How was the Christmas period for you? Hectic? More expensive than you anticipated?
Magical family time? Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions?
Last week my article ‘Crunching the Cost’ highlighted some factors behind the Cost-of-Living Crisis we are facing, and tips on things you can do to ease the impact and to reduce your monthly costs. One key area in that article was budgeting, and undertaking a deep dive of your expenditure, questioning what you spend, and can you get things cheaper, or do you need to spend x, y, or z? When supporting clients with a budgeting exercise, I always stress that factoring in seasonal spends is critical, especially with Christmas, as it's an expensive time of the year, no matter how much you must strip it back.
So, Christmas is done, the goose was cooked, our recycling bins were overflowing with paper and card, and welcome to 2023!! And breathe, relax, take in that period of silence and calm!!!
What is next? In terms of your New Years resolutions, are you sticking to them so far,? I bet one of them WASN’T reviewing your financial plans and making changes.
This period of calm following the festive period is the ideal time to take stock of things, and to blow the cobwebs of the financial plan you put together last year and reassess where you are, and what changes you can make. Particularly now, with the cost of living increases we all face, we need to be on top of all elements of our finances, so why not make one resolution to get back on track and influence your year ahead.
What if you do not have a plan to dust off? Never been a better time than right now to create one. Your car needs an MOT each year (once of a certain age), as do we as humans. Your finances are no different.
The key areas of a financial health check are as follows:
Assess your budget for the year ahead and ensure that you have all your expenditure listed. Work through line by line.
Do you know when your policies are due for renewal? Have you diarised a week or two ahead, or compare renewal quotes and to shop around to ensure you are paying the most competitive price?
Look at what the spend trends have been for you and are they still fairly represented in your budget?
What was the financial impact of Christmas? Did you overspend and as such, are their card balances to pay off that you need to consider? Did you utilise more of your savings than you’d anticipated, and as such they need to be replenished?
Are you expecting a pay increase or bonus that needs reflecting in your budget?
Does your budget reflect a surplus each month that provides some wiggle room? Are you able to do other things, savings and investments that work towards the goals in your plan?
The start of the year is the ideal time to review the progress made against your life plan. Hopefully, the budgeting exercise has prevented you in the preceding year from making knee jerk decisions to halt your investments and additional pension contributions where possible. Do you know How your plans stack up in terms of what you may need to achieve your goals or aspirations?
This plan should cover all areas of your life with the core elements being CAREER, LIFESTYLE, FAMILY and PROPERTY. A good plan will be aspirational yet realistic, thought provoking yet sensible, and where financial tags can be attached, your action plan will work towards meeting these tags over a period of time. A good financial planner/adviser will guide you through this process.
Getting ready for retirement
Yes I mentioned the R word, why not. It is never a bad thing to keep this time of life at the forefront of your financial plans. We all wish it to be a long time away, and why would not we, as we want to live a long and happy, fruitful, and enjoyable life. But who said that needs to stop when you retire. Surely this is the best time to enjoy your life, travel, experience things, and do all those things you could not in your earlier years, possibly because of having a young family, or financial constraints. As such, retirement planning should start as early as possible, and should be a valuable life lesson you pass onto your children. Planning for it over a long period of time allows the funds to benefit from compounding and grow over time, so it doesn’t need to break the bank, to plan ahead for the lifestyle you dream of come retirement. As such, the health check should include a review of the plan, what your retirement funds could be worth, and what level of income that could give you.
Ability to look after your family
This goes beyond the day-to-day financial needs of the here and now which are addressed through the budgeting, and asks questions about the plan should anything unthinkable happen to you or your partner? What plans are in place to provide financial support or has this not been considered? What if you are unable to work for a period of time through illness or injury and you end up on statutory sick pay? Is this sufficient to meet your financial needs? The health check should incorporate this too and ask those difficult searching questions. The answer does not always have to be an insurance policy.
Being as tax efficient in every stage of your life
The tax year end is fast approaching and watch out for my article next month when I tackle this subject separately. Any financial planner worth their fees should without question be ensuring that in everything you do, being tax efficient, utilising allowances, minimising the tax you pay where possible, and ensuring tax efficiency is at the core of your long-term plans as a minimum. And that is without even discussing estate planning. We work hard throughout our lives and pay what is due to HMRC along the way. That does not mean we cannot utilise every allowance available and be as efficient as possible.
These are the core elements of a financial MOT, and you do not need to acquire the services of a financial planner to look at these areas, and to be conscious of all that you are doing. A good financial planner will help, will steer you along this path, and will drive you to achieve all that you can in life.
So why not make the most of this quiet time at the start of the new year, take stock, dust off that plan, and readjust your pathway ahead through 2023. Get back on track to achieving your life goals and aspirations, whatever they may be for you!
Paul Swales is a Financial Adviser with Gregory Wealth Management LLP.
To receive a complimentary guide covering wealth management, retirement planning or Inheritance Tax planning, contact Paul Swales on +447789877589 or email Paul.Swales@sjpp.co.uk.