Ask the expert: What has the third lockdown meant for savings?
The past year has been completely different to anything anyone has ever experienced; we’ve spent most of it stuck in our homes due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis. However, as we look towards the light at the end of the tunnel, RCI Bank’s Head of Savings, Tafari Smith, reflects on this latest lockdown period, discusses what it has meant for your savings, and shares his own advice.

1. During this third lockdown which has been tough for so many, what is your best advice for savers who have had to dip into their savings?

If, unfortunately, you have had to dip into your savings then the most important thing to do is plan to reduce your outgoings. Start by tracking all your spending and identifying what costs are essential versus what can wait until your income recovers. Personally, I have been using a free online budgeting website for years and it continues to help me cut out the small expenditures. If you have money left over after your essential costs, then set a realistic goal to transfer as much of this surplus as possible into a separate account to help replenish your savings.

If you’re facing a shortfall, it’s perfectly OK to rely on your savings for a while to bridge the gap (after all, that’s why most people have savings). However, you’ll need to determine how long your savings can sustain you and create a more personalised course of action suited to your circumstances.

2. What advice do you have for those who have managed to save more and are resisting spending temptation?

It’s wonderful news that, according to the BBC, over 6 million people in the UK have acquired better saving habits during lockdown. Good money habits are simply about putting things in the right order and being consistent. There is nothing wrong with spending confidently again when things get back to normal, but don’t put the luxury holiday or shopping spree ahead of the emergency fund. For me, the best way to do this is to have separate accounts for spending, saving, and for investments.

I don’t recommend using a current account to save; they are designed for spending and pay no interest. Additionally, people tend to spend what’s in their current account, so a good mental hack would be to transfer that money from your current account and beyond reach.

3. How do you see the savings market changing in the next 6 months? What should savers watch out for?

Although interest rates on savings products will remain historically low over the next year, I don’t anticipate most providers will pass on negative rates to savers if the Bank of England base rate dips below zero. Savers are rightfully looking further afield to digital challenger banks for better returns, but they should be cautious of products that promise extraordinary returns. Consumers should dedicate time to learn about the product and the provider behind it.

4. What are your predictions for people’s savings habits once we are out of lockdown? How do you see them changing?

Since the early days of lockdown savers of all demographics who were maybe hesitant to take the leap to digital savings banks are now doing so with gusto. Since RCI Bank released its mobile app last year, the take-up by our customers has been well ahead of our expectations. Savers are more aware of how technology is making it easier for them to have control over their financial lives.

5. What do you think the biggest trends for savings banks will be over the next year?

I think technology will continue to play the biggest role in delivering innovative new savings offerings to customers, whether they are at the start of their savings journey or have significant savings already.  However, cutting-edge technology without dependable, trustworthy service backing it is not a solution to anyone’s problem. For online savings banks coming out of this period, savers will demand that they invest in their customer service organisation, as well as continue to invest in their technology solutions.


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