Households’ financial wellbeing is at its lowest point in two years, as the surging cost of living hits people’s ability to save, according to an index.
The Scottish Widows index, which measures households’ overall perceptions of financial wellbeing, fell to an overall score of 38.5 the first three months of 2022.
Readings above 50 in the index indicate an improvement and those below this mark are a sign of a deterioration.
The latest score is the lowest recorded by the index since early on in the coronavirus pandemic in the second quarter of 2020, when the score was 37.8.
Of the 40% of households who said they have accumulated additional savings since the Covid-19 pandemic started, nearly three-quarters (73%) expect to have to dip into them in the next 12 months, with 17% expecting to exhaust the full amount.
Rising energy, food, council tax, transport, rent and mortgage bills and a 1.25 percentage point national insurance hike to help pay for health and social care will eat into household income.
Emma Watkins, managing director of retirement and longstanding at Scottish Widows, said: “It’s tough right now for households trying to manage the surge in day-to-day living costs.
“We know that many households have failed to boost their savings during the pandemic (60%) and that over 70% of households will need to eat into their savings in the next 12 months in order to meet their growing expenses.”
Data pointed to a rapid decline in the amount of cash UK households had available to spend during the first quarter of the year as higher living expenses bit into disposable income, the report said.
The rate of reduction in cash available was the fastest since the final quarter of 2013, Scottish Widows said.
It added that, in general, the highest earners were the only group able to add to their savings pots during the latest quarter.
At the same time, there was a fractionally stronger demand for unsecured credit, such as overdrafts and credit cards in the first quarter of 2022, according to the index.
People aged between 25 and 54 reported the strongest rise in demand for credit.
Around 10% of those surveyed said they have taken out life insurance since the start of the pandemic, while around 60% of households surveyed do not have life insurance.
In line with greater economic activity, there was a general rise in incomes from employment in the first quarter of this year.
The latest increase was the strongest recorded since the first quarter of 2020, according to the research, with people in the IT/telecoms sector seeing their earning rise at a particularly sharp pace.
The survey is based on monthly responses from around 1,500 people aged 18 to 64 across the UK.