Mary Dejevsky: If you want us to save, don't make it so hard

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

You've probably noticed that ISA season is here again, the last few weeks before the end of the financial year when the banks try to persuade you to use up your tax-free savings allowance. Once that deadline has passed, they apply equal zeal to going after your next year's allowance. If you try to be conscientious about saving, March-April can be a busy time.

Of course, with interest rates on savings as they are, and inflation accelerating, you might reasonably conclude that this year's allocation – even if you have a surplus in the bank – might be better just, well, spent. A rate of 20 per cent, or even 40 per cent tax avoided on accumulated annual interest of pretty much nothing is even closer to nothing, and if you start switching accounts around in an effort to do better, it all becomes quite a hassle.

Which prompts this question. Given that a state of credit is supposed to be so superior to a state of debit in this post-crisis world, why is saving in Britain so complicated?

I have in front of me the latest bright purple information offering from my "helpful" bank, which says on the front, in nice plain English, "Savings Accounts. Important information". Beware, though: the simplicity is deceptive. Over 14 pages, the bank sets out no fewer than 45 (yes, 45) types of savings accounts, all with several different interest rates. They are arranged in three categories: "branch-based accounts", "non-branch based savings accounts" and "superseded accounts". And not one of them, so far as I can discern, offers anything approaching even 1 per cent, unless it entails some sort of "bonus" offer. (That word has a lot to answer for.)

This means that the rate is temporary, for "new" savers only. It will expire, and you will find your cash reaping more like a tenth of 1 per cent unless you act promptly and move it in pursuit of another "bonus".

At the weekend, a long-time college friend and I – who don't usually talk about finances – worked ourselves up into quite a lather of indignation about the bank-induced pressure to keep "switching". At one end of the spectrum you have – still – "casino" banking, with its plethora of "financial products" and returns akin to gambling; at the other, you might as well keep your money under the bed. We both hankered for those long-lost days of National Savings Certificates and straightforward deposit accounts with a modest, but predictable, return.

We both have decent degrees, albeit not in maths; we are both computer-literate, and we are both capable of figuring out what is on offer if we put our minds to it. But why should we squander valuable time this way? Why won't the banks simply share out the (paltry) proceeds evenly, with a clear table of rates for all?

It would spare a lot of people a huge amount of time and inconvenience; it would reduce the number of balances mislaid during "switching", and it would enable the "helpful" bank to save some trees by cutting its "important information" from 14 pages to one. Oh yes, I know it would also stop banks relegating stroppy non-switchers like me to accounts yielding 0.1 per cent, but does anyone want us to save or not?







The looking glass world of spies and lies

It was one of the most scandalous episodes of the Bush presidency, and one far worthier of impeachment than Bill Clinton's dissembling about his Oval Office dalliance. The career of Valerie Plame, a high-flying CIA agent, was destroyed because her ex-ambassador husband failed to come up with the goods on Saddam Hussein's nuclear ambitions.

Fair Game, a film based on that saga, is now out, with Naomi Watts and Sean Penn and a screenplay that astutely plays on Plame's double identity. You can never be entirely sure whether it is the "real" Valerie you are seeing, or her other, undercover, self.

The ambiguity was still fresh in my memory when I saw the former head of MI5, Dame Eliza – now Baroness – Manningham-Buller, interviewed in the first part of the BBC's Secret War on Terror. I had always thought of her as principled and understated – admirably so. As she answered Peter Taylor's questions about what the British knew about the rendition and torture of terrorism suspects, the slightest flicker of a doubt crossed my mind.

Was there no "tacit approval", he asked, no "blind eye turned"? Was Britain "complicit" in torture? No, she answered, with quiet authority. What if Taylor had dropped the word "tacit"? You can clearly watch too much spy drama.







A sliver of hope for media dinosaurs

As an enthusiast both for Japan and for old-fashioned printed newspapers, I drew the faintest sliver of comfort – on both counts – from a report by our Japan correspondent, David McNeill, on Monday.

Reporting from the ruins of Minami Sanriku, a town described as the size of St Ives, he wrote this: "Its survivors huddle around gas heaters in a community centre about three kilometres from the sea. There is no television or radio. A noisy generator keeps the lights on. News comes in the newspapers delivered late every morning, with their thick black headlines bearing reports of the catastrophe from other parts of the country."

So, even amid so much devastation, there were Japanese producing, distributing and reading newspapers – real, printed, paper newspapers.

Given the lack of mains electricity and the rolling power cuts to come, I guess there won't be that many people relying on their laptops or their tablets for a while. Let's hear it for the wonder of newspapers you can not only read, but actually hold and pass around.



React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Pre-Press / Mac Operator / Artworker - Digital & Litho Print

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: With year on year growth and a reputation for ...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager - Live Virtual Training / Events

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Manager is required t...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Group has been well establishe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Group has been well establishe...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

FIFA awarded the World Cup to a state where slavery is actively facilitated

Aidan McQuade
 

The strange absence of women on our cultural landscape, and what I decided to do about it

Sian Norris
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003