Posts Tagged ‘saving for the future’

Latest inflation, wage growth, interest rates and what this means for your savings

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The latest figures indicate that inflation bounced right back up to 2.9% in the month of August. This means that the headline rate of inflation continues at a level well above the Bank of England’s 2% target. What’s making matters worse is that earnings are not increasing anywhere near enough to keep pace, thereby increasing the financial pressures felt by many households in the UK. So it is vital to consider all of your options in light of the impact inflation and sluggish wage growth could have on your savings. We therefore take a closer look at what is happening in the UK and explore the possible ways to get the most from your savings.

Inflation Latest

UK inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), dropped unexpectedly from 2.9% in May to 2.6% in June and remained at 2.6% for July. However, according to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), inflation returned to the heights of 2.9% in August.

The increase to 2.9% recorded in May and again in August 2017 is the highest inflation level since April 2012, the rate having slowly increased after a much welcome period of very low inflation during 2015. It may shock many savers to learn that inflation sat at just 0.9% a short 12 months ago.

Economists who witnessed inflation balloon by 2% in a year do not forecast a bright future for the next few months, as The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), believe it will reach 3% by the end of 2017. This widely accepted pessimism was underpinned by the Bank of England’s (the Bank’s) Inflation Report in August, which predicted that inflation will likely peak at 3% as soon as October of this year.

The Future for Interest Rates

In line with the Bank of England’s recent summary, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) predictably voted by a majority of 6-2 to maintain interest rates at the record low of 0.25%. The recent decline in inflation may fill some with confidence that the Bank will raise interest rates soon. However, Charlie Bean, the former Bank of England’s deputy mused “it looks like the economy might be slowing, it seems like an odd time to increase interest rates”.

Upon review of the slow growth in the economy and the current rate of inflation, NIESR predicts that the Bank may increase interest rates in the first quarter of 2018, whilst Stuart Green of Santander Global Corporate Banking said that he “did not expect a rate hike to happen before 2019”. Either way, this does not fill us with a great amount of confidence.

Uncertainty

Some have suggested that the interest rate will not increase until after Brexit negotiations are finished and judging by the latest reports about the negotiations, it seems we could be waiting a long time before the Band of England decide to raise interest rates again.

Even though the question is not ‘if’ the Bank of England will increase interest rates but ‘when’, the rate is likely only to increase to 0.5%, and so the impact on savings rates is likely to be minimal in the short term, and only very gradual over time.

Lagging Wage Growth

With inflation and the question marks over whether to increase interest rates, UK households are enduring a prolonged period of sluggish wage growth. In the last four months wage growth has experienced the biggest drop since August 2014.

Unfortunately, the pressure on incomes is likely to continue as the latest forecast for pay rises sits at just 1%. Households all over the country are feeling the pinch and their wages just do not go as far as they used to, resulting in people spending less money. UK consumer spending is down for the third month in a row.

With less disposable cash, fewer people have been able to put money aside into their savings, and it is no secret that the less you put into savings, the less you will get from it. Ultimately this leads us to the same conclusion: it remains as important as ever to find the best returns on offer.

Savings Products

Fixed rate bonds have historically been the cornerstone product for many savers. However, the rates on offer from these accounts have probably changed more than any other in recent years. Continued reductions in the returns from fixed rate bonds have seen many savers suffering significant falls in the income received from their savings.

At the time of writing, there is not a single fixed rate bond that matches the rate of inflation, and as a result, many savers are losing money in real terms. What’s more, the best savings rates currently on offer from an instant access account provides around 1.25% AER, which sits well below the rate of inflation.

Do Your Homework

Despite the mounting pressure from potentially increasing inflation and sluggish wage growth, it is important to take the time to make the right decision for your financial circumstances. It may be appropriate to review the current amount of interest paid on all your savings and compare this with other savings accounts on the market.

Although the current crop of savings accounts do not come close to matching inflation, if you do not want to put your capital at risk then there are not many options available. However, making sure you have found the best deal for your savings has to be a top priority.

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Taking on More Risk or Face Losing Money in Real Terms

The harsh reality in today’s economic landscape is if you do nothing, your money is losing value in real terms so long as the interest rate you receive is lower than inflation. One course of action to combat the effect of inflation is to consider a change of strategy.

The current inflationary environment, along with the slow wage growth and poor interest rates, means that savers may have to consider taking on more risk with some of their capital, in order to try and replicate previous interest rates and secure better returns from their capital.

Capital at Risk Products

One alternative for savers is to consider capital at risk investment plans. These products offer the opportunity to secure competitive returns to potentially beat inflation. Though the capital is not directly invested in the stock market, the potential returns are generally linked to the performance of the FTSE 100 and so offer the potential for competitive rates of return when compared to fixed term bonds.

One such investment plan uniquely offers a fixed monthly income, paid to you regardless of what happens to the stock market, with only the return of your initial capital dependent on the performance of the FTSE 100 index (rather than your income as well).

Risk Versus Reward

Of course, it is important to note that these products do not provide the capital invested with complete protection, and there is a risk of losing some or all of the initial investment. When it comes to capital at risk products there is always a question of risk versus 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 time frame, and then consider whether you are prepared to accept the level of risk to your capital in return for the higher fixed rate.

In Conclusion

However you decide to proceed, the impact of lagging wage growth, low savings rates and the possibility of soaring inflation cannot be ignored. Although savings accounts offer complete protection for your capital, it seems that the record low savings rates are here to stay for the foreseeable future. This could result in savers’ capital diminishing in value and losing money in real terms but before considering capital at risk products, you must make sure you fully understand all of the risks involved before proceeding.

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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 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 fixed income investment mentioned 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. This investment does not include the same security of capital which is afforded to deposit accounts.

Summer sizzlers: our hottest savings and investment ideas this summer

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Last updated: 29/08/20176

Whilst our sprinters surged forward to a compelling and action packed final weekend at the World Championships, the Bank of England on the other hand refused to take action and raise interest rates this month by keeping the base rate at a record low of 0.25%. With no indication whether the Bank of England will raise interest rates any time soon, this is a useful reminder for both savers and investors to regularly review their options. So to help you stay on top of what the current market has to offer, we bring you a selection of some of our most popular savings and investment deals available this summer.

Interest Rates

The economic landscape has not changed much since the Bank of England maintained its record low position on interest rates. The base rate of interest remains at 0.25%, and with it the vast majority of savings rates have continued to sit well below inflation. And the future not only looks bleak for savers, but investors too as the higher yielding FTSE 100 companies begin to show signs of strain, with factors such as currency feeding concerns that these dividends look increasingly unsustainable and so are likely to fall.

So both savers and investors face the same dilemma: how can I make the most out of my capital this summer?

Under the Spotlight

Unfortunately, for many savers longer term financial products no longer provide the 5%+ returns of yester-year, and this significant drop in headline savings rates has made it much harder to commit to tying up money for longer periods of time. As a result of this, we have seen a lot of activity this summer in the shorter term savings space, particularly into instant access and current accounts.

In addition, savers have seen interest rates stagnate and their savings being increasingly eroded with the impact of higher inflation. This has led to some having to consider taking on more risk with some of their capital, in the hope of achieving the levels of returns they have enjoyed in previous years. So we also cover some of our income and growth investment best sellers.

Current Accounts

Up until a few years ago, current accounts were infamous for their low interest rates, with most paying nothing at all on any monthly balances. However, in the last few years banks have placed an emphasis on improving their products, with some banks offering very competitive rates in order to win new customers.

Whilst the majority of these accounts place a cap on the amount that they are willing to pay interest on, the rates themselves are attractive. Therefore, if you’ve not switched for a while, it may be beneficial to compare these to your existing current account and find out how much more you could earn from your everyday cash.

The Santander 1|2|3

The Santander 1|2|3 current account provides the opportunity to receive 1.50% AER variable on your entire balance up to £20,000, a rate that is higher than the market leading instant access account (see below). It also has the added bonus of providing up to 3% cashback on various household bills including gas, electricity, water, broadband and even your Santander mortgage. This account has a monthly fee of £5, and their website allows you to compare the annual cost with the amount of interest you could earn plus any cashback on your current monthly bills.

Instant Access

An instant access account may be an attractive option for those who might need access to their cash at very short notice. These are savings accounts that pay interest and allow you to withdraw money whenever you need it. Generally, you decide how much or little you put into the account.

Ulster Bank eSavings

For those who wish to enjoy the freedom of banking on the go, along with a market leading interest rate, Ulster Bank’s eSavings may be one of the best options. The account can be opened completely online and then managed online, via their banking app or over the telephone. Ulster Bank eSavings account offers 1.25% AER variable, with no tiered interest and no minimum deposit.

According to the Bank of England, the average instant access account is currently paying only 0.15%*. Based on a balance of £50,000, the eSavings account would pay £625 per year compared to just £75 from the average account, which is an additional £550 per year.

RCI Bank Freedom Savings Account

RCI Bank Freedom Savings Account offers 1.20% AER variable gross to both new and existing customers for any amount up to £1,000,000. Although the account requires an initial payment of at least £100 within the first 30 days of opening, the account is free to use and there are no fees, penalties or tiered interest rates. RCI Bank is part of the Renault global banking group and so the first €100,000 is protected by the French deposit guarantee scheme (FGDR) rather than the UK FSCS.

Short Term Fixed Rate Bonds

For many savers, the majority of longer fixed term rate bonds simply do not offer enough of an uplift in rate to justify having your money tied up for extended periods of time. For many savers therefore, it may be beneficial to consider shorter term fix rate bonds.

Access Bank UK offer short term fixed rate bonds that provide competitive rates. In order to access these rates you must make a minimum deposit of £5,000 and each account has a maximum deposit of £500,000. Although you can only make one deposit per account, Access Bank UK doesn’t put a cap on the amount of accounts you can open at once. All deposits are eligible for FSCS protection.

1 Year Access Bank: offers an interest rate of 1.70% AER fixed for 1 year

2 Year Access Bank: provides a fixed interest rate of 1.90% AER over 2 years

Medium and Longer Term Fixed Rate Bonds

For savers willing to part with their money for a longer period of time to receive higher returns, Vanquis Bank has a selection of products offering very competitive interest rates. There is a minimum deposit of £1,000 and a maximum deposit of £250,000. No withdrawals are allowed over the course of the fixed term and all deposits are eligible for FSCS protection.

3 Year Vanquis Bank: offers an interest rate of 2.20% AER fixed

4 Year Vanquis Bank: offers an interest rate of 2.35% AER fixed

5 Year Vanquis Bank: offers an interest rate of 2.50% AER fixed

Capital At Risk

Capital at risk products allow investors to access potentially higher interest rates at the expense of accepting their capital will be at risk.

Risk versus Reward

The balance of the potential upside of higher returns versus the potential downside of losing some or all of your capital is generally known as risk versus reward. 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.

Fixed Income Investment

Investec FTSE 100 Enhanced Income Plan

If you need to know exactly how much you will get paid, when and for how long, Investec’s FTSE 100 Enhanced Income Plan may be an option to consider. This plan offers a fixed interest rate of 4.35% per year for the fixed term of 5 years, and offers monthly income payments. The plan offers some capital protection but if the FTSE falls by more than 40% then you may lose some or all of your capital.

Higher Yield, Variable Income Investments

For those looking for higher income opportunities, the Meteor and Investec plans below offer up to 8% interest per annum, but rather than a fixed income, how much you receive is dependent on the performance of the FTSE 100 Index. Each plan also has the ability to mature early (or ‘kick out’) in the event that the FTSE has gone up by 5% or more from the second year onwards – measured each year and each quarter respectively. If the plan does not mature early, your capital will be at risk if the FTSE has fallen by more than 40% at the end of the plan term. If it has, you will lose some or all of your initial capital invested.

Meteor FTSE Monthly Income Plan: this plan has a maximum term of 10 years and offers a potential monthly income of 0.67% (equivalent to 8.04% annually).

Investec FTSE 100 Defensive Income Plan: this plan has a maximum term of 8 years and offers a potential quarterly payment of 2.0% (equivalent to 8.0% per year).

Defensive Growth Investment

The Investec Defensive Step Down Kick Out Plan is our most popular defensive investment and has the potential to return 6.25% for each year invested, provided the FTSE finishes at the required level at the end of each year. The required level is 100% of its starting value at the end of year 2, and then reduces by 5% each year thereafter, down to 65% in the final year (i.e. if can fall up to 35% and you still receive your growth return).

If the FTSE is below the required level each year then no growth will be achieved and at the end of the plan your original capital will be returned. However, it is important to note that if at the end of the plan the FTSE 100 Index has fallen by more than 40% from its level at the start of the plan, your initial capital will be reduced by 1% for each 1% fall, so you could lose some or all of your initial investment.

Compare our summer’s most popular savings and investment ideas

Compare our current accounts »

Compare instant access accounts »

Compare fixed rate bonds »

Compare fixed income investments »

Compare higher yield, variable income plans »

Compare defensive growth investments »

 

* Source: Bank of England: Bank of England average quoted household interest rates for instant access savings, 31st July 2017

 

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

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 professional 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 investments in this article are structured investment plans that are not capital protected 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.

Inflation falls but what does this really mean for savers?

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Figures launched today reveal that UK inflation fell to 2.6% from its five year high of 2.9% the previous month. However, despite this fall, there is gathering consensus that it could rise again in the second half of this year. This latest level also means that inflation is still well above the 2% target set by the Bank of England, and so it remains as important as ever to review your options in light of the impact inflation can have on your hard earned cash.  We take a closer look at what the latest rate of inflation really means when making decisions around our savings and investments.

Inflation latest

UK inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), dropped unexpectedly today to 2.6% according to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS). This represents a fall of 0.3% from its previous five year high of 2.9% in the previous month – its highest level since April 2012. The rate has climbed gradually following a period of very low inflation during 2015. The latest figures provided by the CPI show there has been an increase of almost 2% over the last 12 months.

And yet despite this latest reduction, the forecast for inflation for the remainder of the year does not look bright either. Paul Hollingsworth, a UK economist at Capital Economics, explains that “it takes time for rises in producer prices to feed through to prices in the shops … we think that CPI inflation will rise a bit further in the second half of the year, peaking at about 3.2% in the fourth quarter.” Though Mr Hollingsworth accepts that inflation is likely to drop back down in 2018, the UK will feel the pinch in the second half of 2017.

The future for interest rates

In June the Bank of England predictably decided to keep interest rates at their record low of 0.25%. However, what was not so predictable was the fact that three Bank of England policymakers wanted to raise interest rates. In addition, Andy Haldane, Chief Economist and the Executive Director of Monetary Analysis and Statistics at the Bank of England, reportedly proposed that the Bank should increase rates “at a gradual pace and to a limited extent”. So although interest rates remain low, the deeper split with the Bank of England’s committee illustrates a potential rise in the near future and perhaps sooner than you might think. Whether the latest fall to the headline rate of inflation will dampen this sentiment we will have to wait and see.

Pressures mounting on households

Though, for right now, the status quo remains the same. The lowest interest rate on record coupled with relatively high levels of inflation when taking a five year view, is a combination which will make life difficult for the average UK household. Despite recent reports from the ONS that unemployment fell, wage growth is slipping to 1.8 per cent. Weak wage growth and high inflation rates 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.

Impact on saving

Higher headline rates of inflation are always bad news for savers as the value of the money they hold in their accounts is eroded more quickly. The knock-on effect of higher inflation is that savings accounts will not pay enough interest to beat inflation, and this is already the case.

Whatever happens to future interest rates, with inflation currently running at 2.6%, basic rate taxpayers with the full Personal Savings Allowance available need to achieve at least this rate to match inflation, whilst taxpayers without the Personal Savings Allowance need to achieve at least 3.25% and higher rate taxpayers considerably more. A review of the savings rates we currently have on offer shows rates of around 1.25% AER on instant access, 1.70% AER and 1.90% AER for one and two year fixed rates respectively, around 2.20% AER for a three year fixed rate and 2.42% AER if you fix for five years.

This means there are no cash savings products currently on offer that get anywhere close to the rate of inflation, ensuring that with deposit based savings, you are losing money in real terms.

Always compare

Regardless of what inflationary pressure there is, the best course of action is to check the amount of interest paid on all of your savings and then take the time to compare your current savings accounts with what is currently available in the market. Even though savings rates do not currently stack up against inflation, if you want to maintain full capital protection with your money there are limited alternative options out there. But making sure the cash deals you do have are competitive has to be priority number one.

Lose money in real terms versus taking on more risk

The risk of doing nothing is that your money is losing value in real terms for the entire time that the interest rate paid is less than inflation. Due to the amount that savers have to earn to match inflation, it may be time for a change of strategy in relation to your savings. But whilst the combination of low savings rates and the potential for continuing 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 cash based products.

Beating inflation by putting your capital at risk

By putting your capital at risk you open up opportunities for potentially higher returns which in turn could combat any future rises to inflation. Although most investments only offer a variable income, the fixed monthly income available from Investec’s FTSE 100 Enhanced Income Plan has been a very popular choice with our investors. The current issue pays 0.3625% per month (equivalent to 4.35% per year) and has a five year fixed term. This plan is available as an ISA and also accepts ISA transfers and non-ISA investments. 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 40%.

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 40%, 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 should the bank default.

In conclusion …

Whatever route you decide to take, there is no escaping the impact of continuing low savings rates and falling income levels, all to be compounded by the prospect of inflation continuing well above the level of interest paid on savings accounts. 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 »

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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 investment. Fair Investment Company does not offer advice and any investment transacted through us is 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.

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.

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.

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

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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.

Lifetime ISAs explained – the story so far

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One of the most interesting developments to come out of this year’s Budget is the announcement of a new category of ISA, the Lifetime ISA. Although some of the detail is yet to be finalised, we should all take note of the potential for a bonus of up to £32,000 in cash from the government, and so here we take a quick tour of what we know so far…

ISA allowance

Lifetime ISAs are due to launch in April 2017, which coincides with another significant increase in the ISA allowance, as it rises from its current level of £15,240 to £20,000 from the start of the next tax year. So whilst all contributions into a Lifetime ISA will count towards the total amount you can contribute into an ISA, savers will have another £4,760 of ISA allowance at their disposal.

Lifetime ISAs

The Lifetime ISA will provide a new way for those aged between 18 and 40 to save for both the purchase of their first property and their retirement simultaneously, with both cash and investment versions to be available. In addition to benefitting from the tax-advantages of an ISA, savers who use the account in certain ways could also retain a 25% bonus from the government on their contributions.

Who can use them?

To qualify you simply need to be aged 18 or over and under 40 on the date you open an account. They can be taken out in addition to a standard Cash or Investment ISA, as well as the current Help-to-Buy ISA. You can also open a Lifetime ISA even if you already own a property.

How will they work?

From its launch eligible savers will be able to contribute up to a maximum of £4,000 a year into a Lifetime ISA, however contributions made into the account before the holder’s 50th birthday will be eligible to receive the 25% government bonus – this essentially means they could gain an additional £1 for every £4 saved. This bonus element is not included as part of your annual ISA allowance.

The account will therefore have a maximum individual contribution limit of up to £128,000 (if you put in the maximum amount of £4,000 for every year between ages 18 and 50) which can be matched by the government bonus to a maximum of £32,000, giving a total of £160,000. The bonus will also be added each year, so you can earn interest or investment growth on it thereafter.

Getting the bonus payment

In order to retain the 25% bonus payments there are specific rules about how and when the savers need to use the capital within the account. Two scenarios are eligible, the first being anyone under the age of 60 using the proceeds towards purchasing their first property, and the second is anyone over the age of 60 using the funds to support their retirement.

Property purchase

Before the account holder is aged 60 years or over the only way to receive the bonus on their savings is to use the money within the account to purchase a property as a first-time buyer, either outright or using it for the deposit on a mortgage. In this instance the money will be paid directly to the person carrying out the conveyancing for the new home.

A first-time buyer is considered someone who has never owned property before whether in the UK or elsewhere, and in order to receive the bonus the property is also restricted to having a maximum value of £450,000 no matter where it is in the country. This is different to the current Help-to-Buy ISA which limits the property value to £250,000 if outside of London. The buyer must also be intending to live within the property so investment properties such as Buy to Lets would not be eligible for the bonus.

As the Lifetime ISA is an individual product couples are permitted to have one each, which means that a couple could generate up to £64,000 in a bonus payment towards the acquisition cost of their first home. In cases where one member of a couple has previously owned property but the other has not, they will still be able to benefit from one member using their Lifetime ISA to help fund the purchase.

In ‘retirement’

Once the account holder reaches 60 years old they will be able to receive the bonus upon any full or partial withdrawal. The account proceeds can be used for any purpose and will be paid free of tax. Funds can also remain invested and any interest and investment growth will continue to be tax-free – this includes any capital left over in the account if the Lifetime ISA holder already used it to fund a ‘bonus-eligible’ first property purchase.

Other withdrawals

Savers looking to make a withdrawal before their 60th birthday for reasons other than their first property purchase will be permitted to do so, but they will have to repay all the money added to the account by the government. They will also incur a 5% charge upon the amount withdrawn – an early redemption penalty.

Lifetime ISAs and Help-to-Buy ISAs

You can have both a Help-to-Buy ISA and a Lifetime ISA, however you are only permitted to use the bonus of one of the accounts to purchase property. Before Lifetime ISA’s launch it is also possible to save with a Help-to-Buy ISA in the meantime and then transfer it into a Lifetime ISA when they launch.

Fair Investment view

Commenting on the Lifetime ISA, Oliver Roylance-Smith, head of savings and investment at Fair Investment Company Limited said: “The idea of a 25% uplift towards a deposit for buying your first home will be attractive to some, but it is those with half an eye on their retirement years that could really benefit. Building up a pot in a tax-efficient environment over which you have complete control as to how much you take out and when is an attractive proposition. Add in the 25% bonus and the fact that any interest or investment growth will be compounded over time, and you could potentially end up with a sizeable tax-free pot to complement any other retirement provision.”

He continued: “Assuming you started your Lifetime ISA at age 35 and paid in £4,000 each year for the next 15 years, which would have another £1,000 per year added to it by the government. Not only would you have received £15,000 in bonus payments, but if your fund had grown at 5% each year (net of charges), at age 60 your pot would be worth almost £200,000, all of which would be available to take completely tax free, as and when you wish.”

 

Click here to compare our selection of Cash ISAs »

Click here to compare our selection of Help-to-Buy ISAs »

Click here to compare our selection of Investment ISAs »

 

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. The example used in this newsletter is for indicative purposes only and all funds will contain their own risk element in relation to growth and performance. 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. Always remember to check whether any charges apply before transferring an ISA.

When will interest rates rise and what does this mean for savers?

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As the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has now held the base rate at 0.5% for over six and half years (the last vote was the 79th month in succession), we take a look at if there is any chance of a rise in sight and what the current outlook might mean for savers.

When will interest rates rise?

One committee member, Ian McCafferty, once again dissented from the other 8 members of the MPC and argued that the base rate should climb by 25 basis points (a quarter of a percent) to counteract any potential risk of inflation leaping beyond the 2% target in the medium term. However, despite Mr McCafferty’s dissension, most economists are still predicting that any rise in the base rate will not occur until early next year, a consensus predominantly based on beliefs that the UK’s growth will improve in its third quarter seeing price inflation rise gradually from the end of 2015.

Bleak outlook

Rather bleakly Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane last month stated that “the case for raising UK interest rates in the current environment is, for me, some way from being made. One reason not to do so is that, were the downside risks I have previously discussed materialise, there could be a need to loosen rather than tighten the monetary reins as a next step to support UK growth and return inflation to target.”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also warned at the end of its recent meeting in Lima that central banks risk another crash in the global economy if they do not continue to support growth with low interest rates. The future therefore remains uncertain although any interest rate rise, let alone a rise by more than 0.25 percent, seems very unlikely in the foreseeable future.

Latest inflation figures

The headline rate of UK inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) had been expected to remain at zero when official figures for September were released today (13/10/2015) however, the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics revealed a return to negative inflation as the rate fell to -0.1% today, the main contributors being a smaller than usual rise in the clothing prices and falling motor fuel prices. This will have a direct impact on the annual uprating of some benefits, of particular note the state second pension, which is linked to the September CPI rate.

Unemployment

The unemployment rate in the UK decreased to 5.5% from 5.6% in the previous period. Over the last 12 months employment levels are considerably higher with over 350,000 more in work than in the same time last year, signaling further strength of the labour market. The private sector’s annual pay growth has also risen and now exceeds 3%, however the Bank of England stated “Encouraging improvements in productivity growth have so far limited the impact of that pickup in pay growth on businesses’ overall costs, and therefore inflation.”

Short term view

In their latest report, the MPC stated the UK’s economic growth is experiencing a ‘gentle deceleration’ after peaking in 2014 and that it will ease back if the global economy weakens. However the central bank also reports that pressures in the UK’s labour market have been rising too slowly for inflation to return back to the 2% target, meaning it will likely stay below 1% until at least spring of next year.

Worst case scenario?

Against this economic backdrop, savers must consider that even when interest rates do begin to rise, will this in itself affect savings rates for the good? Certainly the traditional relationship between the Bank of England base rate and savings rates has been severed for some time and there is nothing in the economic outlook that suggests this will restored any time soon.

Savings rates in dire straits

Interest rates fell dramatically from when the Government’s Funding for Lending Scheme came into effect back in August 2012. This gave banks and building societies a cheap source of finance so they are not so reliant on savers to lend them money. Since then, banks and building societies have held a series of cuts to new savers and often, once they find themselves at the top of the best buy tables, they lower their rates to new savers as well.

Market snapshot

Despite the introduction of so called ‘challenger banks’ into the hunt for our hard earned cash, whilst the Bank of England base rate has remained unchanged at 0.5%, interest rates remain at shockingly low levels by historical standards, which continues to pose difficult questions for savers.

Headline returns on fixed rate bonds, the traditional mainstay for many savers’ portfolios, remain poor. Leading one year fixed rate bonds currently offer around 2.10%, two year fixed rates around 2.35%, three year fixed rates around 2.70% and around 3.10% if you can fix for five years. This means that many maturing bond holders are still looking at sizeable falls in income when considering taking out another bond of similar duration.

Savers in trouble

The result is that many have moved away from longer term fixed rates in favour of instant access or short term fixes on the basis that something will happen relatively soon which will then spur them on to take further action. Although understandable, the above economic snapshot highlights this could be a very dangerous strategy indeed.

Consider alternatives

There are a number of alternatives available to traditional fixed rate savings plans. Since the returns are not always guaranteed, these are not for everyone and are unlikely to be the home for your entire savings pot. However, they do offer the potential for higher returns and with the current outlook for savers looking set to create further challenges, could be a worthwhile and timely consideration. Like fixed rate bonds, your initial capital is protected and is eligible for FSCS compensation up to the normal savings limits.

Diversifying savings portfolios to include a wider range of options offers the potential to provide the level of returns savers may need over the longer term. Indeed, with the current spread of low savings rates on offer, this is the only way to attempt to mirror the yields of yester-year, previously offered by the more traditional savings plans.

Weigh up the options

Ultimately, which option or blend of options will depend entirely on your individual circumstances however, these remain unusual and challenging times and traditional savings accounts are currently falling short of meeting the pressures put on saver’s capital by the continuing economic situation. As a minimum we should make sure that all of the options available are weighed up very carefully indeed.

Compare instant access savings »

Compare fixed rate saving »

Compare alternatives to fixed rate savings »

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No news, feature article or comment shou
ld 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.

Monthly income investment selections

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Whether investing inside or outside of an ISA, the hunt for income remains a top priority for many investors, as evidenced by the number of our existing customers and those new to Fair Investment looking for income solutions. With the frequency of payments one of the most important features for many income seekers, we have put together a selection of our most popular monthly income investments. We also give you our in-house view of each from Oliver Roylance-Smith, our Head of Savings and Investments. For those who are yet to use their ISA allowance, all of the investments featured are also available within an ISA so you could benefit from tax free income.

Income a top priority

Whether you are an experienced investor or new to saving for the future, those needing income from their capital covers a wide range of scenarios, some of which may apply to you right now:

  • I am working and need to supplement my income
  • I am retired and need an income from my savings
  • I have an instant access Cash ISA but the level of interest has dropped significantly
  • I have an Investment ISA that is not yielding what it used to
  • I have a maturing fixed rate Cash ISA and the equivalent rate for the same term again is significantly lower
  • I am struggling to find a fixed and regular income from my capital which is competitive

Both savers and investors

With cash continuing to offer record low rates, even if you tie yourself in for the longer term, many savers are being driven to join income investors in the hunt for higher yields. What is clear is that regardless of the prevailing economic conditions, income remains a top priority for both savers and investors.

Although many income investors have historically looked to UK Equity Income funds to provide an
income, with typical yields on these funds currently under 4%, this may not be providing the level of income required and investors may well be questioning whether capital growth will do enough to boost their overall returns.

Monthly income

When reviewing the options available, those seeking income from their capital often take into consideration the level of income on offer, the frequency of payments as well as the overall risk versus reward offered by the investment. But with equity funds only offering quarterly income at best and many only paying twice each year, monthly income investments have an obvious appeal for those after a regular income.

Our selections

Our selection of income investments is based on the main features investors usually look for when it comes to finding the best income opportunities available. From high levels of fixed income paid regardless of the performance of the stock market, to high yielding bond funds which diversify your investment across a large number of holdings, all of them have one thing in common – monthly income.

5.40% p.a. fixed income, Investec Enhanced Income Plan

The Enhanced Income Plan from Investec continues to be one of our best sellers for those investing both inside and outside of an ISA. One of the main appeals for income seekers is that the income is fixed and therefore paid to you regardless of the performance of the FTSE – you therefore know exactly how much you will receive, when and for how long. The annual income is currently 5.40% (paid as 0.45% each month) which is high when compared to typical yields currently being paid by UK equity income funds. Capital is at risk if the FTSE drops by more than 50% during the plan and fails to recover by the end of the term, in which case your initial capital will be reduced by 1% for each 1% fall, so you could some or all of your initial investment.

Fair Investment view: “5.40% tax free income (if held in an ISA) is the equivalent of 6.75% taxable income for a basic rate tax payer and 9.00% for a higher rate tax payer. This high level of fixed income and the monthly payment frequency are popular features and with ongoing uncertainty around future interest rates and dividend yields, this plan offers a competitive balance of risk versus reward that could be considered by both savers and investors.”
Click here for more information »

7.20% p.a. fixed income, Meteor FTSE 5 Monthly Income Plan

The second income plan in our selection also offers a fixed income, paid to you regardless of the performance of the stock market. The FTSE 5 Monthly Income Plan from Meteor offers 7.20% annual income, paid as 0.6% each month. This level of income is significantly higher than Investec’s plan, one of the main reasons being that the return of your initial capital is dependent on the performance of five FTSE 100 shares rather the Index as a whole. Should the value of the lowest performing share be less than 50% of its value at the start of the plan, your initial capital will be reduced by 1% for each 1% fall, so you could lose some or all of your initial investment.

Fair Investment view: “The fixed income on offer equates to a total return of 43.2% over the term of the investment and if you invest within an ISA, the 7.20% fixed income is equivalent to 9.00% p.a. for basic rate tax payers and 12.0% p.a. for higher rate tax payers. This investment might well appeal to income investors looking for a high level of fixed and regular income however, the fact that the return of your initial capital is based on the performance of five shares rather than the Index as a whole should be a key consideration.”
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6.40% yield, Threadneedle High Yield Bond Fund

This fund was launched in 1999 and is now almost £800 million in size. At 6.40%, the fund currently has one of the highest distribution yields* in the high yield sector and the monthly income frequency seems to be the favoured choice for our income investors, especially those looking to supplement income. The fund is managed by Barrie Whitman (since launch) and David Backhouse and has the simple aim of providing income. The fund invests at least two thirds of its assets in high income paying bonds issued by companies worldwide with the top three sector holdings covering media, services and telecommunications.

Fair Investment view: “The total number of bond issuers in the fund is currently 162 and the fund has produced a cumulative return of 7.4%, 23.3% and 56.9% over the last one, three and five years respectively. The high yield is achieved by investing predominantly in sub-investment grade bonds which are considered riskier than higher rated bonds but typically pay a higher income and so investors will experience some volatility. The fund is well diversified and is currently overweight in both banking and the European high yield market. The fund is Bronze rated by Morningstar OBSR.”
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4.60% yield, Invesco Perpetual Monthly Income Plus fund

Invesco Perpetual’s Monthly Income Plus fund has been popular with income investors for many years. Launched in 1999, the current management is split between Paul Causer, Paul Read and Ciaran Mallon who together have secured a Morningstar OBSR Silver rating. Now almost £4 billion in size, the aim of the fund is to achieve a high level of income together with capital growth over the long term by investing primarily in corporate and government high yielding debt securities globally as well as equities (up to maximum of 20%).

Fair Investment view: “Of the 382 current total number of holdings, just under 40% are with investment grade institutions with 16.75% of the fund invested in equities. The fund has produced 7.30%, 35.42% and 64.54% over the last one, three and five years respectively, outperforming its sector by some margin. It has a current distribution yield of 4.60% which is relatively low compared to the funds historical performance however the fund continues to be very popular with income seekers.”
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Investment funds

The two funds featured are open-ended collective investment funds which offer investors the ability to pool their money with others in order to invest in a large number of holdings, thereby diversifying their risk and accessing a far greater spread of holdings than would be available if investing directly. This offers savers another way of gaining access to the potential for higher income than available from cash.

Investment plans

The two fixed income investments are fixed term investment plans. These are an alternative to open ended investment funds, offering a defined return for a defined level of risk, thereby giving investors a further option to achieving income for their capital.

Investment plans versus investment funds

It is important to remember that income yields from investment funds are not guaranteed and are therefore subject to fluctuations. In addition, the treatment of your capital is different –fixed term investment plans contain what is known as conditional capital protection which means your initial capital is returned at the end of the plan term unless the underlying investment (either the FTSE 100 Index or five shares listed on the Index) has fallen by 50% or more. With investment funds your capital is fully at risk on a daily basis albeit your investment is spread across a large number of holdings, thereby diversifying the impact of one bond issuer failing.

Understanding how and when income is paid, as well as the treatment of your initial capital over time, are important considerations. The income yield as well as any rise or fall in the value of your original capital should always be considered together since both have an effect on your overall return. For example a 7% income yield might be compelling in its own right but not so if it coincides with a 7% reduction in the value of your capital. However, the total return can also work in your favour if capital growth is positive.


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

Click here for more information about the Meteor FSTE 5 Monthly Income Plan »

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*  the distribution yield reflects the amounts that may be expected to be distributed over the next twelve months as a percentage of the Fund’s net asset value per share as at the date shown. It is based on a snapshot of the portfolio on that day. It does not include any initial charge and investors may be subject to tax on distributions.
Past performance is not a guide to future performance.
All fund data correct as at 31/07/2014. 

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. Past performance should not be taken as a guide to the future and there is no guarantee that these investments will make profits; losses may be made.

The investment plans detailed are structured investment plans which are not capital protected 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 or any shares listed within the Index is not a guide to future returns.