New research to shine light on the real day-to-day experience of financial uncertainty among UK households

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Today, Nest Insight, the Centre for Personal Financial Wellbeing at Aston University, and the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health at Glasgow Caledonian University have announced the launch of a new research programme that will build an in-depth understanding of the lived experience of financial uncertainty among low to moderate income households across the country. This programme of work, known as the Real Accounts project, is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK. In contrast with the snap-shot data achieved by annual surveys, this long-term study will provide a fully joined-up view of household finances, capturing the day-to-day, week-to-week ups and downs, and working with households to understand the situations they face and the strategies they use to manage their money.

Too little is currently known about the scope and scale of income and expense volatility experienced by UK households. The project will use a research data collection app to capture real-time income and expenditure transaction data over 6 months for a sample of around 50 low to moderate income households, combined with monthly qualitative interviewing. The app has been custom designed working with Moneyhub, the Open Finance data and payments company. The research findings will be shared widely and freely to help inform policy and market innovation and debate.

This initial phase of the project is supported by the Aviva Foundation, as part of its focus on helping people and communities feel in control and positive about their financial futures.

Sope Otulana, Head of Research at Nest Insight, comments:

“As the rising cost of living continues to impact households across the country, and levels of household debt climb, this research is more crucial than ever. The project aims to shine a light on exactly what it is like for households today managing volatile income and expenditure, sharing their first-hand stories. While large income and expenditure datasets track individuals and their behaviour out in the world, this research puts individuals back into the contexts where their financial lives play out, focussing on the overall household – partners, parents, siblings, friends and other social connections. It will look beyond the balance sheet to also analyse social, environmental, and health factors, as well as other dynamics that can come into play and affect household finances. The research will identify trends but also capture the variation within households, recognising that there is no ‘average’ household circumstance or experience.

We’re excited to be working with other experts from the Centre for Personal Financial Wellbeing at Aston University and Glasgow Caledonian University, and would like to thank the Aviva Foundation for making this research possible through their support.”

Alex Christopoulos, Aviva Foundation Lead, commented:

“Millions in the UK are struggling and worried about money. The Real Accounts research provides us with an opportunity to understand how these households are managing to get by day-to-day; the choices they make, the strategies they take and the knock-on effects this has on other areas of their life.

“In uncertain times, we need to better understand how people deal with fluctuations in their incomings and outgoings – and what kinds of financial support and services might enable them to build a buffer, and a plan, to deal with today’s pressures, as well as what tomorrow may bring.

“The Aviva Foundation is proud to be supporting Nest Insight and its partners to deliver to the Real Accounts research.”

Professor Andrew Lymer at the Centre for Personal Financial Wellbeing at Aston University, said:

“We are really pleased to be part of this innovative project, directly focusing on real experiences of managing financial volatility and the impact that has on broader aspects of wellbeing.

“This research is really timely given people are currently facing the very significant impact of the cost-of-living crisis and often enormous uncertainty about both their incomes and their expenditures. The outcomes of this work will generate deeper understanding of what it means to experience financial challenges in reality and over sustained periods of time. It will contribute to finding better ways to help people in their everyday lives. This project is a perfect fit for the focus of our Centre that seeks to deepen our understanding of what matters in creating personal financial wellbeing.”

Olga Biosca, Professor of Economics, at Glasgow Caledonian University, added:

“This timely and much needed collaborative project builds on our FinWell research programme of work which, since 2014, has used financial diaries to better understand how personal financial management and decision-making affect different dimensions of people’s lives and, in particular, health and wellbeing. The study of financial choices and coping strategies in challenging circumstances, such as the current cost-of-living crisis, will contribute to improved evidence-based policy and practice. We are delighted to be part of this exciting project.”

Samantha Seaton, CEO of Moneyhub comments:

“It is only when we have in-depth and holistic data on a person’s or household’s finances that we can truly know and begin to understand the impact of the rising cost of living. This can only be successfully achieved by bringing all of an individual’s or household’s financial data together in one place, from every-day spending to long-term projects such as buying a property and saving for retirement.

“At Moneyhub, we’re absolutely delighted to be providing our cutting-edge technology to enable Nest Insight and its partners to collect and analyse this crucial data. We know from our own users the pressure that the current economic situation is placing on them, with many unable to save resorting to borrowing to get by each month. Having thorough data and insight will enable any solution to be highly personalised in its approach and have a much more positive impact on those that require it most. Ultimately the more real-time financial data points, the more informed the decisions can be. It has always been our purpose at Moneyhub to improve financial wellness, and this project is just one example of how we’re using Open Finance to do exactly that.”

The Real Accounts project team is ambitious about the ways in which the study could be expanded and are currently seeking additional funding partners to extend the duration of the real-time data capture to at least 12 months. This will enable the examination of variations by calendar month over a full year, including the impact of events like school summer holidays, tax year end and the festive end-of-year period. 


Notes to editors

About Nest Insight

Nest Insight is a public-benefit research and innovation centre. Our mission is to find ways to support people to be financially secure, both today and into retirement. We conduct rigorous, cutting-edge research, working collaboratively with industry and academic partners to understand the financial challenges facing low- and moderate-income households. We use these data-driven insights to identify and test practical, real-world solutions. Our findings are shared widely and freely so that people around the world can benefit from our work. For more information visit

About our programme partner, the Aviva Foundation

The Aviva Foundation aims to help people and communities feel in control and positive about their financial futures. Millions in the UK are struggling and worried about money. The cost-of-living crisis has only added to the stress for those already living on an economic knife-edge. The Foundation funds organisations working on new ways to help people prevent and prepare for financial challenges, or deal with and recover from financial setbacks. Its ambition is to tackle difficult problems in new ways. The Foundation gives organisations the support and stability they need so they can use their expertise to innovate and transform the lives of those who need it the most. For more information, visit: The Aviva Foundation is administered by Charities Trust under charity registration number 327489.

About our research and delivery partners

The Centre for Personal Financial Wellbeing at Aston University is an interdisciplinary, academic, research centre that seeks to get to the heart of the causes and consequences of personal and household financial insecurity. It focuses on providing accessible and timely insights to support a wide range of leaders and decision makers including those in the financial service industry, third sector organisations, academics as well as the general public. For more information, visit:

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) is working, through research and education, on shaping society, influencing governments and transforming people’s lives around the world. GCU is delivering world-leading research with outstanding impact, as evidenced by the results from the latest UK Research Excellence Framework in which 91% of their health research was formally classified as world-leading or internationally excellent, and more than 80% as outstanding for its impact, a result surpassed by only one other university on the UK. The Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health, where the GCU members of the Real accounts research team are based, conducts world-leading research to conceptualise and evidence ways that lives of individuals and communities can be improved through a better understanding of various community-based and health-focused initiatives. Since 2014, the Centre conducts financial diaries research in the UK through their FinWell programme of work supported by prestigious funders (Chief Scientist Office, Economic and Social Research Council and Guy’s and Saint Thomas’ Charity), experienced collaborators and extended policy networks. The research team now also includes GCU’s WiSE Centre for Economic Justice, experienced on gendered intrahousehold financial management. For more information, visit:

About Nest Insight’s strategic partner, BlackRock

BlackRock is a global investment manager serving the UK market for more than 30 years with a purpose to help more and more people experience financial well-being. BlackRock’s Emergency Savings Initiative is made possible through philanthropic support from the BlackRock Foundation. The initiative brings together partner companies and non-profit financial health experts to make saving easier and more accessible for low- to moderate-income people across the US and UK, ultimately helping more people to establish an important financial safety net. For more information, visit: