Kiddie Accounts, Deposit Interest.
I got my first bank account at age 11. £10 was in a Post Office Savings Account that my folks handed to me when they left me at boarding school before travelling to South America. Supposedly "for emergencies", though I had none, and that account ran until I left school. I haven't closed it and still have the passbook, however the last entry was several decades ago and it'll be classed as dormant and unclaimed.
I liked having the account at that young age. Post Offices were plentiful and they never asked for identification wherever I went. I could put in pennies and withdraw the same, but what I liked most was when they added interest to the account. That was fun, something for nothing - brilliant!
Of course I learned that banks use our deposits to lend to others. I understood this was a risk, so my interest was a form of payment to allow them to do these things. It suited the bank and it suited me just fine. It also helped me understand the basics of finance and, though it may sound daft, I got a kick out of being a tiny part of the system.
Of course all that's gone. Sure some banks have kiddie accounts and even the Post Office still has one, but most demand a fair chunk of cash to set one up - and the 2 to 3% they offer is only for the first couple of thousand Pounds, then it drops to the standard 0.25% which, let's face it, is an insult. And any kid who tries to front up at a bank counter to pay in a couple of pennies is unlikely to want to try doing it twice - and never without identification.
Of course this business of zero or near zero interest on deposits has been going on for 9 years now and there's no end in sight for savers, so I can't blame young people for not being that enthusiastic about banks, their accounts or saving through them. Much better to spend what you have as soon as possible and get into collecting or barter, and this is where auction sites and on-line classified adverts become useful, because every kind of collectable is gaining in value, even things as mundane as Toby Jugs. And this is the part I like, those who trade, collect or deal in real assets are more inclined to keep their activities and profits to themselves, meaning they learn early how to minimize their tax bill and hide their wealth. Something they're unlikely to ever want to change.
So an awful lot of young people have no financial stake in this economy. They may be forced to open an account by their employer, but that's for their employers' convenience, not theirs. Nope, if they open an account it's far more likely they'll do so just to get a credit card, an essential part of trading on-line.
And banks do have a lot to answer for, most notably those that were managed by rank outsiders. But one thing they no longer have is the income that our dormant and unclaimed balances used to offer the banks. That used to be a source of cheap finance to the banks and subsidized many services they offered for free. Now banks have to hand over the income they make on these funds to big lottery - and they give it away to outfits like ASH Scotland - £500,000 (01) and ASH Wales - £864,881 (02).
Some individuals think that the balances held in dormant and unclaimed balances is trifling, however the interest on those balances amounted to a whopping £50 million in 2014 and £37 million in 2015 (03). At 0.5% interest, the lower amount means there's more than £7,400,000,000 in the system - and a big chunk of that is from families wiped out in WW1 and WW2, many of whom had accounts in this country, but were not British. It's a staggering amount that's built up - and while it may sound jolly wonderful to hand the income to "good causes", the productive sector is being shafted and that's one reason why some banks charge small businesses for holding their current accounts. It also places our banks at a competitive disadvantage as few other countries have such myopic laws (witness the way Santander is buying up our smaller banks and building societies).
Driving Licences. Mopeds, Motorbikes, Scooters and Cars.
The month before I turned 16 I made sure I had a provisional driving licence and the day I was 16 I collected a tired and careworn (but cheap) NSU Quickly moped that I rode for about 70 miles, from Alloa to Edinburgh before embarking on a night time ride back to school. Okay there was no training nor crash helmet, however the roads were not as jam packed as they are today, so by the time that day was over I'd learned all I needed to know about cruising at 18 to 20 mph, with a top whack of about 24 mph. Oh and the pathetic performance of a 6 volt direct lighting system at night as well as the insulating qualities of a gabardine school coat in early March!
Three years later when I passed my test to ride a motorcycle, I did so on a Honda 50. At that time a pass, even on a 50cc, meant I could then ride any motorcycle of any size. But the irony was when I did eventually pass my test to drive a car I found it also included the right to ride a moped!
I think these small engined motorcycles and scooters are a great way to reduce journey times in town and are way ahead of any other form of personal transport in terms of CO2 emissions, so you'd think our government would be doing all it can to encourage people to use them. No they don't. In 2001 they changed the rules so that people who pass their car test no longer get a moped entitlement included as part of the package. Now they have to spend one complete day convincing a trainer they can handle a little-bitty moped via a thing called Compulsory Basic Training before they can ride on the road on a vehicle that has a top speed of 45 kph (28 mph) - a speed that's downright dangerous, yet mandated by politicians in the EU!
I find it ludicrous that once you've passed your car test you can drive anything you wish, from a city car through to a whacking great 4x4, but you cannot ride a moped without further training! And even if you stick with two wheels you can only ride a 125cc machine with a maximum power of 11 kw from ages 17 to 19, then you can progress to one that's at least 400cc and puts out between 25 and 33 kw. Then you have to wait until age 21 to go for an unlimited license. If you have no prior experience of riding motorbikes then you must wait until you're 24 before they'll allow you to sit for an open license.
It's fairly complicated when compared to a car test, however this place does its best to explain it (04). One thing these rules have done is decimated the number of people who actually sit their scooter or motorcycle test. Partly it's cost, partly it's the time needed and partly it's the fact that you'll have to sit three separate tests to get an open license - and with each module costing between £500 and £600, and a basic riding kit costing from £100 to thousands, it's way beyond the means of most youngsters (05).
So numbers have collapsed since these rules were introduced, mainly because youngsters are happy to ride with L plates until they get a car, or are old enough to take their open license, so only about 42,000 people bothered to take their test in 2015. Compare that to the 1970's when the figure was over 300,000.
But it's not restricted to motorcycles. The cost of insurance and passing a test has put people off even going for a car license. This has huge implications because it hits the least well off hardest, and they're most likely to live in housing estates quite some distance from jobs.
Aside from basic roadcraft, the moped brought home the vulnerability of myself and the moped. It rammed home the fact these things are vehicles. Slow vehicles, but still subject to wind, terrain and the highway code. It taught me about responsibility and the need to have a safe place to park the machine. It also gave me my first real encounter with officialdom what with the provisional license, the log book and the insurance.
I believe these machines are a great way to learn, however it is sinful that 50cc machines are restricted to 2.5 kw and 45 kph. Beneath most of todays "mopeds" lies a darned good scooter or motorcycle that's been restricted to conform to EU regulations. Even the bread and butter ones can reach speeds of 65 kph and are a darned sight safer at that speed. The best can hit 90 kph, so restricting them makes them less efficient and they use more fuel.
I do agree that 16 year olds can learn roadcraft, gain valuable experience and should start their riding with something that won't get them into trouble. What I don't agree with is if they chose to take their test, all they get is a moped license. What they should get is a 50cc license, allowing them to ride anything with a 50cc engine preferably without limit on horsepower, or at least 5 kw. Combine that with a simple test to encourage people to venture onto these machines at minimum cost and inconvenience.
I also believe that people who have been banned from driving for any offense that did not involve the loss of life should be allowed - at the courts' discretion - to apply for a 50cc license. As things stand these people are simply banned and most don't take any form of remedial training, so many go back to their old habits as soon as their car license is restored. By offering this option, they'll to go back to basics, even if they have a motorbike license. Do the CBT, do the moped test and then get a 50cc license. They'll learn a whole different way of driving and - as is the case with the overwhelming majority of people who have a motorcycle license, be better, more aware and more considerate drivers.
The fact we've priced the poor out of vehicle ownership is not something to be proud of. We really need to get things into perspective and quit with high charges for tests designed by academics. A tiny little 50cc machine should be affordable and accessible to all. And they're fun.
Of course another thing that marked my rite of passage - at age 16 - was my ability to buy cigarettes. Very few of my friends chose to do so, however this saved me the sometimes inconvenient business of having to meander from one shop to another until I could find a place that would sell me a pack. That has been deferred - and the minimum age for buying fags is now 18. The old rules never stopped me, just made it slightly more difficult - sometimes to the point that I'd have to bribe an older pupil to buy them for me, usually by undertaking to polish his shoes for a week. I doubt much has changed.
To these I feel it's important to include pubs. They were fantastic places to show a coming of age; not just in isolated villages, but also within large towns where there used to be one in virtually every neighbourhood. Not so now. Many villages have lost their pub and no one wants to start one in the outer suburbs.
Now it's all about travelling into the centre of town and meeting up with friends of the same age, usually after tanking up at home beforehand. These are once a week or once a month events and the whole business of local adults meeting for a pint and a chat, to pass the time, to network or to gain local information has gone.
Seems to me that our youth don't have the same stake in society as previous generations - and that shows in one very important way. Fewer than 36% of those aged 18 to 24 turned out to vote at the EU referendum (06) And only 43% did so at the General Election (07). (I know that a survey taken several weeks after the referendum appears to show the figure was higher, but that's been resolutely rubbished. It suffers from one significant flaw - people jumping on the bandwagon).
This was even more pronounced at the European elections, where just under 28% of all Europeans aged 18 to 24 bothered to vote in 2014 (it's a pdf and these stats are on page 11 (08)). On page 12, the figures are broken down by member states and that shows a trifling 19% of British voters aged 18 to 24 participated!
For sure we've seen comments in the press and social media that we've robbed them of their future. Or that they would have made all the difference had they taken time to vote. Plainly that's garbage; they made their choice - and that was to abstain.
To those who chose to speak for them, I found it very telling that at the Scottish referendum on independence 52% of those aged 18 - 24 did not vote for independence (09)! Those in age groups above and below were strongly in favour, so no I don't think anyone can can predict how they'd have voted in the EU referendum.
Responsible parents know that at some point they have to trust their child and let go. Professional controllers, academics and healthists make a handsome living finding ways to delay full adulthood that, in the case of riding a big motorcycle, has been extended to age 24. Cosseting young adults to such an extent robs them of much that previous generations took in their stride. These things are still very desirable to young adults, but our politicians, acting on the advice professional controllers, academics and healthists have either priced them beyond their financial abilities or placed too high a bar to their participation. So when asked to vote on "the most important decision they'll make in this lifetime", little wonder so many chose to abstain.
Trust is a two way thing. Our young adults have seen precious little of this from officialdom, so when asked to vote - and therefore validate those elites - they simply gave them two fingers. Both sides. And I respect them for doing so.
As there's no immediate likelihood of any real change in attitudes by the respective elites, I suspect that as this 18 to 24 group becomes the next 25 to 34 age group, the whole business of "British Politics" and "The Establishment" will be seen in the same light as the typewriter. Obsolete, redundant and irrelevant.