A new side to the coin

How money changed through the reign of the late Queen

Long she has reigned over us, and since the late Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne, the way we use money has changed dramatically.

As we mentally prepare for coins and notes bearing the head of King Charles III, here are some of the ways in which our finances have changed since the beginning of the late Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

Cash was queen (but is no longer king)

Shillings and pence were commonplace when Queen Elizabeth took the throne. She oversaw decimalisation in 1971, as well as seeing the introduction of the credit card (1966), cash machines (1967) and internet banking (1997).

While cash was used for almost all transactions in 1952, it is now used for just 15 per cent, down from 55 per cent of payments in 2011.
We may have to wait a while before Charles’ portrait becomes commonplace on our cash and notes. The Queen’s portrait did not appear on notes until 1960.

One thing we do know about the new coins is that the King will be facing the other way. It is a 300-year-old tradition that the monarch turns the opposite way to his or her predecessor on coins. Elizabeth II faces right, so Charles III will face left like his grandfather, George VI.

Interest rates were higher and inflation was rampant

In June 1952, the Bank of England’s Bank Rate was four per cent (it is now 1.75 per cent but forecast to rise) and inflation was at a whopping 10.5 per cent – slightly above what it was today.
However, this was an unusually inflationary period – inflation has not risen this high again since the early 1980s.

Houses were still hard to save for

The average house price was around six times average earnings1, with post-War housing shortages meaning it was still hard to buy. Today, they are nearer nine times earnings, with more families relying on two incomes to get a mortgage.

Fewer people invested

Just three per cent of the population invested in shares back in 19522. Today, thanks to the rise in workplace pensions, 80 per cent of us are likely to have some exposure to the stock market.

The FTSE 100 was slightly smaller

Instead of a FTSE 100 we had a FTSE 30, an index of the 30 most significant companies, according to the FT newspaper.

Some of the constituents of the FTSE 30 at the time of the Coronation remain household names. They include Marks & Spencer and British American Tobacco.

Retirement was short and sweet

The state pension was only four years old when the queen acceded to the throne, and fewer people lived long enough to claim it.
Planning for retirement has changed dramatically, with the average man or woman living far longer than they did at the beginning of theQueen’s reign.

According to retirement specialist Just Group, the average 65-year-old man would have lived to 74 in 1952, compared with nearly 86 today. The average woman now lives nearly eight years longer than before, with an average life expectancy of over 88 years.

26th September 2022

1 https://www.schroders.com/en/media-relations/newsroom/insights/jubilee-2022-whats-changed-for-savers-since-1952/ 
2 http://oro.open.ac.uk/45570/1/Rutterford[(20J)%20was%20not%20found]20[(26)%20was%20not%20found]20Sotiropoulos[(20D_2016_The)%20was%20not%20found]20rise[(20of)%20was%20not%20found]20the[(20small)%20was%20not%20found]20investor[(20in)%20was%20not%20found]20the[(20US)%20was%20not%20found]20and[(20the)%20was%20not%20found]20UK%201895[(20to)%20was%20not%20found]201970_wp.pdf