Friday, July 13, 2012

The size of the slice of the cake

The top 10% of Britain's wealthiest households are more than 500 times richer than those in the bottom 10% - and the gap has been widening. The top 10 per cent of households saw their own wealth jump from £4 trillion to £4.5 trillion. The poorest 10 per cent had total wealth of just £8 billion. The least wealthy half of households in Britain were found to have 10% of the total wealth, while the better off half had 90% of the total.

Mean average household wealth grew to £418,000 in 2008/10, from £373,000 in the previous two years. Families in the South East were the best off, with an average wealth of £562,000, while those in the North East were the worst off, with a total wealth of £322,000.

But the study highlighted "widening disparities" between households at the top and bottom ends of wealth distribution. It said much of the increase seen by some families has been due to a rise in pension wealth, but this was not distributed evenly, with a small number of people holding high-value private pensions. Of those who had private pensions, the 10% of households with the highest levels of pension wealth had almost seven times as much as households in the bottom 50% combined.

With the Bank of England's policymakers pumping £375billion of quantitative easing into the economy since the financial crash, the UK's pension annuity rates have gone into ‘meltdown’. Money-printing has dramatically reduced the yield on government bonds – known as gilts – to which annuity rates are linked, forcing those who are newly retired to buy an annuity which will pay out significantly less than it would have done previously. For example, a man with £100,000 in July 2008 would have been able to secure an income of £7,855 whereas his younger brother, who hits pension age today, would only be able to secure an income of £5,743 – a drop of 27 per cent.

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