Dreaming of some financial TLC in 2019

14 December 2018

Christmas is approaching and another New Year beckons. Bring it on. For me, on Christmas day it will be turkey, Christmas crackers and the odd tipple or three with my dearest mother

Time to reminisce about Dad, visit his memorial plaque at the crematorium, lay some flowers and say a few words – and maybe even go for a painful jog around the Brabazon golf course, made famous by epic Ryder Cup battles lost (once), won (twice) and drawn (once).

Then it will be straight back to London, for work, New Year’s Eve and a pyrotechnic display to end all displays in central London. I shall watch from my 3ft square balcony while Barry Manilow purrs away on my retro record player (for some inexplicable reason Copacabana is a New Year’s Eve favourite of mine).

Like everyone else at this time of year, I will take time out to reflect on the year just gone – and think about what 2019 will bring.

A marriage in the family? Maybe: the middle of my three ‘boys’ – now aged 26 – has just got engaged and he seems happier than I have ever seen him.

Freedom from a mortgage at long last? (50/50). A visit from Agent Million of National Savings & Investments telling me I am its latest Premium Bond ‘millionaire’ prize winner? No way, I have more chance of travelling to the moon while holding hands with Sir Richard Branson and persuading him to sing Copacabana than Agent Million rattling my front door.

In fact, when it comes to Premium Bonds, my middle boy never seems to stop winning.

At this time of year, I also always look back and forward from a personal finance perspective (yes, I know, it is somewhat sad but it is what most money geeks like me tend to do).

Don’t forget to listen to Barry Manilow on New Year’s Eve

Looking back, I feel somewhat indifferent about how things have panned out on the family finance front in 2018. Of course, it is heartening that 10 years on from the 2008 financial crisis we seem at long last to be creeping out from the long jaws of austerity.

But the economy is hardly bouncing along – more trundling – and stock market wobbles are a regular occurrence as interest rates start to rise (for the record, equity markets do not particularly like it when interest rates are on the march). There may not be a banking crash on the horizon, but do not rule out a severe market correction in the months ahead.

A further bank base rate hike to 0.75% in August this year should have brought a little joy to savers. But some naughty building societies and many naughtier banks decided to act Scrooge-like four months early by passing on little of the rate rise to savers. Unimpressive behaviour. Despite welcome entrants into the savings market such as Goldman Sachs (trading under the Marcus brand), earning a half decent return from cash will remain a challenge for the foreseeable future.

Of course, while savers are suffering from the parsimony of the banks and building societies, borrowers continue to enjoy competitive loan rates. I am currently in a fixed-rate mortgage and if you are a homeowner I implore you to follow suit. I can think of no better financial protection for the challenges that lie ahead – post Brexit and beyond and that includes the possibility of a free-spending Labour government.

If there were one wish that I could have granted this New Year’s Eve, it would be for the personal finance industry to become more welcoming and embracing. It still amazes – and annoys – me that most financial companies are not interested in cementing long-term relationships with customers. It’s behaviour that often results in loyal customers being discriminated against in favour of new ones – across a broad spectrum of product areas including broadband, insurance, mortgages and savings.

Maybe the super complaint that Citizens Advice has recently lodged on this issue with the Competition and Markets Authority will help change behaviour. I hope so because it is illogical and unfair.

So I wish for a 2019 where TLC (tender loving care), not QS (quick sale) becomes the mantra in financial circles, where loyalty is routinely rewarded by financial companies that are built on a commitment to customer service. Dream on I hear you chirp? Maybe, but you have got to aim high.

All that remains is for me to wish you a super remaining 2018, a wonderful Xmas and prosperous New Year. And don’t forget to play Copacabana on New Year’s Eve. You will go into 2019 with a smile on your face. It’s 100% guaranteed – a bit like NS&I (100% guaranteed by HM Treasury).

Jeff Prestridge is the personal finance editor of The Mail on Sunday. He won the Contribution to Personal Finance Education category at the Santander Media Awards 2016. Email him at columnists@moneywise.co.uk.

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