It’s strange to think of “losing money” when talking about savings.
I can count the coins in my polar bear money box, and the amount stays the same. I can check the balance in my savings account, and it might even earn some extra pennies in interest. Interest rates might be rubbish right now, but the money hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s sitting there staring me in the face. The balance won’t go down unless I take some out. How on earth could I be losing money?
Trouble is, while my money is tucked away oh-so-safely inside a savings account, prices everywhere else are rising. Economists bang on about inflation, but that’s all it really means: higher prices. A few pence on a loaf of bread here, more expensive car insurance there, and bam, your bills are bigger than a year ago.
Know what isn’t bigger? The interest on my savings.
Inflation eating away at my savings
Currently, inflation is running distinctly higher than record low interest rates. Right now, inflation measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) is 2.5% a year. According to the Retail Prices Index (RPI), which adds in housing costs, inflation is 3.6% as at 20 March 2018.
Yet the average interest rate paid on savings in the UK has plummeted to a measly 0.35% a year.
That means inflation is eating away at the value of my savings faster than I can earn interest.
Right now, across the UK, a whopping £1.3 trillion is stuck in savings accounts, according to Steps to Investing, the website with a step-by-step guide for beginner investors. But the interest earned on cash savings last year fell to the lowest level in at least 20 years, dropping to £4.6 billion according to data from the Bank of England as at 31 December 2017. Savers like me are losing money as inflation shoots up faster than the interest paid. If you want to make the most of your money, a savings account just isn’t going to cut it.
Sure everyone needs some savings they can grab in a hurry, but even allowing a rainy day fund of 3 months’ living costs, that’s still a massive £963 billion dwindling in value.
Yet if that £963 billion had been invested in UK equities instead, last year it would have earned £34.8 billion in dividends, rather than £3.4 billion in interest. That’s a massive amount that savers would have earned if they had been invested during that period.
Investing doesn’t have to be scary
Now, I get that investing can seem scary.
Back in 2015, I really had to brace myself before I put some of my own money into the stock market, beyond a pension and starting child trust funds for the kids. I really didn’t fancy losing any cash. The choice seems enormous and the jargon can be confusing.
But over the long term, investing consistently does much better than staying in cash. Yes, the market goes up and down, rather than moving in a nice smooth line. That means some years the value of my investments soars, and some years it might even dip down. If I sold when prices were low, I could get back less than the amount I invested. But hang on for long enough (only consider investing for at least 5 years and ideally more) and the market generally goes up, according to long term research in the Barclays Equity Gilt Study.
I even wrote this post trying to shout from the rooftops about investing, partly because I came late to the party. As I say in the post, I wish I’d had someone I knew sit down and say “Look: I invested this. Here’s how, and here’s what it’s worth now. And yes, it went up and down and there is a risk then when I need the money it could be worth less than when I invested. But I came out ahead – and by way more than if I’d stayed in cash.”
Personally, I’m not interested in lots of buying and selling, or ridiculously risky speculation like Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. I like nice steady investments based on actual companies, using funds from companies that have been around for a long time, so I can put my money in and leave it to take care of itself.
I’ve just checked, and the £28,600 I shovelled over from my cash individual savings account (Isa) into investment trusts back in September 2015 is now worth just shy of £40,000. In less than 3 years, it’s earned more than £11,000, without me lifting a finger! It wouldn’t have grown 40% in a savings account. Of course, just because that happened in the past doesn’t mean exactly the same will happen in the future. And in fact it would be unrealistic to think these results could be repeated year after year.
I still struggle with making my mind up about where to invest, but I’m getting better at taking the plunge, and certainly don’t regret any of the money I’ve invested so far. I recognise that investing is not for everyone because of the risk losing money. But for me, I think investing can help make the most of my money and I’m aiming for a comfortable retirement where income from investments can pay our bills.
Help for new investors from Steps to Investing
Now I’m really proud to have written some posts for the new Steps to Investing website. It’s set out as a step-by-step guide for first time investors, explaining everything you need to understand, and providing tools and information to help you make the right decisions. It’s designed to help you feel confident about starting as an investor, understand what you need to know and then take control of your financial future so you can make your money work harder.
Steps to Investing lays out five steps:
- Saving and investing
- Investment risk
- Financial goals
- Investment options
- Investment strategy
There are videos about concepts like the difference between saving and investing, jargon buster videos to explain what on earth words like stocks and inflation actually mean, and videos of real people who have just started to invest themselves.
You can also read posts about investing written in clear language without a bunch of jargon, and I’ve written guest posts about issues like why I finally got fed up with cash, how I overcame my fear of the stockmarket and how I held my nerve on the stock market rollercoaster .
Plus, the website has been set up by Janus Henderson Investors. They’re investment managers who have been around since the 1930s and as at 31 December 2017 manage nearly £275 billion in assets, so they really know what they’re talking about.
So if you’d like to learn more about investing, do head over to Steps to Investing.
Come to the Steps to Investing event on 25 April!
If you’re interested in finding out more about investing, do come along to the Steps to Investing event in London on the evening of Wednesday 25 April. You can sign up here.
The event is specially designed for first time investors. You’ll get the chance to meet a variety of financial experts and investors, and the Steps to Investing team. You can hear about the experiences of new investors who have just got started, ask questions, and learn more about making a first investment. Plus I’ll be there, so do come and say hi!
Now – over to you. Have you ever invested? Would you consider investing some of your savings account in the stockmarket? What’s putting you off?
Remember though, investing is different from holding cash. With cash, if inflation is higher than interest rates, the value of cash decreases. With investing, values go up and down, so there is the possibility that an investment could be worth less than it cost.
This is a collaborative post with Steps to Investing, a website provided by Janus Henderson Investors