First Class - Majority of students are good with their money

Tuesday 21 August 2018

· Three-quarters of students (73%) feel confident managing their money

· Eight in 10 (77%) have savings in the bank

· But a significant minority of students have fallen behind on bills within the last six months

It’s often assumed that students are bad with money, yet a new study has found that the majority (73%) feel confident managing their finances.

According to research by the Money Advice Service, in partnership with the National Association of Student Money Advisers (NASMA), who surveyed over 5,000 full-time undergraduate students in the UK, half (56%) are satisfied with their financial circumstances1. In practice, eight in 10 report they keep track of their personal expenditure, with three in five (59%) setting a budget.

Furthermore, 77 per cent have savings either in a dedicated account, their current account or an ISA, with two in five (40%) saving money most months of the year. Students who do save are most likely to be saving for a holiday (42%), living expenses after graduation (39%) or a deposit to purchase a home in future (31%).

However, not all young people have control over their finances. One in five (20%) find themselves frequently overdrawn. Of those who have been overdrawn at some time, 40 per cent have gone over or used an unauthorised overdraft, meaning they are likely to have faced additional charges and fees.

In total, 38% of students (607,000) have some form of outstanding non-student loan debt, with just under one in five (18%) owing £1,000 or more. While for most, this is on overdrafts or credit cards (30%), 6% of students have at some point turned to short-term borrowing, such as payday loans, to make ends meet.

Even more worrying is the fact that in the last six months, 176,000 students (11%) have fallen behind or missed payments on university accommodation, credit cards, household bills or other debts in the last six months. And a fifth (21%) owe more money in 2018 than they did last year – a concerning trend, particularly when interest rates are on the rise.

The study finds a socio-economic divide when it comes to financial wellbeing. Students from less affluent backgrounds are more likely to be unsatisfied with their financial circumstances (34%) than those who come from more well-off backgrounds. Similarly, this group is also more likely2 to be regularly overdrawn.

There is also a similar trend with those students attending post-1992 Universities (formerly polytechnics or colleges of higher education), with a third (33%) unsatisfied with their financial circumstances, compared with only 20 per cent attending a Russell Group University.

And money troubles can affect mental health, almost two-thirds of students (65%), the equivalent of more than a million people, have had a negative experience including mental health difficulties, due to their financial situation. Among those most likely to have trouble are students who frequently go into their overdraft.

Yet, the overwhelming majority (89%) of students that need guidance will seek it out, with parents (71%) and friends (54%) proving a popular choice when it comes to discussing money matters.

Joe Surtees, Policy Manager at Money Advice Service, who wrote the summary report said: “Our research challenges the idea that students are financially irresponsible. Most seem to show signs of being financially capable, keeping a close track of their money and frequently putting savings aside for a rainy day. However, a significant minority are still struggling with their finances, which may increase the chances of falling into a spiral of debt in the future.”

“Most importantly if you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to seek help. The second you open up about your financial circumstances, the sooner you can get help and get back on track with your finances. For those who have trouble, organisations such as the Money Advice Service and the National Association of Student Money Advisers can help.”

John Penberthy-Smith, Customer Director at the Money Advice Service commented: “This research shows that, contrary to what you might expect, students can teach the rest of us how to manage our money better. It’s great to see so many young people embracing the money management skills that will set them up well for the future. But it’s essential that they know free and impartial help is available if they need it. There are loads of great budgeting and saving tools on our website or NASMA will be able to point them in the right direction.”

Wendy Bainham of NASMA’s Financial Capability Committee, added: “It can be a challenge managing money as a student, as you are often left with lump sums to carefully budget out over a period of months. That is why it is encouraging that so many students are willing to seek guidance.

“While it’s good to ask mum and dad for help managing money, the first port of call should be the experts at MAS, NASMA or the NUS. There are NASMA advisors based in over 600 universities, colleges or places of higher education who are professionally trained to help students with all manner of financial queries – no matter how big or small.

The Money Advice Service and the National Association of Student Money Advisers (NASMA) have recently created a diagnostic tool looking at different financial personalities to help students improve their financial capability. More information can be found here:

- ENDS -


To understand the financial pressures facing students, the Money Advice Service (MAS) in partnership with the National Association of Student Money Advisers (NASMA), commissioned a unique survey of the student population, with 5,118 students taking part. The survey examines the student experience of money at university, its findings are available here:

For media enquiries contact:

· Ione Gyamfi on 0207 943 0593

· Dan Thompson at Third City on 0203 657 9773


1 This is excluding student loan debt

2 23% of students in the ‘C2DE’ bracket say they ‘frequently’ go into their overdraft vs 20% average

About the Money Advice Service

The Money Advice Service is an independent organisation. It gives free, unbiased money guidance online at or via free phone on 0800 138 7777. It also manages the delivery of Debt advice across the UK, which is provided through a variety of partners. The Service was set up by Government and is paid for by a statutory levy on the financial services industry, raised through the Financial Conduct Authority. Its statutory objectives are to enhance the understanding and knowledge of members of the public about financial matters (including the UK financial system); and to enhance the ability of members of the public to manage their own financial affairs.


The National Association of Student Money Advisers is a registered charity, working across the sector to share best practice and educate students by delivering informative, supportive and empowering solutions in an approachable and effective manner. It has members in all four countries in the UK and is recognised as a leading authority on all matters relating to student advice and funding. It works closely with national decision makers and their influencers on student finance policy and promotes the needs of students and its members including:

  • Student Money Advisers in Universities, Colleges of Higher Education, Students’ Unions, Guilds and Associations
  • Discretionary Fund and Bursary Administrators in Higher Education Institutions
  • Staff in Further Education Colleges whose remit includes money advice and/or discretionary fund administration