Lifetime ISA (LISA): What is it and why it's worth having

investing saving Mar 26, 2021

It's surprising how many people in the UK are unaware of the Lifetime Individual Savings Account (Lifetime ISA) and missing out on the benefits of having one. During some of my recent client sessions, I have met women who, by the time they enquired about the Lifetime ISA, it was too late for them because they had already turned 40. 

If you are 18-39 and have plans to become a first-time buyer, want to put money aside for retirement, and welcome the idea of receiving a 25% bonus on what you save from the government, this post is for you.

I will assume that you have stumbled upon this post in need of a complete breakdown of what a Lifetime ISA is. I'll be explaining why you can't pass on having a Lifetime ISA, how it works and provide additional information to help you walk away feeling confident to decide if opening a Lifetime ISA is right for you. 

Lifetime ISA explained


In 2017 the Lifetime Isa became the latest addition in the tax-free Individual Savings Account Family. The core benefits to having a Lifetime ISA are;

  • You can use it to save a deposit for your first property
  • You can use it to save for later life
  • It's flexible in that you can have it as cash, stocks and shares account or both
  • You get a 25% bonus on what you save each month/year. Maximum of £1000

Lifetime ISA deadlines


As with all government-led tax-free savings and investment accounts, there are rules and deadlines you need to be aware of:

  • Lifetime ISA eligibility is from your 18th to 39th Birthday
  • You cannot contribute towards your Lifetime ISA over the age of 50
  • You can withdraw from your Lifetime ISA without penalty from age 60 or over. The only two penalty-free exceptions are using the money to buy your first home after 12 months of opening an account or if you are terminally ill and given 12 months or less to live.

 

Lifetime ISA rules


While your money is will grow tax-free, there are rules and limitations to how much you can save and how much bonus you will receive:

  • You can save up to a maximum of £4000 a year in your Lifetime ISA account (that's roughly £333.33 a month)
  • You will receive a 25% bonus from the government up to a maximum of £1000.

Would you agree having a Lifetime ISA account is a no brainer? That means you can save £5k a year for your first home or towards retirement. In five years, that's a whopping £20k of tax-free savings.

Now that we know the basics of Lifetime ISA, you probably want to learn more about how to open one, who the Lifetime ISA providers are, how the bonus work, Lifetime ISA for first-time buyers, Lifetime ISA for retirement and withdrawing penalties. 

Opening a Lifetime ISA


To open a Lifetime, ISA is pretty straightforward. You will need to be a UK resident (or Crown Servant) and have a National Insurance number. As it stands, high street banks do not offer Lifetime ISA accounts. According to
This is Money- Back in 2017, banks did not have much faith in the scheme and predicted it would become a flop. Four years on, although the scheme is proving popular banks are still not offering Lifetime ISAs. This means the only way to open a Lifetime ISA is with an online building society or investing platforms. 

 

Lifetime ISA providers


You can open as many Lifetime ISA accounts as you want, but you can only contribute to one LISA account per tax year as with all ISA accounts. Switching from one LISA provider to another gives you the flexibility to move money across as and when interest rates become competitive.

Here is a list of online building societies and investing platforms you can open a Lifetime ISA with: 

  • Hargreaves Lansdown
  • Newcastle Building Society
  • AJ Bell
  • Nutmeg
  • Moneybox (cash LISA)
  • Moneybox (S&S LISA)
  • Nottingham Building Society
  • Skipton 
  • Building Society

Please note this list is not exhaustive, and we are not promoting any particular one. Please do your research. 

 

How to decide what the best Lifetime ISA is


When it comes to deciding which Lifetime ISA provide to go with, there are several things to consider: 

  • Lifetime ISA interest rates vary from one provider to another
  • Annual charges 
  • Associated fees related to Stocks and Shares ISA
  • Flexibility to have both cash and stocks and shares (some providers only offer one or the other)
  • The minimum deposit required to open an account

 

Lifetime ISA bonus


The lifetime ISA bonus is 25% on what you save each month/tax year. The maximum bonus you can get is £1000.  If you open an account at the age of 18 and contribute until the age of 50, that's a total of £32-£33,000 (depending on what year you were born) of free money. Bear in mind your overall return doesn't include your contributions, interest and growth; if you add compound interest, this pot of money could add nicely up over time. 

 

Lifetime ISA for First Time Buyers


With millennials struggling to save a deposit, the Lifetime ISA is a scheme to help First-time buyers get on the property ladder. Here are vital things to remember if you plan to use your Lifetime ISA to buy your first property

  • You can use it to buy your first property 12 months after making your first payment
  • It must be your first property and one you intend to live in 
  • It must be a property in the UK
  • The house value must be less than £450,000
  • You can use your Lifetime ISA to purchase a shared ownership property 
  • Both you and your partner can combine your Lifetime ISA to buy your first property (if they already own or are a beneficiary of a trust that includes property, they will pay a 20% withdrawal charge)
  • You can continue to pay into your Lifetime ISA for retirement or close it after using the money to buy your first property. 
  • You must complete the purchase within 90 days of receiving the ISA payment from the funds' manager.

Lifetime ISA for retirement 


Once you hit 50, you can no longer pay into your life Time ISA, and you will no longer receive a bonus. Your money will accumulate in interest for the next ten years when you can withdraw your Lifetime ISA at the age of 60 and over without paying withdrawal fees. 


Lifetime ISA withdrawal


 You are probably wondering, what if I want to withdraw my money earlier or for reasons other than buying a house or for retirement? The rules say you can withdraw early, but you will be subject to Lifetime ISA withdrawal charges. The usual charge is 25%. As of the pandemic 2020/2021 April, this is reduced to 20% due to the financial impact of Coronavirus on individuals' circumstances. Be sure to check the current rules to Lifetime ISA withdrawal fees as they may change over time. It's important to remember that the Lifetime ISA withdrawal fees are there to deter you from taking money out for reasons other than buying your first home or after the age of 60 when you retire. In saying that, knowing you can withdraw if you really need the money, is a good thing. 

Is lifetime ISAs here to stay?


The government has engaged in several discussions over the years to consider amending the withdrawal rules. There are talks around exempting account holders from withdrawal charges if they withdrawal for reasons other than buying a house or for retirement. They are also talking about allowing savers to lend against your Lifetime ISA and paying it within a given time to avoid fees. But this is neither here nor there. What we do know is that with so many people are struggling to save a deposit to buy their first home and to save for later life, government schemes such as the Lifetime ISA may be the only hope of doing so. 

 

It's a wrap

There are several benefits to having a Lifetime ISA and an excellent way to put your money to work. You may already have a Lifetime ISA and want to keep yourself up to date with rules and regulations or thinking it's time you opened a Lifetime ISA. If you qualify for the Lifetime ISA, this is a fantastic opportunity to benefit from the 25% bonus (Save £4000 and get a £1000 bonus every year) to buy your first property and save for retirement. On Top of that, it's tax -free. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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