The Money Charity’s Money Stats are out today and they paint a worrying picture of saving in the UK.
Though the Bank of England base rate has held steady at a historic low of 0.5% for the past seven years, the actual interest rates that savers face have been trending downward in recent years. Excluding bonuses, the average interest rate for cash savings accounts sat below 0.4% throughout 2015 for the first time, meaning that there has never been less incentive to do the right thing and put money away.
We can see the effect this is having – households saved just 3.8% of their income between October and December 2015. This is the lowest figure since the Bank of England begun to collect this data in 1963.
At The Money Charity, we worry that people are becoming unaccustomed to saving and vulnerable to the life shocks healthy savings can smooth.
The flip side of this is the good news for borrowers such as mortgage holders, ever fewer of whom are struggling to repay their mortgages – loans in arrears represented just 1.36% of the value of the residential loan book, also a record low.
‘Help to Save’ and the ‘Lifetime ISA’ are welcome, but both are only available to certain people and useful in limited circumstances. Help to Save is only available to those on low incomes and only rewards savers after a full two years, while the Lifetime ISA is only useful when saving for your first house or retirement.
Unless there is a rise in the interest rates savers get, most people will be unlikely to change their behaviour, and the new £1,000 tax-free interest allowance will have little impact. Much more has to be done if we are not to leave a generation without the financial buffer they need.
Michelle Highman, Chief Executive of The Money Charity said:
“The Bank of England has held base rates at the historic low of 0.5% for seven years, and the actual return you get on what you save seems to be getting ever worse. As long as it lasts, this is great for borrowers, but at The Money Charity we fear that not enough is being done to support savers.”
“We welcome the £1,000 in tax-free interest coming in this month, as well as ‘Help to Save’ and the ‘Lifetime ISA’. But so long as interest rates are so low, these can make little difference to most people.”
“It might have seemed like there is not much reward for doing the right thing recently. But there is still a lot to gain from putting something aside. You are protected from life’s shocks, and only with savings can you do the things you want to in life. Besides, things do change, and when interest rates rise, you’ll thank yourself for having saved.”
Get the full picture, and many more fascinating facts about money in the UK in our monthly Money Statistics.