Inflation continues at its highest rate in four years, which also means that it continues at a level way above the Bank of England’s 2% target. Despite the Bank’s indication that they will raise interest rates as early as November, any such hike is likely to coincide with further increases to the cost of living, whilst there is no certainty whatsoever that it will also contribute towards an increase in the amount of interest paid on savings accounts. Here we review the affects that rising inflation and a potential interest rate increase may have.
The figures released last month by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed August’s inflation rate reached 2.9%, which equals a four year high in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). To make matters worse, it has been reported by the Organisation For Economic Co-Operation and Development, that the UK has the highest inflation rate in the world’s top economies, including the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.
Not only do the inflation figures seem bleak, but many forecast them to get worse. The CPI predicts that the inflation figures will climb to at least 3% by the end of 2017. The Bank of England share the same view, as their Inflation Report in August suggested that inflation could reach 3% as early as the end of October. The figures for the 12 months to September are due on 17th October.
Interest Rate On The Rise?
In light of the recent increases to the headline rate of inflation, the Bank of England has spent some time considering the present position of the official base rate. The Bank of England’s Governor Mark Carney says that they are close to raising the base rate from 0.25% to 0.5% in November, provided “there is no sudden and unexpected deterioration in economic data”.
The Bank of England’s chief economist Mr Andrew Haldane also predicts that there will be a hike to the interest rate in November, stating that it would be a positive move to get interest rates back to normal “even if the new normal is different to the old normal”. Mr Haldane added that he sees this as “a sign that the economy is recovering”.
Although it may seem reassuring that the Bank of England feel confident enough to raise interest rates as early as November, there is an uncertainty as to how this will affect households in the UK. One of the major concerns for homeowners is how an interest hike will affect their mortgage payments.
Interest Rates Affecting Mortgages
Statistics released by the Bank of England state that 43% of homeowner mortgages are variable or tracker rate mortgages. Those on a tracker mortgage will see any interest rate increase passed directly on to them since these are usually pinned to the Bank of England’s base rate directly. Those on other types of variable rates may also have some or all of the increase added to their annual interest rate, depending on the product and the lender. As an example, on an average mortgage of £125,000 with a remaining term of 20 years, an increase of 0.25% would increase monthly payments by £15 to £665. That would amount to an extra £185 per year.
The remaining 57% of homeowners with a mortgage are on fixed rate mortgages and so will be unaffected by any interest rate rise, at least until their initial fixed rate period ends, at which point they will revert to their bank’s Standard Variable Rate and as such may well be directly affected by interest rate rises.
What This Could Mean For Savings Accounts
An interest hike of 0.25% could possibly provide a positive effect on the rates provided by savings accounts however the likelihood of this actually happening, or at least happening quickly, is very low indeed. The Bank’s base rate is only one factor that contributes towards the general level of savings rates in the UK, and since we have seen record low savings rate whilst the base rate was at 0.50%, an increase back to this level is very unlikely to create any material increase in the savings rates on offer.
What is perhaps more worrying is that even if the full 0.25% was added to every savings account in the market, not even the best five year fixed rate would offer a level of interest that is close to matching the current rate of inflation, let alone beat it.
Time For A Change Of Strategy For Savers?
Therefore, even if the interest hike goes ahead as predicted, we will still see increasing pressure on UK households as mortgage payments will increase, but there will still be no savings accounts that will be able to get anywhere near the current rate of inflation. What’s more, with inflation forecasted to increase further towards the end of the year, there appears to be only one outcome for the foreseeable future – savers will lose money in real terms. As such, it may be time for a change of strategy.
Savers who want to try and avoid losing money in real terms may wish to consider capital at risk investment plans. These products provide savers with the opportunity to receive competitive rates of interest that could potentially combat the effect of increasing inflation. The trade off for potentially higher returns is that your initial capital is at risk.
Capital At Risk Products
With a capital at risk investment plan the capital is not invested directly into the stock market, but the potential returns are generally linked to the performance of the FTSE 100 Index. This allows them to offer the opportunity to generate competitive rates of return, especially when compared to fixed term bonds.
An example of one of the investment plans is the FTSE Enhanced Income Plan. This plan provides a fixed monthly income, which is paid regardless of the performance of the stock market, however it is important to note that the return of the initial capital invested is dependent on what happens to the FTSE 100 Index.
Risk Versus Reward
When considering a capital at risk investment plan, it is important to bear in mind that they only offer conditional protection to the capital initially invested. This means that your capital is returned unless the FTSE falls by more than a certain percentage, normally in the region of 40% to 50%. Therefore, 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 returns than those available from cash, usually leads to the need to consider putting your capital at risk. A good benchmark for assessing any such 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 potentially higher levels of interest.
The effect of the Bank of England’s interest rate increase along with the possibility of a further increase to inflation cannot be ignored. The hike in interest rates will result in more expensive mortgage payments, whilst savings rate are likely to continue to offer rates that fall well short of the rising cost of living.
Therefore, the trade off with savings accounts is that although they do provide you with capital protection, the interest paid remains behind inflation and so savers face losing money in real terms as a result. Investment plans may provide an opportunity for returns that combat inflation, however, it is important to fully understand all of the risks involved before considering putting your capital at risk.
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.