Wednesday, 19 March 2014

At Last: ISAs Go To Work

Finally, the last lines of resistance have fallen and the Chancellor has announced that ISAs will go to work: 
"To further increase the choice that ISA savers have about how they invest, ISA eligibility will be extended to peer-to-peer loans, and all restrictions around the maturity dates of securities held within ISAs will be removed. The government will also explore extending the ISA regime to include debt securities offered by crowdfunding platforms."
In addition, from 1 July 2014 ISAs will be reformed into a simpler product, the ‘New ISA’ (NISA), with an overall limit of £15,000 per year. You will be able to hold cash tax-free within your Stocks and Shares NISA (if your provider allows it). And you'll be able to ask NISA providers to switch your money between cash-NISAs and Stocks and Shares NISAs.

As has been pointed out repeatedly, these changes offer a huge boost to the real economy, because savers will be able to lend their 'dead' savings directly to each other and to small firms to help fill the funding gap left by the banks. At the same time, savers will improve the value of their investments, not only by diversifying into a new asset class, but also one that provides a decent return.

In 2012, the Treasury estimated that about 45% of UK adults have an ISA, with a total of £400bn split equally between cash and stocks/shares.  But others had found that cash-ISAs were only earning an average of 0.41% interest (after initial ‘teaser’ rates expire), and 60% of savers never withdraw money from their account. That amounts to £120bn worth of 'dead money', because only £1 in every £10 of bank loans goes to small firms, and we rely on those firms for 60% of new jobs.

Hats off to the government and the Treasury for putting in the work to turn this situation around.

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