The experts’ guide to sorting out your personal finances in 2020
Laura Suter, personal finance analyst at AJ Bell
Start a money club: Start a club with your friends that focuses on any aspect of money, so a savings club, an investing club, or a paying-down-debt club. Firstly, it will start you talking about money with those closest to you. People are more likely to discuss their sex lives than their finances, so to break this taboo Brits needs to start talking about money.
But also much like diet clubs or ante-natal groups, having the support of people who are in the same situation as you will help you to learn tips and tricks to help you achieve your goals – as well as hold you accountable.
Start saving for your children: If you’re fortunate enough to have some spare cash each month that you can lock away, get around to opening that savings account for your child. Putting away small amounts when they are little can really add up, and help to pay for costs such as university, buying a car or a house deposit in the future.
Putting away just £100 a year every year since a child was born can add up to £3,000 when they turn 18, assuming it’s invested and gets 5% a year growth after fees. Putting away £50 a month would equal more than £18,000 by the time they turn 18.
Keep a money diary: Most people think they could save more or cut out some expenses, but don’t really know where to start. Money diaries have exploded in popularity, with people publishing tell-all accounts of how they spend their cash on the internet. You don’t have to open yourself up to this much public scrutiny, but keeping a diary of everything you spend for a week or a month can reveal some honest truths about whether you’re wasting cash.
Claire Walsh, head of advice strategy at Schroders Personal Wealth
Review your insurance policies: It’s something we’re often told to do, but think beyond car and household cover. Shopping around for life cover can save you money over the longer term; but be mindful that if your health has changed since taking out your current policy this can affect your premium. Don’t cancel any existing policies until the new ones are in place and don’t compromise on your level of cover just to get a cheaper deal.
Tackle your debts: It makes sense to take on those with the highest interest rates first. It may be worth considering trying to consolidate loans or credit cards and look for low or 0% balances.
Check your credit score: Not only is this is vital when taking out a loan or mortgage, it can also affect some contracts such as mobile phones. Mistakes can happen so it is a good idea to check it to make sure it is accurate
Becky O’Connor, personal finance specialist at Royal London
Build up an emergency savings pot: The traditional guidance is that we should all have at least three months’ worth of net salary in ‘rainy day’ savings. In reality, many of us rely on loans and credit cards in the tough times because we find it hard to build emergency savings.
Make 2020 the year you start building this three-month cushion, with direct debits to a savings account that leave your current account as soon as your salary is paid each month.
Maximise pension contributions: Not paying into a workplace pension is like looking a gift horse in the mouth. If you are auto-enrolled but not paying in the maximum, consider upping your contribution this year.
Remember the benefit of pension saving is that you don’t pay tax on your contributions, which means an instant uplift on the value of this retirement savings pot of 20 per cent for basic rate taxpayers and 40 per cent for higher rate taxpayers. Your employer will also match your contributions up to a certain amount. It is effectively free money.
Analyse your attitude to spending: Make this the year that self-discovery boosts your finances. Step back from your spending patterns and view them honestly and objectively. Do you spend when you feel sad? Do you avoid looking at your bank balance? Our mental health and backgrounds play a big role in how we manage our money. This year, observe how your own psychology affects your finances and use this awareness to change negative behaviours.