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Healthcare In A Bear Market

CloseCloseCloseStocks plunge into a bear market as the viral outbreak threatens to devastate the economy.Healthcare has performed relatively better than the broader market which already has plunged over 30%.The healthcare sector is positioned much better.



A new reality dawned as the stock market entered a bear market.

It wasn't a tiptoe moment for the bear. The market simply plummeted into a bear market canyon. Just from March 4 to March 12, in about a week, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq declined 20% or more. The healthcare index did relatively better during that period, declining -17%, though still a painful performance.

However, this was the good part. The pullback as measured from recent highs is even worse. The table below shows the depth of the pullback and the extent of the damage.

One thing that stands out is that the healthcare index (XLV) has retreated relatively less than the broader market. Even the larger-cap weighted Nasdaq Biotech index has held its own, outperforming the market meaningfully, while the smaller-cap weighted S&P Biotech has declined around broader market levels and much better than the Russell 2000 index. There's a preference for well-capitalized large-cap biotechs.

An Economic Morass

The viral pandemic is triggering a shutdown of the economy. This shutdown is picking up its pace and now sweeping across multiple sectors of the economy, akin to closing hatches before a submarine dives. The extent of the damage is unknown but will most likely be severe though short term. A typical recession unfolds over many months triggered by a tightening monetary policy and a loss of consumer confidence. Consumer spending begins to slow and so does production. However, event-driven recessions have different dynamics, and none so pernicious as this pandemic-driven one. Consumption plummets in a matter of weeks. Production plummets in a matter of weeks. Labor participation plummets in a matter of weeks. Cash flows that lubricate the wheels of the economy simply vaporize for most industries and fixed costs begin to crush businesses. This happens as debt service and covenants come due. Access to liquidity or cash becomes a question of survival. Such things happen during a typical economic recession too, affecting different sectors with varying degrees of intensity like it did during The Great Recession. At that time, it was the financial sector that imploded. But it doesn't happen to a majority of the sectors in the economy in a rapid and synchronized retreat like it's happening now. There were more than 80 million hourly workers in the US in 2017, the last year from which data is available, as per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Needless to say, a number of them could be feeling pressured very quickly as their work hours shrink or disappear

Federal Reserve To The Rescue

The Federal Reserve can't fight the virus directly. But it can blunt its devastating economic consequences. The primary job of the Federal Reserve at this point is to limit the damage to the economy rather than the typical jump-starting it. It has to ensure that most of the businesses are preserved when things begin to turn around by most likely April end. And the Federal Reserve is doing that with rapid action, whether it's cutting rates or ensuring liquidity in the banking system or encouraging borrowing. Such interventions will continue and get more creative and coordinated for the crisis warrants such actions.

Time Is The Biggest Enemy

As is clear with the viral spread, time is the biggest enemy. This also is true for fiscal and monetary action. The Federal Reserve realized the urgency and moved swiftly in what was one of the biggest rate cuts ever done - 150 basis point in a week. The central bank also is deploying its balance sheet as a backstop to the credit markets.

The government needs to realize that as well that time is the biggest enemy. And it can't pick and choose now which industry receives a bailout or rescue package. That process will take too long, require too much buy-in from various constituencies, and much opposition to overcome. And the fact is that there will be just too many situations warranting a bailout or rescue.

As mentioned in our previous article, What's Ahead For The Stock Market, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Government need to set up zero-rate loan facilities that can allow businesses, big and small, to borrow based on uniform criteria. A bridge facility to tide over the crisis. This should contribute toward preserving consumer confidence, beyond the one-time $1,000 hardship bonus, that there will be jobs to go back to.

Incremental help is no longer an option. Remember when President Trump was talking about needing only $2 billion and now it is $1 trillion in a few days. There's a lesson in it - this is now a very fast-moving crisis as the delayed containment efforts have failed miserably and getting ahead of it requires bigger actions earlier.

Healthcare Moving In The Right Direction

Healthcare came into the year already facing high regulatory uncertainty. Besides a growing unease at climbing healthcare costs, the pharmaceutical industry also was facing a growing backlash against drug price increases. Democratic candidates for the presidential elections had made healthcare restructuring a central part of their policy portfolio.

Two plans emerged, which were referred to as Medicare for All and Medicare for All with a public option. While both plans are quite sweeping and progressive compared to the status quo, solely from an investing perspective, the Medicare for All plan has a relatively higher risk profile for investors as it would recast the industry structure and create a single point of healthcare payment. Earlier this month, the Medicare for All plan appears to have lost traction as the primary proponent of it, Sen. Bernie Sanders, lost the front-runner status in the nomination race. That was a significant risk-diminishing event for healthcare.

Healthcare is a defensive sector. In times of economic stress, it can tend to outperform the broader indexes on a relative basis. The sector still declines, but relatively less than the S&P 500. Its relative performance in the last recession is shown in the chart below. ~ Healthcare Performance Recession

Healthcare is composed of multiple industry groups that will get affected unevenly. But it's highly likely that everyone gets affected adversely to some degree.


At this time one of the key risks to biotechs is the same as the one that confronts all companies and the economy - access to liquidity and working capital.

With the public market window for offerings closed, biotechs will have to rely on existing resources. However, the risk of a biotech credit crunch is relatively much less since financially their balance sheets are much stronger today than even perhaps at any other time since the Great Recession. The ability of biotechs to sit out the crisis and continue with their work is relatively superior simply because in most cases the entire funding of operations is balance sheet-driven and not cash flow-driven. To the extent the balance sheets are weak, there will be financial stress, and such companies will have to cut expensive deals in private placements with investors. Lower cap companies may be ignored as investors prefer the security of larger-cap biotechs. But biotechs as an industry group will not encounter a meaningful liquidity crisis compared to other sectors of the economy.

A bigger risk for biotechs and biopharma though is a delay in trials. That is unavoidable in many cases as the viral outbreak makes it harder to maintain trial integrity while also keeping staff, monitors, and patients safe. Also, the FDA will prioritize virus-related trials and reallocate resources, PDUFA dates can no longer be met, and new trial studies may not receive timely approval, and be able to recruit or retain. This can potentially delay multiple biopharma programs by at least three months, pushing progress into the second half.

However, it must be acknowledged that delay in programs, the biggest risk for biotechs, will not build into an existential issue and biotechs will come out of this crisis almost whole. At this point, one cannot say that with great conviction for several sectors of the economy.

There also are unique advantages that benefit biotechs. The group is mostly insulated from the risks of an earnings decline. They will not face a meaningful demand falloff or even the risk of permanently lost demand. On the contrary, biotechs may even benefit from COVID-19 activity as antivirals and vaccine research remain the focus. A few companies in this area include Gilead (GILD), Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN), Moderna (MRNA), Novavax (NVAX), Vir Biotechnology (VIR), and Biontech (BNTX).

A Silver Lining

The situation is really bad. But it's not the end.

There's a lot we don't know about the path of the outbreak and the final cost on the economy, but we still know some things.

The viral outbreak has a shelf life and it can likely peak by mid-April, judging by the Chinese experience. That peaking will be a market relief. But the stock market may anticipate it and begin to strengthen earlier.

We also know there will be a gigantic pent-up demand. And we also know there's a huge stimulus of 0% rates. Besides, we also know there will most likely be a $1 trillion to $3 trillion of federal spending stimulus by the time all rescue packages and bailouts are finished.

The stock market already is reflecting a bad economic scenario. The broader market has declined over ~32%, larger cap biotechs ~26%, and healthcare 24%. It's a brutal selloff. And it's a forward payment on what's still to come. The really bad things haven't happened yet. They will start happening as the death rate rises rapidly, the healthcare system is overwhelmed, unemployment claims surge, bailout requests increase, and businesses begin to file for bankruptcy. But much of it is already being discounted into the market. It's very likely the market can decline further in this deluge of negative news to emerge over the rest of the month, but one has to believe that we're through at least the bulk of the sell-off.

If the economic fabric is mostly preserved, one can hope for the rebound to be swifter as well then previous recoveries. That will mean third-quarter GDP growth can perhaps be better than the second quarter. And if that happens, it will still be a good opportunity for investors to accrue positive returns for the year.


The best-case scenario does not exist as the country has failed in implementing the first level of preemptive containment to significantly manage-down the disease. At this time, the viral outbreak has taken hold and all containment efforts are being aimed to slow down the virus spread and give the healthcare system a fighting chance to serve the most serious patients and not break down. Businesses and the population are moving fast now to get ahead.

The Federal Reserve has been brilliantly urgent on the task of keeping credit markets liquid and functioning. Although there's no guarantee that credit markets won't seize up, the Fed and the other major central banks recognize the gravity of the situation and appear to be ready to keep intervening. The government has meanwhile ramped up its efforts to get more virus testing available while lining up stimulus and bailout packages.

The financial markets have gone into a tailspin. If one was caught in this sell-off with a fully invested portfolio it has been a very difficult experience. But there's also light at the end of the tunnel, and the second half will provide an opportunity to recover. Healthcare will be damaged much less compared to many other sectors in the economy. The model portfolios of Prudent Healthcare, the Prudent Biotech, and the Graycell Smallcap are presently 25% to 30% invested. Lowering exposure remains a preferred strategy in what's undoubtedly a highly treacherous market.

However, it cannot be ignored that there's a lot of stimulus flowing into the market. When does the market believe the economy can win out? The crisis of confidence requires some positive news on the viral outbreak and that may come by early April. In the meantime, business recovery in China is happening rapidly as new infection rate has dropped. In the best-case scenario, the bear market will most likely end in May as the economy emerges from a recession potentially during the third quarter.

There are many healthcare companies that will continue to have their business mostly intact and promising prospects ahead. A few of the larger ones which can be considered at an appropriate time include Gilead Sciences, Vir Biotechnology, Moderna, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Momenta Pharmaceuticals, Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX), Acceleron Pharma (XLRN), Quidel (OTC:QDEL), Luminex, Karuna Therapeutics (KRTX), Zai Lab (ZLAB), Kodiak Sciences (KOD), Neogenomics (NEO), Seattle Genetics (SGEN), and Biogen (BIIB).

The article was submitted on March 18 to Seeking Alpha.

The post Healthcare In A Bear Market appeared first on Prudent Biotech.

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Buried Project Veritas Recording Shows Top Pfizer Scientists Suppressed Concerns Over COVID-19 Boosters, MRNA Tech

Buried Project Veritas Recording Shows Top Pfizer Scientists Suppressed Concerns Over COVID-19 Boosters, MRNA Tech

Submitted by Liam Cosgrove




Buried Project Veritas Recording Shows Top Pfizer Scientists Suppressed Concerns Over COVID-19 Boosters, MRNA Tech

Submitted by Liam Cosgrove

Former Project Veritas & O’Keefe Media Group operative and Pfizer formulation analyst scientist Justin Leslie revealed previously unpublished recordings showing Pfizer’s top vaccine researchers discussing major concerns surrounding COVID-19 vaccines. Leslie delivered these recordings to Veritas in late 2021, but they were never published:

Featured in Leslie’s footage is Kanwal Gill, a principal scientist at Pfizer. Gill was weary of MRNA technology given its long research history yet lack of approved commercial products. She called the vaccines “sneaky,” suggesting latent side effects could emerge in time.

Gill goes on to illustrate how the vaccine formulation process was dramatically rushed under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization and adds that profit incentives likely played a role:

"It’s going to affect my heart, and I’m going to die. And nobody’s talking about that."

Leslie recorded another colleague, Pfizer’s pharmaceutical formulation scientist Ramin Darvari, who raised the since-validated concern that repeat booster intake could damage the cardiovascular system:

None of these claims will be shocking to hear in 2024, but it is telling that high-level Pfizer researchers were discussing these topics in private while the company assured the public of “no serious safety concerns” upon the jab’s release:

Vaccine for Children is a Different Formulation

Leslie sent me a little-known FDA-Pfizer conference — a 7-hour Zoom meeting published in tandem with the approval of the vaccine for 5 – 11 year-olds — during which Pfizer’s vice presidents of vaccine research and development, Nicholas Warne and William Gruber, discussed a last-minute change to the vaccine’s “buffer” — from “PBS” to “Tris” — to improve its shelf life. For about 30 seconds of these 7 hours, Gruber acknowledged that the new formula was NOT the one used in clinical trials (emphasis mine):

“The studies were done using the same volume… but contained the PBS buffer. We obviously had extensive consultations with the FDA and it was determined that the clinical studies were not required because, again, the LNP and the MRNA are the same and the behavior — in terms of reactogenicity and efficacy — are expected to be the same.

According to Leslie, the tweaked “buffer” dramatically changed the temperature needed for storage: “Before they changed this last step of the formulation, the formula was to be kept at -80 degrees Celsius. After they changed the last step, we kept them at 2 to 8 degrees celsius,” Leslie told me.

The claims are backed up in the referenced video presentation:

I’m no vaccinologist but an 80-degree temperature delta — and a 5x shelf-life in a warmer climate — seems like a significant change that might warrant clinical trials before commercial release.

Despite this information technically being public, there has been virtually no media scrutiny or even coverage — and in fact, most were told the vaccine for children was the same formula but just a smaller dose — which is perhaps due to a combination of the information being buried within a 7-hour jargon-filled presentation and our media being totally dysfunctional.

Bohemian Grove?

Leslie’s 2-hour long documentary on his experience at both Pfizer and O’Keefe’s companies concludes on an interesting note: James O’Keefe attended an outing at the Bohemian Grove.

Leslie offers this photo of James’ Bohemian Grove “GATE” slip as evidence, left on his work desk atop a copy of his book, “American Muckraker”:

My thoughts on the Bohemian Grove: my good friend’s dad was its general manager for several decades. From what I have gathered through that connection, the Bohemian Grove is not some version of the Illuminati, at least not in the institutional sense.

Do powerful elites hangout there? Absolutely. Do they discuss their plans for the world while hanging out there? I’m sure it has happened. Do they have a weird ritual with a giant owl? Yep, Alex Jones showed that to the world.

My perspective is based on conversations with my friend and my belief that his father is not lying to him. I could be wrong and am open to evidence — like if boxer Ryan Garcia decides to produce evidence regarding his rape claims — and I do find it a bit strange the club would invite O’Keefe who is notorious for covertly filming, but Occam’s razor would lead me to believe the club is — as it was under my friend’s dad — run by boomer conservatives the extent of whose politics include disliking wokeness, immigration, and Biden (common subjects of O’Keefe’s work).

Therefore, I don’t find O’Keefe’s visit to the club indicative that he is some sort of Operation Mockingbird asset as Leslie tries to depict (however Mockingbird is a 100% legitimate conspiracy). I have also met James several times and even came close to joining OMG. While I disagreed with James on the significance of many of his stories — finding some to be overhyped and showy — I never doubted his conviction in them.

As for why Leslie’s story was squashed… all my sources told me it was to avoid jail time for Veritas executives.

Feel free to watch Leslie’s full documentary here and decide for yourself.

Fun fact — Justin Leslie was also the operative behind this mega-viral Project Veritas story where Pfizer’s director of R&D claimed the company was privately mutating COVID-19 behind closed doors:

Tyler Durden Tue, 03/12/2024 - 13:40

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Association of prenatal vitamins and metals with epigenetic aging at birth and in childhood

“[…] our findings support the hypothesis that the intrauterine environment, particularly essential and non-essential metals, affect epigenetic aging…



“[…] our findings support the hypothesis that the intrauterine environment, particularly essential and non-essential metals, affect epigenetic aging biomarkers across the life course.”

Credit: 2024 Bozack et al.

“[…] our findings support the hypothesis that the intrauterine environment, particularly essential and non-essential metals, affect epigenetic aging biomarkers across the life course.”

BUFFALO, NY- March 12, 2024 – A new research paper was published in Aging (listed by MEDLINE/PubMed as “Aging (Albany NY)” and “Aging-US” by Web of Science) Volume 16, Issue 4, entitled, “Associations of prenatal one-carbon metabolism nutrients and metals with epigenetic aging biomarkers at birth and in childhood in a US cohort.”

Epigenetic gestational age acceleration (EGAA) at birth and epigenetic age acceleration (EAA) in childhood may be biomarkers of the intrauterine environment. In this new study, researchers Anne K. Bozack, Sheryl L. Rifas-Shiman, Andrea A. Baccarelli, Robert O. Wright, Diane R. Gold, Emily Oken, Marie-France Hivert, and Andres Cardenas from Stanford University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Columbia University, and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai investigated the extent to which first-trimester folate, B12, 5 essential and 7 non-essential metals in maternal circulation are associated with EGAA and EAA in early life. 

“[…] we hypothesized that OCM [one-carbon metabolism] nutrients and essential metals would be positively associated with EGAA and non-essential metals would be negatively associated with EGAA. We also investigated nonlinear associations and associations with mixtures of micronutrients and metals.”

Bohlin EGAA and Horvath pan-tissue and skin and blood EAA were calculated using DNA methylation measured in cord blood (N=351) and mid-childhood blood (N=326; median age = 7.7 years) in the Project Viva pre-birth cohort. A one standard deviation increase in individual essential metals (copper, manganese, and zinc) was associated with 0.94-1.2 weeks lower Horvath EAA at birth, and patterns of exposures identified by exploratory factor analysis suggested that a common source of essential metals was associated with Horvath EAA. The researchers also observed evidence of nonlinear associations of zinc with Bohlin EGAA, magnesium and lead with Horvath EAA, and cesium with skin and blood EAA at birth. Overall, associations at birth did not persist in mid-childhood; however, arsenic was associated with greater EAA at birth and in childhood. 

“Prenatal metals, including essential metals and arsenic, are associated with epigenetic aging in early life, which might be associated with future health.”


Read the full paper: DOI: 

Corresponding Author: Andres Cardenas

Corresponding Email: 

Keywords: epigenetic age acceleration, metals, folate, B12, prenatal exposures

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About Aging:

Launched in 2009, Aging publishes papers of general interest and biological significance in all fields of aging research and age-related diseases, including cancer—and now, with a special focus on COVID-19 vulnerability as an age-dependent syndrome. Topics in Aging go beyond traditional gerontology, including, but not limited to, cellular and molecular biology, human age-related diseases, pathology in model organisms, signal transduction pathways (e.g., p53, sirtuins, and PI-3K/AKT/mTOR, among others), and approaches to modulating these signaling pathways.

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A beginner’s guide to the taxes you’ll hear about this election season

Everything you need to know about income tax, national insurance and more.

Cast Of Thousands/Shutterstock

National insurance, income tax, VAT, capital gains tax, inheritance tax… it’s easy to get confused about the many different ways we contribute to the cost of running the country. The budget announcement is the key time each year when the government shares its financial plans with us all, and announces changes that may make a tangible difference to what you pay.

But you’ll likely be hearing a lot more about taxes in the coming months – promises to cut or raise them are an easy win (or lose) for politicians in an election year. We may even get at least one “mini-budget”.

If you’ve recently entered the workforce or the housing market, you may still be wrapping your mind around all of these terms. Here is what you need to know about the different types of taxes and how they affect you.

The UK broadly uses three ways to collect tax:

1. When you earn money

If you are an employee or own a business, taxes are deducted from your salary or profits you make. For most people, this happens in two ways: income tax, and national insurance contributions (or NICs).

If you are self-employed, you will have to pay your taxes via an annual tax return assessment. You might also have to pay taxes this way for interest you earn on savings, dividends (distribution of profits from a company or shares you own) received and most other forms of income not taxed before you get it.

Around two-thirds of taxes collected come from people’s or business’ incomes in the UK.

2. When you spend money

VAT and excise duties are taxes on most goods and services you buy, with some exceptions like books and children’s clothing. About 20% of the total tax collected is VAT.

3. Taxes on wealth and assets

These are mainly taxes on the money you earn if you sell assets (like property or stocks) for more than you bought them for, or when you pass on assets in an inheritance. In the latter case in the UK, the recipient doesn’t pay this, it is the estate paying it out that must cover this if due. These taxes contribute only about 3% to the total tax collected.

You also likely have to pay council tax, which is set by the council you live in based on the value of your house or flat. It is paid by the user of the property, no matter if you own or rent. If you are a full-time student or on some apprenticeship schemes, you may get a deduction or not have to pay council tax at all.

Quarter life, a series by The Conversation

This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our 20s and 30s. From the challenges of beginning a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore the questions and bring answers as we navigate this turbulent period of life.

You may be interested in:

If you get your financial advice on social media, watch out for misinformation

Future graduates will pay more in student loan repayments – and the poorest will be worst affected

Selling on Vinted, Etsy or eBay? Here’s what you need to know about paying tax

Put together, these totalled almost £790 billion in 2022-23, which the government spends on public services such as the NHS, schools and social care. The government collects taxes from all sources and sets its spending plans accordingly, borrowing to make up any difference between the two.

Income tax

The amount of income tax you pay is determined by where your income sits in a series of “bands” set by the government. Almost everyone is entitled to a “personal allowance”, currently £12,570, which you can earn without needing to pay any income tax.

You then pay 20% in tax on each pound of income you earn (across all sources) from £12,570-£50,270. You pay 40% on each extra pound up to £125,140 and 45% over this. If you earn more than £100,000, the personal allowance (amount of untaxed income) starts to decrease.

If you are self-employed, the same rates apply to you. You just don’t have an employer to take this off your salary each month. Instead, you have to make sure you have enough money at the end of the year to pay this directly to the government.

Read more: Taxes aren't just about money – they shape how we think about each other

The government can increase the threshold limits to adjust for inflation. This tries to ensure any wage rise you get in response to higher prices doesn’t lead to you having to pay a higher tax rate. However, the government announced in 2021 that they would freeze these thresholds until 2026 (extended now to 2028), arguing that it would help repay the costs of the pandemic.

Given wages are now rising for many to help with the cost of living crisis, this means many people will pay more income tax this coming year than they did before. This is sometimes referred to as “fiscal drag” – where lower earners are “dragged” into paying higher tax rates, or being taxed on more of their income.

National insurance

National insurance contributions (NICs) are a second “tax” you pay on your income – or to be precise, on your earned income (your salary). You don’t pay this on some forms of income, including savings or dividends, and you also don’t pay it once you reach state retirement age (currently 66).

While Jeremy Hunt, the current chancellor of the exchequer, didn’t adjust income tax meaningfully in this year’s budget, he did announce a cut to NICs. This was a surprise to many, as we had already seen rates fall from 12% to 10% on incomes higher than £242/week in January. It will now fall again to 8% from April.

Read more: Budget 2024: experts explain what it means for taxpayers, businesses, borrowers and the NHS

While this is charged separately to income tax, in reality it all just goes into one pot with other taxes. Some, including the chancellor, say it is time to merge these two deductions and make this simpler for everyone. In his budget speech this year, Hunt said he’d like to see this tax go entirely. He thinks this isn’t fair on those who have to pay it, as it is only charged on some forms of income and on some workers.

I wouldn’t hold my breath for this to happen however, and even if it did, there are huge sums linked to NICs (nearly £180bn last year) so it would almost certainly have to be collected from elsewhere (such as via an increase in income taxes, or a lot more borrowing) to make sure the government could still balance its books.

A young black man sits at a home office desk with his feet up, looking at a mobile phone
Do you know how much tax you pay? Alex from the Rock/Shutterstock

Other taxes

There are likely to be further tweaks to the UK’s tax system soon, perhaps by the current government before the election – and almost certainly if there is a change of government.

Wealth taxes may be in line for a change. In the budget, the chancellor reduced capital gains taxes on sales of assets such as second properties (from 28% to 24%). These types of taxes provide only a limited amount of money to the government, as quite high thresholds apply for inheritance tax (up to £1 million if you are passing on a family home).

There are calls from many quarters though to look again at these types of taxes. Wealth inequality (the differences between total wealth held by the richest compared to the poorest) in the UK is very high (much higher than income inequality) and rising.

But how to do this effectively is a matter of much debate. A recent study suggested a one-off tax on total wealth held over a certain threshold might work. But wealth taxes are challenging to make work in practice, and both main political parties have already said this isn’t an option they are considering currently.

Andy Lymer and his colleagues at the Centre for Personal Financial Wellbeing at Aston University currently or have recently received funding for their research work from a variety of funding bodies including the UK's Money and Pension Service, the Aviva Foundation, Fair4All Finance, NEST Insight, the Gambling Commission, Vivid Housing and the ESRC, amongst others.

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