Thoughts of the week – Focus group findings

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Just back from the focus groups on our new ISA product.

It’s a little known fact that only a small percentage of the population use their Stocks & Shares ISA allowance, making it a middle class tax break for the wealthy and well advised only. But actually getting the face to face feedback (well from behind a screen) really underlines the problem.

The general population are not put off Stocks & Shares ISAs by the contents of the products. It’s just plain and simple ignorance and lack of information from the industry. You can actually watch the moment when the penny drops with investors when they realise that they are allowed two ISAs each year. For some it’s like discovering a pound in the bottom of your jeans pockets, for others there is an almost palpable fury that this information has been kept from them.

At a time when the political classes are clashing over the “bedroom tax” and everyone is scrapping about trying to save public expenditure whilst increasing the tax take, perhaps the government is colluding with the industry about this second ISA happily keeping people in the dark in case it costs them even more tax.

We usually put “Use it or lose it” in our ISA and tax exempt savings plan literature to illustrate to clients that if they don’t make use of these legitimate methods of paying less tax then they just lose them. But perhaps we ought to turn this against the industry? Start promoting the second ISA option to clients or lose it altogether?

Stocks and shares ISAs invest in the stock market, and the value of shares can go down as well as up and so returns are not guaranteed. Tax treatment depends on your individual circumstances and tax law may change in future.

No advice has been provided by Scottish Friendly. If you are in any doubt as to whether a savings or investment plan is suitable for you, you should contact a financial adviser for advice. If you do not have a financial adviser, you can get details of local financial advisers by visiting Advisers may charge for providing such advice and should confirm any cost beforehand.