There is never a bad time to revisit your personal financial plan and make some positive changes. Whether you want to focus on giving your savings a boost, make them do more by diversifying your investment portfolio, or start thinking about the longer term with inheritance tax planning, sooner is always better than later.
But, as with any good intentions, there is something about a new beginning that really puts the wind in our sails, and gives us a much-needed dose of positive resolve. With the higher-than-usual costs of Christmas out of the way, January makes for an excellent starting-point for better financial health and planning.
For that reason, we are looking at 5 of the best financial changes you could implement for a better, stronger 2023.
1 .Don’t just ‘save more’ – save regularly
Telling yourself you’re going to save more money in the new year is like telling yourself you are going to ‘get organised’ or ‘smile more’. While it’s a statement made with the best of intentions, it’s very vague – what is ‘more’? Where is that extra money coming from? How long will you be able to keep it up before you have to dip back into the savings to top up your current account?
When it comes to saving, making the resolve to contribute on a regular basis to your savings is far more sustainable. Like any regular payment – whether it’s a bill, a mortgage or rent payment, a subscription, etc – you can start to view your savings contributions as part of the monthly money routine.
When you save regularly, you can don’t need to drop a high, guilt-fuelled number that leaves your current account feeling drained. Little and often is a highly effective strategy – and, when your current account is in particularly good health, you can still make those larger deposits that give the savings a real boost.
Saving regularly is the key to saving more, and, as a resolution for the new year, it’s far more specific and actionable.
2. Find a Financial Advisor
There’s a misconception among many people that financial advice is only necessary if you’re in a very complex financial situation – or, in other words, if you’re a particularly high earner with assets spread all over the place. This is simply not the case, and so many people who find a huge benefit in getting independent and personalised financial advice are what many would consider ‘average’.
Money is money, and whether you’ve got millions in the bank or are still working to put together a 20% deposit on your first house purchase, working with a seasoned professional to create actionable steps toward attainable financial goals – to turn ‘the dream’ into something that you are actively working toward.
At Perennial Wealth, we give wealth management advice to clients from all backgrounds. While everyone comes to us with different needs and hopes for the near- and distant-future, our foci are always the same: to improve financial health, to set realistic goals, and to ensure that savings are invested to the greatest possible benefit of our client’s.
3. Avoid taking on new debt wherever possible
Debt comes in all shapes and sizes; some debts are impossible to forget about – a mortgage, for instance – while others can be more insidious, accumulating interest while the borrower almost forgets about the amount hanging over their heads.
Unfortunately, the last few years have seen a significant rise in the number of prevalent ‘buy now, pay later’ platforms, which make accumulating debt incredibly easy for the average online shopper. These platforms help us spread costs thinly, but the obvious downside is that, eventually, all those separate costs will represent a massive wedge in your savings – an unpleasant reminder of costs that the borrow has already ‘written off’, and put in the past.
This sort of debt feels small in the beginning – a way of breaking a £100 online order into small chunks – but the last few years have proven how quickly it can get out of hand. One of the best things you can do for your finances is avoid these sorts of debts completely – or, if you have already signed onto a BNPL scheme, to stop increasing the total owed, and start taking serious steps to pay it off.
4. Start thinking about the distant future
From thinking about making additional contributions to your pension to tackling the big subject of inheritance planning head-on, none of us can afford to put off thinking about the future. How are you going to meet your personal goals after retirement, however distant it feels right now? What level of financial stability and protection will you leave your family with when you are no longer here to look after them?
These are questions that are better answered now, because doing so will mean you have time on your side. Planning is only part of the process; after a plan has been created, you need to steadily chip away at your goals by saving, investing, and taking the necessary steps to circumvent inheritance tax as much as possible for your loved ones.
It all takes time, so give yourself that gift by starting now.
5. Free yourself from unnecessary expenses
Dodging buy now, pay later schemes is a great way of preventing a small cost from snowballing into an unnecessary expense, but there is plenty more you can do to reduce those little, preventable expenses from eating away at your finances.
Think about all those monthly outgoings you’re used to seeing on your bill, but really don’t need to be paying. Last year, YouGov found that just under 50% of Brits are signed up to more than one video streaming service. With thousands of items (and countless hours’ worth of viewing) available from each platform, cancelling extraneous subscriptions can be a great way to free up some extra cash each month.
Other expenses that are very common, but also very often a waste of money, are gym memberships, magazine subscriptions, and any other subscriptions you don’t need for items like coffee, razors, and meal kits. If something has become superfluous to you, then don’t shy away from the 5 minutes it takes to cut it out of your monthly expenses.