Inflation is surging again for two extremely vulnerable groups the young and the elderly. And it is forcing many peop
These groups spend the greatest share of their incomes on necessities such as gas, electricity and food. Because they include large numbers of students on the one hand and pensioners on the other – with incomes that are often fixed and low – the squeeze is even harder.
The crisis and protracted recession has led more families to question official measures of inflation such as the Retail Prices Index, which we publish weekly on our Stats Station pages.
Safe bet: Student Philip Newall invested some winnings from online poker in index-linked National Savings certificates
Consumers increasingly say the price rises for everyday shopping are even higher. As a result, more attention is given to measures that match groups of consumers to their particular spending patterns.
One inflation measure is produced monthly by the Alliance Trust Economic Research Centre in Dundee. Since 2002 it has taken the same underlying data used by Government, but split it across five age bands based on assumptions about how each group spends.
Since the measure began, older people have been shown to suffer the highest inflation consistently, because of their greater proportionate spending on ever-dearer items such as groceries and energy.
But middle-aged and thirtysomething consumers have enjoyed far lower inflation since they spend more on clothing, footwear and luxuries such as electronics – where prices are flat or falling.
Alliance’s data shows annual inflation for all groups peaking in autumn 2011 at more than five per cent (more than six per cent for those 65 and older), and then falling during early 2012 to below 2.5 per cent for all groups, only to start ticking up again in October.
The highest rates are now 3.2 per cent (for the over-75s) and 2.8 per cent (for the under-30s). Alliance chief economist Shona Dobbie says this trend will strengthen in successive months’ data.
Inflation for the elderly is being driven by energy price rises introduced late last year, she says, while under-30s are suffering from increases in tuition fees, among other factors.
Dobbie says: ‘The elderly are the group facing the most difficult time. They are the savers most reliant on savings income. It is a trend that’s going to continue.’
The plight of savers, frequently highlighted in these pages, continues to worsen. Last week the Bank of England, reporting on mortgage lenders, remarked on the record low rates being offered. This is a consequence of the Government making billions of pounds of cheap credit available – removing from banks and building societies the necessity to offer depositors attractive rates.
How the real value of your savings is eaten away
At present, no taxed savings account, even where depositors’ money is tied up for five years, offers a return as high as 3.2 per cent. And as the table shows, rates on easy-access accounts are so derisory that ‘real’ returns – that is, after inflation is factored in – are starkly negative.
Student Philip Newall, 25, of University College, London, typifies the younger group suffering steep increases in costs, mainly in the form of rising tuition fees.
When he did his first degree, starting in 2006, fees were £1,500 per academic year. Now, studying for another degree in behavioural psychology, he pays over £7,500 a year.
Philip has a successful sideline as an online poker player – a subject on which he has written two books and where he has won substantial sums.
In 2007 and 2008 he invested a chunk of his winnings in index-linked certificates from National Savings & Investments. These hugely valuable investments which, sadly, have not been available since 2011, pay inflation (as measured by the RPI) plus a premium, currently 0.15 per cent.