New Year in the UK is a great time for resolutions – to take stock and consider what you want to achieve in the coming year and beyond. Making some time to review your finances is often a good place to start.
The start of a New Year for many prompts plans of transformation. Whether it’s improving your body and mind, with dry January, sensible eating habits or more exercise, or looking to the future and making life-changing plans. A New Year comes in full of possibility and anticipation for fresh starts and new beginnings – even if those best-laid plans have usually fizzled out by the end of the month!
However, while the momentum is still high, a great and achievable place to start is to take stock and review your financial situation. This might be the last thing you want to think about in the aftermath of the festive period, but there are five easy steps you can take to ensure you get on top of your finances for the forthcoming year and beyond.
1. Work through the paperwork
With so many of our transactions now done online, how much paperwork do we actually need to keep and for how long? Official documents, such as wills, share certificates, and birth and marriage certificates, should be kept together in a secure place where you and the rest of the family can easily find them, if needed.
For financial matters, the rules for how long you need to keep them depend on the type of document. If you’re self-employed, any records to do with your business need to be kept for at least five years, but for personal tax-related documents the HMRC recommends at least 22 months (i.e. just under two years) from the end of the tax year they relate to.
One of the best ways to get on top of your finances is to set up a timetable and stick to it. Simply keeping a note of the financial events you know are coming up over the coming year allows you to set reminders for all your important due dates, such as insurance renewals, dividend payments or organising your tax returns.
2. Do the maths
While sorting through your paperwork, you may uncover long-standing costs and commitments that you had forgotten about. This could be a useful opportunity to make a schedule of your regular payments and pin down what you’re actually spending your money on. You could find you’re still paying out for things you no longer use, such as gym memberships, news subscriptions or streaming services. By seeing what you regularly spend and stopping payments for unnecessary services, you will have a much better idea of your regular living expenses.
You could even take this exercise to the next level and work out your own personal inflation rate. The Office for National Statistics publishes the official UK inflation rate each month based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). By taking your own main monthly costs and comparing them to last year’s costs, you can estimate your own personal inflation rate and see how it compares to the current CPI figure of 1.8%. If you repeat this exercise once or twice a year, over two to three years, you can track your changing spending patterns, which will help you plan better for the future.
3. Where there’s a will, there’s a way
When looking to the future, one of the most important things you can do is to make a will. Death is one of the only things we can all be certain of, yet over half of UK adults apparently still don’t have a will. If you haven’t already made one, it should be a priority. If you have, it should be reviewed regularly as your circumstances change. Any couples’ estates with relevant assets over £950,000 should seek the guidance of a qualified adviser as inheritance tax will probably be due. Anyone with assets overseas may need additional specialist advice.
4. Taxing times
Along with death, the only other certainty in life is taxes – a certainty for everyone and not just the original scribe, Benjamin Franklin! So with your paperwork and records properly organised, you can now get ahead and investigate any possible tax allowances and reliefs you could be entitled to.
Have you made use of your annual ISA allowance yet? Are you getting the most from your pension? Apart from the well-promoted benefits of contributing to ISAs and pensions, some pensions can also be passed on to the next generations outside of your estate. You are currently allowed to put up to £40,000 into your pension each year, although this may be lower if you earn over £150,000, or have already accessed any of your pensions.
Tax relief can also be claimed against donations and subscriptions. So any subscriptions linked to your profession, annual memberships of charities, or donations to registered community amateur sports clubs are all tax deductible and can soon mount up. It is always worth ticking the gift aid box, so the government will give the tax portion to your charity. If you are a higher rate tax payer, you may even be able to claim back the rest of the tax paid on those donations. As ever, tax matters are notoriously complex and it always pays to take specialist tax advice to suit your own personal circumstances.
5. Starting a conversation
Now you are on top of your current finances, you may want to think more about your future needs. How do you plan to achieve your long-term goals, such as an early retirement or a legacy for your children? It is never too soon to start the conversation and we can help. It is also worth talking through those values and aspirations with your family. It will help with succession planning and preserving your wealth across the generations to come, as well as avoiding any potential family feuds in the future.
We all lead busy lives and it is easy to procrastinate. But before we know it another year has flown by. Staying on top of your finances, thinking ahead, planning for your own and your family’s future can be much more manageable. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your financial plans, please get in touch – our experienced wealth planners would be very happy to help.
At Nedbank Private Wealth, we can work with you to make more informed and tangible financial decisions for your future. Our cash-flow modelling software helps you plan and adapt to real life events by highlighting whether your future income, from investments or other sources, will cover your anticipated financial needs. To find out more about our specialist wealth planning service, please complete the form below, or contact your private banker or our client services team on +44 (0)1624 645000.
We hope you enjoyed this article
Allie manages a select portfolio of high-net-worth clients, working closely with their professional advisers, such as lawyers and accountants, to provide services tailored to their specific financial needs. Allie also works closely with fund managers, trusts and corporate service providers, financial advisers and legal firms. In addition, she acts as an investment adviser to various pension schemes and trusts. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment.