Here we are again. January. New Year’s Resolutions seem a bit passé these days. Everyone seems to accept that they don’t really last. But there is something about a new year that seems to galvanise people into action. So we’ve come up with a list of 18 finance-related tasks you can set yourself this year to keep your financial health in good shape. They might not all apply to everyone, but have a little look and tick off as many as you can!
1. Start with your current account
The first one’s a simple check. Are you paying a fee for your current account? Do you actually need any of the “benefits” that buys you? If not, and you probably don’t, switch to an account that doesn’t charge you. You might even get a bonus payment just for moving!
Check that you don’t have any recurring payments you’ve forgotten about and no longer need. That gym membership you took our last January and haven’t used since February – cancel it!
2. Review your savings accounts
OK, so interest rates aren’t great on any savings accounts or ISAs at the moment. But it’s still worth checking. If your savings could be earning you a little bit more somewhere else, move it.
3. Max out your ISA contributions
If you’ve not made use of your full ISA allowance this year, and you can spare a bit more, transfer it into your ISA before April.
4. Check your credit card statements
If you’ve got money on credit cards, check your statement to make sure you’re not paying any interest. If you are, investigate moving it to an interest free card. Depending on your balance, it could save you a lot of money. Cancel any unused credit cards – they may be acting as a drag on your credit score. But think carefully about which ones you close down – you don’t want to lose good repayment history on a card you’ve had for a while.
5. Close old store cards
Got a load of old store cards you took out to get a discount? Make sure there’s nothing on them, and cancel them. The rates are usually horrific and they may be affecting your credit score.
6. Check your utility bills
Out of contract with your electricity company? Broadband provider? Cable company? Call them to see if you can negotiate a discount. If they’re not willing to play, you can probably save by switching to another provider. Those extra pounds each month might come in handy.
Automate all payments so there’s no risk of being charged for late payments. One less thing to remember too!
7. Review your pension(s)
Got any old pensions out there? Make sure you review their status to ensure you’re getting the best returns.
If you’re nearing retirement, reviewing your pension could be even more important. Now might be a good time to move away from riskier, more aggressive investments towards safer vehicles.
8. Automate your savings
If you don’t already have a monthly automatic transfer from your current account to your savings, set one up to go out each pay day. Even if it’s only a small amount, if you don’t see it, you won’t miss it. If you already have an automatic transfer set up, can you afford to boost it a little?
9. Check your credit report
There are several free services that enable you to check your credit score. You can also get ideas on how to improve it if it’s looking a bit sorry for itself. If you think something may be amiss, check your credit report. If you spot anything that looks out of place, get it fixed now.
10. Review your mortgage
If you’ve got a mortgage, check where things stand. If you’re not currently fixed into a rate, now might be a good time to shop around for a good rate and fix. Interest rates have begun to rise and there’s only one direction they’re likely to go over the coming few years. Can you afford to make any overpayments (without getting charged)? Could be something to consider to save yourself a decent chunk in the long run.
11. Set up some savings for the kids
Got kids? If you’ve not already done so, investigate setting up a tax efficient saving option for them and paying in regular amounts. They’re going to have a lot to pay for in the future. If you’d like to help them, this is a good way to do it.
12. Check, or set up, an emergency fund
Want to be really “by the book” about your saving? Set up an emergency fund which covers 3-6 months of expenses if something unforeseen happens. Got one already? Make sure you’re still comfortable with the amount in there.
13. Check your insurance
You may well check your car insurance each year when it comes up for renewal to make sure it’s covering the right things, and that you’re getting the best rate. What about your life insurance? It’s good to check that too, especially if your situation has changed significantly in the past year.
14. Write a will – or check the one you have
If you don’t have a will, now might be a good time to get it sorted. If you have children, there are no two ways about it, you need a will. Do it now. If you already have one, just check it over to make sure you don’t need to change any of the details to account for any life changes. Check the beneficiaries, executors and guardians are all still the people you’d want them to be.
15. Review your investments
Take a look at your asset allocation. Do you need to make some changes to bring your portfolio back in line with risk and return expectations?
This could also be the year you start moving towards more ethical investments.
16. Optimise your taxes
Make sure you’re taking full advantage of any tax strategies that might be within your reach to help reduce the amount of tax you’re paying. A tax-deductible charitable donation could warm your cockles…
17. Set some financial goals for the year
Make them achievable, with a bit of effort. You might want to pay off a credit card, for example, or save enough for a tip top holiday. Working towards something specific can really help you watch the pennies. Write your goals down – you’re more likely to achieve them.
18. Review (or set) your budget
Once you’ve checked all of the things above, it’s a good idea to try and set a monthly budget. Allocate money to savings, bills, debt etc. before deciding what to do with what’s left. Then stick to it. If there isn’t anything left when you’ve factored in your expenses, you know you need to scale back your spending.
This article is for general use only and is not intended to address your particular requirements. It should not be relied upon in its entirety and shall not be deemed to be or constitute advice. The value of investments may fall as well as rise and you may not get back what you put in.
GreenSky Wealth Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. FCA No. 629624. Tax advice, Wills and estate planning are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered Office as above. Registered in England and Wales, Company No. 07103441.