What is Couch to Financial Fitness programme all about?

Summary 

  • Launched by MoneyHelper, Couch to Financial Fitness is an online programme to help people deal with the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The new programme is based on a similar platform called Couch to 5K, which aims at physical fitness instead.

Inspired by the popular training app delivered by PHE (Public Health England) and the BBC called ‘Couch to 5K’, a new online programme has been launched by MoneyHelper to support people on the road to financial recovery post the Covid-19 pandemic. Previously known as the Money Advice Service and Pension Wise, MoneyHelper is a government-backed service. The aim of the programme is to make progress towards financial fitness and cope up with the negative financial impact of the pandemic.

Couch to 5K app

Since the beginning of the pandemic till now, i.e. March 2020 to July 2021, this app with a free running plan for beginners has been downloaded around 2.36 million times. As of July 2021, the app has been downloaded over 5 million times. As more people are focusing on fitness and trying to be active during the lockdown, there was a tremendous surge in the downloads of the app, growing significantly by 92% from 2019 to 2020. The app is designed to support the people who are not engaged much in physical fitness, and thus helps them in improving their health while tracking their progress per week. At present, Couch to 5K holds a position among the top fitness apps in the UK, as it is engaged in developing a healthier lifestyle for people and improving their physical as well as mental health.

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Financial Fitness

Just like Couch to 5K is aimed at improving the physical fitness of people, Couch to Financial Fitness is an online programme designed to improve the financial wellbeing of people. The new programme will also work on a weekly basis, and will guide the people to become financially fit, while tracking their progress per week. As the world is navigating through the Covid-19 pandemic, it is a crucial time for personal finances as the support provided by the Government is scaling back gradually. A similar format as Couch to 5K is being used by this new programme, as it helps people achieve financial fitness, much the same as Couch to 5K app helps beginners build up their stamina to be able to run 5 kilometers.

Couch to Financial Fitness programme comprises of many activities over the first four weeks, which are aimed to support the people with financial management, including saving, cutting costs, budgeting, and bill payments. A five-week extension follows it, which gives explanations for issues regarding mortgages, borrowing, saving for retirement, as well as the financial costs of starting a family. This will help in strengthening the financial habits of people and making them financially sound.

The programme is already being trialled across the UK by MoneyHelper to help people understand how to manage and organise their finances. MoneyHelper has helped people become debt-free by getting them in contact with free debt advisors, who provide immediate guidance and support to help people deal with debt-related issues. The trials have more or less proved to be successful, and have helped people become more financially savvy and confident. Free money and guidance related to pensions were already being provided by MoneyHelper over the phone, through online means, as well as one-on-one. But due to pandemic restrictions, the last option has been suspended.

As the pandemic has hit the financial stability of people, the demand for financial advice has substantially increased during the pandemic. According to a recent study conducted by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the financial situation of around 20 million adults. Additionally, as per The Money Charity, approximately 9 million people were compelled to borrow more because of the pandemic, as of December 2020. This has resulted in a sharp rise in the number of visits on the website of MoneyHelper, jumping to 49 million from 1.2 million last year.

Financial wellbeing has been an issue for people even before the pandemic started. According to the UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing, even before the pandemic, 22 million people didn’t have enough knowledge about how to plan for their post-retirement life, and 11.5 million people had a total saving of under £100, which isn’t enough to deal with a financial shock. Around 60% of the people believe that their already existing financial concerns have increased due to the pandemic.

Way Ahead

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a drastic impact on the personal finances of people. People have been dealing with financial scams, unsecured debt increase, cut back on essentials like food and clothing, increase in borrowings from friends and family, payment deferral on mortgages, and an unwarranted income fall. Thus, taking part in this new money coaching programme will potentially prove out to be quite beneficial in improving the financial condition of people while guiding them towards a better and secure future.

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