Saving levels threatened by Covid-19 pandemic

Parents are stepping in to help loved ones – and boost their own finances too. Picture: Getty Images

Parents are stepping in to help loved ones – and boost their own finances too. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Parents are stepping in to help loved ones – and boost their own finances too, says finance expert Peter Sharkey.

Several times a week press releases overladen with statistics of varying interest (and quality) drop into my email inbox. I handle this jargon-heavy produce of the corporate media office with scepticism.

You see, one of the best books I read while studying statistics at university was Darrell Huff’s How To Lie With Statistics, published in 1954 but just as relevant today.

Huff maintained that he wrote the book in the same spirit as a burglar might author an instruction manual on how to ransack people’s homes. He did so not as a ‘how to’ guide for burglars but to illustrate how vulnerable homeowners are to being burgled and to explain how they can prevent it from happening.

Although it takes time to plough through the daily press releases, it’s encouraging to know that companies continue to commission research into everything from car and dishwasher ownership to the number of holidays we spend abroad or the percentage of the over-60s who are Zoom-proficient.

I made that last one up, but you get the picture.

Earlier this week, I received an emailed press release which, frankly, comprised enough data and graphs to keep the nerdiest statistician happy.

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Nevertheless, one section stood out: the figures relating to average levels of UK adult savings. These apparently amount to £35,361, although if you remove the highest and lowest numbers, the average falls to £9,633; in East Anglia, the average is £8,032. Well over a quarter (28pc) of adults have £1,000 or less in cash savings, a situation no doubt exacerbated by the pandemic.

Of course, these data do not offer a snapshot of adult wealth: they exclude the salaries of people still in full-time employment, while for retirees, other investments such as work pensions, if appropriate, state pension and income generated from rental property, for example, are not part of the overall calculation.

Nevertheless, the level of a retirees’ ‘other investments’ is an important consideration because the income they generate determines day-to-day spending power, whereas savings tend to be kept handy for the proverbial rainy day.

The IFA website, unbiased, concurs, concluding that spending power is more important than ‘raw numbers’. It suggests that the annual income needed to enjoy a comfortable retirement is £47,500. Such spending power allows couples to enjoy a minimum of three weeks’ holiday a year, spend £112 a week on food shopping and a further £1,500 a year on clothes.

Conversely, the site reports that an annual income of £10,200 is sufficient for what it calls “a frugal retirement,” but who wants to endure that, and is it avoidable?

A non-statistical, press release was delivered early last Wednesday morning which declared that the number of people aged 55 and above wishing to know how much equity they could release from their homes had risen markedly during lockdown.

Given the extraordinary circumstances through which we’ve lived over the past few months, the news is hardly a great surprise. However, it offers proof that an increasing number of over-55s appear intent on releasing equity from their homes with which to support family members who might be experiencing financial difficulties.

It also suggests there is a sizeable number of people whose pensions have been affected by stock market volatility and who now wish to alleviate the problem, either by releasing a tax-free lump sum from their home or arranging to withdraw regular tranches of cash. As the UK’s reported level of average savings appears quite modest, the hidden wealth wrapped up in the family home could offer a source of much-needed funds.

How much could you release from your home? The figure is determined primarily by your age, health and the value of your home, which must be worth at least £70,000. These are the principal requirements, although alternative options exist based upon personal circumstances.

You can get a very good idea of how much equity you can release by visiting the website and filling out the equity release calculator.

Equity release isn’t suitable for everyone and it may compromise your eligibility for means-tested state benefits. Nevertheless, in these troubled times, it is worth exploring.

If you’re considering equity release, please get in touch. Thanks again to those of you who have already emailed. Please keep the emails coming, but note I cannot advise on the suitability of equity release to individuals. My email address is

Drop Peter Sharkey a line!

Readers can email Peter Sharkey (and his team of equity release experts) to ask any equity release-related questions. Contact Peter by emailing:

As many readers have already discovered, there’s a wealth of information to be discovered at: In addition, there are hundreds of blogs and articles dealing with the subject on the Moneymapp website, including Peter Sharkey’s weekly blog, rated among the UK’s very best. Read more at:

You may still email any queries or questions regarding equity release to:

Please note that neither or Peter Sharkey can advise readers on whether equity release is suitable for them. However, both and Peter can introduce readers to professional advisers who will explain the process and its implications for your estate and entitlement to means-tested state benefits.

For more financial advice, check out Peter Sharkey’s regular column, The Week In Numbers.