Brits save fifth more than in 2004

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BY3BDB USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Saving up for rainy day. Image shot 2010. Exact date unknown.

Britons are saving one fifth more than they were a decade ago by putting an average of £98 a month aside for a rainy day.

Despite sluggish wage growth and the squeeze on household finances, research by Treasury-backed savings provider NS&I found people are saving the equivalent of 7.76% of their incomes every month. This compares with an average of £82 a month, or 6.70% of their incomes, 10 years ago.

Women have also been narrowing the gap to save almost as much as men do over the period as a percentage of their income. Women now put £81 a month away typically, equating to around 7.76% of their income, while men save £115 a month on average, or around 7.81% of their wages.

But the gender divide looks set to continue in the coming months, with 16% of women saying they are more likely to save money in the next quarter, compared with 18% of men.

Savings levels peaked at 8.31% of average incomes in spring 2011 and the amount put away each month still has yet to exceed a high of £104 recorded in winter 2012.

Patrick Connolly, head of communications at financial advisers Chase de Vere, said the financial crisis has helped educate people on the importance of saving money but that Britons were still not doing enough.

"Too many people still don't recognise the need for long-term savings, naively believing the state or their employer will look after them in retirement, while others are simply unable to save more as their household budgets have been squeezed," he warned.

The NS&I's survey of more than 2,400 adults also highlighted how technology improvements are causing a major shift in the way people are managing their money.

With 74% now sorting out their finances online compared with 29% a decade ago, only half of those surveyed said they were visiting branches in person as more turn to smartphones and tablets to save time.

But despite increasing access to banking services, 28% said they feel more worried about saving money than they did 10 years ago, and only 14% were more confident.

Figures released yesterday show that pressure of household living costs is continuing to ease back, which could help more people to boost their savings.

The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rate of inflation dipped to 1.9% in January and experts predict that inflation will remain under a target of 2% throughout 2014, fuelling hopes that wage growth will finally overtake rises in the cost of living.

But with the Bank of England base rate having remained at its historic 0.5% low for more than five years, savers' struggle to find real returns on their cash pots continues.

According to financial information website Moneyfacts, fewer than one in 10 savings accounts on the market offer returns that will beat tax and inflation. The average rate being offered on a tax-free cash Isa has dropped from 1.74% a year ago to 1.66%.

NS&I's research also found that the number of people saving for a holiday or special occasion has dropped to 40% from 47% in 2007.

Fewer people are saving towards a home or retirement. The proportion of people saving to buy a property, make home improvements or make mortgage payments has dipped from two fifths (41%) in 2007 to just one third (33%).

Less than one quarter (22%) of people said they are putting some money into savings specifically for their retirement, down from 38% in 2007.

12 ways to save £10,000 in 2014

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