Weekly Money: the stories we noticed 16 to 20 November

The personal finance stories you may have missed this week

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The Independent Online

20 November

Building up a nest egg is essential for financial security, yet 11.7 million people have not been able to save a penny in the past two years, Citizens Advice warns. Its research suggests people aged 35-44 years old are least likely to save, perhaps due to financial pressures such as childcare costs, mortgage repayments and household bills.

“For a lot of households the money coming in often matches the money going out which means there is little or nothing left to save,” pointed out Gillian Guy of Citizens Advice. “Without some sort of nest egg people don’t have anything to fall back on if there is a sudden expense or change in circumstances.” In the last year the charity helped with 1.8 million queries about debt and personal finances.

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The number of calls to Shelter’s helpline has climbed by nearly 50,000 in a year. The charity received 457,700 calls in 2014/15 - more than 1,200 a day. One in four of the calls came from people who faced losing their home within a month. Nadeem Khan, a helpline adviser for Shelter, said: “Sadly, more and more people are coming to us every day, desperate for support.”

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Barclaycard and Tesco Bank are to offer customers free access to their credit reports. It will allow people to track how their financial actions affect their rating and how it changes over time. A poor credit score means being turned down for loans or mortgages or being charged much higher interest rates as you’re perceived as a higher risk. On the other hand, a good credit rating will help you get the best deals on financial products.

19 November

Next Wednesday’s Autumn Statement is likely to leave consumers wanting more, according to Aegon. It says a third of people want the Chancellor to simplify pension tax-incentives, while three out of five said they’d save more if they got a 30 per cent government incentive on contributions. In the current system, basic rate tax payers get 20 per cent and higher rate payers get 40 per cent.

However the Treasury has recently said it intends to delay any decision on pension tax incentives until at least next year’s Budget.

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If you have a standard variable rate mortgage, you could be paying £4,000 a year more than you need to. HSBC reckons you could save £329 a month by switching to a fixed rate deal.

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Barclaycard customers will see the interest rate charged when they use their plastic climb automatically when the base rate rises from next February. Some 10.5 million customers will be affected by the change, although those on special rates will remain on their existing terms.

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Research from the Fairbanking Foundation has revealed that 29 per cent of people who chose zero per cent credit card deals in the last five years ended up with more debt at the end of the term. With some cards offering up to three years at 0 per cent, borrowers can fall out of the habit of repaying their debt. Antony Elliott of Fairbanking said: “Zero per cent deals encourage significant numbers to take on more debt and can be detrimental to helping people manage their finances in a proper way.”

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Young people will be poorer than their parents at every stage of life, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies. It said the average financial wealth for the 45-54 age group increased by £6,000 between 2008 and 2012 but 25 to 34 years olds’ increase was just £4,000. The difference was even bigger when looking at pension income where wealth increased by just £13,000 for the 25 to 34 age group compared to £38,000 for the 45 to 54 age group.

18 November

Turn2us is today launching its No Cold Homes campaign to help more people who are unable to afford to heat their homes. The charity is encouraging anyone in financial hardship – or anyone who knows someone who is struggling – to use its free online service to see if they are eligible for welfare benefits, charitable grants and other support that could help them survive with a healthier, warmer home this winter.

The No Cold Homes campaign runs until 16 December. As part of the campaign, the charity is hosting an online celebrity clothes auction from 30 November until 9 December to raise awareness. For details of the charity auction go to turn2us.org.uk/NoColdHomes or just to use the benefits calculator or search for grants go to turn2us.org.uk

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Today’s the day when the majority of Britain’s boilers are turned up, reckons First Utility. And that means, of course, a sudden spike in boiler breakdowns. An estimated 4.3 million households report boiler breakdowns each year at an average cost of £391 per repair. To help First Utility has linked with the AA to offer 22 per cent off the cost of boiler and home cover.

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Millions of people would be unable to cope financially if they lost their job, warns a new report from the charity-led campaign Seven Families, which aims to raise awareness of the important of protection insurance. The report reveals that the number of people out of work due to ill health has climbed by 62,000 in the last year, meaning two million people are not seeking employment because of long-term illness.

“The benefits system is being cut back to balance the economy, yet some people have unwavering belief that they will always be looked after if they can’t work,” said Peter Le Beau of Seven Families. “The reality is often that people would struggle to pay their mortgage, rent or the day-to-day bills if they suddenly had to rely solely on benefits.” For more about the campaign go to facebook.com/7Families

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Women are in real danger of falling into a retirement savings gender gap in their 30s. That’s the warning from a new report from Scottish Widows. Its research found that the savings gap between men and women widens significantly when they reach their 30s and start to juggle jobs with family life.

In their 20s men are only slightly more confident than women - 30 per cent compared to 26 per cent - that they are putting enough cash away for their later years. But the gap increases sharply when people enter their 30s with 48 per cent of men confident about putting cash away for retirement compared to just 31 per cent of women.

17 November

Rents are still rising and show no signs of the normal seasonal slowdown you’d expect this time of year. They climbed 0.7 per cent in October to an average £1,294, according to the monthly Landbay Rental Index. Rents climbed month-on-month and year-on-year and across the country in October, the only exception being Scotland, where average rents slipped 0.1 per cent to £696.

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Don’t leave it too late to find out about if you’re eligible for financial help and support through Warm Home Discount schemes this winter. They’re run by energy companies but tend to close in late November early December. One in ten of all homes are eligible for some form of help with their energy bills, and there’s a total pot of £320m available, points out the Home Heat Helpline.

Those that qualify for support include low-income families, disabled customers and the elderly and other vulnerable customers. People who may not qualify themselves, can call on behalf of a loved one or neighbour who they think may be eligible. For more information call 0800 33 66 99 or go online to www.homeheathelpline.org.uk

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If you live near a World Heritage site, your home may be more valuable. According to Zoopla, homes near sites are worth 27 per cent more than the average UK property. The property website found that while the average UK home was worth £284,127, the average value of a property located near a UNESCO site was £362,120.

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The Office of National Statistics says UK house prices in September rose 6.1 per cent - £13,300 - in the UK. The average house price was £286,000 while for first time buyers it was less at £216,000.

16 November

If you’re one of the 400,000 people who have money in a National Savings & Investments’ Direct Isa, the interest you get is dropping by almost 17 per cent today. From 16 November the payout falls from 1.5 per cent to 1.25 per cent.

Poorer returns are being offered across easy-access Isas with the average rate falling to 1.11 per cent, reports uSwitch. Tashema Jackson from the comparison site reckons savers should consider current accounts paying interest instead.

“Many offer such competitive rates that people could make more from their money than they would get from an Isa, even after paying tax on the interest earned,” she says. For instance Nationwide’s FlexDirect and TSB Classic Plus Account both pay 5 per cent on balances of up to £2,500 and £2,000.

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The amount of your savings protected under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme is dropping in January from £85,000 to £75,000. If you have more than £75,000 with one bank or building society then it's wise to spread it around other regulated institutions to ensure all your nest-egg is protected. The good news is you still have time to act and can move any balances exceeding the limit without penalty.

The current Financial Services Compensation Scheme limit expires on 31 December 2015. That's also when the transition period to a new limit ends and is therefore your deadline for action if you want to avoid penalty charges and ensure continuity of protection. Shop around for alternative banks or building societies and contact your existing savings institution to transfer whatever you need.

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The cost of home insurance has fallen 5.6 per cent in the past year to an average of £114, says Consumer Intelligence. Over-50s are paying the lowest annual premiums at £106 while under-50s are paying an average £122. However this month’s Insurance Premium Tax hike could force up prices, reversing nearly two years of price cuts. And that may persuade 56 per cent to switch while 29 per cent will consider cutting back on cover or cancelling policies.

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