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 They are arranged in three categories: "branch-based accounts", "non-branch based savings accounts" and "superseded accounts".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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive + incentives + uncapped comms: SThree:...

Ashdown Group: Reporting & Analytics Supervisor - Buckinghamshire - £36,000

£34000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Analytics & Reporting Tea...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Developer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a world leader ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the SNP’s ‘fundamental problem’, says Corbyn, is that too many people support it

John Rentoul
An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai  

China has exposed the fatal flaws in our liberal economic order

Ann Pettifor
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future