Opinion  

Why I love my Lisa

Simoney Kyriakou

Simoney Kyriakou

Fear and loathing. Those words summarise neatly the overwhelming sentiment of press releases and commentary I have read since the Lifetime Isa was first mooted.

The government still thinks I am young - under 40 (just about - the big birthday is in a couple of months' time). I have bought a Lisa. I am neither afraid nor full of loathing. I am, rather, encouraged and happy.

Why should the Lisa have engendered so much disdain? From what I can discern from all the hyperbole is that some people fear the callow youth of today will invest in a Lisa instead of a pension and therefore be worse off come retirement, and some people loathe the fact they have yet another investment product on which they must advise.

To the latter point, I wonder what, exactly, is the proportion of under-40 year olds with a financial adviser? I would suspect the majority of an advised client base reflects the majority of financial advisers: over 40 years old, and therefore not eligible for a Lisa in the first place.

To the former point, fear can be a terrible, limiting thing. Just because a few young people might ditch their pension saving and opt for a Lisa instead does not mean the product is something which should be rescinded by government, or that all people should be so thoroughly warned away from it.

In fact, a poll from consultancy Hymans Robertson found 68 per cent of all young people considering a Lisa as a long-term retirement savings vehicle were going to invest in one alongside a pension, not instead of it.

Of the rest, a significant number were either self-employed or not earning enough to qualify for even an auto-enrollment pension. For them, the Lisa represents a solid start on the road to retirement income, especially with the 25 per cent government bonus. £1,000 for every £4,000 squirreled away? Yes please!

For those wanting it for a deposit on a home, the thought of that bonus is even more tempting, especially when you consider the average house price, according to the Land Registry index, is now at £217,502 and the average salary is £27,600, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Assuming most mortgage lenders want at least a 10 per cent deposit from a first-time buyer, that means young people have to save £21,750 a year to get a home within 12 months. This is impossible. Moreover, it's impossible to do so within several years, let alone one. Taxes, rent, travel and bills mean most people are living from paycheck to paycheck with very little space to save in between.

Now I'm one of the lucky ones. I already have a mortgage, having gotten onto the housing ladder in 2003. I have a pension (defined contribution, bearing all the risk myself). But my employer has capped my contribution limit at 6 per cent until I'm 45. And 6 per cent of my salary is pretty paltry, given that I take home about £28,000 a year after all the current taxes and deductions.