Six million accidental savers 'created by Covid crisis'

By Kevin Peachey
Personal finance correspondent, BBC News

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Lockdowns affected people's finances in different ways

More than six million people have become "accidental savers" during the pandemic by keeping jobs while facing fewer outgoings, a report has said.

While many people have faced greater debts, redundancy, or reduced income during furlough, others have seen their financial position improve.

Lower travel costs and fewer holidays or meals out have contributed, financial consultancy LCP found.

Longer-term home working could extend the benefits, it suggested.

Financial impact

Millions of people have seen their finances hit hard by Covid, particularly those already on lower incomes.

Pressures of bigger energy and food bills, as well as other costs owing to children remaining at home, and a 20% cut in income while on furlough, have contributed to the squeeze.

More than nine million people had to borrow more than they usually would by December, owing to the coronavirus crisis, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed.

However, the LCP report suggests that another six million people have seen their bank balances benefit from fewer outgoings during the restrictions on movement. Many of them could have saved thousands of pounds.

Employees who have been able to work from home - often not those in the youngest age groups - have seen commuting and travel costs fall.

Those aged over 55 had been most likely to save as a result of holidays being cancelled or not booked, and older people were also most likely to have cut back on eating out, the report said.

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A lot of the saved money has stayed in regular bank accounts

While some of these issues might only be temporary, the likelihood of a long-term change in the mix of office and home working could see people continue to save on travel costs.

The report suggested the money saved could be put to good use by cutting existing debts, putting money aside in a rainy day fund for unforeseen emergency bills, or put into longer-term savings pots such as pensions.

However, interest rates for savers are low in the current economic climate.

Heidi Allan, co-author of the LCP report, said: "Employers will have a key part to play in ensuring that workers take advantage of this opportunity and do not simply allow these increased balances to sit in current accounts and gradually drift away."

Former pensions minister Steve Webb, a partner at LCP and another author of the report, said: "There are few silver linings from the current crisis, but the emergence of a large group of accidental savers could be one of them. 

"A concerted effort is needed to use this unexpected opportunity to create more of a savings culture, especially among those who may permanently benefit from reduced outgoings as a result of a switch to greater home working."