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Take Back Control of Your Money and Secure Your Family’s Future – Your Ten-Point Plan
Get out of debt
Credit card debt, overdrafts and loans, particularly secured ones, need to be paid off before you do anything else. You can never build up wealth for yourself or your family while you are losing money each month in interest payments on debts.
Switch your debts to cheaper versions, particularly 0% credit cards if you are able to get them, and make sacrifices now in order to pay your debts off as fast as possible. The quicker you pay them off the quicker you will be able to start saving and making money.
Make sure you have a savings safety net and some liquid cash for investing
There is no point investing for the future if you haven’t get enough ‘liquid’ cash saved up to dip into for short-term expenses. By ‘liquid’ I mean ‘easy to get your hands on’.
This means you need to have enough money in a savings account to keep you and your family going for a few months if everything went pear-shaped. Work out how much you need to spend each month to keep the roof over your heads and food in your mouths, multiply that amount by three and put that money aside in an account that you do not touch unless there’s an emergency.
Pay off your mortgage
One of the safest and most tax-efficient investments you can make is to pay off your mortgage early. It gives you the most wonderful freedom to be mortgage-free; it’s a tax-free investment because any money you overpay into your mortgage saves you the full amount of interest, unlike savings accounts that will tax you on the interest you pay; it is one of the safest investments you make because when you pay off your mortgage, you pay it off and that’s it.
Look at the figures: On a £100,000 repayment mortgage at 5% interest, over 25 years your monthly payments would be £584.59 and the total amount of interest you would pay would be £75,377. However, if you reduced the payment term to 15 years, your monthly payments would be £790.79 but the total amount of interest you would pay over that time would be just £42,342.20, a saving of £33,034.80. (source: Savills)
Spread your bets
To be safe you must spread your money across different asset classes (shares, property, cash, bonds and so on).
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Nothing in investing is certain. No one has a crystal ball and no one can tell you what is going to happen in the future. Nothing, no investment, not even houses, is as safe as houses. You cannot rely on any one asset class to create a nice pot of money from which you can receive a decent income later on.
As in bodily functions so in saving and investing, it’s a good idea to be regular! Even if you have only a small amount of money left over each month, in the long-run it’s much better to set up a standing order from your bank account into an investment each month so that the money is put away before you even see it.
Also, by putting money in at regular intervals you benefit from what is called ‘pound cost averaging’ which means you catch the ups and the downs of a volatile investment (like the stock market) and in the long-run this smooths out to an average, decent return.
Get informed and think for yourself – don’t follow the herd
Managing your money is like eating healthily. You don’t need to be a qualified nutritionist to know how to eat healthily but you do need to know basic facts about fruit and vegetables, vitamins, protein, minerals etc to work out how to have a balanced and healthy diet.
It’s the same with managing your money. You don’t need to be a qualified financial adviser but you do need to have some basic knowledge about how money works.
So spend a little time each week reading the money pages in the Daily Express. Learn a bit about saving and investing on websites like mine, Money Magpie or The Motley Fool. If we spent as much time researching financial matters as we do researching the next flat screen TV to buy or which new mobile we want we would all be a whole lot richer.
Invest in cheap, simple products you understand
It is possible to make sensible money in the stock market if you invest for the long-term and make sure you only put your cash in simple products that have low charges. The two main products that fall into this category are Index-tracking funds (also known as ‘Trackers’) and Exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
These investments tend to be run by computer programmes, rather than fund managers who need a new Porsche Boxster every Christmas, and they simply track stock market indices or commodities (like oil or sugar) or even whole countries (like China or Brazil or Russia).
Cut down the tax
Make sure you use all the tax-avoiding methods available each year. After all, why spend all that time and effort working for your pay and thinking through sensible investments just to lose a load of it in over-payment of taxes?
Isas, pensions, National Savings & Investments products and certain specialist investment funds don’t attract tax and are all worth considering. That said it’s important to look at the total net profit first and not just go for something because it’s tax-free. Sometimes, even with the tax incentive, the rewards are still too low to deserve investment.
Protect your family’s money
If you have a family or other dependents make sure you have enough life insurance to keep them going if you weren’t around. This is one area where you mustn’t scrimp. Make sure that the mortgage would be paid and they would be supported if you weren’t around.
Change investments as your life changes
Your investment needs change as you get older. When you’re in your twenties, thirties and even forties you can afford to put money into riskier products that should give you good returns in the long run. As you get older, though, it’s better to shift some of your money into more stable products that are safer but don’t make so much money.
Also, when it comes to about five years before you plan to retire it is a good idea to ‘lifestyle’ your investments and start moving your money from the more volatile, ‘growth’ products (shares, property, commodities etc) to the more stable investments such as savings accounts, bonds and gilts so that you can capture the gains you have made over the years and keep it going even if you happen to retire just as markets are falling.
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