Saturday, 31 March 2012


In the words of that money saving guru, Martin Lewis, it’s crunch time.
The tax year ends on Thursday and if you haven’t used up your ISA allowance, quite frankly, you’re a bit of a mug. There are currently twenty-three million ISA accounts held in the UK. If you have savings you should consider joining them, before the shutters come down at midnight on April 5th
Use it or lose it - there's still time to use your ISA allowance
Essentially, if you're getting a paltry rate of interest on your savings, the tax man will still want a slice of that interest. But stash that money away in an ISA and not only could you earn more interest (rates of up to 3.5% are on offer) but the tax man can’t get his grubby mitts on it. You, however still have access to the money because it needn’t be tied up for years. Seems a no-brainer to me. Little wonder that many people are treating ISAs as their new pensions.

Confession time. I realised today I hadn’t used my full ISA allowance for 2011/12. Everyone can invest £5340 in a cash ISA (that’s like a savings account with a set rate of tax-free interest) and £5340 in a stocks and shares ISA (where interest rates vary along with the vagaries of the stock market). I’d got the cash version but not the stocks and shares one. I asked myself why and had to admit it was probably because I understood the cash ISA more than the stocks and shares ISA.
Yes, I know I’ve written a book called Sheconomics. But I still have the same old blockers as most of you out there. And, as our behavioural change work shows, inertia is a very powerful force….

So I pulled out Sheconomics and re-read the bits about ISAs and, although the annual limits have gone up since we published in 2009, the same old advice holds true. It’s madness not to take advantage of this way of saving, to miss out on earning tax free interest. And you don’t even have to declare the interest on your tax return, making that onerous task easier too.

There's lots of free, useful and easy-to-understand info on-line
Next I set to and did a bit of internet research (bearing in mind advice in a previous blog from rplan to watch out for charges) and, with some help from Martin’s website above, found a Hargreaves Lansdown product that seemed to fit the bill. The HL form only took about 5 minutes to fill in and the information was easy to understand. Selecting a fund was a bit like sticking the tail on the donkey but their intro material had already provided some good guidance about safer and riskier options. 

My next step is to remind my husband to use up his allowance before midnight on Thursday. I’ve done the research for him so he’s got no excuses.

Then from Friday onwards, when the new tax year kicks off I can set up a regular ISA savings plan - most financial groups that run stocks and shares ISAs offer them. They allow you to smooth out the impact of fluctuations in share prices. The 2012/13 allowance goes up to £11,280 per person (all of which can go into a stocks and shares ISA or half into a cash ISA) meaning couples can save £22,560 and all the interest is theirs to keep.
Important ISA actions:
  •     *  There’s still time to make the most of this year’s allowance - if you don’t USE IT you LOSE IT. 
  •     *  You can open an ISA online or on the phone and most providers are open all weekend. 
  •      *  Make sure you have your ID ready, know your National Insurance number and have access to the money you're investing (e.g. your debit card).
  •      *  Don’t over-agonise about  your choice of cash ISA, just get one open. As long it doesn’t have transfer penalties you can always change later.

STOP PRESS: Check out Simonne's video on how to compare different cash ISAs.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog Karen. Sounds like you've had a productive day!


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