Rich guarantees

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In October the government increased its guarantee on savings from £35,000 to £50,000. This means that if you have savings of up to this amount, and your bank goes bust, the government will reimburse you.

The panic around the sudden instability of banks led to masses of column inches in the national press, from the Telegraph to the Guardian, where worried savers were encouraged to spread their savings around if they held more than this amount. It suddenly looked as if millions of people held such levels of savings.

But, in reality, the original guarantee of £35,000 covered all but 4 percent of bank account holders. Only 2 percent have savings of over £50,000. This 2 percent own around half of all British savings - a total of £468 billion. According to Credit Suisse, around 40 percent of all bank deposits are of over £50,000.

With this in mind, Gordon Brown is thought to be lobbying for a European Union-wide minimum guarantee of €100,000 (£78,454), while Alistair Darling has suggested the need to double Britain's guarantee on savings to £100,000.