Financial Lives is the FCA’s largest tracking survey of consumers and their use of financial services, drawing on responses from just under 13,000 UK consumers aged 18 and over. The aim of the survey is to provide the FCA with unique insights into people’s experiences of retail financial products and services. The findings will help the FCA meet its objectives.

The survey collects information about the financial products consumers use and their attitudes to managing their money. It covers their experiences of using financial products and services, as well as their experiences of dealing with the firms that provide them.  The report tells the financial story for six different age groups to show key themes at each life stage, from those 18-24 to those 65 and over.

50% of UK adults (25.6 million) display one or more characteristics that signal their potential vulnerability – they may be at increased risk of harm, or would suffer disproportionately if harm occurred. Potential vulnerability does not mean all people with these characteristics will suffer harm.

For all age groups the proportions showing characteristics of vulnerability are around the national average of 50%, except that for those 75 and over the proportions showing vulnerable characteristics are higher:  69% for the 75s and over, and 77% for the 85s and over.

The highest proportion (77%) of those with these characteristics are among the unbanked, and among the unemployed who are looking for work. Women account for the larger number of those with these characteristics, compared with men (46% or 11.7 million), as 53% of UK women (or 13.9 million) are potentially vulnerable.

Looking at the survey results from an age group perspective, the data reveal some interesting characteristics of UK consumers:  

  • Single parents aged 18-34 are 3 times as likely to use high-cost loans: 17% compared to the UK average of 6%
  • We describe 13% of 25-34 year olds as being in difficulty, because they have missed paying domestic bills or meeting credit commitments in 3 or more of the last 6 months
  • Just 35% of those aged 45-54 have given a great deal of thought as to how they will manage in retirement
  • Those aged 65 and over are least likely to check if an internet site is secure before giving their bank or credit card details

The Financial Lives Survey 2017 is just one of our sources of information on potential harm, seen from the point of view of the consumer. The survey results will contribute to our understanding of harm, in support of the FCA’s ‘Mission'.

This publication is the second in a series of documents the FCA is publishing this autumn as part of its focus on consumers. It follows the publication of our ‘Ageing Population and Financial Services’ Occasional Paper last month. The FCA will publish an overarching strategy ‘Approach to Consumers’ later this year.

The FCA will also be releasing weighted data tables with the report so that other organisations will be able to use the survey findings for research purposes.

Andrew Bailey, FCA Chief Executive, said: “I would like to thank everyone who took part in the survey. The findings give us a wealth of information which will be used to increase our knowledge and understanding of the issues affecting consumers and how to best protect them. The data gathered will be invaluable in helping the FCA prioritise our work. We also hope that the research will provide valuable insight for other organisations focusing on consumers and finance.”

Notes to editors

  1. Read the Financial Lives Survey 2017 Report.
  2. Read the Ageing Population and Financial Services Occasional Paper.
  3. On 1 April 2013, the FCA became responsible for the conduct supervision of all regulated financial firms and the prudential supervision of those not supervised by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA).
  4. The FCA has an overarching strategic objective of ensuring the relevant markets function well. To support this it has three operational objectives: to secure an appropriate degree of protection for consumers; to protect and enhance the integrity of the UK financial system; and to promote effective competition in the interests of consumers.
  5. Find out more information about the FCA.

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