Why 2016 wasn't as bad as you think

The silver linings in the personal finance clouds

Silver Lining

It's been a tough twelve months for many. 2016 was the year when the term 'just-about managing' families, or JAMs, first emerged - and many people aren't really managing at all.

However, it hasn't all been bad news on the personal finance front. Some people have seen a rise in their standard of living, and many people have found their financial situation less bad than they feared.

We look at some of the year's good financial news.

Pensioners were given a reprieve
In his Autumn Statement, Chancellor Philip Hammond pledged that the state pension triple lock will remain in place for the rest of this parliament. State pensions will continue to rise each year with inflation, in line with wage rises, or by 2.5%, whichever is higher. While he conceded that he couldn't guarantee that any future Conservative government would maintain the triple lock, it's at least safe for now.

Pension cuts are coming: what's going to happen - and when?

Food prices fell
The supermarket price war has shown no signs of abating over the last twelve months, with food prices falling to a record low this year. While the devaluation of the pound after the Brexit vote has made price rises inevitable, the industry has mostly still been working on existing contracts. Overall, the supermarket shop in 2016 was the cheapest it's been in years.
Some tax-payers are better off
In April, the personal allowance increased to £11,000 and the higher rate threshold to £43,000. As a result, the typical basic rate taxpayer is paying £905 less, while a higher rate taxpayer saves £818. And married couples benefited from a rise in the marriage allowance, the tax free amount which people can transfer to their husband, wife or civil partner, to £1,100.

Mortgage rates stayed low
Despite fears, mortgage rates have stayed extremely low this year, thanks to a rock-bottom base rate from the Bank of England. Many people have snapped up cheap fixed deals that could see them securely through the next few years; and first-time buyers have benefited from special deals aimed at those with small deposits.

Boost for first-time buyers as mortgage rates battle hots up

The minimum wage rose
The minimum wage went up in October for some age groups, with workers aged 21 to 24 getting £6.95 an hour - 25p an hour more. It's an inflation-beating increase. Those aged 16 or 17 now get £4 per hour, while 18-20-year-olds get £5.55 per hour. And from April next year, the minimum wage for all working people aged 25 and over is set to go up from its current £7.20 an hour to £7.50.

How we spend our pensions

How we spend our pensions