The latest report on minimum income standards from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation led to headlines about overall costs – a single person needs an income of £16,400 a year before tax. But it is the process and thinking behind the report that are most of interest to financial educators.
The survey is based on a simple exercise. Put people in a room and get them to agree what is the minimum needed to take part in society.
Then cost it.
This means people debating and trying to come to agreement about such questions as:
- Do you need a car? Does it depend on where you live and what bus services are like? What impact might it have on going out, meeting friends? Or getting a better job, or a job at all?
- How often do you need a haircut? The mayor of London manages without. Can anyone?
- Do you need to buy friends birthday cards and presents? How does it affect life if you don’t, or can’t?
- What about a holiday? If you cannot afford one, does that mean you are missing out on something that society takes for granted? If everyone needs one, how long, how often and where?
The exercise is about society and attitudes. Getting an understanding of that can help prioritise. It focuses on the need to plan for lumpy spending items. It is also helpful for young people to see the sheer number of things that have to be considered in order to live independently and take a full part in society.
For a bit of perspective, it’s also worth knowing that the JRF calculate that a single person needs a net income, after tax and rent, of £193 a week. Benefit, including council tax benefit, would provide £85 a week. That’s £108 a week short of what most people agree they would need.