Money Matters: 10 Tips for taking stock of your finances
Ian Richards, father of two and founder of Work to Live Financial Planning, shares his thoughts on the pandemic and why now, more than ever, we need to make sure our family finances are fit for purpose.
“Like a lot other parents, the 2020 pandemic has caused immense disruption to our lives, but my one takeaway is that I had the opportunity to spend more time with my family. The crisis created the perfect pause to stop and reflect on what really matters,” says Ian.
“The way we plan financially plays an important role in all our lives, but it definitely adds another layer of complexity when children are involved. In general, most families are too busy focusing on the day-to-day to stop and think about the life they wish to create, and the lifestyle they wish to live in the future. However, all it takes to make this happen is to make a conscious decision to be in control of our money. There are some simple steps you can take to start seeing changes for the better.”
- Understand what purpose you want money to serve. One of my favourite phrases is “money is the fuel, not the destination”. Think about the life you want, what you want to achieve and how you want your money to serve you. Knowing the answers will make your financial decision-making process easier.
- Get organised. However painful, carrying out a financial ‘spring clean’ will bring you clarity. Identify details of your investments, pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards and pop them into a spreadsheet to give you a bird’s-eye view of what your current financial position is.
- Review your numbers Awareness is key: you need to know what money is coming in and going out. Have your recent bank statements to hand and total up all of your outgoings includinglifestyle spending and those big-ticket items. Having a handle on your money allows you to see if you’re spending too much and in what areas. Think about whether your spending is in line with what you really value, and if some habits could change.
- Do you have the right structure in place? Review your current structure and consider ways to make it easier to manage and really supercharge your money. Consider separating your spending into different accounts (ideally with different banks) and keep on top of which ones are ‘fixed’, ‘day to day’, ‘lifestyle’ and for ‘future you’. Automate where possible, especially your debt and savings to save time and reduce stress; a simple structure can get your money working for you not against you.
- Review your protection. It’s hard to think about, but what would happen to you and your family if you died or couldn’t work due to illness? You may have benefits through work or cover for your mortgage but is this going to be enough? We insure most things in our lives: our home, our pets, etc. Make sure you insure the most important thing – YOU!
- Consider your future events. Draw your timeline on a piece of paper with ‘now’ at the start and ‘20 years’ at the end. List all the events that may happen over this time, things like having more children, moving house, children going to university. Life is a series of events, some you can prepare for, others you may have to react to. Most of these events involve money.
- Set some goals. Write down the things that you want to achieve, or do, in your life. If you have a significant other, they should do this exercise separately before sharing with you. Think about how much money you would need to make them happen and by when. If anything doesn’t seem achievable now, don’t give up on them, you might just need to make a few financial trade offs.
- Build a financial plan. You’ll be relieved to hear that a simple one page plan will work. Make the heading about your ultimate purpose. List your top three financial goals, when you want to achieve them and how much money you will need. Now, write a list of three to five actions that you can do towards achieving your goals. Identify any risks, and look for opportunities that could get you there more quickly.
- What’s your strategy? The next step is to put a strategy in place to help you achieve the life you want. This strategy needs to balance the ‘now’ with your ‘future’.
- Get started. Don’t worry about being perfect, the key is to start taking some action. You can tweak and adapt over time, but as you work through it, you’ll feel more empowered and in control.
Work to Live Financial Planning specialise in helping parents take control of their financial future, helping you make the right decisions at the right time, about spending, saving and investing your money. They focus on helping you to balance being able to live a great life now, with preparing for the future. You can find out more at www.worktolivefinancialplanning.com
This guide is for important purposes and does not constitute financial advice, which should be based on your individual circumstances. If you need financial advice you should speak to a trusted financial adviser.