70 years on: how financial lifestyles have changed since the last royal coronation

Category: News & United Kingdom

The coronation of King Charles III on 6 May comes almost exactly 70 years since the last time the UK crowned a new monarch, in June 1953.

Clearly much has changed in all fields of life during those seven decades. For example, advances in technology and communication, and the social and cultural changes, make life in the present day vastly different to how it was then.

So, take a look back and see how things have changed, particularly regarding issues affecting your personal finances.

Managing and saving your money

Back in 1953, all your day-to-day financial transactions would have been cash-based, with the rare use of a bank cheque for larger amounts.

Now, the rise of digital payment – “tap-and-go” and online shopping – means that cash usage has fallen sharply.

Before the first ATMs arrived in the UK and Australia in the late 1960s, all your cash would have had to be withdrawn manually from your local high street bank branch, of which there were several in every high street, rather than the increasingly limited numbers you’ll find today.

You’d have almost certainly been paid weekly in cash, rather than by monthly direct transfer into your bank account. This made long-term budgeting and financial control far more difficult than today.

If you were looking to save money anywhere safer than under your mattress, the options were limited. You could keep it in your bank or building society account or give it to a local “friendly society” or savings clubs who would have collected it door-to-door on a weekly basis.

Of course, today you can save money at the touch of a button or click of a mouse.

Buying a property

According to Sun Life the average cost of a new house in Britain in 1950 was £1,891 and the average annual salary was £520.

Today, based on Land Registry data the average house price in the UK in January 2023 was £289,818 and Office for National Statistics data confirms the average annual salary is £32,707.

So, based on a simple value-to-income ratio, property was clearly far more affordable then than today.

However, with the liberalisation of mortgage lending still decades away, accessing a mortgage in the year of the late Queen’s coronation was far more problematic than it is today.

Although building societies existed, they were limited in the amount of money they could lend – both by law and by their mutual status.

You would have been more likely to apply to your own bank and go through a strict lending assessment process. This would have involved an interview with your bank manager – think Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army – who would then make the final decision on whether you would be approved for a loan.

Protecting your family in the event of your death

Affordable life insurance was commonplace in the early 50s.

Simple contracts that paid out a lump sum were originally sold as “funeral plans” by mutual societies in the 19th century, designed solely to cover the cost of burial.

By 1953 they had evolved into the type of life insurance plans you’d recognise today. They were advertised on the same basis, designed to provide your family with a sum of money to help them when you died.

Most of the sale of this type of plan was carried out on a door-to-door basis with premiums collected weekly on payday (usually a Friday).

There’s a good chance that if you’d owned such a policy at the time of the coronation of Elizabeth II it would have been sold to you by “the man from the Pru”. By the 1950s, according to Prudential’s own figures, they had sold insurance to no less than a third of the population.

Investing your money

These days, buying and selling shares and investment funds is a straightforward process, carried out online through an investment platform that provides you with investment details instantaneously.

The lack of technology made such transactions far less accessible in 1953.

Investment funds were very much in their infancy, and share ownership was almost exclusively the preserve of the wealthy.

It had to be carried out through a registered stockbroker, and involved a long and laborious process.

Likewise, checking the value of shares could only be done through specialist investment periodicals and broadsheet newspapers – or by waiting for a letter or call from your stockbroker.

Your State Pension

Although the first Old Age Pension had been introduced in 1909, it was very restrictive in terms of who could claim it, and how much those eligible could claim.

However, the State Pension that was in force by the time of the coronation looked very similar to that of today.

It was launched in 1948 in line with the original welfare state provisions proposed during the war years by Sir William Beveridge in his eponymous report.

It was also made much more generous than before, and the State Pension Ages were set at 60 for women and 65 for men.

Planning for your retirement

In 1953, if you wanted your own pension to complement the amount you received through your State Pension, you needed to be in a company pension scheme.

Such schemes would commonly be set up on a company- or industry-wide basis.

A big boost to pension provision had come in the years leading up to 1953 as the creation of the NHS and the nationalisation programme of the post-war Labour government saw millions joining state-sponsored schemes.

These schemes were based on length of service and percentage of final salary and, by 1953, they guaranteed post-retirement security for many people.

In the ensuing 70 years pension provision has gradually become both more flexible and accessible.

Various acts of parliament introduced retirement annuities in 1970, personal pensions and income drawdown in the 1980s, and up to the current day and the Pension Freedoms Act in 2015 giving ultimate flexibility in terms of how you can draw income from your fund.

Get in touch

For advice and guidance about any aspects of your personal financial planning, please get in touch with us.

Please note

The value of your investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

This article is for information only. Please do not solely rely on anything you have read in this article and ensure that you conduct your own research to ensure any actions you may take are suitable for your circumstances.

All contents are based on our understanding of HMRC legislation, which is subject to change.