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Many people have seen their investments dwindle during the recession. If you're looking for a safer place for your money, UK savings institution National Savings & Investments (NS&I) has a range of products offering different types of savings options, all guaranteed by the government.
What makes National Savings different?
On the plus side, a number of National Savings products are completely tax-free, and any capital invested in its products is 100% secure because it is backed by HM Treasury. While banks had always appeared to be a secure way to invest, the credit crunch has shown that this is not always the case.
The main negative you need to consider when investing in National Savings accounts is that they tend to offer less competitive rates of interest. However, if you are comparing interest rates with options outside NS&I, remember to factor in the tax you would have to pay on those options, and calculate whether you are really making a better return.
Which products are tax-free?
If you invest in National Savings products which are tax-free, you will not have to pay any tax on the interest or prizes you receive. Tax-free products include Premium Bonds, ISAs, Children's Bonus Bonds and savings certificates.
Taxable products include savings accounts, income bonds, Guaranteed Equity Bonds, Guaranteed Growth Bonds and Guaranteed Income Bonds. If you invest in any of these, you will need to pay interest and declare them on your tax return.
How long must I invest for?
The range of National Savings products include 'easy access' products, allowing you to take out money whenever you like, as well as longer term schemes where you invest for one to five years.
How do I win 'prizes'?
Premium Bonds are a unique type of product, available exclusively through National Savings. You can invest from £100 to £30,000 in premium bonds. You will receive no interest on your capital, but each £1 bond has an equal chance of winning a cash prize in the monthly prize draw.
Prizes range from £25 to a jackpot of £1 million. Unlike the National Lottery, the original capital you have invested will remain safe, although over time it will be eroded by inflation.
How do I know if National Savings is right for me?
NS&I is often seen as a 'safe and steady' way of investing money. If you are anxious about your cash (and following recent events you have a right to be), it is a good place to store your money without risk, and with reasonable return on your investment.
This is particularly pertinent if you are looking to invest upwards of £50,000, as investments higher than this are not currently guaranteed by the government unless they are invested within a National Savings product.
If you find the prospect of reliable but predictable investments uninspiring, Premium Bonds could be a good option for you, as they give you the opportunity to potentially win a big prize, without losing the original capital as you would do by playing the lottery.
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