Where should you start with financial planning?
The creation of a financial plan is often an ideal start, as it will provide you with an understanding of your wealth and financial circumstances. As things change, so should your plan. A plan will also enable you to judge whether or not your finances are sustainable over the remainder of your lifetime.
With the continuation of the ageing population trend in the UK, the introduction of pension freedoms in 2015, our complicated tax system and fluctuating investment markets, ensuring the sustainability of wealth has become more difficult.
However, successful financial planning, including a good financial plan, can increase the likelihood of achieving your financial goals. It should also provide a contingency should unforeseen circumstances, such as illness or poor investment returns, have a negative impact on your wealth.
It is never too late to begin managing your wealth, however the earlier you start to plan your finances for the future the better.
What are your targets?
Setting realistic targets for your life is vital for successful financial planning, whether that includes wealth creation, a mortgage, children, retirement or inheritance. Doing so will provide perspective and a focus to your wealth management.
Sadly, whilst many may aspire to buy their first homes by the age of 25, be married by 27 and afford to raise children by the age of 30, often that is not the case as each milestone comes at a significant cost – and that usually involves making certain sacrifices to achieve your goal at the earliest opportunity.
For many millennials, those born between 1981 and 2000, purchasing their first home may be the biggest target. Often this is difficult as the average first-time buyer needs to save around £20,000 for a deposit. In London however, the average saver needs much more.
Wedding planning website Hitched speculates that the average cost of a wedding in the UK was around £32,000 in 2019, which is more than the average deposit for a home.
Raising a child from birth to the age of 18 is even more expensive, according to research from LV=, which estimated the cost to be £75,436 for a couple and £102,627 for a single parent/guardian in 2019. These costs exclude housing, childcare and council tax.
Of course, you could be saving for multiple targets simultaneously and this will affect how much you are able to save.
Regardless of your objectives, you should save as much as your budget allows. Saving early should allow for reduced contributions each month.
How much should you save?
Once you have identified your target, you should undertake an inventory of your finances. This will allow you to see how much you can afford to save each month by simply comparing your monetary income each month with your monthly outgoings. Reviewing your bank statements, bills and insurance policies should assist you with this.
If you discover unused direct debits, or bills, cancel them and repurpose the surplus towards your goals.
Once you have reviewed your finances, a monthly budget can be created. This will give you an indication of affordable contribution limits. Saving contributions may be age dependent and/or target based. A good place to begin may be to save a percentage of your salary and increase contributions in line with salary increases.
To best achieve your financial goals, maintain your saving contributions and expenditure set out in your plan.
Put your extra money to work
If you have surplus funds after undertaking your inventory, the next step to consider is efficiently utilising these. Popular options include:
- saving up to £20,000 a year into an ISA.
- increasing your pension contributions.
- exploring your investment options, although this includes an element of investment risk.
Risk is often dependent on the investment type, with potentially higher returns linked to investments with higher levels of risk. For example, buying unregulated cryptocurrencies may result in lucrative returns or significant losses, while purchasing government bonds is often perceived to pose less risk.
Investing in stocks and shares is perceived similarly, with emerging markets deemed to be of higher risk than stocks and shares in more developed economies.
It is important to note that investing over longer periods of time usually results in better returns on an individual’s investment, although past performance is not an indicator for future performance.
Regardless of your decision, seeking expert financial advice early can help you best utilise your savings and investments.
Reviewing your plan
Your financial plan should be flexible and reviewed over time. As your personal circumstances change, so should your financial plan.
Compared to a decade ago, you may be earning more income, but your expenses will probably have increased in line with that. You may have also developed new interests or have new priorities (e.g. family), or maybe you simply understand your propensity for risk better than before.
These will all need to be considered in your financial plan moving forward.
Move on to the next target
Think of your goals as sequential, once you have achieved one move on to another. If you are already in the savings habit, you will be used to reduced disposable income.
For instance, you may have spent years accumulating a deposit to buy your home, but once you have bought it, your attention will turn towards paying off your mortgage. The word ‘mortgage’ is Latin for ‘death pledge’, rather fitting considering that your mortgage is usually a key long-term priority.
Similarly, you could use any surplus funds to pay off other debts, like a credit card or student loan, or commit further funds into your longer-term goals.
If you are debt and mortgage-free, you could consider increasing contributions into your workplace or personal pension but remember to stay within your contribution limits.
Seek expert advice
Planning your finances is an ongoing journey that needs thought and professional advice, whether you are just starting out or approaching retirement.
At Lucas Fettes Financial Planning our specialist team of financial planners are available to deliver tailored financial planning solutions that will help you manage and protect your wealth. Our aim is to give you financial peace of mind, whilst we help you best achieve your financial aspirations and objectives.
The way tax charges (or tax relief, as appropriate) are applied depends on individual circumstances and may be subject to future change. ISA and pension eligibility depend on individual circumstances.
This document is solely for information purposes and nothing in it is intended to constitute advice or a recommendation. You should not make any investment decisions based on its content.
The value of investments can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the amount you originally invested.
While considerable care has been taken to ensure the information contained in this document is accurate and up-to-date, no warranty is given as to the accuracy or completeness of any information.
Lucas Fettes Financial Planning® is a registered trading name of Lucas Fettes & Partners (Financial Services) Limited, who are independent financial advisers authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Financial Conduct Authority regulation applies to certain regulated activities, products and services, but does not necessarily apply to all tax planning activities and services.