I am a money expert – this was my biggest financial mistake

If money gives you the “x” and you’d rather run for the hills than check your bank balance, there’s a new book aimed squarely at you.

Personal finance expert Claire Barrett, a regular on ITV’s Lorraine, says her new book is aimed “especially at people who would never buy a book about money”.

What They Won’t Teach You About Money distills Barrett’s 20 years of journalism knowledge into simple and practical recommendations.

Its release comes at a time when many of us are looking for ways to stretch our money further and do more.

Perhaps unexpectedly, for a book about finance, there is humor infused into it. Chapter One: Sorting Out Financial Losses.

It’s also a very honest read, where Barrett reveals some of the financial mistakes he made in his youth and what he learned from them.

“I was able to make the same mistakes as a teenager, a 20-something, but they didn’t have any lasting consequences,” Barrett tells me.

“But nowadays, if you make a financial mistake, especially if you go into debt at a young age, the consequences can be long-lasting.



Nowadays, if you make a financial mistake, especially if you go into debt at a young age, the consequences can be far more profound and last throughout your life.

Claire Barrett

“I think the biggest financial mistake I made in my first proper job was thinking, ‘I’m not going to sign up for a pension because I probably won’t be here long.’ And then I was about seven years old!”

We now have auto-enrolment into workplace pensions, which encourages people to take action.

The book also gives an insight into where Barrett, who is consumer editor of the Financial Times and hosts the FT’s Money Clinic podcast, got his financial basics before going into journalism.

Although money was tight growing up, she says she felt secure knowing her parents would work together on a budget as a couple.

“I was lucky for the most part, because my parents had a great influence on me, they solved problems together. They did not run away from money problems,” he says.

Reading Barrett’s book is like talking to a supportive friend.

She says she wants to help make financial education “accessible and less scary and stressful,” because worrying about money can be a barrier to doing it.

Barrett also highlights the huge need for financial education at school, university and the workplace, detailing all the “financial conundrums” people are expected to solve, including childcare costs, energy bills and support schemes for the latest pandemic.

One way to shed light on the finances of couples saving for retirement is to find out what their own “pension gap” in the relationship is, says Barrett. This may be particularly evident if one person in the couple takes on more childcare responsibilities and reduces their paid work.

Barrett suggests, “Ask your partner how much money they have in their retirement fund and find out how much money you have in yours, then compare the two numbers.

“By putting these stories and numbers out in the open, I think more couples will wake up and say, ‘Wait a minute, this is a big deal.’ What do our elected politicians propose to do about it? How can that be true?’

Barrett also points to the large influence of consumer culture and firms’ marketing budgets.

He’s a big fan of the BBC’s Sort Your Life Out, which sees presenter Stacey Solomon and her team help people achieve life-changing things.

When Barrett saw it, he said, “Being a finance guy, I can’t help but think that a quarter of the stuff in the warehouse is money that could go into a pension. This is money that can be saved or invested.”

He admits that the stores’ discounts are tempting.

Weighing the short-term upside of buying something now against long-term goals can sometimes be helpful, sometimes when the urge to splurge is strong.

Barrett suggests asking yourself, “Are these deals really a deal?

“Or really, can you use your money more strategically, like a tool rather than something to be spent?”

Avoidance, such as putting off financial decisions or leaving bank statements open, can also get in the way of working with money.

Barrett sets aside the “golden hour” on Sunday mornings to be above the financial administrator.

While times are tough right now, Barrett believes there is a growing desire to learn more about money.

“Money is the number one topic of conversation in UK homes these days.

“It’s for the wrong reasons, because we’re not enough for him, but he’s starting to break the ban on talking about money.”

He feels that people are becoming more willing to ask for help and look for content online.

But in a world where chatbots are widespread, it’s not always easy to talk to a human.

“That’s where I hope the book helps people regain their confidence by giving them a sense of the unwarranted with a few laughs,” says Barrett.

What They Don’t Teach You About Money is published by Penguin, £10.99. Available now.

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