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Household finances improving – are yours?

Household finances improving – are yours?

Category: Money

Updated: 12/06/2014
First Published: 12/06/2014

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

It seems than an improved economy is finally starting to feed through into people's wallets, as research has revealed a much-needed improvement in household finances.

The latest MoneyMood Survey carried out by Legal & General shows that 48% of UK households claim to have money left over at the end of the month after paying the essential bills and debts, a reassuring rise from 43% last April.

There are still people struggling, however, as 12% find it difficult to cover their bills, but happily this figure is down from 16% a year ago. A further 40% only claim to be "surviving", with just enough money to cover bills and debts.

Of those lucky ones with money left over at the end of the month, the average being stashed away for a rainy day is £108, showing an increase of 22% on a year ago when people were only saving £88.

John Pollock, chief executive officer at Legal & General Assurance Society, says: "Our MoneyMood survey shows we are seeing signs of recovery in household finances. This indicates that the stronger UK economy has begun to produce an improvement in household finances up and down the country.

"We hope the improved strength of household finances will eventually mean that more people will focus on saving for the long-term and we see a return of the saving culture, which we so badly need."

As always, there are regional differences and as Mr Pollock points out, four regions are still showing signs that the recovery has not yet turned around the fortunes of some households. London, Wales, the North East and Yorkshire and Humberside have an increase in the number of homes who say they're struggling to pay bills and debts compared to a year ago.

But happily, eight of 11 regions have shown a rise in what they put away each month, with the North West reporting the biggest increase, with monthly saving at £143 - more than double the amount afforded last year.

If many people are enjoying more disposable wealth at the end of the month, then the big question is – what do we do with it? It's always nice to splash out on a few luxuries, and everyone needs to reward themselves with a treat now and again, but putting some away in a savings account will offer the added reward of peace of mind.

Interest rates may not be setting the world on fire at the moment, but if you put a little away regularly, you will be surprised how quickly you can build up a nest egg.

Your first port of call for a tax-efficient savings vehicle will probably be an ISA which pays interest on your balance without any of it going to the taxman. Although instant access rates are fairly meagre at the moment, if you are happy to lock your money away for a term, then you can get much more inviting deals.

But, if you may need to access your money for emergencies, ensure that you have enough put away in an instant access account. Regular savings accounts can offer some good rates of interest for a guaranteed deposit each month, and don't overlook the new phase of high-interest current accounts, with some paying considerably more than longer-term bonds. However, remember that most accounts will require you to use them as your main bank account, transferring direct debits over to them, while many have a minimum funding requirement.

Whichever account is right for you, the main thing is that you get the savings ball rolling and make the most of any money you have left over. Whether you are saving for a house, a holiday or you just want a bit of security, you'll appreciate your efforts when you see the balance increasing.

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