We might be living in financially challenging times, but it’s not all bad news.
For those who top up their household income with interest payments from their bank or building society savings, the mood music is better than it has been for a while. Savings rates are on the up. Smiles all round.
This week, we are likely to see the Bank of England push up the base rate yet again – by anything between 0.5 and 1 per cent (it currently stands at 2.25 per cent).
Not all bad news: For those who top up their household income with interest payments from their bank or building society savings, the mood music is better than it has been for a while
This in turn should trigger a corresponding rise in savings rates, although many institutions will dilly and dally before pressing the ‘increase’ button in order to make more profits for their shareholders. Naughty, naughty.
As ever, I urge savers to ensure they are still getting a fair deal from their bank or building society. Websites such as Savings Champion and Moneyfacts provide details of the best rates available, according to the amount of access you want to your money.
Our stats (below) also gives plenty of useful information.
A few days ago, NS&I, the Government-backed savings organisation, set the tone on rates by pushing up the interest on its range of variable rate accounts by between 0.6 and 0.85 percentage points.
It means the rate on both Direct Saver and Income Bonds (1.8 per cent) is now at its highest for more than a decade, although NS&I has reserved its best rate for Junior Isa savers (2.7 per cent).
For savers at least, things are looking up. Words that I haven’t been able to write for quite a while.
You may not know this, but an assortment of companies want you to take time out today – in between taking the dog out for a walk and reading this great newspaper – to think about your pension. For that matter, not just today, but in the coming days as well.
For starters, a number of leading lights in the financial services industry have deemed today to be National Pension Tracing Day.
A day when people should rack their financial brains and ask themselves a simple question: Do I have a pension fund with a former employer that I have forgotten about or lost contact with?
For many readers, the answer will be yes. According to which expert you talk to, there are between 1.6million and 3million pension pots currently unclaimed by their owners. Pots with a combined value of up to £26.6billion. Money that could make a big difference to many people’s finances in later life.
So, if you believe you have a lost pension sitting in the long grass, do something about it. Visit nationalpensiontracingday. co.uk. It could make today a golden Sunday.
And if you still feel in a pension kind of mood after visiting that website, may I suggest that you also take a look at websites pensionattention.co.uk and pensionawarenessday.com. Both are designed to get you to think about your financial future.
It seems so. So far this year, 486 branches have either been closed or put on notice of imminent closure – and the reaction from the public has (bar the odd exception) been muted.
For example, in my home town of Wokingham in Berkshire, the announcement that NatWest is shutting up shop has so far met with little resistance – not a placard or protest in sight.
Maybe it’s because NatWest is not the last bank in town, but I suspect the public is no longer surprised when a branch closes. It has become the norm. Such public disinterest in branch closures may partly explain why the banking industry is dragging its feet on supporting new-style banking hubs in towns which have lost all their banks. Such hubs are community banks which customers of all the big banking brands can use.
Two hubs have been piloted and 25 new ones confirmed. But none of the 25 has yet to open.
Community banking campaigner Derek French is livid at such procrastination – and rightly so. NatWest closing its Wokingham branch is inconvenient but understandable. But allowing towns to become banking deserts is bang out of order.
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