AS European leaders struggle with the possibly terminal problems of the euro, and the US is buried equally in debt, these are grim days for savers of all ages – and especially for the over-50s thinking of giving up work.
A survey by RetireEasy.co.uk, an online financial planning tool, reckons 79% of 50 -to -70 year olds – about 8.2 million people – worry about their financial futures on a regular basis. Women worry more than men about retirement plans.
They have plenty to worry about: an analysis by Capita Registrars claims small shareholders saw £34 billion wiped off the value of their portfolios between the end of May, when the FTSE 100 began its plunge, and mid-September.
The 4.7% crash on September 22 was the steepest one-day slump since the collapse of Wall Street giant Lehman Brothers in 2008. If Britain hits a double-dip recession, shares would fall by at least a further 15%, reckons Ben Funnell, chief equity strategist at GLG, a UK-based hedge fund.
If Funnell is correct, the FTSE 100 could be close to 4,000 within 18 months – slashing the savings of millions of workers who are still gamely putting money into private sector pension pots on a monthly basis and praying their luck will turn soon.
With some degree of Greek default widely seen as inevitable, things could get grimmer than they are today. Despite that, nobody really doubts that saving is the only sensible long-term option for most working people.
So where should we be saving to build a long-term nest egg?
Step one: make the most of any petty cash
Derbyshire Building Society, part of Nationwide Building Society, lifted the rate on its instant access account (online only) to an amazing 3.25% AER this week, on a minimum opening balance of £1.
Step two: notice how cheap share prices have become on some blue chip companies
Two leading insurers, Aviva and RSA, both currently pay dividends of 8%-plus, while Argos retail chain Home Retail Group has a dividend in double figures, admittedly reflecting much greater risk.
Step three: join income investors in the ‘infrastructure companies’ which operate services for the government, local authorities and public bodies under contracts where the fee is guaranteed from public funds for decades to come.
Step four: look to hold part of your long-term savings in corporate bonds, which is how private companies raise finance, as a safe haven until markets settle.
Step five: Premium Bonds – although the level of prize money has shrunk to 1.50%, and the odds against winning a single prize (also shrunk to start at £25) with a single bond are 24,000 to one, the old favourite battles on as everything else collapses around our ears.
Obvious attractions are the 100% security of your money, because it is Treasury-backed.
Step six: be bold and seize the moment to open a regular monthly saving plan into a managed fund, a unit trust or investment trust. As share prices fall, you get more units with your money and the eventual profit can be a pleasant surprise when markets bounce back.