Number-phobia all too real for a fifth of Brits, according to new research

National Numeracy Day 2024

National Numeracy Day 2024

One in five UK adults reckon their fear of numbers is holding them back from making their money go further.

And 19 per cent said the cost-of-living crisis has highlighted their weakness.

The study of 3,000 people revealed that 20 per cent of Brits struggle with everyday maths problems, from calculating discounts and negotiating prices, to understanding the terms of a loan.

The sobering findings land ahead of the seventh annual National Numeracy Day on Wednesday 22 May, looking to inspire everyone to have the number confidence and skills they need to get on in life.

Nearly a fifth (19 per cent) believe they would be better off financially if they improved their number confidence and were more skilled at setting budgets, understanding interest rates and comparing deals.

However, calculating discounts, understanding the terms of a loan and negotiating prices of things were also the top financial scenarios adults admitted to fearfully dodging due to the numbers involved.

Avoidance tactics extended to financial news, with 29 per cent side-stepping news headlines due to a lack of interest, finding it too complex or simply considering it depressing.

Bina Mehta, Chair at KPMG in the UK, which commissioned the research, said:

“In today's complex world, numeracy skills are fundamental in promoting financial inclusion and enabling individuals to make informed choices, especially against the backdrop of the current cost of- living crisis.

“Those lacking number confidence are even more vulnerable to debt, unemployment and fraud, and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds are disproportionately impacted.

“If we want to build a fairer and more inclusive economy, individuals, businesses, policy makers and education leaders all have a crucial role to play in ensuring numeracy skills are prioritised.”

Despite the reluctance to tackle their numeracy a quarter (25 per cent) of respondents  believe stronger numeracy skills could have helped them to better navigate the cost-of-living crisis.

As many as 42 per cent said they could have put more money aside for price increases, while 41% believed they could have budgeted more effectively.

When it comes to frequently used financial terms, stocks, personal contract purchases (PCP) and bonds were among those considered ‘mind-bending’, alongside Annual Percentage Rate (APR), credit scores and mortgage rates.

The survey, carried out by OnePoll on behalf of KPMG UK and charity National Numeracy, found that 21 per cent of respondents lean on others to assist or take charge of their personal finances due to inadequate maths skills.

While a fifth (21 per cent) admitted to simply ‘burying their head in the sand’ when it comes to managing their money for the same reason.

Sam Sims, Chief Executive at National Numeracy which runs the National Numeracy Day campaign, added:

“Soaring costs for energy, food and other basic essentials have hit those worst off the hardest. The survey results show a lack of number confidence is compounding money worries for millions.

“Clearly, the confidence to understand and work with numbers can no longer be viewed as a ‘nice to have’ but as crucial to navigating not only our finances, but daily life.

“Good numeracy is a pillar for building a financially inclusive, resilient and socially mobile nation. Join us this National Numeracy Day”.


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