02 January 2018
10 New Year’s Financial Resolutions
Here are 10 ideas which should help to get your finances back into shape after the excesses of December! I’ve kept this practical – each tip can be done in less than half an hour and you don’t need to be a Maths expert to play.
We should all clear expensive debt as a key priority. Debt is like fat – there are good types and bad types. Mortgages and student loans are typically OK debt for us to have – not too expensive and part of a normal financial diet. Credit card debt on the other hand is pretty bad news and it makes sense to try and pay this off, or to sort out a transfer to a 0% environment. Hop online and look for 0% balance transfer credit cards. And if you can, try and set up direct debits to pay off credit card bills every month.
2.Sort that life insurance – especially if you have children or dependants
This is the question we all hate thinking about but what would happen to your dependants if you die or become incapacitated? How would the mortgage get paid and the bills covered? And jolly thoughts like that.
Check to see if you are covered at work? Many of us will have some cover and the amount will typically be a multiple of your salary. Call HR and check.
You may need to top this up if it’s not enough, or if you’re not covered you can find a quote for life cover online. There are lots of comparison sites which will give you a quote in less than 10 minutes. As a very rough guide (although it depends on health, age and whether you hit the fags) a healthy 40 year old would pay about £10 a month for £100,000 of life cover. But shop around.
If you have more complex needs or want some hand-holding try Lifesearch, an online broker with humans on the phones (!) to talk you through your choices and get you some quotes.
This is your new company pension at work. You should now be set up in one (unless you’re self -employed, under 22 or earn less than £10,000 a year).
This year you will have seen 1% of your wages (on the chunk of your salary which falls in between about £5,000 and £45,000) going here with an additional 1% top up from your employer. That 1% is like a free pay rise from your boss – they were mandated to pay it for all employees who didn’t opt out of the scheme.
1% doesn’t feel that meaningful so no-one has got particularly excited about this. But (drum roll) from April 2018 this will go up to a 3% contribution from you and 2% from your employer. Try and take this handout. It’s free money from your boss which you give up if you choose to ‘opt out’ and say you don’t want to participate.
4. Self-employed? Get pension smart (and get free money from the Government!)
If you are self-employed you are missing out on these pension freebies from an employer and you’re particularly vulnerable to hit pension age with diddly-squat saved to supplement the State Pension which isn’t much more than £8,000 a year. Think about setting up a DIY pension online yourself. It’s easier than it’s ever been to do this.
If you can spare £25 a month, AJ Bell Youinvest and Hargreaves Lansdown both let you set up a pension online. They’re both reputable and I think either will see you right. And here’s the real benefit. The Government runs a sort of bonus scheme on private pensions so you get freebie top-ups from them. For every £80 a basic rate taxpayer contributes you get a free £20 from the Government. If you’re a higher-rate taxpayer you can claim back another £20 when you come to do your tax return. The catch? It’s locked away until you turn 55 and there are annual caps on how much you can pay in.
Compare energy providers every 12 months and switch for a better deal. If you haven’t done this for a while, then jump online today. It takes less than 15 minutes and is a no-brainer.
Loyalty does not pay and a comparison website such as USwitch will quickly show you if you should move. This could save you hundreds of pounds a year. Simply enter your current providers for gas and electricity, along with details of your current plan, and the sites will point you to cheaper alternatives.
Every 6 months it is worth printing off your most recent bank statements. (I’m still a bit of a paper fan for this – not ideal I know but I find it much easier to go through than staring at a screen.) Check your direct debits and standing orders. Are you paying for things you aren’t using? Recent research from the Citizens’ Advice Bureau suggests the average person spends £160 every 3 months on services they don’t want and aren’t using. Automation makes life easy – but it can also make it expensive!
Investing is a bit like going to the gym. There’s a mindset battle. “It’s not for me”. “I’m not rich/clever/motivated enough.” Well here are some tips on making it as painless as possible.
So-called robo advisor Wealthify lets you start from £1. One tiny pound. For that much, it’s well worth opening an account with a tenner just to find your feet and feel your way!? App MoneyBox will round up and invest your change from any small purchases – it’s easy to use and a great way to get going.
This is no longer the preserve of a wealthy few who get off on Economics! Just 10 minutes could see you take a step into the world of investing with a very small amount at risk. Put in a small amount and start to feel your way around this space and how it works. Clearly £10 will not deliver financial wellbeing but could you make 2018 the year you get your head around investing, ready to start drip-feeding in more as confidence levels go up? If you are saving with timeframes of at least 5 years then we all need to look for alternatives to cash which is being gobbled up and spat out by inflation.
Make 2018 the year you avoid getting fleeced at the airport when you change your pounds. Get yourself a card such as the Halifax Clarity Mastercard with good rates and decent fees, or have a look at Revolut which has top exchange rates but limited free withdrawals.
Even if you forget until the week before, at least hop online and get currency delivered to your house by the Post Office. Don’t leave it for the airport or your holiday could easily cost you 10% more.
I hope that a few of those are useful. And less painful than drinking kale smoothies all month!?