As part of her regular column, this month our Community Partner, Tooting-based financial advisor, Lyndsay Wolfe, is here with her top tips to help us get our finances back on track after the often-expensive Christmas period.
Festive spending can be an issue for many of us, and often post-Christmas blues can become overwhelming when the debt hangover really kicks in, but this isn’t a time for panic. Here is my advice in response to the most common questions that I get asked on this subject:
I've over spent on Christmas, what's the best and quickest way to get back on track?
Many people use January as a time to reassess their financial position and set plans in place for the upcoming year. There are organisations set up specifically for people who are struggling with debt, such as the Money Advice Service; an independent service set up by the government.
You may be getting married, buying a house, or just simply want to save more for the future, whatever, you’re planning for in 2017, it’s a great time to take stock, reassess and look forward for the year. Don’t try and save too quickly, pay off debt in unmanageable chunks or go mad in the New Year sales…everything in moderation, for food and finance!
I would like to be debt free by December 2017, where do I start?
Whatever your financial goal is for 2017, the important thing is to set yourself a realistic target. In the same way that none of us join the gym on 2nd January expecting to have muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger by February, you need to ensure that you don’t set your target too high and always aim to have an emergency fund of approximately 3 times your monthly expenditure as a backup. That way, if the unexpected happens, you’re well prepared.
It’s always best to start by reviewing your monthly income and expenditure. Are there any ways that you can make savings? If so, you may find that the money you save can go towards paying off that debt or saving for a rainy day.
We are expecting our first child in 2017 and need advice on a how to save.
There are many ways you can look to save for your family and your child’s future but whilst interest rates remain historically low, it’s becoming more and more difficult to find solutions that provide you with a decent return for your money.
One of the biggest things to remember is that each individual has an annual ISA (Individual Savings Account) allowance, and the New Year is a great time to think about how this might be able to benefit you, before the end of the tax year on 5th April 2017. Your ISA allowance means that you can save more tax efficiently, with any capital growth being tax free.
You may also be considering saving for your child’s education. Whilst, the financial implications can be daunting, providing a good education can be one of the most valuable gifts parents or grandparents can give to children. The key to affording school fees is to plan as early as you can. Saving soon after a child is born gives a good ten years for a fund to build up in time for when they go to secondary school.
One of the biggest considerations for any new family, is planning for the ‘what if’s’. It’s surprising how many people don’t have a Will* in place or haven’t reviewed how their family would be protected if they were unable to work for any period of time. If you’re employed, your employer may provide you with some of these benefits, but it’s important that you check that these are still relevant before embarking on a life changing event.
I'm planning to buy my first house, how do I begin to get a mortgage?
During 2016, the housing debate was one of the hot topics of discussion in Government after Sadiq Khan announced “The housing crisis is the single biggest barrier to prosperity, growth and fairness facing Londoners today”.
In terms of interest rates, mortgages today are more affordable than ever, but the need for a larger deposit is making it nearly impossible for many people to afford.
The term ‘generation rent’ was coined to describe those struggling to purchase their first property. Yet there are a growing number of ways to help you with purchasing your own home. The government has introduced a number of Help to Buy schemes which can assist and generally these require a smaller deposit of around 5% of the value of the property. Alternatively, if you have a larger deposit then you may be able to obtain a better mortgage rate. It can be confusing and it’s often best to take some time to sit down with a financial adviser to review your options before going out to view properties. It always gives you an advantage when putting in an offer if you can confirm your mortgage has already been agreed in principle.
What are your top tips for my finances in 2017?
1 – Pay off your debts – there’s no point trying to save if you’re still paying off debt. The quicker that’s achieved, the better position you’ll be in going forward.
2 – Build up emergency fund –You never know when your boiler might need repairs, your car fails it’s MOT, or worst case scenario, you find you’ve lost your job. At least if that does happen you have your savings to fall back on.
3 - Know how much you’ll have in retirement – The likelihood of the state pension providing for us in full in retirement is becoming less and less. The government has therefore put significant effort into encouraging us all to save for our future retirement and in doing so has continued to provide significant tax advantages. It’s important to look at this as early as possible to ensure your savings remain on track.
4 – Check your family are correctly insured – if you’re employed, review the benefits your company provides you with. If you’re self employed, ensure you have protection in place to look after you and your family if you are unable to work.
5 – Complete the above tips to help improve your financial future.
Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up with the repayments on your mortgage.
The value of an investment with St. James Place will be directly linked to the performance of funds you select and the value therefore can go down as well as up. You may get back less than you invested. Equities do not have the security of capital which is characteristic of a deposit with a bank or building society, as the value of income can fall as well as rise.
The levels and basis of taxation and reliefs from taxation can change at any time. The value of tax relief is generally dependent on individual circumstances.
*Please note that Will writing involves referral to a service that is separate and distinct to those offered at St. James Place. Wills are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Management, Retirement planning or Inheritance Tax planning, produced by St. James’s Place Wealth Management, contact Lyndsay Wolfe of St. James’s Place Wealth Management on 07810888361 or landline 0207 744 1600 or email Lyndsay.firstname.lastname@example.org
The Partner represents only St. James’s Place Wealth Management plc (which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority) for the purpose of advising solely on the Group’s wealth management products and services, more of which are available on the Group’s website www.sjp.co.uk/products. The ‘St. James’s Place Partnership’ and ‘Partner Practice’ are marketing terms used to describe St. James’s Place representatives.
Community Partner – Lyndsay Wolfe
Lyndsay Wolfe is one of our valued Community Partners. To find out more about our Community Partners, please click here.