our financial experiences, we make better decisions, strengthen relationships, and reduce stress. These small actions collectively create a financially educated and resilient community.

Financial wellbeing is about more than just money; it’s about peace of mind, opportunities, and security for yourself and your loved ones. By participating in #TalkMoney Week and doing one thing to improve your financial situation, you’re taking a meaningful step towards a brighter financial future.

The benefits of the Hertsavers Salary Saving Scheme

Hertsavers is encouraging its members to join the Salary Saving Scheme, a mutually beneficial program for employers and employees alike.

If you work with East Herts DC; Broxbourne DC; B3 Living; Abbeyfield Care; Herts Urgent Care, you can join Hertsavers Salary Saving Scheme.

Below are the benefits of Hertsavers’ Salary Saving Scheme.

Benefits to employers

  • Improved employee morale and productivity. Employees who are financially stable are more likely to be happy and productive at work.
  • Reduced absenteeism. Employees who are struggling with financial problems are more likely to miss work due to stress or illness.
  • Increased employee loyalty. Employees who feel valued and supported by their employer are more likely to stay with the company.
  • Positive public relations. Participating in the Salary Saving Scheme shows that your company is committed to supporting its employees and the local community.

Benefits to employees

  • Easy and convenient way to save money. Employees can choose to have a fixed amount of money deducted from their paycheck each month and deposited into their Hertsavers savings account.
  • Competitive interest rates. Hertsavers offers competitive interest rates on savings accounts, so employees can grow their savings faster.
  • Access to affordable loans. Hertsavers members can also access affordable loans, which can be helpful for unexpected expenses or consolidating debt.
  • Financial security and peace of mind. Knowing that they have a savings cushion to fall back on can give employees peace of mind and help them focus on their work.

How to join the Hertsavers Salary Saving Scheme

If you are interested in joining the Hertsavers Salary Saving Scheme, simply contact your employer and ask them to set up payroll deduction for you. You can also visit the Hertsavers website or contact Hertsavers today via email on office@hertsavers.co.uk.

Hertsavers is committed to helping its members achieve their financial goals. The Salary Saving Scheme is a great way for employees to save money and build financial security.

Additional information

In addition to the benefits listed above, the Hertsavers Salary Saving Scheme can also help employees to:

  • Reach their financial goals faster, such as saving for a down payment on a house or retirement.
  • Reduce their reliance on credit cards and other high-interest debt.
  • Build a good credit history.
  • Teach their children about the importance of saving money.

Apply now.

The No-Spend Challenge: a fun and rewarding way to save money

What is the no-spend challenge?

The no-spend challenge is a financial challenge where you commit to not spending any money on non-essential items for a set period of time. This could be a week, a month, or even a year, depending on your goals and financial situation.

The goal of the no-spend challenge is to help you save money, reduce your debt, and become more mindful of your spending habits. It can also be a great way to declutter your life and focus on the things that are most important to you.

How to do the no-spend challenge

If you’re interested in trying the no-spend challenge, here are a few tips to help you get started:

  1. Set a goal. What do you want to achieve with your no-spend challenge? Do you want to save money for a down payment on a house? Pay off your credit card debt? Build your emergency fund? Once you know your goal, you’ll be more motivated to stick with the challenge.
  2. Choose a time frame. How long do you want to commit to the no-spend challenge? If you’re new to this, it’s best to start with a shorter time period, such as a week or two. As you become more comfortable, you can gradually increase the time frame.
  3. Make a list of exceptions. What expenses are essential and cannot be avoided? This may include things like rent, utilities, groceries, and transportation. You may also want to include expenses for things like childcare, medication, and debt payments.
  4. Plan ahead. Once you know what expenses you have, you can start planning ahead for your no-spend challenge. This means meal planning, creating a budget, and finding free or low-cost activities to do.
  5. Track your progress. It’s helpful to track your progress during the no-spend challenge. This will help you stay motivated and see how much money you’re saving. You can use a simple spreadsheet or a budgeting app to track your spending.

No-spend challenge ideas

Here are a few ideas for activities you can do during the no-spend challenge:

  • Cook at home. Eating out is one of the biggest expenses for many people. Save money by cooking at home instead.
  • Borrow books and movies from the library. Instead of buying new books and movies, borrow them from the library for free.
  • Go for walks or bike rides. This is a great way to get exercise and fresh air without spending any money.
  • Visit free museums and attractions. Many cities have free museums, parks, and other attractions. Do some research to find what’s available in your area.
  • Have game nights with friends and family. Instead of going out, invite your friends and family over for a game night. You can play board games, card games, or video games.
  • Volunteer your time. Volunteering is a great way to give back to your community and meet new people. It’s also a great way to get out of the house and stay active without spending any money.

Tips for success

Here are a few tips to help you succeed with your no-spend challenge:

  • Tell your friends and family. Letting your friends and family know about your no-spend challenge will help you stay accountable. They can also offer support and encouragement.
  • Avoid temptation. If you know you’re likely to be tempted to spend money, avoid those situations. For example, if you love to shop, don’t go to the mall during your no-spend challenge.
  • Find creative ways to have fun. There are many ways to have fun without spending money. Get creative and find activities that you enjoy that don’t involve spending money.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you slip up and spend money during your no-spend challenge, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just pick yourself up and start again.

The no-spend challenge is a great way to save money, reduce your debt, and become more mindful of your spending habits. It can also be a great way to declutter your life and focus on the things that are most important to you. If you’re interested in trying the no-spend challenge, follow the tips above to get started.

What is interest?

Interest is a concept that affects our financial lives on a daily basis. Whether you’re borrowing money, saving for the future, or investing, interest plays a significant role. In this blog post, we’ll explore what interest is, how it works, and why it matters to you.

How does interest work?

Interest is typically expressed as a percentage and is calculated based on the principal amount, which is the original sum borrowed or invested. There are two main types of interest: simple interest and compound interest.

Simple interest is calculated only on the principal amount. For example, if you borrow £1,000 with a simple interest rate of 5% per year, you’ll pay back £1,050 at the end of the year (£1,000 principal + £50 interest).

Compound interest, on the other hand, takes into account both the principal and the accumulated interest. It’s calculated based on predetermined compounding periods (such as annually, semi-annually, quarterly, or monthly). As interest is added to the principal, future interest is calculated on the new total, resulting in exponential growth over time.

Why does interest matter to you?

Understanding interest is crucial because it impacts your financial decisions. When you borrow money, the interest rate determines how much you’ll have to repay, so it’s essential to compare rates and find the best deal. On the flip side, if you’re saving or investing, the interest rate determines how quickly your money will grow over time. Higher interest rates can lead to greater returns, while lower rates may limit your earning potential.

In conclusion, interest is a fundamental aspect of our financial system. It affects both borrowers and lenders, savers and investors. By grasping the concept of interest, you’ll be better equipped to make informed decisions about borrowing, saving, and investing, ultimately improving your financial well-being in the long run.

Nurturing wise choices: The power of saying ‘no’ to children

As a parent or guardian, you may have experienced a plea from your child/ward to buy something that you hadn’t budgeted for. Here are some tips to consider:

Be empathetic and understanding: Start by acknowledging your child’s desire and show empathy towards their feelings. Let them know that you understand their want and why it is important to them.

Explain the reasons: Provide a clear and age-appropriate explanation of why you are saying no. For example, you can mention budget constraints, the item not being suitable or necessary at the moment, or other priorities that need to be considered.

Offer alternatives: Instead of simply saying no, offer alternatives that are more feasible or aligned with your values. This could involve suggesting a similar, more affordable item, or proposing an alternative activity or experience that could bring joy or fulfil their want in a different way.

Encourage saving and goal-setting: Teach your child the value of saving money and setting goals. Help them understand that if they really want something, they can work towards it by saving their own money or by setting goals to achieve it over time.

Stick to your decision: Once you have explained your reasons and offered alternatives, it’s important to be firm and consistent with your decision. Children need to learn that every want cannot be fulfilled instantly and that it is okay to experience disappointment or frustration.

Remember, it is essential to communicate with your child in a patient and understanding manner, encouraging open dialogue and helping them develop a healthy understanding of needs, wants, and responsible decision-making.