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Tag: interest rates

Understanding interest income and expense

Understanding interest income and expense

In the UK, interest rates have now been so low for so long that even those who are, technically, old enough to remember the double-digit inflation of the 1980s, may have forgotten what it meant in practice.  It meant that cash deposits could bring could returns for savers – but borrowing could be eye-wateringly expensive.  With Brexit on the horizon and a “no-deal” looking close to certain, now may be a good time to go over interest rates, the theory and practice.

When currencies weaken, interest rates tend to go up

The Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England is tasked with keeping inflation at exactly 2%, but since this is the real world, it is allowed a 1% “margin of error” either way.  If inflation falls below 1% or rises above 3%, however, the Bank of England has to write an open letter to the chancellor explaining what it intends to do about it.  If inflation falls below 1%, the BoE has two options.  It can lower interest rates (assuming there is room for it to do so) or it can implement a programme of quantitative easing.  When inflation goes up, however, the BoE’s only option is to increase interest rates.

The Brexit question

If Sterling weakens due to Brexit (or for any other reason), it will increase the cost of importing goods from overseas.  If this cost is offset by gains elsewhere, such as inbound tourism, then the net effect may be zero (or close to it), but if it is not, then either the UK will have to cease (or severely limit) its imports and/or inflation will increase and in the latter case the BoE will be forced to raise interest rates to meet its 2% target.

The only other option would be for the government to change the inflation target in some way, either by permitting inflation to go higher or by changing the means by which it is measured (such as the change from the Retail Price Index to the Consumer Price Index).  This is certainly possible, but it would be politically challenging.  Allowing inflation to rise would potentially impact everyone, including borrowers, whereas allowing interest rates to rise would benefit savers but hurt borrowers. Raising interest rates would also, at least potentially, make Sterling more attractive on the international markets, thus potentially bringing the value of the currency back up and lowering inflation naturally.  Having said that, this tactic did not work for John Major back in 1992, when the UK exited the ERM.

What this means in practice

In very blunt terms, Brexit could mean that savers finally get to see better returns on their cash deposits and borrowers start to see an increase in the cost of financing their debt.  Having said that, it is still very possible that savers will not see enough of a benefit to make it worth their while to readjust their asset allocation in favour of cash.  Borrowers, by contrast, will have no option but to swallow up the higher interest rates as they will be reflected across all lenders albeit to varying degrees.  This means that it is now critically important for borrowers to do everything in their means to pay down debt as quickly as possible and the higher the level of interest payable on the debt, the more important it becomes to pay it down.  If borrowers are unable to pay down their debt immediately, for example, if they have mortgages with long terms, then it may be worthwhile to switch to a fixed-rate product so at least they will have the security of knowing what their payments will be over the life of the product.  As always, however, individuals will need to do their own sums to see if this approach makes sense in their own situation.

On clicking third party website link you will leave the regulated site of Coombes & Wright Mortgage Solutions Limited. Neither Coombes & Wright Mortgage Solutions Limited, nor Sesame Ltd, is responsible for the accuracy of the information contained within the linked site.

 

 

Understanding Interest Rates

Understanding Interest Rates

In the UK, interest rates have now been so low for so long that even those who are, technically, old enough to remember the double-digit inflation of the 1980s, may have forgotten what it meant in practice.  It meant that cash deposits could bring could returns for savers – but borrowing could be eye-wateringly expensive.  With Brexit on the horizon and a “no-deal” looking close to certain, now may be a good time to go over interest rates, the theory and practice.

When currencies weaken, interest rates tend to go up

The Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England is tasked with keeping inflation at exactly 2%, but since this is the real world, it is allowed a 1% “margin of error” either way.  If inflation falls below 1% or rises above 3%, however, the Bank of England has to write an open letter to the chancellor explaining what it intends to do about it.  If inflation falls below 1%, the BoE has two options.  It can lower interest rates (assuming there is room for it to do so) or it can implement a programme of quantitative easing.  When inflation goes up, however, the BoE’s only option is to increase interest rates.

The Brexit question

If Sterling weakens due to Brexit (or for any other reason), it will increase the cost of importing goods from overseas.  If this cost is offset by gains elsewhere, such as inbound tourism, then the net effect may be zero (or close to it), but if it is not, then either the UK will have to cease (or severely limit) its imports and/or inflation will increase and in the latter case the BoE will be forced to raise interest rates to meet its 2% target.

The only other option would be for the government to change the inflation target in some way, either by permitting inflation to go higher or by changing the means by which it is measured (such as the change from the Retail Price Index to the Consumer Price Index).  This is certainly possible, but it would be politically challenging.  Allowing inflation to rise would potentially impact everyone, including borrowers, whereas allowing interest rates to rise would benefit savers but hurt borrowers. Raising interest rates would also, at least potentially, make Sterling more attractive on the international markets, thus potentially bringing the value of the currency back up and lowering inflation naturally.  Having said that, this tactic did not work for John Major back in 1992, when the UK exited the ERM.

What this means in practice

In very blunt terms, Brexit could mean that savers finally get to see better returns on their cash deposits and borrowers start to see an increase in the cost of financing their debt.  Having said that, it is still very possible that savers will not see enough of a benefit to make it worth their while to readjust their asset allocation in favour of cash.  Borrowers, by contrast, will have no option but to swallow up the higher interest rates as they will be reflected across all lenders albeit to varying degrees.  This means that it is now critically important for borrowers to do everything in their means to pay down debt as quickly as possible and the higher the level of interest payable on the debt, the more important it becomes to pay it down.  If borrowers are unable to pay down their debt immediately, for example, if they have mortgages with long terms, then it may be worthwhile to switch to a fixed-rate product so at least they will have the security of knowing what their payments will be over the life of the product.  As always, however, individuals will need to do their own sums to see if this approach makes sense in their own situation.

On clicking third party website link you will leave the regulated site of Coombes & Wright Mortgage Solutions Limited. Neither Coombes & Wright Mortgage Solutions Limited, nor Sesame Ltd, is responsible for the accuracy of the information contained within the linked site.

 

 

Some interesting facts about interest rates

Some interesting facts about interest rates

At a very basic level, interest rates are percentage fees levied whenever one person has use of another person’s money.  While the headline numbers can look small, they can have a very big impact so it really does pay to understand how they work.

Interest rates can be simple but they are more likely to be compound

Simple interest rates are based purely on the initial sum lent or borrowed.  For example, if you lent someone £100 and charged 1% per annum simple interest, then each year you will receive £1 in interest.  If, however, you charge 1% per annum in compound interest then the first year, you will receive £1 in interest but the second year, you will receive £1.01 in interest.  This may not seem like much of a change but as the years go by, it will add up.

That was, of course, a very simple example.  In reality, while simple interest really is simple, compound interest can be much more complicated as there can be all different kinds of ways of calculating it, which is why the annual percentage rate (APR) can come in very useful as a guideline to your financial “worst-case scenario”.

Different people (and companies) can be charged different rates for exactly the same product

If two different people (or companies) apply to exactly the same lender for exactly the same product, they can still be charged different rates for it.  This is because the lender will assess risk and reward on an individual basis.

For example, let’s say two borrowers want to buy identical houses on a new-build development.  One has a 10% deposit and is self-employed (albeit with the required level of documentation to show income) and the other has a 25% deposit and is fully employed, has been so for several years and works in a skilled and fairly secure profession.  It’s easy to understand why a lender would see the second borrower as being far lower risk and hence want to attract them with a lower interest rate.

The good news here is that being aware of this reality is a crucial first step in understanding what it means for you and hence what you need to do to manage it.  This basically entails looking at your situation as a whole and deciding where you are prepared to make compromises and where you are not.  For example, if you are currently employed but want to go self-employed, then it may be best to wait until after you have bought a property and been approved for the necessary mortgage, or, if you are already self-employed, then you may want to make sacrifices elsewhere in your life so you can build as big a deposit as you possibly can.

Interest rates are in a constant battle with inflation

If you’re a saver then the only way you can make an effective (i.e. real-world) profit from your cash deposits is by earning an interest rate which is above the rate of inflation.  If you are a borrower, then the only way you can earn a profit on the money you borrow is by generating a return which beats inflation after you have paid your lender interest on the sum which, as we have already seen, needs to make them a profit after inflation.  Whatever way you look at it, inflation is the enemy of profit whether that profit comes in the form of interest rates for savers or investment returns for anyone.  Of course, the fact that people do regularly manage to beat inflation shows that it is possible, however, it is important to keep the effects of inflation in mind when taking any financial decision, including assessing interest rates.

Your property may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

 

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