9 Of The Most Expensive Foods In the World

wagyu cattle

Goldmine on legs!


We all know that the supermarkets use some clever psychological tricks to get us to shop. But is charging a little, old lady over £520 for her pork chops taking it too far?

You may well have heard the story of how Pam Cole was stung by her local Asda store. Due to the supermarkets cock up, Mrs Cole and her housebound husband had to survive a weekend without two pennies to rub together. On a more cheery note, Asda did refund her money. They also let her have the chops for free and presented her with a £5 voucher. Everyone’s a winner.

Ok, I’m having a little dig. I’m sure Mrs Cole was happy with her freebies. I’m also sure that Asda are happy with the positive publicity they got from this mess. But there are people out there that love to spend outrageous sums of money to sample the finest delicacies on the planet. How much do these delicacies cost? Prepare to be shocked… Continue reading

Why Payday Loans Will Become A Recognised Disease

pills for the payday loan disease

Ever wondered how far over the edge you could be tipped by an addiction to payday loans? Let’s take a look at the potential health related risks you run by running the gauntlet.

The Payday Loan Question Mark

I’m not going to tell that payday loans are the spawn of some hellish creature from a nightmarish hinterland filled with pain and despair. I’m not going to tell you that you should avoid payday loans on pain of a lingering death of your finances. In fact, I will go so far as to say that, in some cases, payday loans can actually benefit you.

Submitting your bank account to a punishing 4000% interest for the sake of a night out on the town is definitely off the cards. But emergencies tend to require snap decisions and, sometimes, small sacrifices. What if a family member falls seriously ill at the end of the month but you can’t afford to travel? In a one off instance like this, the cost is worth bearing.

So, do you REALLY need the loan or is it a nice to have? How easily could this ‘need’ for fast cash become an addiction? In fact, before you answer that second question, let’s take a look at some of the health-related risks that await you.

Addiction

If you’ve ever been addicted to anything you already know about the cravings. Take gambling addiction as a prime example; you become secretive; You gamble even when you don’t have any money; At the most extreme, you’ll steal from friends and family to for what you tell yourself is just one more throw of the dice. Trust me, it’s not nice.

Then there’s the withdrawal symptoms. Sweating, itching and palpitations. In some cases, former gambling addicts have been diagnosed as having mental disorders.

Scary thought? Yes but it serves a purpose…

Debt related nervous breakdown

Could payday loans lead you to have a nervous breakdown? Not directly but they can contribute. Last year, the BBC reported on a man who suffered a nervous breakdown due to his massive debts. I have to admit that, in this case, the cause of his problems came for a £9,000 that he could no longer afford to repay. If you develop a habit of using payday loans on a regular basis you run the risk of running up massive debts.

Payday loan heart attack

I’m not talking about the heart attack you have when you see the interest rates you’re being charged. In this case, the heart is real. Although it’s not directed caused by your loans and repayments it’s still related. Your inability to repay your debts causes stress. Once you apply enough stress the threat of having a heart attack becomes much more real. If you’re a little sceptical take a look at this WebMD article on stress and the heart.

Debt related obesity

Obesity is fast reaching epidemic proportions. By 2030, it’s estimated that 42% of all Americans will be obese and, currently, about 23% of the UK’s population is classed as obese. But what does that have to do with payday loans? Research has shown that individuals with heavy debts tend to eat cheaper food which, in many cases, is loaded with fats and sugar. There’s also a marked decrease in the amount of exercise performed by people with heavy debts.

Mental health and debt

Debt can have a massive affect on your mental health. The Royal College of Psychiastrists give an example how easy it is to fall into debt (the bullet points follow one persons journey into debt and show how even a few missed bills can set off a downward spiral). Depression and anxiety are two points addressed as being two, very real examples of how debt can harm your mental health.

Why aren’t payday loans recognised as an illness?

Normally, at this point, you’d expect me to start giving you advice on how to break your debt habits (but I won’t because you can simply follow the link. What I will say is that debt would appear to be far more than just a problem that affects our finances; if you’re not careful, you run the very real risk of falling foul of one of the payday loan diseases.


Watchdog to Investigate high petrol prices

fuel prices

Let's hope fuel prices never hit these highs!

In a long awaited move the spiralling price of petrol is to be investigated by watchdog to ensure that you, as a customer, aren’t being ripped off.

Opinions on the UK’s £32 billion petrol and diesel marketplace are being asked of both motoring groups and consumers in order to get a broad range of views on the sector.

Between mid-2007 and the same time this year, petrol prices has risen by over 38%. The cost of diesel has sky-rocketed by about 43%. Continue reading

How To Retire At 55: The Bad And The Good

How to retire at 55 with a few tips from Scrooge

Honestly, how many of you really want to retire at 55? Spending your childrens inheritance and taking numerous holidays to sun-kissed shores might seem appealing but you need some serious funding.

So, with that thought in mind, here are a few pointers on how to build a tidy retirement fund (bearing in mind that you’ll need roughly £550,000 to be comfortable).

We’ve already had some tongue in cheek money saving tips from Scrooge. Now you’re about to get some more advice on how to power up your pension pot. Continue reading

Could You Live On £7 A Week Pension?

Data released by the Department of Works and Pensions has highlighted a staggering difference in state pension payouts. Figures show pension incomes ranging as little as £7 a week up to over £230 a week.

The huge difference in payments stems from the baffling array of additional top-ups available in the existing pension system. The government is planning to remove these variations by introducing a new flat rate pension scheme. Continue reading

Mobile Phone Shops Misleading Customers

When is your fixed price phone contract not fixed price? When the mobile phones companies
decided it’s time to raise the tariff
!

A report by consumer magazine, Which, has found that over 80% of mobile phone shops are
misleading their customers. Buyers are being supplied with incorrect information about the
price rises.

What does this mean for you? Quite simply, the “fixed” price on your monthly tariff can
actually rise. What’s worse is that you’re powerless to do anything. In fact, some
customers who decided to break their contract in protest at the rises ended up paying hefty
penalties.

The practise, which uses hidden contract clauses, is regularly used to bring in extra income for the mobile phone industry. Potentially, the industry can earn as much as £90 million a year from these clauses.

Over the past 12 months, at least four out of the five biggest mobile operators have raised their prices. Recently, Three raised the price by 3.6%. In October, Vodafone delivered a stinging price rise by doubling rates for internet traffic and rounding contracts up to the nearest 50p.

Orange and T-Mobile raised their prices by 4.34% and 3.7%, respectively.

Vodafone allowed customers whose bills rose by over 10% to terminate their contract free of charge. On the other hand, T-Mobile and Orange charged their customers an early termination fee.

Which, whose Fixed Means Fixed campaign aims to ensure pricing remains fixed, has called form greater transparency.

Mobile operators are being encouraged to tell customers that they face potential price rises.

The watchdog is also recommending that customers be allowed to terminate their contract freely is prices do increase.

Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which, said, “There should be no nasty surprises after signing a mobile contract. People must be confident that fixed reall does mean fixed.”

Which has also lodged a complaint with Ofcom who have confirmed that they have been investigating the pratis since January following complaints.

The Ofcom review will examine how providers handle changes to fixed price contracts and present a series of recommendations.

What Can The Banks Learn From Olympic Athletes

london olympics logo 2012

What does it take to be an Olympic champion? More importantly, could the UK’s banking sector benefit from a few lessons in fair play?

Now, and this is a personal opinion, if we were to compare the UK’s banking sector to Olympians, what would we see? A group of people determined to win at any odds even to point of gorging themselves on performance enhancing drugs.

So, what can the banks learn from Olympic athletes?

A Sense Of Fair Play

This had to be top of the list. I understand that banks are like any other business; they need to make a profit or they’ll go under. The issue that many people have is the way the bankers go about business. Billions of pounds have been injected into the UK’s creaking banks. Little, if any, of that money has seen it’s way back into the hands of the people that propped up the banks: taxpayers.

If the bankers really want to redeem themselves they need to start lending again. To some, awarding yourself a massive bonus from the money the taxpayers provided to prop up your bank may seem fair. To the investors flocking away from the traditional banking system, it’s actually a slap in the face.

The Unrelenting Pursuit Of Excellence

what is the opposite of excellence? Failure? Mediocrity? Indifference? I’ll side with the last option. Olympians cannot be indifferent. Have you ever heard a winning athlete say, ‘whatever’? Given the number and scale of banking cock ups over the last few years, it’s easier to envisage a champagne swilling trader uttering an apathetic word.

So what can the tainted financial institutions learn? It’s about more than just them and their huge piles of cash. Indifference to the pain of their customers leads to revolt. Revolt leads to you and I heading off to Dave Fishwick’s bank. Why? Because he cares. He’s not indifferent to the outcome just like Jessica Ennis relentlessly pursues excellence in order to win the Heptathlon.

Courage To Succeed

I could have easily highlighted a desire to succeed as an example of how Olympic athletes lead the way. But it’s not the right word. We all have desires but that doesn’t mean they’ll ever amount to anything. But courage is a different matter. Once an athlete has the desire to succeed it’s up to them to have the courage to push for the top. Desire seeds your ambition; courage sees it reach fruition.

But how does this apply to the banks? Surely they’re filled with people who have reached the top of the financial food chain? Yes, this is true but you have to consider the lack of courage this promotion process takes. Many bankers think that they should be highly paid because of the risks they take… with other peoples money! Instead of cutting and running at the first sign of trouble wouldn’t it be better if they were a little more courageous in the way they handle our money? Making a fat commission is less important than having the balls to protect what’s important – the customers money.

Discipline and Consistency

Olympic athletes not to be not only disciplined but they need to be consistent. They need to maintain both of these traits in training and competition. An athlete needs to push through fatigue, personal problems and personal difficulties so that create the right mindset for achieving their goals.

Certain jobs in the banking sector do require discipline. Without this personal trait, we’d see a lot more failed banks. What does let some institutions down is their level of consistency. Consistently earning massive bonuses may be important but delivering consistent returns for the customers is more important. Let’s look at it another way – it’s easy to be consistenlty crap but it takes real effort and dedication to be consistently good.

Coping With Adversity

Where does strength of character come from? It’s built up from many differing experiences but one of the key foundations is found in an athletes ability to overcome adverse conditions. To know what it’s like to lose with grace. To come back from failure with more determination to win. To finally recognise that it’s time to hang up their medals and take a job in TV!

This is the most dificult one for me to answer. I’m sure that any bank employee reading this will give me numerous examples of adversity in their job. I welcome your insights – please leave them in the comments – but the most important point to take away from this example is falling on your sword.

If you have any other thoughts or ideas then let me know in the comments section. Whilst your’re here I really do think you should follow us on Twitter ;).


Why Mervin Kings Helicopter Will Be Dropping Money On You

How would you like to see money being thrown out of a helicopter as it hovers over you house?

However unlikely it may seem, we’re edging ever closer to the realisation of Ben Bernanke’s 2003 speech in which he talked about dropping money from a helicopter. Since that day, he has had the dubious honour of being known as ‘helicopter’ Bernanke.

But could this fantasy be played out for real in the UK? Yes. In fact, it has already started to happen.

Ok, there’s little likelihood of your ‘favourite’ bank freely dishing out cash from a large brown bag. It’s even less likely that he’d hire a helicopter from which to dispense the cash. What is more likely is that the the Bank of England committee has already been operating a variation of this idea for quite some time.

Printing money has a similar effect. Instead of simply giving the money away to the people that need it the most, the Bank of England bought gilts from financial institutions. Buying these guilts raised their value (similar to the way a buying frenzy on the stock market causes share prices to rise). In turn, government borrowing became cheaper.

The intended outcome of all this quantitative easing was that the bankers would suddenly realise the world hadn’t ended. They’d realise they did still have customers to service. More importantly, they would start lending to those customers again. Sadly, the banks decided to do their own thing and, in effect, pocketed your money.



Can You See A Helicopter On The Horizon?

Ironically, the excesses of the banks might actually see money being quite literally dropped into customers waiting hands.

Way back before quantitative easing was even a twinkle in Mervin King’s eye, the banks were already treating customers with contempt. Outrageous fees for being overdrawn, mis-sold credit card PPI and the investment mess have made the banks look out of touch.

More recent cases such as the Libor fixing scandal have hurt the banks reputation. I have no doubt that, at some point in the future, the banks will be fined and customers will start to reclaim some compensation for this latest fiasco.

The first helicopter most of us will have seen is the one carrying the compensation from the PPI claims. In most cases, the awards given to customers reached a maximum of about £3,000. Yes, it is your money that was misappropiated and you’re entitled to it. But there’s more to come.

Mortgage PPI is being very closely examined and it seems likely that home owners mis-sold this type of insurance will be eligible to claim. How much is this going to cost the banks? A lot. Stephen Hester, head of RBS, has already said that the £9 billion put aside for compensation may not be enough.

Can you see the helicopter now? It’s the one loaded with cash put aside to cover the mortgage PPI payments and it’s going to land in your waiting hands.

To be fair, we deserve all the money we can get back from the banks. The financial institutions have a done a first class job of taking money from the tax payer to prop themselves up. We all understand that banks need to be protected, to a degree. But, at the rotten heart of it all, we don’t expect our money to fund bankers massive bonuses.

With that last thought in mind, it’s time to set your alarm clock and wait for Mervin King and his helicopter full of cash.


Why We Should Pay More For Carrier Bags

How much are your carrier bags costing you and the planet? Can raising the price you pay at the supermarket make you more environmentally aware as well as helping others?

Making them more expensive might seem extreme but my proposition isn’t simply madness. Raising the cost of a plastic bag for your shopping makes sense in many ways.

Saving the planet

Waste from the UK is routinely transported to other countries for disposal. In some cases the waste disposal process consists of simply dumping the rubbish in places liks India. As a responsible shopper, the thought of my rubbish polluting someone elses countryside makes me sad.

What’s worse is the impact on wildlife. A recent report highlighted the death of a sperm whale after its stomach had been blocked by a plastic bottle. And it’s getting worse. Do you really want you children to learn about the bygone beauty of our planet
through history books?

Helping the eco industry

All around the world, there’s a growing eco industry. The problem is that, for some of you, the prices they charge are simply too high to contemplate. As we reject the accepted use of plastic carrier bags we force the supermarkets and shops to source their bags and containers from ethical sources. As the demand on these industries grows the price of production starts to fall. This means the cost to you, the consumer, starts to fall as well. Green and cheap – who can argue with that?

Supporting charity

How does supporting charity fit in with paying more for your plastic shopping bags? Rather than filling the supermarkets tills as extra profit, all the money raised will go to charity. Every month, the newly appointed ‘Minister for plastic Bags’ will randomly select 10 charities from his big book of good causes. The proceeds raised from carrier bags sales over the last month will then be split between them. Bonkers idea? Not really, the National Lottery is doing it so why can’t we do it again?

You save more money

How much does a carrier bag currently cost? In many cases, they’re free. Some of the larget chains of shops and supermarkets are making customers pay 5p for a bag. Let’s say we use an average of 6 carrier bags per week and multiply that by 50 (not 52 as we do need to go on holiday sometime :)).That’s £15 per year. I reckon we could fit in about 40 years of shopping in our lives which means you’re going to spend about £600 on shopping bags in your
lifetime (not including inflation). Now compare that to buying a £3.99 reusable shopping bag for that lasts for 5 years.

Job creation in sustainable industries

Jobs will be lost in the industries that supply the carrier bags and the materials neeeded to make them. As sustainable industries start to fill the gap left by the demise of existing carriers bags then jobs will be created in this new, sustainable industry. It’s win-win for everyone – killer carrier bags are dead and the greeen industry gets a boost – consumer and manufacturer alike.

Lower taxes for manufacturers

This might seem counter intuitive but let’s look at this a little more closely. Manufacturing industries need to keep production costs as low as possible. If the cost is too high then nobody will buy hence forcing the price up to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags. For the new industry to gain a foothold the government will have to reduce the taxes on the raw materials and finished products. It’s a long shot but a well
place ‘petition in the nuts’ might spur the Chancellor into action.

Improving your memory

How often do you go out with good intentions? The boot of your car is filled with environmentally friendly bags. The problem comes when you get to town. Instead of heading straight to the supermarket you visit the newsagent. As you’re walking, taking your own bags is a hassle. From the news agent, you head directly to the supermarket – without your shopping bags. Familiar story? I think I may have just invented a new way to improve you memory!