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Ruth, 46

Foster carer Ruth feels financially secure, but often wonders how she’s doing compared to the neighbours. With money being a closed book among her friends, it can be tricky to know what good looks like.

My relationship with money: "Appreciated"

"Money is so transient. When the recession hit, my husband lost every single client over a few months, so went from a big business to making hardly any money at all. We had to start from the bottom and work our way up again, so I don’t take money for granted."

Accounts all over the place gets confusing

"My other half has a savings account which he calls his running away money. Just in case! And we have a joint account where all the bills go out of. And then we have two additional savings accounts where we save £500 or £600 a month. 

"At one point we had so many savings accounts with so many companies and it got really confusing so we brought it all back to Lloyds. But I need to look into that because I don’t think we’re getting interest any more.

"I know interest rates are really bad at the moment but I feel the bank should get in touch with me and tell me, and offer me another savings account, or just move me into another savings account. But you have to do it yourself. And I’m not unhappy about it but if they could contact me and suggest another account, made it as easy as possible and say if you don’t get back to us in 14 days we’ll do it automatically, I’d like that. Save some of the hassle."

Actually... why don't I invest?!

"Many, many years ago I had some shares and made about £100 out of it but haven’t done it since. Not sure why I stopped really. I was very happy with it at the time. And only from this conversation now am I thinking about it again… so maybe I would try again! 

"I’m a bit apprehensive about investing but of course the interest rates for cash are really bad right now. So maybe I’d do a lot of research and start with a small amount first and go from there. That’s how I play Monopoly as well – small amounts to begin with. 

"It would have to be an investment in something I agree with, so not animal testing or anything like that. Maybe something to do with the environment. Something I feel interested in, which I can see how it would move forward and grow."

Talking about money is hard, but can be helpful

"I look at my neighbours sometimes and wonder how they survive on their money. Do they have to worry about it? Can they just do what they want?

"It’s quite a closed book, money. I wouldn’t talk so openly to my friends about money because it’s quite emotive. I remember once one my friends said to the group that she hasn’t got much money, only £20,000 in her savings account. And my other friend was quite upset by that because she didn’t have any money. I just think it wasn’t the right thing to say and you’ve got to be careful because people can get jealous and upset about it.

"If you’re not showing off how much money you’ve got and you’re talking from a generalistic point of view, giving your opinion or some advice, that’s okay. If I wanted to invest in some shares within the next six months, for example, that’s a conversation I would have with somebody. But if I invested £10,000 I wouldn’t openly admit that, because that could upset people. Unless they asked me the question. I’ll tell you but I won’t voluntarily give that information out."

My biggest money question...

"I’m not sure our cash savings are paying any interest any more, so what do you recommend for making the most of them?"

Answer by Tamsin Caine, Smart Financial

It really depends on what your savings are for.

If you have earmarked them for something within the next 5 years or so, I would suggest that you check the interest rate you are receiving and then look online, perhaps using a search engine, for a better rate.

If you are looking at putting the money away for longer, perhaps to supplement retirement income, you could look at investing the money. There are direct-to-customer platforms but I would strongly recommend contacting a financial planner for advice in the first instance, especially if you have never invested before.