The more things change, the more they stay the same. It may be one of the oldest cliches around but, as is so often the case, there’s a lot of truth in it. In the context of finance, it means that although your priorities will almost certainly change as you go through life, your basic approach to managing your finances should stay much the same. Here are four points to help.
Start by thinking who really matters to you in your life
Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s a necessity because you need to take care of yourself in order to stand a chance of being able to take care of other people. Therefore any financial plan should start with making sure you are protected against whatever life can throw at you. In your pre-child stage you may not need life insurance (unless you have a mortgage), but you may want to think seriously about health insurance, or at least dental insurance. If you have children, you may want to think about insuring their health too. You may also want to look at income protection cover even if you’re employed (as your state benefits/employment benefits may not turn out to be as generous as you might have hoped) and again if you have children (or aging parents) and your partner is a home-maker/carer for them, then you may want to insure them against ill-health and death. Remember your pets too, they don’t get to use the NHS so their medical bills can get very expensive!
Think carefully about your journey through life and the key milestones on the way
When you’re in your twenties, finishing your studies, establishing your career and buying your first home may all seem far more pressing priorities than saving for retirement and, in a sense they are in that they are shorter-term goals, but the retirement savings you make in your twenties have literally decades to grow and so should not be overlooked if you can possibly find the money. As you move into your thirties and forties, your priorities may shift into financing your children, those (expensive) early years and then their move into the adult world. By your fifties and sixties you will probably be thinking about your post-paid-employment years and then once formal retirement actually becomes a reality you’ll then need to adjust to your new situation and think about estate planning.
Learn to love budgeting
Budgeting may sound boring, but it’s the foundation of living your life on the financial straight and narrow and hence should be considered very interesting. At its core, budgeting is the art of setting priorities, which is why it comes after our first two points. Only you can decide what matters most to you in life and to what extent you’re prepared to save in the present to have a better future or, by contrast, live for the present and accept the fact that this may entail making some compromise later down the line. There is no right or wrong here, the important point is that you take the decisions which are right for you, with a full understanding of their implications.
Always remember that you’re never too young or too old for sound advice
Even if finance is your day job, you can still benefit from a fresh pair of eyes looking at your situation as they can spot what you might miss. If you’re not a financial expert, then you risk taking important decisions without understanding their full implications. Ideally, we’d suggest checking in with a financial professional once a year or so to make sure your financial life is (still) on the right track, but as a minimum, at least think about taking professional advice before you make significant financial decisions.