By Daniel Hunter

Money worries during the recession have given way to an increasing sense of personal financial responsibility, the findings of a joint report by the government-backed pension scheme NEST and leading research house the Futures Company show.

One of the most significant examples of this trend is the response to the government’s new automatic enrolment workplace pension reforms, with opt out rates significantly lower than many had forecast.

Commenting on the research findings, NEST CEO, Tim Jones, said: “The recession has evidently changed consumer behaviour and for the first time we can see the impact it’s had on British attitudes as well. Many households are still feeling the pinch and people are worried about the future, but they clearly think tomorrow is worth saving for and automatic enrolment seems to be a welcome helping hand.

"Although it can be a struggle to find a few extra pounds each month, the money from employer contributions and relief at finally doing something has convinced more people to stick with savingthan we ever expected in this economic climate.”

Director of the Futures Company, Andrew Curry, said: "The experience of living through the economic crisis appears to have had a significant effect on the way people think about spending and saving. The signs are that this will cause a lasting shift in consumer sentiment."

The report finds:

- 58 per cent of people in the UK agree that ‘this recession has changed global consumer culture forever’, a shift in attitudes that has affected how people manage their money day to day and how they think about their future.

- More than half of British consumers think they’ll never spend money as freely as they did before the recession and more than two thirds now think twice before making even the smallest purchases.

- Consumers are half as likely to have unsecured debt as two years ago, they have paid off credit card debts and only a tiny fraction now owe money on store cards.

- Consumers today keep track of exactly how much money they spend, regularly use comparison websites to make the most of their money and spend a lot of time shopping around for the best deal.

- Long term financial security has also gone up people’s priority lists. Fewer people are confident about what they have set aside for retirement compared to two years ago and a large majority are worried they won’t have enough. If they received a sudden windfall, most people would invest it for the future rather than spend it today.

- Of more than 1.4million people who have been enrolled during this first year, just 9 per cent have opted out. A third of those who opted out cited affordability as the reason. 15 per cent said they are saving through other means and 14 per cent said they were too close to retirement.

- Of those who have stayed in, just over half say they’ve done so because it’s ‘time to start saving for retirement’ and 48 per cent say it ‘makes financial sense because the employer contributes’. Just 13 per cent said they were too busy to opt out, suggesting this has been an active choice for many.

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