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What to ask if you want to protect your cash from inflation

Inflation is creeping upwards but the Bank of England is reluctant to increase interest rates, as it doesn't wish to disturb the economic recovery. This is creating a growing gap between the interest on cash deposits and the rate of inflation, leading to a fall in the real value of cash over time. 

Most people will find it impossible to insulate their wealth completely from this drop in value. However, there are a few simple steps you can take to make sure your money is working as hard as possible to beat its effects.

David Goodfellow, Head of Financial Planning at CGWM, offers five questions to ask yourself if you want to protect your cash from inflation or if you are thinking about investing during inflation.

Why low interest rates and high inflation are a threat to cash

Savers are struggling to obtain even very low returns on their cash deposits[i]. Savings accounts are failing to pay much more than 1% per annum gross (net 0.60% for higher rate taxpayers and 0.55% for highest rate payers) for those willing to lock their money away for a minimum of 12 months, and even less for those wanting instant access to their money.

Meanwhile, inflation is at 3.2% and is predicted by The Bank of England to hit 5% by early 2022. This means cash is devaluing in real terms every day.

With many households sitting on more cash than ever following COVID-19, according to both the Bank of England and our own survey results, protecting cash from inflation is becoming vital.

Five questions to ask to protect your cash from inflation

1) Is the amount you have in cash appropriate for your circumstances?

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer to this question, and it is very much a personal choice – some experts recommend three months’ expenditure, others up to a year’s worth. Plus any near-term capital expenses should certainly be retained in cash. For more information, read our 'How much cash savings do I need?' article. 

It is sensible for many people to keep a cash buffer, but since this will be at the mercy of inflation, some savers may opt to hold the bare minimum amount in cash to avoid incurring losses on the value of their money. 

2) Should you consider investing some of your cash?
Many investors have found a diversified investment portfolio has outperformed cash in recent times. To illustrate this, below is a graph of the real return  of cash over the last ten years at the Bank of England base rate, versus the real return of three of our model investment portfolios.

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

Based on a starting value of £1,000 in June 2011, ten years later the cash would only be worth £880 in real terms – a loss of 12%, thanks to a combination of high inflation and low interest rates. Meanwhile, over the same period, our model investment portfolios returned up to 59% when taking inflation into account.

Of course, past performance does not determine future performance. But as inflation could remain higher than interest rates for some time or even rise further, it could be worth speaking to a professional wealth adviser to see whether investing some of your cash in a diversified investment portfolio could benefit you.

3) Have you maximised your pension savings in recent years?  

Notwithstanding the constant tinkering with legislation by successive governments, pensions are still a very tax-efficient investment for the majority of people, with tax relief on contributions, as well as tax-free growth within the fund. Take a look at our article on how to maximise your pension allowances for more detail.

4) Have you made use of your ISA allowance this year and those of your family (assuming you’re feeling generous)?

Everyone aged 18 and over can invest £20,000 per annum into an ISA; those under 18 can invest £9,000 each year. ISAs grow tax free, whether invested in cash or other asset classes like stocks and shares, and the long-term effects of this tax-free growth can be significant.

5) Are you making the most of your income allowances? 

Often, we find people squander the opportunity to use a spouse or partner’s lower income tax rate, or even their Personal Savings Allowance (currently £1,000 for 2021/22), by holding investments or cash balances in the higher earner’s name. This could mean, for example, paying tax on interest at 45% when the spouse would pay just 20%, or even no tax at all. There is no limit on the amount of money that can be transferred between spouses, so you might want to consider whether transferring holdings to or from your partner would benefit your family.

Few savers will be untouched by inflation in the near future. But by asking yourself the questions above, you can mitigate the effect of inflation by making sure your money is working as hard as possible to earn inflation-beating returns.

Find this useful? Read more about inflation: 

Get in touch to speak to a professional wealth adviser and see how we can help protect your wealth from inflation with confidence.

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Investment involves risk. The value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up and you may not get back the amount originally invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

The information provided is not to be treated as specific advice. It has no regard for the specific investment objectives, financial situation or needs of any specific person or entity.

Charts are for illustrative purposes only and should not be relied upon for any other reason. Information is correct as at date of publication.

The information contained herein is based on materials and sources deemed to be reliable; however, Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management makes no representation or warranty, either express or implied, to the accuracy, completeness or reliability of this information. All stated opinions and estimates in this document are subject to change without notice and Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management is under no obligation to update the information.

Savings accounts: 0.65% easy access or up to 1.7% fixed (moneysavingexpert.com)

Photo of David Goodfellow

David Goodfellow

Head of UK Financial Planning

David specialises in financial planning and tax driven investment planning. He has over 15 years' experience in advising on and investing in VCTs, EISs and tax driven property structures, and is part of the CGWM Advice and Solutions Committee. He is a member of the Personal Finance Society and The Chartered Insurance Institute.


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IMPORTANT: Investment involves risk. The value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up and you may not get back the amount originally invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.