Monday, 19 July 2010

NS&I withdraws index-linked savings certificates

With RPI inflation running at over 5% and the best High Street savings accounts offering 2 or 3 percent long term the only way to keep your savings safe and protected against inflation in the last few years has been National Savings Certificates which paid RPI plus a bonus.

Today the government has just cancelled them. They claim they are over-subscribed, which obviously they are as there is no other risk-free way of saving money at or over RPI inflation.

Nice! That really encourages saving--not. If your money loses value all the time the best thing you can do with surplus cash is spend it as fast as possible. If you wait until next year to spend it you'll just get less for your money. We are no-longer in an environment where money "grows". These days money shrinks.

The alternative is to take risk. You could buy gold, but there's no return and the price might fall. You could buy index-liked gilts but even though the coupon is index-linked and guaranteed the capital value can fall (although if you hold for the full 20 or 30 years you'll get back what it says on the certificate. Most people will want out before then.)

Why has the government closed this window? They still have an annual £150bn deficit to fund - they need our cash. Or do they? Are they thinking of restarting quantitative easing, aka money printing? QE is the solution to deflation. It's not appropriate with RPI running at over 5 percent. If you try QE when you already have inflation you get more inflation, lots more inflation. This is not a good idea.


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