Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Isa savers 'not using allowance'

Only 15 per cent of this year's Isa customers have saved the maximum amount, says Halifax

One in six cash Isa savers has managed to use their full allowance this year, research by Halifax among its customers has shown.

The provider said that just 15% of customers who took out a deal with it during this financial year had saved up their full £5,640 allowance for 2012/13.

With just a few weeks of the current tax year left, stagnant wages and high living costs have been blamed for the struggle many people are having to put any spare cash aside.

Younger people in particular appear to be feeling the squeeze, with savers aged 25 to 34 having an average balance of £2,712, representing less than half of the current cash Isa allowance.

Those aged between 35 and 44 have an average balance of £4,389, with typical savings levels steadily creeping up in the higher age groups to reach £15,035 for savers aged 75 and over, the research conducted at the end of January found.

The highest customer Isa balances across England and Wales were in East Anglia, where people typically had £9,512 put away. This was 16% higher than the lowest average balance of £8,220, which was recorded in the North East.

Women's typical balances were slightly lower than men's, at £8,816, compared with £8,973 for male savers. But women's Isa savings were the equivalent to 43% of their gross average earnings, compared with 26% for men.

Four years of the Bank of England base rate being held at a record 0.5% low had made life tougher for savers generally and driven down any real returns they were seeing.

Despite the difficult savings environment, high street banking studies have often reported strong inflows into cash Isas as people look to the tax-free products to give them better returns on their money. Halifax said just over one-third (36%) of its customers used up their full cash Isa allowance in the 2011/12 tax year.

Richard Fearon, head of Halifax Savings, said: "With disposable income continuing to be squeezed, savers are finding it increasingly hard to put money away. We also believe that the fact that the allowance increases each year means people often aren't aware of the full amount they can invest."

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