What does coronavirus mean for my travel plans, savings, investments and pension?

Linda J. Dodson

The effects of coronavirus are already proving closer – and costlier – than expected. Britons have been advised against leaving their homes and up to two million people have already lost their jobs as firms fall into administration. 

Here Telegraph Money nails down what the virus means for your money, from your holiday to your pension. 

What does it mean for my travel plans?  

Any holidays booked in the coming weeks are unlikely to go ahead as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britons should not undertake any foreign travel for the time being. Our consumer champion Katie Morley explains your right to a refund here. 

The silver lining is that Mr Raab’s announcement may improve your chances of getting your money back, as most insurers and airlines will only reimburse you if the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has warned against “all travel” to your destination.

Previously, people wanting to cancel a trip because of health concerns would generally only be able to do so if they had a doctor’s note declaring them unfit to travel – which may be difficult to get from already overrun medical practices.

What does it mean for my insurance? 

If you don’t already have suitable cover, it may now be too late. Many of Britain’s biggest insurers have stopped selling travel cover that would protect you from disrupted caused by coronavirus.

Firms including the Post Office, Aviva, Churchill, Virgin Money and InsureandGo have stopped selling new policies to cover cancellations triggered by the virus. Those who have already bought a policy should still be covered but they will have had to purchase a policy including an add-on for disruption. 

It is now “highly unlikely” that any cover for cancellation, abandonment or disruption of a trip because of coronavirus will be available, according to the British Insurance Brokers’ Association, a trade body. 

What does it mean for my savings, investments and pension?

Savers, too, are feeling the effects of the pandemic.

In an attempt to stimulate the economy, which has been badly hit by the virus, the Bank of England (BoE) cut the Bank Rate by 0.5 percentage points to 0.25pc. High street banks factor this rate into the interest they pay savers, meaning rates will begin to fall.

Banks, including Barclays, Yorkshire Building Society and the Co-op, have already pulled some of their top deals from sale. Although some have said the decision has no link to the Bank Rate cut. Rates for premium bonds are also expected to fall. 

For those with money invested, the news is also bad. Stock markets have plummeted and many investors are pulling their money out of stocks and putting it into “safe havens” such as government bonds and gold. 

However the picture is not all bleak. Telegraph Money has identified the stocks that could soar in value as the crisis escalates. 

Experts are advising investors not to be spooked by short-term market movements, as things can quickly bounce back. Jason Hollands, of investment manager Tilney, said: “We have seen extreme swings before and the worst thing you can do at times like these is to crystallise losses by selling out.”  

Even those of us that don’t feel like we are investors are – if indirectly – through our pensions. If you’re cashing in chunks of your pension, you need to be very careful because when share prices are low your retirement pot will be worth far less, said Sarah Coles of investment manager Hargreaves Lansdown. 

Those concerned that their pension provider could go bust are also being reassured. 

Joe Dabrowski, of the Pension and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA), a trade body, said that, even at the height of the financial crisis, the number of final salary schemes that collapsed was low and today they are governed by stricter funding rules. If a scheme did fail, most savers would still get their money via the Pension Protection Fund.

What does it mean for your job? 

Many people are having to self-isolate, either because they are vulnerable or because they live with a vulnerable person, are finding they are having to take a huge pay cut if they cannot work from home.

Employees have no right to pay if they do not show up to work because they are living with a vulnerable person. Those who are having to self-isolate because they themselves are vulnerable should be entitled to statutory sick pay. However, at just £94.25 a week, managing to pay this bills on this alone is likely to prove difficult for many families.

Those with children whose school is closed may also be left out of pocket. Some managers may be generous and allow employees to arrange their work around caring for their children however they are under no obligation to do so and some may demand you take unpaid leave or holiday if you have children to homeschool.

As firms struggle to cope with falling footfall in the wake of the outbreak, some, including retailer Laura Ashley, have had to enter administration.

Up to two million people have lost their jobs since the outbreak and many others have been put on furlough, meaning they have to accept a pay cut of at least 20pc. 

Those who find themselves struggling financially may be able to apply for benefits such as Universal Credit. Homeowners can also request a three-month break from their mortgage payments and those with outstanding debts can now get help with their overdraft, credit card and loans. 

Banks are offering customers with overdrafts up to £500 interest-free for three months and have said those with credit cards and/or loans can freeze payments for three months. It is important to remember that interest will still be charged during that time, meaning you will have to repay more in the long-term. 

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