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Oliver Roylance-Smith — Head of Savings and Investments

Top 10 Tips for 2017 ISA season

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With just over 7 weeks until the end of the tax year, now is the time to consider making good use of your ISA allowance if you have not done so already. Considering ways to shelter your hard earned cash from the tax man should be a top priority, and so this ISA season period between now and the end of the tax year is an important time for savers and investors.

To help you act and act fast, our head of savings and investments, Oliver Roylance-Smith, has put together his Top 10 tips for the 2017 ISA season, so there can be no excuse for missing out…

Tip 1 – Don’t miss any deadlines

Before you do anything else ISA-related, make sure you remember the most important end of tax year deadline which is midnight on 5th April. This is the main deadline to remember since it marks the latest date for using your ISA allowance within the current 2016/17 tax year. Remember that you cannot backdate your ISA allowance once this deadline has passed – if you don’t use it, you lose it.

Also look out for other deadlines which may apply. Many ISA providers will need your application before this date, whilst some ISA plans have an earlier deadline for ISA transfers. Some may also offer limited funding and may close early if they become oversubscribed.

Tip 2 – Know your limits…

At the start of each financial year, HMRC set a limit on the amount each individual can put into an ISA over the course of the next twelve months, between 6th April and the following 5th April. This is known as the ISA allowance. The ISA allowance for the current tax year (2016/17) stands at £15,240.

Tip 3 – Maximise your ISA allowance

You can put your entire ISA allowance into a Cash ISA, a Stocks & Shares ISA (Investment ISA) or the new Innovative Finance ISA, or any combination thereof, i.e. if you decide to use some of the allowance in one type of ISA, you can also put any remaining balance into either or both of the other types, provided the combined total is no more than the £15,240 ISA allowance. Also remember that this allowance is per person (over the age of 16 for a Cash ISA, and age 18 for an Investment ISA and Innovative Finance ISA), so a couple can invest up to £30,480 in total this tax year.

Tip 4 – Use next year’s £20,000

The ISA allowance will increase to £20,000 from 6th April 2017, so if you want to go one step better than making sure you beat this tax year’s deadline, why not sort out the following year’s ISA allowance as well? Investec Bank for example have Double ISA functionality on all of their current plans, which means you can apply for both 2016/17 and 2017/18 tax years through one application. So why not start as you mean to go on and get organised right at the start of the new tax year? – with a combined ISA allowance of up to £35,240 over the two tax years (that’s £70,480 per couple), this means one less thing to worry about as well as getting the beneficial tax treatment for the full tax year.

Tip 5 – Consider the impact of current ISA savings rates

Despite the generous increases to the overall ISA allowance in recent years, it is not all good news, especially for cash savers. This is because the increases have coincided with some of the lowest Cash ISA savings rates on record, with none paying more than the current rate of inflation (1.6%, as measured by the Consumer Price Index). Therefore many Cash ISA savers are either losing money in real terms, or having to consider taking on more risk with their capital. As a consequence, more and more ISA savers are looking towards the Stocks & Shares ISA, which has seen record subscription numbers in the last couple of years. Please note that Stocks & Shares ISAs put your capital at risk and should generally be considered as a longer term option.

Tip 6 – Remember the Personal Savings Allowance

Remember that since the start of the current tax year (6th April 2016), most people receive a personal tax free allowance for interest earnings on savings. For basic rate taxpayers, this is set at £1,000 each tax year, whilst higher rate taxpayers get an allowance of £500. Since non-Cash ISA savings rates are normally much higher than Cash ISA rates, and the interest earned by many savers now falls within the Personal Savings Allowance, this has also contributed to higher numbers using their ISA allowance for investments in the hunt for higher returns.

Tip 7 – Think about tax free income

Although the personal savings allowance has resulted in many savers not having to worry as much about the impact of tax on their overall returns, there are still other considerations and those who have existing ISAs, are higher (or additional) rate tax payers, or who might receive high levels of income from their capital in the future, should all think about using ISAs to receive tax free income. Not only does this income not need to be declared on a tax return, but income from ISAs is not included in the personal savings allowance.

Tip 8 – Review existing ISAs

It’s not in your ISA provider’s best interest to offer you the best deal year after year, and don’t rely on them making sure you are aware that your rate has gone down or that a better account or alternative investment is available because it probably won’t happen, even if it is available from the same provider. Interest rates have been in steady decline, especially for existing customers, and once you’ve deposited your hard earned cash, your ISA provider knows from experience that you’re unlikely to get round to switching providers even if your rate ceases to be competitive. Don’t be that person! It’s down to you to review your existing ISAs.

Tip 9 – Take advantage of ISA transfers

Many of us already have existing ISAs, however, like so many other savers and investors, you may find that your ISA is no longer paying a competitive rate or your investments are underperforming – this is where the ISA transfer can help. You can transfer all previous ISA holdings and most allow you to do this without charge, although don’t forget to check whether there are penalties from your existing provider. Remember that now you can transfer between Cash ISAs and Stocks & Shares ISAs without any restriction, which means that you can choose to keep all of your ISA savings and/or your investments in one place.

Tip 10 – Understand what your ISA could achieve

When considering why to try and maximise your ISA allowance, apart from sheltering your income or growth from the tax man, it is important to understand how much you could achieve over time. For example, if you had invested the maximum into an Investment ISA since the 1999/2000 tax year, and it had grown at 5% each year, you would now have a lump sum of over £250,000. This is a significant amount, with no additional liability to income or capital gains tax. Please note that the tax efficiency of ISAs is based on current tax law which is subject to change in the future.

Start a new ISA or transfer your current ISA now

The range of ISA options to choose from is significant and changing day by day in the run up to 5th April. As the end of the tax year approaches, Cash ISA providers in particular will try and persuade you that their offering is the best destination for your hard-earned money, despite this being a period of record low savings. Our range of Cash ISAs, Investment ISAs and Innovative Finance ISAs is constantly being updated and many of the savings accounts and investments are available as new ISAs and accept ISA transfers. Some also have Double ISA functionality, so you can use next year’s ISA allowance early. So start as you mean to go on, review your options carefully and make sure you make the most out of the tax-efficient returns on offer by taking action now…

 

Compare Cash ISAs »

Compare Income ISA investments »

Compare Growth ISA investments »

Compare ISA transfers »

 

Please note that this information is based on current law and practice which is subject to change.

No news, feature article or comment should be seen as a personal recommendation to invest. Prior to making any decision to invest, you should ensure that you are familiar with the risks associated with a particular investment. If you are at all unsure of the suitability of a particular investment, both in respect of its objectives and its risk profile, you should seek independent financial advice.

Tax treatment of ISAs depends on your individual circumstances and legislation which are subject to change in the future. ISA transfer charges may apply, please check with your provider.

The value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the full amount invested. Different types of investment carry different levels of risk and may not be suitable for all investors.

Investment Focus: Investec FTSE 100 Enhanced Income Plan

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Our Investment Focus articles are designed to give new and existing customers a more detailed overview of a selection of income and growth investment plans, covering both the risks and the rewards. So whilst the income yields from the FTSE 100 remain under pressure, what better way to start 2017 than to review our best selling income plan, offering a high level of fixed monthly income. Some of you may be familiar with the plan, some of you may even have invested or reinvested into the plan, which remains popular year after year with a wide range of income seekers.

In a nutshell

Investec’s FTSE 100 Enhanced Income Plan is a relatively straightforward plan to understand. It pays a fixed rate of income, every month, for a fixed term. Therefore, your income is paid regardless of what happens to the stock market. The ‘FTSE 100’ in the plan title refers to what happens to your original investment, with your initial capital returned at the end of the term unless the FTSE 100 Index falls by more than 50% during the plan term. If it does, and also finishes below its starting value, you will lose 1% for each 1% fall in the Index. This plan therefore puts your capital at risk.

What is driving customers?

This is our best-selling income investment plan. Whether you are working and need to supplement your earnings, or retired and looking at ways to supplement your pension or savings income, the need for income is one of the most common demands put on our capital. Traditional investment funds only tend to offer a variable income, whilst also putting your capital at risk on a daily basis. Rather uniquely in the income investment space, this plan combines a fixed income with some degree of capital protection.

Where have all the fixed rates gone?

In contrast to the high levels of the FTSE 100 Index we have experienced recently, fixed savings rates are still at record lows. With no realistic prospect of any sudden sharp increases, let alone a return to the 4%+ rates that were around five years ago, whatever your situation the ability to meet income needs remains a very real challenge. But against this backdrop of intense pressure on savers, and whilst stock market conditions perhaps raise more questions than they do answers, this investment from Investec has remained a top seller with income seekers. So let’s take a look at its main features…

Fixed income

With savings rates at such low levels, the prospect of a high fixed income is likely to be attractive to a wide range of income seekers. Unusual for an investment, which normally pay a variable income dependent on the performance of the underlying asset, this plan pays a fixed income regardless of the performance of the stock market. The current issue of the plan is paying 5.04% p.a. fixed, which means that the investor has the certainty of knowing at the outset exactly how much they will receive each and every year.

Monthly payments

Another popular feature is the monthly payment frequency since this is the most useful in terms of budgeting, especially when many UK equity income funds only offer twice yearly or quarterly payments. Therefore, not only does the investment provide a high level of fixed income, but it also pays this on a monthly basis, which could be an important feature when looking to supplement existing income. At 5.04% p.a. on offer from the latest issue, this equates to 0.42% paid each and every month for the entire term of the plan.

Fixed term

The Enhanced Income Plan has a fixed term of six years and although you do have the option to withdraw your money early (and in this respect is not dissimilar to an investment fund), the plan is designed to be held for the full term and early withdrawal could result in you getting back less (or more) than you invested.

Many fixed rate savers will be used to a fixed term whilst this feature should also appeal to investors who wish to plan around this accordingly. Combined with a fixed and regular level of income, this also means that full plan terms are known at the outset and so investors can consider more clearly the risk versus reward prior to investing their capital.

Some capital protection from a falling market

The Enhanced Income Plan contains what is known as conditional capital protection, which means that the return of your initial investment is conditional on the FTSE 100 Index not falling by more than 50% below its value at the start of the plan. If the FTSE stays above this 50% barrier throughout the plan term, you will receive a full return of your original investment when the plan ends. However, if it falls below this level, and is also below its starting value at the end of the six year term, your initial investment will be reduced by 1% for every 1% fall. Therefore this plan puts your capital at risk and you could lose some or all of your initial investment.

The use of averaging

When calculating the final level of the FTSE for the purposes of comparing it with its value at the start of the plan, the plan takes the average of the closing levels of the Index on each business day during the last 6 months of the plan term. The use of averaging can reduce the adverse effects of a falling market or sudden market falls whilst it can also reduce the benefits of an increasing market or sudden increases in the market during the last six months of the plan.

Credit ratings and agencies

This plan is a structured investment and so unlike investing in a fund where you would buy units at the prevailing price on the date of purchase, your initial capital is used to purchase securities issued by Investec Bank plc. These securities are structured in a way so that they aim to provide the fixed income and the return of capital as described above, and means that Investec Bank plc’s ability to meet their financial obligations becomes an important investment consideration. If the bank fails or becomes insolvent, this could affect both the payment of any future income, as well as the return of your original investment and you would not be covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme for default alone.

Fitch is one of the main global credit rating agencies and has awarded Investec Bank plc a credit rating of BBB with a stable outlook (awarded 3rd October 2016). The ‘BBB’ rating denotes a good credit quality and indicates that expectations of default risk are currently low and that Investec Bank plc’s capacity for payment of its financial commitments is considered to be adequate but adverse business or economic conditions are more likely to impair this capacity. The stable outlook indicates that the rating is not expected to change in the short to medium term, i.e. in the next 6 months to 2 years.

Investec Bank plc profile

Investec is an international specialist bank and asset manager with its main operations in the UK and South Africa. Established in 1974, they currently employ around 9,000 people and as at 31st March 2016, look after £121.7 billion of customer assets. They provide a range of financial products and services and specialise in a number of areas, particularly within the banking sector. Their banking operation looks after £24.0 billion of customer deposits and they are also a market leading provider of investment plans and structured deposits in the UK.

Risk v reward

The principle of risk versus reward means that the search for potentially higher returns leads us to consider putting our capital at risk. A good benchmark for assessing your investment is to compare what you could get from a fixed rate deposit (capital protected) over a similar timeframe, and then consider whether you are comfortable with the risk to capital you are taking in order to receive the opportunity for a higher return.

Our leading five year fixed rate bond is currently offering 2.01%, and so by accepting risk to your capital, you are increasing your fixed return by 3.03% a year (since the fixed income from this investment is 5.04% p.a.). With the savings market failing to meet the need for higher income, the decision is whether you are comfortable with putting your capital at risk and the conditional capital protection offered, in order to achieve the higher return.

Fair Investment view

Commenting on the plan, head of savings and investments at Fair Investment Company Oliver Roylance-Smith said: “One of the main attractions with the Enhanced Income Plan is the ability for potential investors to consider its risk versus reward prior to investing. The plan pays a fixed income, each month, for a fixed term – so you know exactly what you will receive, when, and for how long – whilst you get your capital back at the end of the term unless the FTSE has fallen by more than 50%.“

He continued: “Compared to other income investments, this defined return for a defined level of risk could be attractive whilst the monthly income and fixed income features are often high up on the list of priorities for income seekers.”

The plan is open for new ISA investments up to the £15,240 allowance, Cash ISA and Stocks & Shares ISA transfers, as well as non-ISA investments. The minimum investment is £3,000.

Click for more information about the Investec FTSE 100 Enhanced Income Plan »

 

No news, feature article or comment should be seen as a personal recommendation to invest. Prior to making any decision to invest, you should ensure that you are familiar with the risks associated with a particular investment. If you are at all unsure of the suitability of a particular investment, both in respect of its objectives and its risk profile, you should seek independent financial advice.

This investment does not include the same security of capital that is afforded to a deposit account. Your capital is at risk.

Tax treatment of ISAs depends on your individual circumstances and is based on current law which may be subject to change in the future. Always remember to check whether any charges apply before transferring an ISA.

This is a structured investment plan that is not capital protected and is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) for default alone. There is a risk of losing some or all of your initial investment. There is a risk that the company backing the plan or any company associated with the plan may be unable to repay your initial investment and any returns stated. In addition, you may not get back the full amount of your initial investment if the plan is not held for the full term. The past performance of the FTSE 100 Index is not a guide to its future performance.

Savings Focus: Masthaven Bank launches with some market leading fixed rate bonds

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Last updated: 14/02/2017

Masthaven Bank is the latest bank to launch a range of fixed term deposits to the UK retail market and based on its initial range of products, looks set to be a real challenger, even amongst the challenger banks. So, if you have a minimum of £500 that you can tie up for at least 6 months, and you want to take advantage of some of the highest savings rates on the market, their first tranche of products is certainly worth reviewing. Here we take a closer look at what the bank has to offer savers.

Lending history

Masthaven is a brand new bank and the first new bank to be awarded a banking licence in 2016. However, they are not completely new to lending. Since 2004, they have been providing a flexible and personalised approach to lending in the specialist areas of bridging loans and secured lending (second charge mortgages), areas in which they remain one of the most competitive propositions in the market.

UK based fixed rate savings accounts

Headquartered in London, and with a knowledgeable and experienced team of savings specialists based in their UK contact centre, they have just launched their retail banking arm with a highly competitive range of fixed term and flexible term fixed rate savings accounts.

Masthaven Bank Fixed Term Bonds – up to 2.06% AER

Masthaven Bank’s fixed rate savings accounts are aimed at savers who are able to tie their money up for a fixed period, and are also looking for a fixed and regular rate of interest. They have four fixed term products, with terms ranging from 1 year to five years, and as you would expect, the rate of interest available increases with the length of term you choose: their 1 Year Fixed Term Bond pays 1.25% AER, whilst their 5 Year Fixed Term Bond offers a market leading 2.06% AER.

Summary of Fixed Term Bond rates

A summary of Masthaven’s fixed term bond rates is as follows:

  • 1 Year Fixed Term Bond:     1.25% AER
  • 2 Year Fixed Term Bond:     1.58% AER
  • 3 Year Fixed Term Bond:     1.76% AER
  • 5 Year Fixed Term Bond:     2.06% AER

Click here for more information on the Masthaven Fixed Term Bonds »

Masthaven Flexible Term Saver – create your savings account

Masthaven also offers the option to choose your own term, with their Flexible Term Saver. Terms can be selected in whole months, ranging anywhere between 6 months and 60 months, with rates between 0.60% AER and 1.96% AER respectively. This means you can tailor to the month the exact term you want, whilst also benefitting from a top rate of interest which is fixed for term of the account.

The Flexible Term Saver is an innovative account designed for customers who may be saving for a key event, such as a holiday of a lifetime, a wedding, university fees or a deposit for a house. The flexibility around term choice allows you to create a savings account based on your own needs and timeframes, so that you take advantage of a fixed interest rate but without having to sacrifice a competitive rate of return. Example interest rates are as follows:

  • 15 Month Flexible Term Saver:     1.33% AER
  • 18 Month Flexible Term Saver:     1.42% AER
  • 30 Month Flexible Term Saver:     1.67% AER
  • 48 Month Flexible Term Saver:     1.91% AER

See rates and find out more about the Masthaven Bank Flexible Term Saver »

How much can you save?

All Masthaven savings accounts have a minimum balance of £500 and a maximum balance of £250,000 per account. You may have as many savings accounts with them as you want at any one time, however there is a maximum total balance of £1,000,000 that can be held across all of their savings accounts. Any funds held jointly will count towards each of your own individual limits.

Interest

Interest will be calculated from the day on which you make your deposit and is calculated daily based on the funds held in your account. You can have interest paid either monthly or annually and importantly, interest can either be paid into an account of your choice, or added to the balance of your fixed rate bond account, in which case you can benefit from compound interest. Interest will be paid to you gross, without tax deducted.

Account set up

Each account can be set up as a single or joint account. Accounts are opened online and access to account information is online or via telephone. As with most fixed term accounts, no early withdrawals are permitted.

Financial Services Compensation Scheme

Masthaven Bank is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. As a UK regulated bank your deposits are protected up to £75,000 by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (‘FSCS’). For further information about this protection you can read ‘How FSCS protects your money’ or you can visit the FSCS website.

The UK’s only owner-managed bank

Masthaven Bank was awarded the first 2016 retail banking licence back in April, and launched officially on 28th November with the suite of fixed term savings accounts detailed above. It aims to offer an alternative to the one-size-fits-all approach of many conventional banks, and is the UK’s only owner-managed challenger bank with a partnership model which at launch sees 80% of employees already shareholders in the business.

The Board of Directors is as follows:

  • The Chairman is Peter Harrison, ex-CEO of the UK Financial Services Practice at KPMG, Chairman of the Audit Committee of a FTSE 250 Company and ex-Chair of the Audit Committee for CIT Bank Ltd.
  • Andrew Bloom is CEO. After working for KPMG and Strand Hanson he founded Masthaven Finance in 2004. Andrew has built Masthaven into an award-winning mortgage, development finance and bridging finance provider.
  • Managing Director is Jon Hall who joined the business in December 2014. Previously Mr Hall was Chief Executive of Saffron Building Society where he grew the mutual’s ranking from 31st to 13th largest in the UK and the largest in Eastern England.
  • Three Non-Executive Directors join Masthaven’s Board: Anne Gunther, previously Chief Executive of Norwich & Peterborough Building Society and Standard Life Bank; Ashley Machin, who most recently was Chief Digital Officer at TSB Bank and Michael Baker, FD of Joint Ventures at the William Pears Group.

Access to this expert leadership team along with a strong team of support staff approaching 100 in number, combined with straightforward digital services, means Masthaven will offer what it calls human digital banking.

Click here to compare all Masthaven Bank fixed rate savings accounts »

 

Please note that Masthaven Bank fixed rate bonds are fixed term products which means you cannot withdraw your funds or close your account until the end of the agreed term.

AER stands for the Annual Equivalent Rate and illustrates what the interest rate would be if interest was paid and compounded once each year.

Fixed rate bond holders face significant falls: our roundup of the latest fixed rate options

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Last updated: 17/01/2017

For those bond holders with maturing accounts, many are facing significant falls in the level of returns on offer when comparing their maturing account with the current crop of fixed term deposits on offer, especially those coming out of four or five year fixed rate bonds. And yet despite this low interest rate environment, fixed rate bonds continue to play an important role for many savers. With this in mind, we give you a roundup of our latest fixed rate bond offers, as well as take a look at some of our most popular alternatives.

Fixed rate bonds a popular choice

With interest rates looking set to continue at their record lows for some time to come, and whilst top instant access accounts only offer around 1.0% AER, savers looking for the certainty of knowing exactly how much they will receive, when and for how long, still look towards the fixed rate bond which remains a popular choice for those wanting to combine a fixed return with full capital protection.

Short term: up to 2 years

Fixed rate bonds

For those looking at the shortest fixed terms, Habib Bank offer a 6 Month Fixed Rate Deposit paying 0.80% AER, whilst new entrants Zenith Bank and Masthaven Bank offer 1.30% AER and 1.35% AER respectively if you can tie your money up for a year with their 1 Year Fixed Term Deposit. Minimum deposits start as low as £500 and your deposits are eligible for the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). Interest is paid at maturity and as is standard with most fixed term deposits, no withdrawals are permitted during the term of the bond. Zenith Bank also offers a top rate of 1.52% AER if you fix for 2 years with their 2 Year Fixed Term Deposit account, with deposits available from £1,000, whilst Masthaven’s 2 Year Fixed Term Bond is slightly more competitive at 1.53% AER with a £500 minimum balance.

Fixed rate Cash ISAs

Bank of Cyprus UK offer market leading rates in this category, with their 1 Year Fixed Rate Cash ISA paying 1.05%, and marginally higher at 1.10% AER if you want to fix for 2 years, both with a low minimum deposit of just £500. These accounts are available to anyone aged 16 or over and interest is paid annually into your Cash ISA. ISA transfers are permitted and eligible deposits are covered by the UK FSCS. Aldermore Bank offers a market leading 1.20% AER on their 2 Year Fixed Rate Cash ISA but the minimum is slightly higher at £1,000. Aldermore Bank is the five time winner of the Consumer Moneyfacts ISA Provider of the Year Award (2011-2015).

Medium term: 3 to 4 years

Fixed rate bonds

In the three to four year space, our top deal comes from the new kid on the block, Masthaven Bank, and their 3 Year Fixed Term Deposit, currently paying 1.67% AER. The minimum deposit is £500 and interest can be paid monthly or annually. For those looking specifically for monthly interest, United Bank UK’s 3 Year Fixed Term Deposit pays a slightly lower rate of 1.55% AER, but also offers a monthly interest option, in addition to having it paid annually or at maturity. No withdrawals are permitted from these accounts.

Leading our tables over 4 years is Vanquis Bank offering 1.85% AER and Masthaven Bank offering 1.84% AER with their 4 Year Fixed Term Bond, for those with between £500 and £250,000 to deposit. Both accounts have annual or monthly interest options, but no withdrawals are permitted during the term. Accounts can be opened in sole or joint names.

Fixed rate Cash ISAs

Bank of Cyprus UK continues to be very competitive in the fixed rate Cash ISA market with their 3 Year Fixed Rate Cash ISA, currently paying 1.20% AER and with a respectable minimum deposit of just £500. Aldermore are offering a higher rate of 1.25% AER fixed over 3 years with their 3 Year Fixed Rate Cash ISA whilst both of these accounts allow you to transfer in existing ISAs from other providers, and can be set up easily online.

Longer term: 5 years+

Fixed rate bonds

Although the highest rates are still rewarded with higher savings rates in return for locking your money away for longer, the interest rate gap between short term and longer term is also at record lows. For those prepared to commit their savings for five years, Vanquis Bank’s 5 Year Fixed Rate Bond is paying 2.00% AER with a minimum deposit is £1,000 whilst Masthaven Bank’s 2.01% AER is currently market leading and interest can be paid monthly or annually.

Fixed rate bond holders facing significant falls

Just over a year ago we were talking about savings rates of around 2.10% for a 1 year fixed rate, 2.35% for a 2 year fixed whilst a 3 year would get you 2.70% AER fixed. Our best rates above will earn you 1.35%, 1.53% and 1.61% AER respectively, equivalent to reductions of between 35% and 40%. And the situation is even worse for longer term bond holders. We have many customers who are coming out of five year fixed rates where the rate on offer was around 4.60%. Now, they are looking at 2.01% as the market leading five year fixed rate, a significant reduction in interest of 56%. For someone with a maturing lump sum of £50,000, this is equivalent to their income dropping from £2,300 per year to £1,005.

Investing for fixed income

It is therefore perhaps unsurprising that many fixed rate savers have had to consider a wider range of options than ever before in the search for higher levels of income, and in doing so this inevitably involves considering investments and the associated risk to your capital. One of the main issues facing those in this situation is that most traditional income investments only offer a variable income, and so comparing with a fixed rate bond can be more difficult. This is perhaps one reason which helps to explain why the Enhanced Income Plan from Investec has been such a popular plan with our customers.

Fixed income, fixed term

The plan offers a fixed income, which is paid to you regardless of the performance of the stock market, whilst the investment also has a fixed term, so you know exactly how much you will be paid and for how long. The current issue offers 5.04% fixed income each year, which is paid as 0.42% each month.

In addition to offering a fixed income, this plan is different to most investment funds in that is also offers some capital protection against a falling stock market. Known as conditional capital protection, this means that your original investment is retuned in full unless the FTSE 100 Index falls by more than 50% during the plan term. If it does, and also finishes the fixed term lower than its value at the start of the plan, your initial investment will be reduced by 1% for every 1% fall, so you could lose some or all of your initial investment.

The Enhanced Income Plan is also available as an ISA and accepts ISA transfers with a minimum investment of £3,000.

Cash versus investment – understand the risks first

One of the main differences between the fixed rate bond and the fixed income investment is that with the former, your capital is treated as a deposit and is therefore protected and returned to you at the end of the term, subject to the bank in question remaining solvent. You also have access to the deposit protection available from the UK FSCS.

An investment into the Enhanced Income Plan is used to purchase securities issued by Investec Bank plc, which means the bank’s ability to meet and repay their financial obligations is equally an important consideration. However, since this is not a deposit, you are not eligible for compensation under the FSCS for default alone, and as highlighted above, the return of your capital is also dependent on the performance of the FTSE 100 Index and so is at risk.

Risk v reward

The principle of risk versus reward means that the search for higher fixed returns usually leads to the need to consider putting your capital at risk. A good benchmark for assessing your fixed rate investment is to compare what you could get from a fixed rate deposit over a similar timeframe, and then consider whether you are prepared to accept the level of risk to your capital in return for the higher fixed rate.

Our best five year fixed rate is currently offering 1.90%. By accepting risk to your capital, the Investec plan offers 5.04% over six years, thereby offering more than two and half times the level of income each year. The main risk is that your capital is at risk if the FTSE 100 Index falls below 50% and so once you have understood how the plan works, the decision then is whether you are comfortable with putting your capital at risk in return for the higher fixed return on offer.

 

Compare fixed rate bonds »

Compare fixed rate Cash ISAs »

Find out more about the Investec Enhanced Income Plan »

 

No news, feature article or comment should be seen as a personal recommendation to invest. Prior to making any decision to invest, you should ensure that you are familiar with the risks associated with a particular investment. If you are at all unsure of the suitability of a particular investment, both in respect of its objectives and its risk profile, you should seek independent financial advice.

Tax treatment of ISAs depends on your individual circumstances and is based on current law which may be subject to change in the future. Always remember to check whether any charges apply before transferring an ISA.

The Investec Enhanced Income Plan is a structured investment plan which is not capital protected and is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) for default alone. There is a risk of losing some or all of your initial investment. There is a risk that the company backing the plan or any company associated with the plan may be unable to repay your initial investment and any returns stated. In addition, you may not get back the full amount of your initial investment if the plan is not held for the full term. The past performance of the FTSE 100 Index is not a guide to its future performance.

AER stands for the Annual Equivalent Rate and illustrates what the interest rate would be if interest was paid and compounded once each year.

Income versus Inflation: consider your options carefully

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Last updated: 14/02/2017

As if last month’s inflation increase to its highest level for 22 months was not bad enough, the talk this month of it possibly spiking to 4% or higher next year on the back of the Brexit vote, has created a number of serious concerns for both savers and investors. The result is that the income we generate from our capital is going to become more important than ever. With this in mind, we take a closer look at the impact the ongoing economic climate could have on anyone looking to take an income from their capital, as well as review some of the more popular options being considered by income seekers.

Inflation on the rise

The Consumer Price Index rose from 0.6% to 1.0% in September, the biggest monthly rise in more than 2 years and its highest level for 22 months. Although it is still some way off the Bank of England’s inflationary target of 2%, there also seems to be a general consensus that things are likely to get worse on the inflationary front, before they get better.

“Savings rates at record lows” – no news there then…

So, as if record low savings rates weren’t enough, this recent spike to the headline rate of inflation has added further pressure to the already difficult conditions that savers have had to endure in recent years. In fact, further to this rise, less than half of all savings accounts on offer can either match or beat inflation, resulting in more and more savers seeing the spending power of their cash being eroded. According to the Bank of England, the average easy access account now pays under 0.3%. So with further cuts to savings rates on the cards, inflationary rises are a serious cause for concern.

More bad news for savers

Savers are also facing more bad news since not only did the Bank of England’s cut to the base rate in August to 0.25% offer little hope of savings rates increasing any time soon, this move also had no impact on the pound, which has since fallen significantly against many of the major currencies. Most notably is the fall of sterling against the dollar, which recently saw a 31 year low against our North Atlantic neighbours, as the reality of a hard exit from Europe starts to take hold.

Serious concerns for those in retirement

Whilst a poor exchange rate boosts export orientated businesses and manufacturing, it also drives up inflation as the price of imports rise, with the most affected likely being food, then goods and services. This means that those in retirement will be hit particularly hard since they generally spend higher proportions of their income on these essentials. In fact, inflation is consistently cited as one of the most serious concerns for pensioners, along with the cost of care, running out of money and future changes to the state pension.

How high could inflation go? – the impact of a ‘hard’ Brexit

Experts agree unanimously that the fall in the value of the pound is likely to drive prices up, and the National Institute for Economic Research expects consumer price inflation to peak to 4% in the second half of next year, a significant jump from its current level. Some fund managers believe it could go even higher, possibly reaching 5%. This also means that the Bank of England is very unlikely to increase interest rates, with some suggestions that they will remain at their record low 0.25% until at least 2019.

You must take a view on inflation

This all combines to suggest an extended period of tough times for savers and is perhaps going to be one of the most difficult couple of years for anyone relying on income generated from capital, with cash savers undoubtedly hit the hardest. Although forecasts about short term changes could prove wrong, savers should be wary of focusing on the short term when it is the longer term impact of inflation which causes the most damage.

Remember, inflation is a backward-looking measure, i.e. it measures the rate of inflation over the last 12 months. It tells us little about what will happen in the next 12 months, let alone looking beyond this timeframe, and yet 1,000s of us each day make decisions which tie us in for much longer periods without considering its impact. You must take a view on the impact inflation might have, before you act.

A note on the Personal Savings Allowance

Remember that since the start of the current tax year (6th April 2016), most people receive a personal tax free allowance for interest earnings on savings. For basic rate taxpayers, this is set at £1,000 each tax year, whilst higher rate taxpayers get an allowance of £500. Beyond these allowances, basic rate taxpayers will pay 20 percent on savings income and higher rate taxpayers pay 40 percent (additional rate taxpayers will not receive a personal allowance). Also, note that income from ISAs does not count towards your Personal Savings Allowance (it’s already tax-free).

Income options and your net return

The net return on your capital is the amount you receive after tax and inflation has been taken into account. Thanks to the Personal Savings Allowance, many savers have had the impact of tax on their returns negated. However, inflation is still a critical factor, which is why the current economic backdrop should play an important role in deciding which route you decide to take with your capital. We therefore take a look at some of our most popular income options, and see how their returns stack up against the rising cost of living.

Fixed rate bonds

Historically the cornerstone product for many savers, these accounts have probably suffered more than any other in recent times. Consistent reductions in the returns from both short and longer term fixed rates have seen many savers facing significant falls (more than half) in the income they have enjoyed from their maturing fixed rate, when compared to the best on offer from bonds with the same duration available at maturity.

Savers face losing more than 50% of their income

One group that continues to face losing more than 50% of their income is the thousands of savers in the current crop of five year fixed rates that will mature in the coming months. These savers will have enjoyed a fixed rate of interest for the last five years, for example Scottish Widows Bank was paying 4.60% AER. By comparison, our best five year fixed rate currently on offer, from Masthaven Bank, only offers 2.06% AER. That’s a reduction of a staggering 2.54% per year, equivalent to a fall in income of 55%. Needless to say there are not many of us who can withstand this sort of drop in income without it having a significant impact.

To fix or not to fix?

The picture is a similar one for shorter term fixed rates. The best 1 and 2 year fixed rate bonds are currently paying around 1.31% to 1.58%, and although all of these rates are higher than the current rate of inflation, this will not provide a real return if either you are having to use the income to supplement your cost of living (so the actual value of your capital is being eroded), or inflation rises in the coming months and years. With such sharp falls in the level of interest on offer compared to a few years ago, this also means more savers will need to use capital to supplement their income, making their situation even worse over time.

Should you ultimately decide to commit to a fixed rate, then before applying make sure you fully consider the current economic conditions and the impact they might have over the full term of your fixed rate. There are clear inflationary pressures at the moment so you should be confident that rises to the cost of living will not increase significantly during the fixed term period, otherwise any inflation beating returns may well evaporate.

Beware the instant access trap

So as you can see, fixed rate bonds remain at record lows and inflation aside, it is the fall in income that savers are experiencing, especially from longer term fixed rates about to mature, that is causing the greatest concern. This has also resulted in a number of maturing fixed rate bondholders moving away from medium to longer term fixed rates in favour of instant access accounts, on the basis that something might happen relatively soon which will then spur them on to taking further action. This course of action currently offers little or no prospect of any real growth on your capital, your income will be considerably lower than from a fixed rate bond, interest rates are unlikely to go anywhere for some time, and should inflation move upwards as expected, this could prove to be a very disastrous strategy indeed.

Moving up the risk spectrum

The reality therefore is that savers sitting in cash will therefore continue to struggle to generate a real return, regardless of whether they remain in instant access savings or commit to a fixed rate of interest. This is likely to result in a rise in the numbers looking towards riskier assets to stand any chance of generating an inflation-adjusted real return, especially for income seekers who need to maintain a higher level of income to support their cost of living.

Savers looking to investments

Whilst the combination of low fixed rates and the potential for high inflation may force more of us to consider investing, this raises the difficult question of taking on more risk in an attempt to replicate historical levels of income enjoyed from deposit based products. Although most investments only offer a variable income, the fixed monthly income (currently 0.42% per month, equivalent to 5.04% per year) from Investec’s FTSE 100 Enhanced Income Plan has been a very popular choice with our investors. The plan also includes conditional capital protection, so your capital is returned at the end of the fixed term unless the FTSE 100 Index falls by more than 50%. This plan is available as an ISA and also accepts ISA transfers and non-ISA investments.

Risk versus reward

It is important to remember that unlike deposit based savings products, this plan puts your capital at risk and if the FTSE does fall more than 50%, you could lose some or all of your initial capital. Also, since it is an investment rather than a deposit-based plan, your initial capital is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme for default.

In conclusion …

Whatever route you decide to take, there is no escaping the impact of continuing record low savings rates and falling income levels, all to be compounded by the prospect of sharp rises to inflation and the uncertainty that may come with our exit from the European Union. It seems the trade off for capital security for some time to come will be low rates of interest and in all likelihood a negative return in real terms, whilst for those considering using some of their savings to invest, you must make sure you fully understand all of the risks involved before proceeding.

 

Click here to compare instant access accounts »

Click here to compare fixed rate bonds »

Click here for more information on the Investec Enhanced Income Plan »

Click here to visit our Income Section »

 

No news, feature article or comment should be seen as a personal recommendation to invest. Prior to making any decision to invest, you should ensure that you are familiar with the risks associated with a particular investment. Fair Investment Company does not offer advice and any investment transacted through us in on a non-advised basis. If you are at all unsure of the suitability of a particular investment, both in respect of its objectives and its risk profile, you should seek independent financial advice.

The Investec Enhanced Income Plan is a structured investment plan which is not capital protected and is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) for default alone. There is a risk of losing some or all of your initial investment. There is a risk that the company backing the plan or any company associated with the plan may be unable to repay your initial investment and any returns stated. In addition, you may not get back the full amount of your initial investment if the plan is not held for the full term. The past performance of the FTSE 100 Index or any shares listed within the Index is not a guide to their future performance. This investment does not include the same security of capital which is afforded to a deposit account.    

Tax treatment of ISAs depends on your individual circumstances and is based on current law which may be subject to change in the future. Always remember to check whether any charges apply before transferring an ISA.

AER stands for the Annual Equivalent Rate and illustrates what the interest rate would be if interest was paid and compounded once each year.

5 percent fixed for 12 months – our best selling current account…

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5 Percent

Last updated: 25/10/2016

With more and more high interest current account providers announcing reductions to their interest rates, the 5% fixed for 12 months from Nationwide now looks even better than before. Here we take a more detailed look at the pressures savers are facing in these difficult economic conditions, as well as help reveal why the FlexDirect continues to be our best selling current account.

Nationwide FlexDirect account summary

  • 5.0% AER (4.89% gross p.a.) fixed for 12 months
  • Paid on balances up to £2,500, no interest paid above this amount
  • 1.0% AER variable on balances up to £2,500 after 12 months
  • You must pay in £1,000 per month to qualify
  • No requirement to set up direct debits
  • Contactless Visa debit card available
  • 12 month fee-free arranged overdraft available
  • Free text alerts to help you manage your account
  • No monthly account fee
  • Covered by the Current Account Switch Guarantee and Financial Services Compensation Scheme

Savings rates in dire straits

Our market leading instant access account (RCI Bank Freedom Savings Account) is currently paying 1.0% AER variable, whilst our best long term fixed rate (Vanquis 5 Year Fixed Rate Bond) will get you 1.95% AER – that’s an increase of less than 1% per year for tying up your money for five years, albeit the rate from Vanquis is fixed for the full term. Then of course there are a load of accounts offering rates in between these, mainly fixed rate bonds of different durations. It may be repeated far too often, but unfortunately it makes it no less true – savings rates are at record lows – and it would seem this at the very least, this is set to continue, and possibly get even worse.

Inflation into the mix

If record low savings rates weren’t enough to worry about, the Consumer Price Index rose from 0.6% to 1.0% in September, the biggest monthly rise in more than 2 years and its highest level for 22 months. Since this rise, less than half of all savings accounts are able to match or beat this level, which means many savers are seeing the value of their cash eroded in real terms. According to the Bank of England, the average easy access account now pays under 0.3%, and with further cuts to savings rates on the cards, inflationary rises are a serious cause for concern.

High interest current accounts

Although historically, current accounts offered little if anything in the form of interest on your account balance this has changed significantly in the last few years, and against this harsh economic backdrop for savers, it is hardly surprising that the high headline rates of interest on offer have made compelling reading. Indeed, high interest current accounts have been one of the most popular safe havens for those looking to combine all of the usual account features you would expect from a full banking service with a highly competitive rate.

5% fixed for 12 months

Top of the rate table is Nationwide’s FlexDirect account which offers 5.0% AER (4.89% gross p.a.) fixed for the first 12 months. This rate is paid on all in-credit balances up to £2,500 and you must pay in a minimum of £1,000 per month to qualify (this excludes internal transfers). After 12 months the rate reverts to 1.0% AER variable. There is no monthly account fee, and with top rates on instant access and fixed term deposits ranging between 1.0% and 1.95%, it is easy to see why this account has attracted so much attention.

Others falling short

TSB Bank also offers 5.0% AER but this is variable and is only paid on balances up to £2,000, rather than the £2,500 on offer from Nationwide. The rate is, however, paid ongoing rather than for a fixed period of 12 months. But TSB has recently announced that with effect from 4th January 2017, the rate will reduce to 3.0% AER variable and will only be paid on balances up to £1,500. This follows in the footsteps of Santander who announced back in August that the 3% top tier interest rate on its flagship 1|2|3 Account would be halved to 1.50%, taking effect from 1st November this year. Lloyds has also announced that the rate on their Club Lloyds current account will halve from 4% to 2% in January 2017.

So whilst Nationwide’s main competitors are reducing their rates, this makes the FlexDirect offering even more competitive, especially since the rate is fixed for the first 12 months. Currently we are not aware that Nationwide has any plans to reduce its rate, although they state their rates are constantly under review.

Fair Investment view

Commenting on the account, Oliver Roylance-Smith, head of savings and investments at Fair Investment Company said; “The FlexDirect from Nationwide offers a market leading interest rate on balances up to £2,500, although the £1,000 you are required to pay in each month is at the higher end compared to other current accounts offering competitive interest rates. There is also no monthly account fee, so all of the interest earned goes straight into your pocket. Although the rate drops to 1% variable after the first 12 months, this is still considerably more than most other current accounts and on a par with some of the top instant access accounts currently on offer. With the Current Account Switch Guarantee running alongside, there really is no excuse to finding out more.

Santander still the top choice on larger balances

With effect from 1st November, Santander’s 1|2|3 account offers 1.50% AER variable on all balances up to £20,000. If you were to compare this with the best instant access accounts on offer, it would be a clear market leader, albeit with the cap on the amount you can earn interest on. You can also earn up to 3% cashback on selected household bills such as council tax, gas and electricity, broadband, mobile phones and more. You must pay in at least £500 per month and have at least two active direct debits to receive interest and cashback. There is also a £5 monthly account fee, which may be cancelled out if you make the most of the cashback on offer – their site has a simple calculator to help you work out how much cashback and interest you might earn, versus this monthly cost.

A note on the Personal Savings allowance

Remember that since the start of the current tax year (6th April 2016), most people receive a personal tax free allowance for interest earnings on savings. For basic rate taxpayers this is set at £1,000 each tax year, whilst higher rate taxpayers get an allowance of £500. Beyond these allowances, basic rate taxpayers will pay 20 percent on savings income and higher rate taxpayers pay 40 percent. Additional rate tax payers will not receive a personal allowance. Also note that income from ISAs does not count towards your Personal Savings Allowance (it’s already tax-free).

An important part to play for savers?

Even with the Personal Savings Allowance, there is no doubt that every penny counts in these days of record low rates, creeping inflation and economic pressures all round, and so the returns on offer from the best high interest current accounts cannot be ignored. 5% on £2,500 equates to £125. Our market leading instant access currently offers 1.0% and so you would need £12,500 in that account to achieve the same level of return. Although these are first and foremost current accounts, they also have every right to be considered amongst the range of options for savers.

7-Day Switch

Apart from the low interest rates generally on offer, one of the main reasons many of us have stayed with our current account provider far longer than other type of account, is the fear that something would go wrong with the direct debits associated with our account. However, since the introduction of the current account switch service in September 2013, the whole process of switching banks is easier and will now be completed in seven working days – the 7-Day Switch.

Over 40 banks have signed up to the service (including Nationwide and Santander), which makes sure that all outgoing payments, such as standing orders and direct debits, will be transferred across to your new bank on your behalf. The service also guarantees that should any incoming payments be sent to your old account in error, these will be automatically redirected to your new account for up to 36 months after your switch date. This means the banks do all the hard work for you, making switching smoother and faster.

To switch or not to switch?

The 7-Day Switch rules therefore offer peace of mind to anyone considering a switch from their current account provider. However, you don’t necessarily have to switch your current account – although Santander requires you to have at least two active direct debits, Nationwide does not and so if maximising interest is your top priority, you could also consider taking one of these accounts out in addition to your existing current account, thereby leaving everything you already have in place. You will of course have to make sure you pay in the minimum amount required each month in order to earn the level of interest on offer.

Could you get more from your current account?

Many existing accounts pay no interest at all, so with up to 5.0% available it is always worth comparing what the market has to offer. Staying put simply because you have all of your direct debits set up is no longer a valid reason, especially since the introduction of the current account switch guarantee (see below for further details). As a minimum, these accounts should be considered an important contributor to the overall returns from your savings.

 

Click here for more information on Nationwide’s FlexDirect account »

Click here for more information on TSB’s Current Plus account »

Click here for more information on Santander’s 1|2|3 account »

Click here to compare high interest current accounts »

 

Please note that all rates and charges quoted are subject to change.

Overdrafts are only open to customers aged 18 or over and are subject to approval.

AER stands for Annual Equivalent Rate and illustrates what the interest rate would be if interest was paid and compounded once each year.

Gross is the interest you will receive before tax is deducted.

Top 10 tips for ISA savers and investors

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Top 10 iStock_000012645257Small

Since we have just passed the halfway point in the tax year, now is the perfect opportunity to review your ISA planning, whilst you still have plenty of time to do so. There are plenty of ISA opportunities out there, and since each of us (over the age of 16 for a Cash ISA, and 18 for an Investment ISA) has a healthy ISA allowance each and every year, this really should be a top priority for all savers and investors to review all existing ISAs as well as the wide range of options open to them. To help you act and act fast, our head of savings and investments, Oliver Roylance-Smith, has put together his Top 10 ISA tips, so there can be no excuse for missing out on valuable tax-efficient returns well before the end of the tax year…

Tip 1 – Know your limits…

At the start of each financial year, HMRC set a limit on the amount each individual can put into an ISA over the course of the next twelve months, between 6th April and the following 5th April. This is known as the ISA allowance. The ISA allowance for the current tax year (2016/17) stands at £15,240, which is the highest it has ever been. Also remember that this allowance is per person (over the age of 16 for a Cash ISA, and age 18 for an Investment ISA), so a couple can invest up to £30,480 in total this tax year.

Tip 2 – Consider the impact of current ISA savings rates

However, despite this generous ISA allowance it is not all good news, especially for cash ISA savers. This is because the increases to the ISA allowance in recent years has coincided with some of the lowest interest rates on record, so although there is the incentive to save, the deals on offer are far less attractive than the cash-based returns of yester-year. Therefore it is more important than ever to consider the potential impact of this on the overall returns from our capital and what impact this might have.

Tip 3 – Take a risk check

Cash ISAs protect your initial capital (and your initial deposit is normally covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme) and offer either a fixed or variable return, whilst Investment ISAs offer the opportunity for higher returns but place your capital at risk. Generally the greater risk you take with your capital, the higher the potential rewards and capital losses are.

Further to the Bank of England’s first base rate cut in seven years back in August, savers have again realised that the likelihood of any significant change to savings rates is very unlikely, and even when interest rates do start to rise there is no guarantee that this will be passed on to savers. Times have definitely changed, and this has resulted in the continued trend of record Investment ISA subscriptions as more and more ISA savers are in the hunt for higher returns. So now would be a good time to review the risk versus reward on offer from both your existing ISAs and any new ISAs you are considering.

Tip 4 – Think about tax free income

Although the personal savings allowance has resulted in many savers not having to worry as much about the impact of tax on their overall returns, there are still other considerations and those who have existing ISAs, are higher (and additional) rate tax payers, or anyone who is or may in the future take a high amount of non-dividend income from their capital, should all think about using ISAs to receive tax free income. Not only does this income not need to be declared on a tax return, but income from ISAs is not included in the personal savings allowance, so you can use additional further funds towards this.

Tip 5 – Make full use of the ISA’s flexibility

Gone are the days when there was a different limit for Cash ISAs and Investment ISAs, and for the last couple of years there has been no restriction on the amount you can put into either type – so Cash ISA savers have enjoyed the full ISA allowance. This greater flexibility means that you can put the full ISA allowance into a Cash ISA, an Investment ISA, or a mixture of the two in any proportion you choose. This allows ISA savers to give careful consideration to balancing the risk versus reward of their ISA portfolio, whilst remaining safe in the knowledge that the benefits of not paying any tax increases over time – so the more you can put away each year, the more you are likely to benefit.

Tip 6 – Get ahead of the game

Despite it being only half way through the tax year, you should always have half an eye on the 5th April end of tax year deadline. We can all be guilty of putting off until tomorrow those things which could be done today, and we all know how quickly time can fly. Remember, you cannot backdate your allowance so if you don’t use it, you lose it. In addition, the earlier in the tax year you act, the more time your cash has the potential to benefit from the tax efficient returns.

Tip 7 – Think to the future

Needless to say that in the current financial climate, every penny counts – so why pay tax on money that you can protect from the tax man, both now and in the future? Money held in an ISA has the opportunity to build on the tax-efficient returns year on year. If you had invested the maximum into a Cash ISA since they were first introduced in 1999, and you had received 2.5% per year, at the end of this tax year you would have a savings pot of almost £120,000. If you put the maximum into an Investment ISA every year, and that had grown at 6% each year, you would see a lump sum of almost £279,000. Both are sizeable amounts, none of which would be subject to income tax or capital gains tax. Please note that the tax efficiency of ISAs is based on current tax law which is subject to change in the future.

Tip 8 – Always check your current interest rate

Rates change frequently and once you’ve deposited your hard earned cash, your ISA provider knows from experience that some of you are unlikely to get round to switching providers, even if your rate ceases to be competitive. Don’t be that person! Always check the rate you are currently receiving (this should be detailed on each statement) and compare it with a wide range of other options on offer. However good your ISA deal seems at the outset, it is likely that you will need to transfer your ISA fairly frequently in order for it to remain competitive.

Tip 9 – Take advantage of ISA transfers

Many of us already have existing ISAs, however, like so many other savers and investors, you may find that your ISA is no longer paying a competitive rate or your investments are underperforming – this is where the ISA transfer can help. You can transfer all previous ISA holdings and most allow you to do this without charge, although don’t forget to check whether there are penalties from your existing provider. Remember that now you can transfer between Cash ISAs and Stocks & Shares ISAs without any restriction, which means that you can choose to keep all of your ISA savings and/or your investments in one place.

With such low interest rates, much of the increase in the numbers of Investment ISAs in the last couple of years has come from ISA transfers. The upside here is the potential for higher returns whilst the downside is that such returns are not guaranteed and your capital is at risk. Either way, don’t waste your ISA by keeping it in a low paying savings plan or poorly performing investment. There is a wide choice available.

Tip 10 – Maintain your ISA at all costs

Whilst your savings and investments remain in their tax-efficient ISA ‘wrapper’, the benefits become more and more valuable over time as the compound effect of not paying tax each year builds and builds. This is why not only should you try and maximise your ISA allowance each year, but you should also aim to make sure your ISA is the last money you dip into since as soon as you take money out of your ISA it loses these benefits.

Start a new ISA or transfer your current ISA now

The current ISA allowance is available now and many of the savings accounts and investments available through Fair Investment Company are available as new ISAs and accept ISA transfers. So start as you mean to go on, review your options carefully and make sure you benefit from up to a half a year of extra tax-efficient returns by taking action now. This also means one less thing to worry about until 6th April next year…

 

Compare Cash ISAs »

Compare Income ISA investments »

Compare Growth ISA investments »

Compare ISA transfers »

 

Please note that this information is based on current law and practice which is subject to change.

No news, feature article or comment should be seen as a personal recommendation to invest. Prior to making any decision to invest, you should ensure that you are familiar with the risks associated with a particular investment. If you are at all unsure of the suitability of a particular investment, both in respect of its objectives and its risk profile, you should seek independent financial advice.

Tax treatment depends on your individual circumstances and is based on current law which may be subject to change in the future. Always remember to check whether any charges apply before transferring an ISA.

The value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the full amount invested. Different types of investment carry different levels of risk and may not be suitable for all investors.

Savings Focus: Investec Retirement Deposit Plan offering 3.75% each year

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Last updated: 08/11/2016

There’s no denying that the outlook for traditional Cash ISAs at the moment is bleak. Not only are savings rates at rock bottom, but banks don’t really want the additional cost of having to run the Cash ISA tax wrapper that goes with it – most high street banks simply do not want your Cash ISA money – and therefore for those that do, they only need to offer a low rate of interest to get it. For those looking for alternatives, this new launch Cash ISA from Investec Bank plc offers an interesting way to receive tax efficient withdrawals each year, combined with the potential to receive back an amount equal to your initial deposit at the end of the fixed term. Here we take a closer look to see how it stacks up.

Traditional Cash ISAs offering low returns

The banking and economic environment continue to create challenges for savers, brought about in the main by the impact of record low interest rates on our savings and our future. The current market for traditional Cash ISAs still offers some of the lowest rates ever seen. In fact, you are hard pushed to get much over 1.50% in return for tying up your money for five years, which is why many looking for a fixed rate are considering shorter term options.

Currently our most popular deals come from Aldermore Bank, paying 0.95% AER, 1.15% AER and 1.20% AER on their 1, 2 and 3 year fixed rates respectively. You can save from £1,000 and can transfer existing ISAs. Our leading instant access account is the AA Cash ISA Easy Access, paying 0.75% AER variable.

Cash ISA alternative – potential for higher returns

By linking the amount of capital that is returned to you at the end of the plan to the FTSE 100 Index, this structured deposit plan offers the potential for higher returns than those that are available from more traditional products such as fixed rate Cash ISAs. So the upside is the potential for higher returns, whilst the downside is that since your return is linked to the performance of the UK stock market, unlike a fixed rate it is not guaranteed. This is the trade off for the opportunity to receive higher overall returns.

Fixed payments of 3.75% each year

The Investec FTSE 100 Retirement Deposit Plan has a fixed term of 6 years and pays a fixed payment of 3.75% each year, paid to you regardless of what happens to the FTSE 100 Index. Over the six year term this equates to 22.5%.

Capital returned at the end of the plan

The aim of the plan is to withdraw fixed annual payments from your initial deposit over 6 years, and repay the remainder of your initial deposit plus an additional return at maturity. The amount of capital returned at the end of the plan therefore, is either the remaining 77.5% of your initial deposit, or the remaining 77.5% plus an additional return of 22.5%.

This additional return is paid provided the FTSE 100 is higher than 90% of its level at the start of the plan, so the Index could have fallen up to 10% and you would still receive this additional return. If the FTSE has fallen by 10% or more, the amount returned to you will only equal the remaining amount of your initial deposit (i.e. no growth will be achieved).

‘Defensive’ feature

Since the additional return on offer is dependent on the performance of the FTSE 100 Index, the defensive feature of the plan is an important one to understand. Rather than the Index having to finish higher than its value at the start of the plan, the Index can fall up to 10% and the fixed return of 22.5% is still paid.

The use of averaging

When calculating the final level of the FTSE 100 Index the plan takes the average of the closing levels of the Index on each business day during the last 6 months of the plan term. The use of averaging can reduce the adverse effects of a falling market or sudden market falls whilst it can also reduce the benefits of an increasing market or sudden increases in the market during the last six months of the plan.

Returns compared

The 3.75% annual payment is well over double any fixed rate on offer from a traditional Cash ISA. However, it is important to remember that in the case of a traditional fixed rate Cash ISA, your initial deposit is always returned in full at the end of the fixed term. Although the annual payments from the Investec plan are fixed and paid each year, it is only if the additional return is paid at the end of the plan term would you be better off overall.

Capital protection

Since the plan is a structured deposit you will receive the remainder of your initial deposit back in full at the end of the six year term regardless of what happens to the FTSE 100 Index, and as long as the deposit taker for the plan, Investec Bank Plc, is able to repay your money. The bank’s ability to stay solvent and repay your capital is known as counterparty risk and is the same risk you take with any capital deposited with an institution with a UK banking licence.

In the event that Investec is unable to meet its liabilities, this deposit plan is eligible for Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) protection. Therefore, eligible depositors could be entitled to claim up to £75,000 per person.

Investec Bank plc profile

Investec is an international specialist bank and asset manager with its main operations in the UK and South Africa. Established in 1974, they currently employ around 9,000 people and as at 31st March 2016, look after £121.7 billion of customer assets. They provide a range of financial products and services and specialise in a number of areas, particularly within the banking sector. Their banking operation looks after £24.0 billion of customer deposits and they are also a market leading provider of investment plans and structured deposits in the UK.

Cash ISA only

Please note that this plan is only available as a Cash ISA. The plan also accepts ISA transfers, from both Cash ISAs and Stocks & Shares ISAs and has a minimum deposit of £3,000 and the maximum deposit for a new current year ISA (2016/17) is the ISA limit of £15,240.

Fair Investment view

Commenting on the plan, Oliver Roylance-Smith, head of savings and investment at Fair Investment Company Limited, said: “There’s no getting around the fact that the rates on offer from traditional Cash ISA savings products remain at record lows, and this looks set to continue. This is a real challenge for savers. By combining capital protection, fixed annual payments and the potential for an additional 22.5% return at maturity, this new launch from Investec offers an interesting alternative. The best long term fixed rate Cash ISAs are currently only offering a little over 1.50%, so if this plan pays the growth return at maturity, your overall return will be well over double these top deals.”

He continued: “Both are treated the same for FSCS purposes (up to the usual deposit scheme limits) but unlike the fixed rate Cash ISA, the maturity payment on the Investec plan is dependent on the FTSE and is not therefore guaranteed. So if you are prepared to sacrifice a guaranteed rate of interest, then the potential higher returns on offer could be appealing in the current economic climate.”

This plan is open now for new ISA deposits up to the £15,240 allowance for the current tax year (2016/17), as well as Cash ISA and Stocks & Shares ISA transfers. The minimum investment is £3,000.

 

Click here for more information about the Investec FTSE 100 Retirement Deposit Plan »

 

No news, feature article or comment should be seen as a personal recommendation to invest. Prior to making any decision to invest, you should ensure that you are familiar with the risks associated with a particular investment. If you are at all unsure of the suitability of a particular investment, both in respect of its objectives and its risk profile, you should seek independent financial advice.

Tax treatment of ISAs depends on your individual circumstances and is based on current law which may be subject to change in the future. Always remember to check whether any charges apply before transferring or switching an ISA.

This is a structured deposit plan that is capital protected. There is a risk that the company backing the plan or any company associated with the plan may be unable to repay your initial capital and any returns stated. In this event you may be entitled to compensation from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), depending on your individual circumstances. In addition, you may not get back the full amount of your initial deposit if the plan is not held for the full term. The past performance of the FTSE 100 Index is not a guide to its future performance.

AER stands for the Annual Equivalent Rate and illustrates what the interest rate would be if interest was paid and compounded once each year.

Investment Focus: investment returns even if the FTSE falls 50%

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Last update: 27/09/2016

A defensive plan is simply a plan that is designed to provide an investment return even if the stock market fails to rise, or in some circumstances goes down slightly. They are therefore an option for those who would like the opportunity for investment level returns, but who are not confident the market will rise significantly in the medium term. The main feature of the Defensive Growth Plan from Investec is that returns are achieved even if the market has fallen by as much as 50% at the end of the fixed term. Here we take a closer look at the plan in order to find out why it has proved so popular with our investors.

The FTSE

Apart from a handful of days in 2015 and earlier this year, the closing level of the FTSE has been above 6,000 points since the start of 2013, and we have also seen the highest closing level on record (7,104 points), achieved towards the end of April last year. Whilst the FTSE has remained at what are historically high levels, defensive investment plans that offer the potential for investment level returns even if the stock market fails to rise or, in some scenarios, even falls slightly, have been an increasingly popular choice with our new and existing investors.

Defensive investments – a middle ground

Defensive investments attempt to offer investors the best of both worlds, by balancing less of the investment upside, with the opportunity to achieve these returns even if the market fails to rise. This means they are designed for investors who have a neutral or negative outlook of what could happen to the stock market in the coming years, and yet who would still like the opportunity to receive investment level returns. Based on the levels of the FTSE over the last few years, these arguably offer a compelling investment opportunity and Investec’s Defensive Growth Plan is one of our most popular.

In a nutshell

One of the latest additions to Investec’s highly competitive range of structured investment plans, the FTSE 100 Defensive Growth Plan offers a fixed return of 34% at the end of the six year term, provided the value of the FTSE at that point is equal to or higher than 50% of its value at the start of the plan (subject to averaging). Therefore, the FTSE can fall up to 50% and investors would still receive a 34% growth return, along with a full return of their original capital.

If the Index has fallen by more than 50% at the end of the term, no growth will be achieved and your initial capital will be reduced by 1% for each 1% fall, so you could lose some or all of your initial investment.

34% return even if the FTSE falls 50%

This is a strong headline since investors will receive a positive return, even if the FTSE falls 50%. This means that even if you are not confident the FTSE will rise at all, you could still receive a fixed return of 34% unless the FTSE falls by more than 50%.

The ‘defensive’ feature

Since the fixed return on offer is dependent on the performance of the FTSE 100 Index, the defensive element of the plan is an important one to understand. Rather than the Index having to finish higher than its value at the start of the plan, the Index can fall up to 50% and the fixed return of 34% is still paid. Whilst the FTSE continues at historically high levels, this ‘defensive’ feature could be an appealing one.

The use of averaging

Whether the plan pays the 34% fixed return is determined by comparing the value of the FTSE 100 Index at the start of the plan with its value at the end of the plan or the ‘Final Index Level’. When calculating the Final Index Level the plan takes the average of the closing levels of the Index on each business day during the last 6 months of the plan term. The use of averaging can reduce the adverse effects of a falling market or sudden market falls whilst it can also reduce the benefits of an increasing market or sudden increases in the market during the last six months of the plan.

Some capital protection from a falling market

Provided the FTSE 100 Index has not fallen by more than 50% at the end of the term, the 34% growth return is paid to you along with a full return of your initial capital. Should the Index have fallen by more than 50%, your initial investment is reduced by 1% for each 1% fall. It is important to note that in this scenario, you would lose at least 50% of your capital.

Since the market can fall up to and including 50% before your initial investment is at risk, the plan offers some capital protection against a falling market. This should be considered in conjunction with the potential return on offer when reviewing the plan’s overall risk versus reward.

Defined risk and defined returns

Another feature of this plan is that, as with all structured investments, the potential returns are stated up front, prior to investing. This allows the investor to consider the potential upside in the context of the amount of risk they are taking, since you know at the outset exactly what needs to happen in order to receive the stated level of growth as well as a return of your initial investment.

ISA only

Please note that this plan is only available as an ISA. The plan also accepts ISA transfers, from both Cash ISAs and Stocks & Shares ISAs.

Credit ratings and agencies

This plan is a structured investment and so your initial capital is used to purchase securities issued by Investec Bank plc. These securities are structured in a way so that they provide the growth and return of capital as described above, which means that Investec Bank plc’s ability to meet their financial obligations becomes an important investment consideration. If the bank fails or becomes insolvent, this could affect both the payment of any growth return as well as the return of your original investment and you would not be covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme for default alone.

Fitch is one of the main global credit rating agencies and has rated Investec Bank plc with a credit rating of BBB with a stable outlook (awarded 27th October 2015). The ‘BBB’ rating denotes a good credit quality and indicates that expectations of default risk are currently low and that Investec Bank plc’s capacity for payment of its financial commitments is considered to be adequate but adverse business or economic conditions are more likely to impair this capacity. The stable outlook indicates that the rating is not expected to change in the short to medium term, i.e. in the next 6 months to 2 years.

Investec Bank plc profile

Investec is an international specialist bank and asset manager with its main operations in the UK and South Africa. Established in 1974, they currently employ around 9,000 people and as at 31st March 2016, look after £121.7 billion of customer assets. They provide a range of financial products and services and specialise in a number of areas, particularly within the banking sector. Their banking operation looks after £24.0 billion of customer deposits and they are also a market leading provider of investment plans and structured deposits in the UK.

Fair Investment view

Commenting on the plan, Oliver Roylance-Smith, head of savings and investment at Fair Investment Company Limited, said: “The ability to produce a 34% fixed return even if the market falls by 50% puts this plan in a category of its own, since most other defensive investments still require the FTSE to fall by no more than 20%.The risk versus reward of the plan is known at the outset and is relatively easy to understand, whilst by offering a competitive return even if the FTSE falls by up to half this plan is one of our best selling defensive investments. So for those who are not confident the stock market will continue to rise in the coming years, this plan could make for a compelling opportunity.”

The plan is open for New ISA investments up to the £15,240 allowance for the current tax year (2016/17) as well as Cash ISA and Stocks & Shares ISA transfers. The minimum investment is £3,000.

 

Click here for more information about the Investec FTSE 100 Defensive Growth Plan »

 

No news, feature article or comment should be seen as a personal recommendation to invest. Prior to making any decision to invest, you should ensure that you are familiar with the risks associated with a particular investment. If you are at all unsure of the suitability of a particular investment, both in respect of its objectives and its risk profile, you should seek independent financial advice.

Tax treatment of ISAs depends on your individual circumstances and is based on current law which may be subject to change in the future. Always remember to check whether any charges apply before transferring or switching an ISA.

This is a structured investment plan that is not capital protected and is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) for default alone. There is a risk of losing some or all of your initial investment. There is a risk that the company backing the plan or any company associated with the plan may be unable to repay your initial investment and any returns stated. In addition, you may not get back the full amount of your initial investment if the plan is not held for the full term. The past performance of the FTSE 100 Index is not a guide to its future performance.