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    The latest Markit Household Finance Index survey shows that consumers are more optimistic about the economy now than at any time since April 2010. The index also shows that household finances are at their highest level since December 2010.

    These trends have been attributed to falling inflation and a greater willingness amongst employers to increase wages, but consumer confidence will need to continue improving in order to drive any significant economic recovery.

    The Bank of England (BoE) has already predicted that consumer spending will grow in 2012, and, along with increased mortgage lending and rising house prices, the Markit survey adds weight to the BoE’s assessment.

    Markit economist Tim Moore said: “These positive developments meant that debt levels stabilised and households’ appetite for major purchases moved back to levels not seen since the VAT (sales tax) rise in January 2011,” but he also warned that “wider job market uncertainty is constraining spending even among those seeing their own situation stabilise.”

    Meanwhile, a survey carried out by the Charted Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) showed that, in the last quarter, employers were more ready to increase employees’ pay than they have been since April 2009. Nevertheless, many continue to approach the matter with caution.

    CIPD rewards advisor Charles Cotton said: “While the predicted increases in pay settlements reflects a cautious optimism among members in the private sector that the worst may now be over, uncertainty about how fast the economy will improve is acting to moderate pay forecasts.”

    Are you optimistic about your financial situation in 2012, or do you need to wipe the slate clean and make a fresh start? Writing off your debt may be the answer.

    Passenger Focus, the independent rail consumer watchdog, has conducted a survey of more than 30,000 British rail passengers, and found that 54% aren’t satisfied with the cost of their tickets. This is up from 51% a year ago.

    84% said they were satisfied with their overall journey, but the Association of Train Operating Companies has accepted that costs need to be reduced and services improved.

    Anthony Smith, chief executive of Passenger Focus, said the results of the national survey would provide an impetus for the rail industry and the government to “focus resources and effort where passenger satisfaction remains in the doldrums.”

    30,590 passengers were surveyed between 1 September and 18 November 2011, before ticket prices increased by an average of 5.9% (and up to 11%), and new unregulated fares were introduced.

    Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies, acknowledged that “the whole industry needs to focus on tackling costs as well as improving services” and apologised for letting passengers down.

    Tim Shoveller, MD at South West Trains, said that above-inflation fare rises had been sought by successive governments looking to reduce the tax-funded subsidy for the industry and ensure investment in the railways continued.

    He pointed out that plans have already been set out by the industry to cut costs by £1.3 billion a year by 2019. If this is achieved, fares would not continue rising at such a fast rate.

    Passenger satisfaction varied significantly depending on the area. Satisfaction scores for specific routes operated by different companies varied from 72% to 95%.

    The lowest overall satisfaction scores were for National Express East Anglia (NXEA), with an average of 77%, whilst the best performing operator was Grand Central, with a 95% satisfaction rating.

    Across the UK, satisfaction with punctuality has dropped from 82% last year to 81% now.

    Do you travel by train? Let us know what you think of ticket prices and the overall experience.

    It’s an accepted fact that discussing debt is something of a no-go in many circles. Socially, we just don’t feel comfortable talking about our bank balances (unless, of course, they’re looking spectacularly healthy and we’re feeling like flashing the cash!).

    But is debt really a taboo issue? Or are we comfortable talking credit card bills with our nearest and dearest?

    We want your opinion!

    Discussing Debt with Your Partner

    In 2010, a study by the Post Office found that 21% of people admit to hiding debt from their partners.

    What about you?

    Would you discuss your debts with your partner/spouse?

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    Discussing Debt with Your Parents

    In the very same Post Office survey, a staggering 31% of participants admitted to hiding debt from other members of their family. We presume that means parents too? Are you a regular customer at the Bank of Mum and Dad or do you prefer to keep your financial problems to yourself?

    Would you discuss debt with your parents?

    Don't Know

    Discussing Debt with Your Friends

    What about your friends? Can you confide in your best buddies about your personal debt problems or is that too uncomfortable a topic?

    Would you discuss debt with your friends?

    Don't Know

    Leave us a Comment

    Let us know what you think about discussing debt. Who would talk to about financial problems, if anyone? Do you think financial matters should be kept private? And what if your nearest and dearest wanted to talk to you about their debts. Would you feel comfortable?

    Leave is a quick comment below and let us know your thoughts. Are the media overplaying the taboo around debt or are we really all keeping personal financial problems to ourselves?

    It’s over to you.

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