Saving in 2016: Years of low base rates have engendered a lack of thought about saving

Simon Healy
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There is reason for cautious optimism to return about savings (Source: Getty)

During the Christmas season, most people tend to be focused on family rather than finance, but as the new year develops, particularly with many facing an extra week before payday, thoughts inevitably creep back to more run of the mill matters.

The rise in the US interest rate announced by the Federal Reserve is seen by many as increasing the pressure on the Bank of England to raise rates in 2016, but 41 per cent of respondents expect the Bank of England base rate to remain the same throughout the year, according to our own research.

While half of those surveyed believed that increasing rates would encourage more people to save, only 14 per cent said that a rise to 0.5 per cent would result in them increasing their savings, with 54 per cent saying they would probably save about the same.

There is understandably scepticism about when a rate rise change may come about, with many commentators suggesting late 2016.

When tied to solid ideas or targets, savers seem more responsive to the idea of a rate rise.

More than a third prioritised paying off all outstanding credit or store card debt. In the long term however, motivation for planning was lower: more than two-thirds (68 per cent) said it was unlikely they’d open or switch their current account and over three fifths (61 per cent) thought it unlikely they would start paying into a personal pension.

The long-standing environment of low rates appears to have lowered the time people spend thinking about the long-term plans for their money, however, even when rates are relatively low, it's important savers continue to shop around as there are plenty of providers offering competitive rates and allowing people to get better returns on their surplus funds.

It is encouraging to see higher levels of response to specific government programmes designed to increase rates of saving, and three in 10 from the survey believe greater savings tax benefits would inspire them to save more in 2016.

The first priority for any saver going into 2016 ahead of any rate rise should be to pay down your most expensive debts first, such as credit cards, and then perhaps consider overpaying your mortgage.

While no one should be anticipating a sudden jump in returns, less tax on savings, ISA changes and a much easier switching service appear to be combining to create a cautious optimism ahead of an increase in base rate following seven years of low returns for savers.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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