Australians who rely on earning interest from their savings will the biggest losers after the Reserve Bank slashed rates to a record low last week.
A total of $526 billion is currently held in savings accounts across the nation, according to report by financial comparison website Finder.
It also found that households may lose around $1.3 billion in interest from their term deposits and saving accounts if the banks pass on the full rate cut of 0.25 percentage points.
The hardest hit groups will be “those saving for their first home, or retirees relying on their savings as a form of income”, said Graham Cooke, Finder’s insights manager.
Mortgage borrowers, on the other hand, are the main beneficiaries of lower rates, even though many lenders opted not to pass on the full cut.
In the last two months, more than 50 banks have already lowered their term deposit rates.
“I’d expect all savings accounts to be cut within the next week or so … between 20 and 25 basis points,” Mr Cooke said.
Since 1990, whenever the RBA cut the official cash rate, it was followed by a reduction in interest from savings accounts 99 per cent of the time, according to Finder’s research.
In addition, more cuts to deposit rates are expected in the next few months as the RBA is widely tipped to cut rates to an historic low (again) by the end of this year.
However, there may not be much bank customers can do apart from “shop around” and see which banks, building societies and credit unions offer the highest rates — within a rapidly dwindling pool of “higher interest” options.
“You could even consider hopping between savings accounts and taking advantage of their introductory rates,” Mr Cooke said.
Caught between a ‘rock and hard place’
“In the current situation, it’s going to be difficult to make decent interest on your savings unless you’re willing to take on a little bit of risk and look for higher risk, higher return options,” he said.
“But obviously in an economy where the cash rate is falling, the share market might not be that attractive an option either.”
That is particularly the case given last month’s volatile sell-off in global stock markets — mainly due to rising tensions and uncertainty in the US-China trade war, and the slowing pace of global economic growth.
The World Bank, last week, predicted that the global economy would expand at 2.6 per cent this year — a significant downgrade from the 2.9 per cent it forecast in January, and 3 per cent it estimated last year.\
“It’s kind of a rock-and-a-hard-place situation for people trying to build up interest at the moment.”
“And investing in property isn’t even necessarily as safe as it used to be.”
However, there is the potential for the housing market to recover from its sharp downturn within the next year.
It may depend on a combination of further RBA rate cuts, the financial regulator APRA’s plans to relax lending restrictions, and the Morrison Government’s plan to let first-home buyers purchase property with just a 5 per cent deposit.
“Together, they could potentially have an impact on the housing market, which could encourage investment, push prices up and counteract declining price patterns.”
“That could very well be the place to invest your funds — so it’s ‘watch this space’ when it comes to house prices.”