Posts Tagged ‘inflation’

How the Bank of England interest rate hike could affect you

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Last month, the Bank of England raised their base rate for the first time in more than ten years, and by doing so opened the door to increased monthly costs for many homeowners. What’s more, at the time of writing inflation continues to sit at a five year high of 3%, which means that the cost of living has more than trebled in the last 12 months. These two factors alone combine to create additional strains on the average UK household, and a situation which may influence some to reconsider their financial position. We take a look at what the latest Bank of England base rate and inflation might mean if you are looking to re-think your savings and investments.

Inflation

UK inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), remained at its five year high of 3% for the second month in a row, according to the latest report released by the Office of National Statistics. And despite this being a full one per cent over the Bank of England’s target of 2%, it is also widely predicted that inflation will increase again before the year’s end.

Base Interest Rate Hike

Approximately 15 months after cutting their base rate of interest to emergency levels, the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee voted on November 2nd to increase the interest rate from 0.25% to 0.5%. The move represents the first increase for ten years and has had a knock-on effect with homeowners, as a number of high street banks have since increased their standard variable and tracker rates, thereby increasing the cost of living for many.

No doubt we will see more lenders follow suit this month, and the combination of increased mortgage interest rates and high inflation means less disposable income for households, making it harder for the average UK household to make ends meet, let alone put enough money into their savings.

Not Passed On To Savings Accounts

There was a general consensus among economists that the Bank of England would raise their base rate before the end of the year, and so even before the Monetary Policy Committee voted in favour, there had been much discussion on both the advantages and disadvantages of a potential increase.

The most common advantage given in support of an interest rate hike was that it would likely increase the savings rates offered by banks, a welcome change for savers who have had to face year after year of some of the lowest savings rates on record. Unfortunately, although banks have been quick to raise their mortgage interest rates following the hike, the majority of banks have not done the same for their savings accounts – a real ‘lose / lose’ for both borrowers and savers alike.

Savings Accounts At A Glance

Savings rates therefore continue to under-deliver. A review by Simply Savings of the savings rates currently on offer shows rates of around 1.30% AER on instant access; 1.80% AER and 2.05% AER for one and two-year fixed rates respectively, around 2.25% AER for a three-year fixed rate and 2.37% AER if you fix for five years. Therefore, savings accounts do not come close to matching inflation, let alone beating it, meaning savers are still losing money in real terms, even if you are able to tie your money up for five years.

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Do your homework

Whenever considering changing strategy, it is important to do your homework. This means comparing the amount of interest you already receive with what is currently available in the market. If you are not receiving anything close to the above rates, a change may be worthwhile, and remember, despite the fact that savings accounts do not provide rates that counter the effects of inflation, they do offer full capital protection.

If you are not prepared to take on more risk to potentially access higher interest rates, then there are not many alternatives available on the market.

Taking On Risk Or Losing Money In Real Terms

For the entire time that the interest paid on your savings is less than the prevailing rate of inflation (and that’s after any tax has been taken into account), the value of your money is going down in real terms, and the longer this goes on, the more an impact it will have. It may well therefore be time to start re-evaluating your strategy when it comes to savings, as you would have to receive a significant return in the current climate just to match inflation.

With the added financial pressure brought about due to higher inflation, it may force us to consider investing in order to try and keep up with the cost of living. We are then faced with the conundrum of whether to take on more risk in order to achieve potentially higher returns, versus record low interest rates but without the risk to our capital.

Capital at Risk Products

Capital at risk investment plans offer a defined return for a defined level of risk. Combined with a fixed or maximum term, they therefore offer potential investors a clear trade-off between risk and reward, hereby enabling them to be compared with alternative options.

When you invest in a capital at risk investment plan, although your capital is not directly invested into the stock market, their returns are generally linked to the performance of the FTSE 100 Index (‘FTSE’ or ‘Index’). The returns for a capital at risk product are often dependent on whether the FTSE stays or ends above a certain level, for example a fix growth or income payment provided the FTSE ends a plan year higher than its value at the start of the plan.

Income Investment Plan Example

An example of one of the most popular income investment plans is the FTSE 100 Defensive Income Plan from Investec Bank, which provides investors with the opportunity to receive 7.25% interest each year provided the FTSE has not fallen by 20% or more at the end of each quarter. The plan has a second investment option offering 5.50% per year provided the FTSE does not fall by 40% or more.

Unlike deposit based savings products, this plan puts your capital at risk and if the FTSE has fallen by more than 40% at the end of the six-year term, 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.

Click here to find out more about the Defensive Income Plan »

Risk v Reward

As with any investment, it is important to give full consideration of the risk versus reward on offer. A good benchmark for assessing your 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 either a higher fixed rate, or the potential for a higher variable income.

In the example above, the potential income on offer is either 5.50% or 7.25% depending on how much the FTSE can fall each quarter. The best fixed rate on offer over a similar timeframe is in the region of 2.50%, so one of the questions to ask is whether the ability to receive around 2 to 3 times more interest is sufficient potential reward for putting your capital at risk if the FTSE falls 40% or more?

Conclusion

There is little doubt that higher inflation and an increase in the Bank of England’s interest rate has put increasing financial pressure on households in the UK. With a reduction in the amount of disposable income for many, uncertainty around future wage growth and no direct uplift in savings rates, one could argue that for those with mortgages, unless you can secure a savings rate higher than your mortgage rate, you should be paying off your mortgage as a priority, unless there are higher interest rates being paid on other debt such as credit cards, etc. which should be paid down first.

Although savings accounts do offer protection to your capital, since the banks have not passed on the interest rate rise to their savings accounts, the interest paid is likely to fall well short of inflation. Therefore, the fact that savers are losing money in real terms is a harsh reality of where we are right now, with some uncertainty of what this may look like in the coming months and years.

For those looking to secure a higher level of income and/or growth over and above the rise in the cost of living, then investing may be the only option since there are no savings products paying anything close to the current rate of inflation. You may want to explore the investment plans we have on offer, as they may provide the opportunity for returns to counter the adverse effect of inflation. However, if you are looking to invest in a plan, it is important to do you research, and make sure you fully understand the risks involved before putting your capital at risk.

 

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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 plan. If you are at all unsure of the suitability of a particular product, 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. ISA transfer charges may apply, please check with your provider.

The investment plans referred to in this article are structured investment plans that put your capital at risk and are 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 due to the performance of the FTSE 100 Index. There is also 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.

How to tackle inflation with your savings and investment strategy

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The latest figures reported by the Office for National Statistics show that inflation reached a five year high of 3% in the 12 months to the end of September. This rate is 1% above the Bank of England’s target and is likely to continue to rise, as the Bank predicts that inflation will likely reach 3.2% when October’s figures are released later this month. This rapid rise in the level of inflation has also contributed to the Bank of England raising their base interest rate for the first time in 10 years, from 0.25% to 0.5%.

Increasing inflation and interest rate hikes can be a dangerous combination, and as the cost of living for many will rise, so we will also start to ask more of our capital than we have done for some time. The increased demand for more income and/or capital growth may make investors evaluate their financial position and review their savings and investment portfolio. So here we take a look at some of the main factors to consider when considering a change of strategy.

Savings and Investment Strategy

Whether you have just started saving, or you already have an amount of capital built up over the years, it is understood that spreading your money across a number of different areas and products in order to diversify your risk, is a better strategy than putting all your eggs in one basket. A mixture of instant access, fixed rate bonds and investment plans may therefore provide a useful framework for a savings and investment strategy.

Instant Access

For many savers and investors, putting a percentage of their capital into an instant access account may be an essential part of a diversified portfolio. These accounts normally provide a variable rate of interest (which may or may not include an introductory bonus) and usually offer unlimited withdrawals, which can be made without the need to give any notice period. One of the advantages of an instant access account is that your capital is not at risk, and this is one of the main reasons these accounts are used, with most accounts also falling within the FSCS.

Although this combination of flexibility and capital protection are attractive features, it should be noted that the best instant access account interest rates on the market, such as the 1.30% AER variable from RCI Bank’s Freedom Savings Account, are still significantly below the rate of inflation. Indeed, at 3.0% this account doesn’t even pay half the prevailing rate.

Fixed rate bonds

A fixed rate bond is an account where your capital is locked away for a set period of time, during which you are not able to access your cash. The term is known and selected at the outset, and is normally in the range of one to five years. For many years, fixed rate bonds were the corner stone of many saver’s cash portfolio.

In return for tying up your money, fixed rate bonds usually offer the saver higher interest rates than are generally on offer from instant access accounts, for example, Vanquis Bank’s 5 Year Fixed Rate Bond is currently paying 2.40% AER fixed. Since the rate is fixed, it is a guaranteed not to change for the term of the bond, whilst some bonds also allow you to choose the frequency of your interest payment, for example monthly or annually.

However, it is also important to note that even the best fixed rate bonds on the market do not provide interest rates higher than 2.5%. Therefore, with inflation currently running at 3.0%, even a long term commitment of five years would fail to allow the value of your money to keep up with the rise in the cost of living.

Cash falling short

Instant access and Fixed Rate Bonds are both cash accounts, which means that your capital is protected and returned in full when you either transfer your instant access account, or your fixed rate bond comes to the end of its term. The only risk to you not receiving your capital back is that the bank becomes insolvent, although most of these accounts are covered by the UK FSCS or a European equivalent.

However, we have also revealed that based on the current rate of 3% inflation, none of these accounts beat inflation, and so there is the additional risk with cash in that your money is losing value in real terms. Cash therefore is not without its own risks.

Investment Plans

As you can see, long gone are the days where cash products alone can generate enough interest and income for savers to effectively grow their capital whilst hedging against inflation. In an attempt to replicate some of the returns of yester-year, more and more savers are having to consider  taking on more risk. One way  to access potentially higher returns is by investing in Investment plans.

This type of plan offers a defined return (either an income, fixed or variable, or capital growth), for a defined level of risk (normally aligned to the performance of an underlying stock market index, e.g. the FTSE 100 Index.

Investment plan features

One of the main reasons for considering an investment is the potential for the attractive headline rates on offer. There are a wide range  of investment plans to choose from in today’s market and all of them  aim to provide the investor with the opportunity to access returns higher than the current rate of inflation. Two popular examples of income investment plans are the Investec FTSE 100 Defensive Income Plan offering investors with 7.25% annual income, and Investec’s FTSE 100 Enhanced Income Plan paying a fixed income of 4.35% per year. These plans normally have a term of between 5 and 10 years which is known at the outset, prior to investing.

A feature which is unique to investment plans is that they offer conditional capital protection. This means that your capital is returned at the end of the term unless the underlying investment, usually the FTSE 100 index, falls by more than fixed percentage below its value at the start of the plan. This percentage is normally in the region of 30% to 50% and so investors may still receive a full return of their capital even if the market falls up to 50%. However, if the Index has fallen below the fixed percentage, you will lose the amount the Index has fallen, so you could lose some or all of your initial investment.

Savings and Investment Portfolio Example

In this example we take a product from each of the three areas covered above (instant access, fixed rate bond and investment plans) to show you how a combination of cash and investment plans can keep your capital producing income which is in line with the current rate of 3.0% inflation. Targeting a five-year timeframe, based on a savings and investment portfolio of £100,000, the capital is split as follows:

  • £15,000 into RCI Bank’s Freedom Savings Account, paying 1.30% AER variable
  • £45,000 into Vanquis Bank’s Five Year Fixed Rate Bond, paying 2.40% AER fixed for five years
  • £40,000 into Investec’s FTSE 100 Enhanced Income Plan, paying 4.35% p.a. fixed for five years

RCI Bank and Vanquis Bank both have a monthly income option, whilst Investec’s plan pays monthly as well. RCI’s Freedom Savings Account has no fixed term whilst the other two both have a fixed term of five years.

Income achieved

Based on the above investments, the cash part of the portfolio would achieve £1,275 per year (£160.25 per month). The investment part of the portfolio would achieve £1,740 per year (£145 per month) and would be fixed for five years.

Combined, this equates to £3,015 per year (3.015% yield) or £251.25 per month, most of which would be fixed for five years except the £195 from the instant access account which could go up or down over the next five years, although you should note that any changes to the RCI Bank rate are passed on to existing customers as well as new customers. By comparison, if the investor placed all of the £100,000 into the RCI instant access account, they would only receive £1,300 per year in interest.

Treatment of capital

£60,000 would be in cash based savings accounts, with Vanquis Bank deposits eligible for the UK’s FSCS protection up to the £85,000 limit, whilst deposits held with RCI Bank are eligible for the French deposit protection scheme (the FGDR), which protects the first €100,000 per customer.

The Investec plan puts your capital at risk, with a return of your initial £40,000 dependent on the performance of the FTSE 100 Index. Your capital is returned at the end of the five years unless the FTSE has fallen by more than 40% from its value at the start of the plan. If it has, your initial capital will be reduced by 1% for each 1% fall – therefore you could lose some or all of your original £40,000 investment.

In conclusion

The above savings and investment example combines cash and investment products to give an annual yield of just over 3%, the majority of which (85%) is fixed for five years, thereby offering a high degree of predictable income of a fixed timeframe. 60% of the portfolio is in cash and so is capital protected, whilst 40% is invested and so puts your capital at risk.

Whatever you decide to do when reviewing your current savings and investments or considering options for a new investment, taking a view on inflation, what might happen to it in the future, and most importantly the impact this will have on your capital, are all sensible places to start.

 

Click here to compare Instant Access Accounts »

Click here to compare Fixed Rate Bonds »

Click here to compare Fixed Rate investments »

Click here to compare Investment plans »

 

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.

The investment plans mentioned are structured investment plans that put your capital at risk and are 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. These investments do not include the same security of capital which is afforded to deposit accounts.

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

Current accounts that give you more: cashback, interest and other benefits

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Despite us using our current account more than any other type of account, it is usually the one we review the least in terms of comparing it with the latest market offerings. With interest rates as high as 3.0% on offer, various types of cashback arrangements, as well as other financial incentives, it is quite possible that if you’ve had your current account for some time, there is a better deal on offer.

What’s more, with current account switches offering guarantees to be completed within seven working days with your new bank taking care of everything for you, it is completely different to several years ago when many were put off by the amount of work involved and keeping on top of it all. With this in mind, here we take a look at three current accounts which are proving most popular with those either making the switch, or choosing to take out a second account.

Inflation and savings rates – nowhere to hide

The rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index, rose to 2.90% in May, its highest level for nearly four years. However, four years ago you could generate this level of interest from a fixed rate bond if you were prepared to tie in for the long term, whereas now the best long term deals are way below this at around 2.40% AER. In addition, according to the Bank of England the average easy access account now pays just 0.15% – that’s a fall of 65% in just one year. This makes the latest inflationary rises a serious cause for concern and means there really is nowhere to hide for savers.

Banks offering incentives

Although historically current accounts have been well known for offering paltry rates of interest, this has changed significantly in the last few years as some of the high street banks started to see the value in offering incentives in order to get new customers. What this means today is that, provided you are usually in credit with your account, you can now be rewarded with very competitive interest rates, healthy levels of cashback on your spending, as well as a range of other benefits.

Could you get more from your current account?

Many existing current accounts pay no interest at all, so with up to 3.0% AER 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).

Three of our most popular current accounts

Each new current account available has its own features and criteria, with different interest rates being paid for different levels of account balance depending on the offering. Most usually require a minimum amount to be paid in each month to qualify for the headline interest rate, as well as the setting up of a minimum number of direct debits. Here we take a look at three of our most popular.

TSB: 3.0% on balances up to £1,500 plus up to £120 cashback per year

TSB’s Classic Plus account offers 3.0% AER (variable) interest, paid monthly on balances up to £1,500. No interest is paid on balances above this amount and although the 3.0% is variable, it is paid ongoing (i.e. is does not drop down after a set period of time). In order to receive this rate you must pay in a minimum of £500 per month, as well as register for internet banking, paperless statements and paperless correspondence. The account also offers £5 cashback every month* just for having two active direct debits per month, with a further £5 cashback every month if you spend with your debit card at least 20 times a month. That’s up to £120 cashback each year, all with no monthly account fee.   Find out more »

Santander: 1.50% on balances up to £20,000 plus up to 3% cashback

The Santander 1|2|3 account combines a competitive rate of interest on a large cash balance, with the opportunity to receive cashback on a number of your main household bills. The account pays 1.50% AER variable on your entire balance up to £20,000, whilst you can get up to 3% cashback on selected household bills (e.g. 1% on council tax and water bills, 2% on gas and electricity, and 3% on broadband and mobile phone bills). You must pay in at least £500 per month and have at least two active direct debits to receive interest and cashback. There is a £5 monthly account fee.   Find out more »

First Direct: £100 switch incentive plus £250 interest free overdraft

First Direct is offering £100 if you switch your everyday banking to them using the current account switch service (see below) and pay in at least £1,000 within three months of opening the account. You also benefit from a £250 interest-free overdraft, have access to their award winning UK-based customer service team, and can pay in cash and cheques at HSBC and Post Office branches. No interest is paid on balances in credit with this account. There is no cost for the first six months and although there is normally a £10 monthly account fee, there are several was of avoiding this, for example by paying at least £1,000 into your account every month or maintaining an average monthly balance of £1,000.   Find out more »

7-Day Switch Guarantee

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 TSB, Santander and First Direct), 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. Over 3 million account switches have been processed since its launch.

To switch or not to switch?

The 7-Day Switch therefore offers peace of mind to anyone considering a switch from their current account provider. However, you don’t necessarily have to switch your current account – if maximising interest is your top priority, you could also consider taking one of these accounts out in addition to your existing current account, provided you still meet any of the account qualifying criteria such as paying in the minimum amount required each month or set up a certain number of direct debits.

FSCS Protected

Also remember that not only do all of the accounts featured offer full banking services and have VISA debit cards available, they are offered by high street banks and so eligible deposits are covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme up to the deposit compensation limit of £85,000 per person, per authorised firm.

Always compare

Do not let the thought of moving your current account put you off. The competition for current accounts has rocketed in the last couple of years and millions have already made the move to a new account. So as major banks and building societies compete for your custom, always remember to compare the interest rate and any other benefits your current account offers with the best market has to offer – you may be surprised at just how much difference it could make…

 

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 for more information on First Direct’s 1st account »

Click here to compare current accounts »

 

* Offer ends 30 June 2018.

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.

Inflation Falls to Record Low – Good News or Bad?

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Inflation hits 15 year record low

The rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index fell to 0.5% in the year to December 2014, according to official figures from the Office for National Statistics announced last week. This represents a fall of 0.5% on the previous month and is the joint lowest level on record. The last time inflation fell by 0.5% in a single month was May 2000.

The key contributors to this significant fall in the Index are the plummeting price of oil,. which meant that the cost of motor fuels fell by 10.5%, as well as stagnant gas and electricity prices compared with energy price increase a year earlier. Food prices also dropped by 1.9%.

Deflation on the cards?

The effect of lower oil prices, plus the ongoing price war between the high street supermarkets, and it is likely that inflation will remain below 1% for some months, although some see further falls as a possibility. Capital Economics UK economist, Paul Hollingsworth, said he felt inflation still had further to fall as there was still some way to go before the reduction in the oil price was fully accounted for in the headline rate.*

Commenting on the recent fall, he stated “the further 20% or so fall in oil prices since December’s average level looks set to push CPI inflation to a record low of around 0.2% over the next couple of months… and given uncertainties surrounding how quickly and to what extent lower oil prices will cause price rises for other goods to moderate, a brief period of deflation is not entirely out of the question.”
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