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Earlier this week, This Morning opened the phone lines to help with worried queries about the financial implications.
The segment entitled ‘Coronavirus: your financial concerns,’ welcomed the nation’s favourite Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis to help.
And now on Thursday night, a special edition of Martin Lewis’ Money Show shed more light on what impact the virus will have, and what we can do to help ourselves.
‘In many cases, the answers to your questions simply don’t exist, or haven’t been decided yet,’ says Martin. But he has done his best to shed light on whatever he can. ‘Sometimes it will have to be a best guess, based on experience,’ he admits.
How will Coronavirus affect finances?
1. Interests rates have been cut
They are now at 0.1 per cent, their lowest level in 325 years. The base-rate cut, however, hasn’t been reflected in fixed-rate mortgages. But if you are on a tracker mortgage you should see the full drop, saving £40 a month on a £100k mortgage. And the same should be true if you are on a variable rate.
2. Suspension of mortgage payments
‘We now have this agreement between the banks and regulator and the Government that they will give people who are struggling a three-month mortgage holiday,’ says Martin.
‘It means you do not have to pay your mortgage for three months. Interest is still charged but it’s trivial, and this is all about cash flow,’ says Martin.
‘Say you had 20 years and three months yet at the start of the mortgage holiday, and at the end of the holiday you’ll have 20 years left to pay the same amount. So someone on say, a £700 a month mortgage, after the mortgage holiday, you’ll start paying roughly £710 a month.’
‘If you need it, do it.’
Five major lenders are now allowing you to apply for a mortgage payment holiday online. However, you will need to prove that you have been affected financially by the coronavirus pandemic.
3. Are my savings safe?
‘Money in UK-regulated savings accounts is protected up to £85,000 per person, per financial institution,’ says Martin. ‘The state is pumping huge amounts of money in to keep the financial sector going. So if you’ve got less than £85,000 you’re safe, if you’ve got more, you’ll want to spread it.’
‘For people who live off their savings, this base rate cut is a nightmare. But there are still some fixed-rate savings accounts, around 1.5 per cent, that you can lock in now. You’ll need to act quickly though.’
4. Credit card limits could be increased
Exploring further possibilities, Martin says ‘increasing people’s credit card limits is something they can do, allowing you to take money out of fixed rate savings.’
‘The impact on your credit score is one we’re still digging into, whether it will have a knock-on affect on your credit file. I don’t yet fully know the answer to that, I’d hope it wouldn’t.’
5. Renters rules have changed
There is now a ban on any evictions in the next few months. ‘You cannot be evicted, you will be able to stay in your house,’ says Martin.
‘As of yesterday, landlords were granted the same mortgage holidays as those in residential homes. They’ll be able to get the mortgage holiday if the tenant can’t pay the mortgage.’
6. You are entitled to time off work to look after your kids
‘However you might not get sick pay, because you aren’t sick,’ says Martin. ‘The Government is looking at it, and the Chancellor is making a statement tomorrow, so it should come out then, if not Monday.’
7. Will a mortgage holiday affect my credit rating?
‘Every lender we have spoken to says it will not go on your credit file if you take a mortgage holiday,’ says Martin. ‘It will not affect your credit rating.’
8. Should I sell my shares or change my pension strategy?
Martin is wary of selling, but Chris Justham, Investment Expert says. ‘In the last 20 years and 5,000 days, which include the dot.com crash and financial crisis, if you had remained invested, you would have seen 9.5 per cent annualised return. But miss 10 of the best days, and that return drops to 6 per cent. Miss 40 of the best days, and the return drops to negative.’
‘If I then tell you that six of those 10 best days actually come in the two weeks that follow the 10 worst days, it tells us that knee-jerk reactions hurt, and we shouldn’t panic and sell, no matter how uncomfortable it feels. Zoom out and look at years instead of days, and trajectory goes upwards. So don’t panic!’
9. Some energy firms will remove late payments
British Gas has confirmed it’s removing late payment charges. Disconnections are suspended for customers of all providers, with most of of them pushing back bill dates for anyone struggling financially.
10. You can get help with council tax payments
Councils such as Telford and Wrekin Council are letting residents defer April and May’s payments, to be paid back later in the year. The Money Saving Expert newsletter advises speaking to your local authority if you are struggling to pay council tax.
11. Payment breaks for water bills
In the Money Saving Expert newsletter, Martin explained that if you’re are struggling with water bills you could be able to arrange a payment holiday.
‘Trade body Water UK is today announcing it is working with water firms to arrange payment breaks, payment holidays and more for those struggling,’ he writes.
If you are struggling real out and see if there is anything that can be done to help.
Martin’s four top financial tips
- You can release fixed savings without penalty – almost every savings provider is now saying you can take the money out without penalty
- Oil prices down are spelling some really cheap energy deals. Most people on standard tariffs can save £370 a year. British Gas has a tariff for dual-fuel customers that will save you £315 a year.
- Apply for zero-balance credit cards ASAP, as rules are tightening up. If you need it, get it now.
- Be aware of scammers. Do not trust online adverts or phone calls. Always go back to your bank.