If you’re looking for a simple and tax-efficient way to grow your money, look no further. An ISA can help you maximise your returns, but with many options available it can be difficult knowing you’re doing the right things with your allowance.
Should you combine all your ISAs or will having a collection better help you reach your goals?
What is an ISA?
An ISA is essentially a tax-free wrapper that allows you to protect your savings and investments from the taxman. You can now save or invest up to £20,000 in an ISA each financial year, and any income or growth in the value of your money can build up tax free for as long as it stays in your ISA wrapper.
The two main categories are cash ISAs and stocks and shares ISAs, but there are many different types of ISAs designed to help investors make their money go further in the right way for them – including the Lifetime ISA, Innovative Finance ISA, and Junior ISA.
Benefits of a cash ISA
When you save money in a cash ISA, your provider pays you tax-free interest on your savings. You can open an ISA with most high-street banks and building societies, although you can only pay into one in a single tax year.
Cash ISAs are good for savers who have a short time horizon and want somewhere tax-efficient to keep their savings until they need their money.
With the returns on cash ISAs negligible for some time, however, any money being kept in an easy access cash ISA has probably been losing value due to inflation.
Imagine you keep your full £20,000 allowance in your cash ISA for one year, If inflation sits at the Bank of England’s 2% target, you’ll need to make £400 just to retain the purchasing power of your savings over that time.
Unfortunately, with the Bank of England’s base rate at 0.5%, the best returns you’re likely to find on an easy cash ISA is around 1%. If your ISA returns aren’t keeping up with inflation, you’ll be losing purchasing power over the long-term.
Instead, those savvy savers who have paid off expensive debt, have three months of outgoings in a cash account in case of an emergency, and have a medium- to long-term time horizon are turning to the financial markets in the hunt for inflation-beating returns.
What is a stocks and shares ISA?
Stocks and shares ISAs are there for those who want to make their money work a little harder. You can invest up to the ISA allowance each year, and all dividends and capital growth will be protected by your tax wrapper until you want to take your money out.
Although you’re taking on more risk by investing in the financial markets, you can manage this risk by building a portfolio that reflects you.
We’re all different; whether it’s our personality, the goals we want to achieve or our tolerance for risk. These characteristics help build our investor profile, which should influence the way you invest and the asset allocation in your portfolio.
If you’re more risk-averse and have a short-time frame, you might have a larger exposure to fixed income over equities. If you’ve got a long-term time horizon and can afford to take on more risk with your money, you’ll have a higher proportion of riskier assets like equities in your portfolio.
What is the ISA allowance?
Individuals have an annual allowance of £20,000 which they can chose to put in one ISA or you can split your allowance between a stocks and shares ISA, cash ISA, Lifetime ISA (LISA), and Innovative Finance ISA.
You can only set up and pay into one of each ISA products in the tax year. Many stocks and shares ISAs are flexible, which means you can put money in, take it out and replace it within the tax year without it affecting your allowance.
You don’t have to use all of your £20,000 ISA allowance, just what you’re comfortable with. But, as you can’t roll it into the next tax year, it’s worth remembering you either use it or lose it.
Should you be investing?
Cash savings accounts are an important part of financial planning. Especially as they’re not exposed to short-term fluctuations on the stock market. But you could be missing out on returns by not taking on any risk at all.
It can be difficult understanding the best way to manage your money, but this can lead many savers to accept the small returns on cash ISAs over taking to the financial markets in the search for inflation-beating returns.
This can be costly, however, with Brits missing out on £46 billion of returns over the last five years. That’s a whopping £2,000 per cash ISA saver, research from UBS Wealth shows.
Of the £239 billion saved into cash ISAs, just £15.9 billion was generated in returns. On the other side of the coin, just £101 million was put into stocks and shares ISAs during the same period, but these investors would have made £26.1 billion had their investments tracked the MSCI World Index in the five years to 2017.
Had all ISA inflows been invested, investors would have made £87 billion, benefiting from the second longest bull run on record and compound interest.
How risk can help
Risk is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the financial markets. In the real world it’s synonymous with danger, but on the markets it’s the dynamic that allows investors to protect their money from inflation and grow it for the future.
The more risk you can take with your money, the higher the returns you can expect – although the further your investments can also fall. Those who want to protect the value of their initial investment will sacrifice the prospect of blockbuster returns for the element of protection.
Whilst investors pour over the best strategies to help put them reach their financial goals, all they really need is time. In fact, stocks and shares investors are 91% more likely to outperform cash ISAs over a ten-year period, research from Barclays shows.
There are many reasons why you might want to transfer your ISA, whether it’s because your money is locked in cash losing value to inflation, or it’s taking too much time and money to manage your investments yourself, and your portfolio isn’t performing as well as you’d like.
The good news is that if you’re unhappy with how your ISA is performing, you can move it to help it grow better.
Should you combine your ISAs?
Both cash and stocks and shares ISAs – and their different varieties – have important roles in financial planning. If you’ve got a long-term horizon and want to invest, you’ll still want somewhere tax-efficient to keep your rainy day fund.
It’s important you take advantage of the suite of ISA options available to you, to ensure you’re making your money work in the best way for you.
It might be time to think about moving your ISA if:
- Your returns are lower than inflation. The purchasing power of your savings is shrinking over time.
- You’re missing out on the important things in life because it’s taking you hours to manage your savings or investments. You could be with a provider that does it all for you.
- Your ISA is costing you a small fortune or you can’t work out what you’re paying. Fees should be simple and low-cost.
Transfer cash ISAs into stocks and shares
Transferring your ISA should be easy. With Moneyfarm, it is.
All you have to do is fill in a form, send it back to us, and we’ll do the rest. We’ll also never charge you a fee to transfer in or away from Moneyfarm, although your provider might.
You can find the ISA transfer form in the ‘actions’ section inside the details of your ISA portfolio. Once we have your ISA form, it typically takes between 15-30 days to transfer, although this is up to your provider.
It’s really important you transfer your ISA properly, otherwise you could break the tax-free wrapper around your savings.
You can transfer any type of ISA to Moneyfarm, whether it’s a cash ISA or stocks and shares ISA. Unlike topping up your ISA, there’s no deadline for transfers, as moving your ISA around doesn’t count towards your annual allowance.
Just remember, if you’re transferring an ISA in the same tax-year, you’ll have to move the whole thing, to make it easier for the government to keep on top of ISA contributions. With older ISAs you can choose how much you want to transfer.
At Moneyfarm, we blend world-class technology and investment wisdom to provide you with a low-cost, hassle-free and fully-managed investment portfolio that can help your money grow.
Our low-cost fee structure means you can keep more of your money invested to benefit from the impact of compounding – where your returns are reinvested and earn their own returns. This is said to be one of the most powerful forces when investing.