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Cash ISAs have disappointed savers for some time, with interest rates at rock bottom for so long, but stocks & shares ISAs, in contrast, have recorded a strong 12 months.
The latest analysis from Moneyfacts.co.uk shows that the average stocks and shares ISA returned 6.92% between February 2021 and February 2022.
The average cash ISA, meanwhile, returned just 0.51% over that time, the lowest one-year return since Moneyfacts’ records began.
Between March 2020 and March 2021, stocks and shares ISAs actually performed twice as strongly, returning 13.55% on average, while cash ISAs returned 0.63%.
What helped power ISA performance over the last 12 months? The best-performing ISA fund sector between February 2021 and February 2022 was the Commodities and Natural Resources sector, returning 27.69%, while the worst was China/Greater China, falling 21.98%.
Over the 12 months to March 2021, when investment ISAs delivered their impressive near-14% return, the technology boom drove returns: Technology & Telecoms was the strongest sector over that time period, returning 57.3%. In contrast, Global Emerging Markets Bond – Hard Currency was the worst performing fund sector, down 7.42%.
Despite the huge discrepancy in performance between cash and investment ISAs, most people still choose the former, notes Rachel Springall, finance expert at Moneyfacts.co.uk.
She explains that the ISA market has been “devastated” over the last 10 years as the personal savings allowance caused people to flock to savings products, leading providers to reassess the interest rates they offered.
“Despite this, according to HMRC, most consumers put their money in to cash ISAs, whereas stocks & shares ISAs could perhaps be a more lucrative alternative,” Springall says.
In the 2019/20 tax year, the latest for which data is available, savers opened 13 million adult ISAs and poured in £75bn, but 75% of accounts subscribed to were in cash.
“The average stocks and shares ISA fund returned a growth of 6.92% over the past 12 months, which was more subdued than the 13.55% seen between March 2020 and 2021,” says Springall.
“However, this was a volatile period, with some primary fund sectors returning a substantial growth, such as 57.3% (Technology & Telecoms). The past 12 months have been impacted by a variety of influences and this reaffirms the necessity for investors to keep an eye on their investment but not to make to drastic decisions to switch without getting advice. As always, past performance is never guaranteed to be reflected in future returns, and it’s vital investors are comfortable with their level of risk.”
From here, savers will need to consider where to put their money as interest rates rise, Springall suggests.
“As inflation continues to soar and the Bank of England raises interest rates, it will be interesting to see how savers will respond and where they place their cash. It’s clear to see how cash ISAs are being eroded by rising inflation, but consumers may not feel confident enough to invest in the stock market quite yet.
“If consumers wish to use their 2021/22 ISA allowance or to start reviewing their plans for the next tax year with about six weeks to go, getting advice is wise regardless of whether someone is only just starting the investment path or has more experience. Those more risk-averse savers will need to keep an eye on table-topping cash ISA rates but consider their personal savings allowance too.”
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