Cheer up: 10 reasons why 2015 will be better than 2014
In recent years, we have become accustomed to looking ahead to the next year with an air of dread. We wonder how we can deal with the next fresh hell to befall us - or the economy - and how we will manage with yet more uncertainty about everything from bills to house prices. However, there's really no reason to be quite so gloomy. As ever, there are issues to cause us concern, but in 2015 there are also 10 solid reasons to be cheerful.
1. Wages are finally going to go up
Wages have been stagnant for years, while prices rose, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. There aren't going to be any massive rises in wages in 2015, but the Institute of Directors is predicting something around 2%-3% - which should mean we stay ahead of inflation, and we get a bit of a breather.
2. Petrol will be cheaper
The slide in the oil price has been dramatic, and we have seen prices come down at the pumps. The experts predict that this trend isn't going to change any time soon, and so we can expect to enjoy more falls this year. For commuters this should take a large slice of pain out of the monthly budget.
3. Supermarket pricing will be keener
The supermarket price war is in full swing, and with even more pressure from the discounters, this will continue well into 2015. The massive expansion programme at Aldi is going to bring local competition to hundreds of areas, and ensure that eagle-eyed shoppers can cut the price of their weekly shop.
4. So will everything else
The lower oil price will feed into lower consumer price inflation across the board, as it becomes cheaper for companies to manufacture and distribute in the UK. The experts aren't predicting price inflation the same way they were this time last year, and we could see some significant price falls in some areas.
5. Energy prices won't fall far enough, but your bills might
Energy prices have been far too high (compared to the wholesale price) for some time now, and while we may see some cuts, prices are not going to be anywhere near as low as they should. Fortunately, there are other pressures bringing costs down. Political pressure will mean we're unlikely to be slapped with more green tariffs any time soon. At the same time, energy efficiency is a massive trend, so we can expect to see all our electrical appliances from washing machines to hoovers and lightbulbs consume less energy. It'll make it far easier to cut down usage, and keep bills down.
6. Debt concerns continue to fall
A recent survey found that around a third of people have some form of debt, but that by far the majority are confident that they can manage it. Most are paying it down, and around a third expect to have paid off short-term borrowing by the end of the year.
7. Jobs are forecast to improve again
Unemployment is a way off its post-crisis peak now. The consensus is that we will see more growth in full time jobs and more opportunities at the higher end too, with overall growth in the labour market of somewhere between 1% and 2% this year.
8. Pension freedoms will kick in
Of course, there will be headaches for some people taking advantage of the changes, as the pension companies iron out teething problems. There's also a risk for anyone who retires and doesn't fully understand their options (or take any advice). However, for those who get to grips with the full range of possibilities, there's a chance to retire richer, and with more flexibility to suit their retirement to their needs than ever before.
9. European holidays will be cheaper
The euro is under a great deal of pressure at the moment. In the long run, trouble for the euro could spell bad news for the UK - as the Eurozone is so important for exports. However, in the short term, the silver lining for UK consumers is that European holidays will be much cheaper. Big falls in the euro during the key booking season means that plenty of bargains have already been snapped up. However, there will be plenty more, and there's a good chance your spending money will go further too.
10. The stock market is expected to grow
You'd be forgiven for wondering what on earth this has to do with you, but if you have a defined contribution pension or any investment funds, you will stand to benefit. The experts are predicting a real rally throughout much of 2015, although they warn that if the election doesn't end with a clear majority or a strong coalition, the markets may stutter.
Of course, none of this is certain. There are concerns caused by the struggling countries of the Eurozone, questions over the outcome of the UK general election, and rising global security tensions. Forecasting is by its very nature an imprecise business, and any spanners thrown in the works from any direction could shove any one of these predictions off course.
The good news, however, is that none of this should stop you having a better 2015 yourself. If you are on top of your monthly budget, are careful about your borrowing, take the time to plan for the future, and remain proactive about your job, there's nothing to stop you looking forward to 2015 whatever happens in the wider world.
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