First-time home buyers, the Lifetime ISA and pension pots

The new Lifetime ISA (LISA) is due to be available from April 2017 for individuals under age 40. Contributions will be topped-up by the government by 25% with an annual savings limit of £4,000. It can be used for buying a first home (up to a value of £450,000) at any time from 12 months after opening the account, or taken from age 60 without penalty, tax free. If accessed before then, the government bonus will be lost, along with any interest or growth on this amount. It will also be subject to a 5% penalty charge.

However, although it’s been designed to help young people to buy a first home or save for retirement, there have been concerns that it will actually stop young people from saving into their pension.

WEALTH at work has carried out some calculations which demonstrate that the 25% guaranteed bonus that comes when saving into a LISA, means that it could actually help employees to save for their first mortgage deposit much quicker than if they save into a high street savings account; and that by achieving this earlier, they may actually increase the size of their pension pot.

In our examples below we illustrate two individuals who are both age 25 and wanting to save for their first home. They both want to focus on saving for their home, while still saving something into their pension. The calculations assume that both are earning £26,500 p.a., with an annual salary increase of 2.5%, and are aiming to save a 10% deposit to buy a house worth £194,224 (average price for first-time buyer)*. The calculations also assume saving rates returns of 0.5% for 10 years, investment returns of 5%, a 9% pension contribution (3% employee contribution with 6% employer contribution with non-salary sacrifice).

Sam chooses to save £2,000 a year into his savings account at 0.5% interest. It takes 10 years for Sam to save his £20k deposit (£20,558). Meanwhile, he is also saving 9% through auto enrolment into his pension each year. In 10 years, his pension will grow to £34,940. Once he has saved his deposit, if he starts saving the £2,000 into his pension instead, based on the assumptions outlined above, he would have £415,042 in his pension by age 60.

Louise chooses to save £2,000 a year into her LISA. With the annual £500 government contribution added into the LISA, and 0.5% interest, it takes only eight years for Louise to save her £20k deposit (£20,455k). This is two years less than Sam. Meanwhile she is also saving 9% through auto enrolment into her pension each year. Following her house-buy, she then starts saving the £2,000 she was saving into her LISA, into her pension instead. This amounts to an extra £5,381 in her pension by year 10 in just two years.

If Louise continues to save like this until she is age 60, she will have an estimated pension pot of £433,265. This is £18,223 more than Sam because she started with a LISA initially.

These figures are highlighted in the table below

Savings Sam Louise
Time it takes to get house deposit 10 years 8 years
Pension pot after 10 years £34,940 £40,321
Pension pot after 35 years £415,042 £433,265

By using the LISA, Louise gets the house two years earlier and gets a bigger pension pot. If individuals also find themselves paying less on their mortgage than what they were when renting property, this could then free up even more money up to go into the pension, resulting in even more in their pension pot.

Jonathan Watts-Lay, director, WEALTH at work, said: “There has been some concern that LISAs will stop young people from saving into their pension. However, I doubt if many people are currently saving into a pension at the expense of saving for a deposit on their first home.

“We hope that these calculations, while obviously simplified to demonstrate the point, show that saving into a LISA can actually help employees to save for a deposit faster than using a savings account, and that by getting them into the savings habit, it may also actually increase their pension pot.

“We can see from these figures that while Sam and Louise have made exactly the same contributions overall, Louise has the double benefit of getting her first home quicker while also ending up with a bigger pension but at no extra cost.”

* The average price for properties coming on to the market in England and Wales with two bedrooms or fewer in April 2016 was £194,224 – The Rightmove House Price Index.