There’s every chance that with the new ways of working many of us are experiencing at the moment, that you have also developed a new system of spending.
Changes in the way you are using your money could be down to a number of things - you might find that you are saving thanks to disappearing travel costs, no meals out thanks to your social life disappearing and waving goodbye to those daily barista-brewed coffees.
On the other hand, you may have found that some of these savings have been gobbled up with increased food costs at home, spending more on subscription TV services and splashing out on Amazon deliveries.
Either way, it’s worth reviewing your current spending behaviours and asking yourself if you are spending unnecessarily. Could you be using your money more wisely?
1. Be pension wise
If you can afford it, now may just be the best time to channel a few extra pounds into your pension investments. There’s every chance that you’ve seen the value of your retirement savings take a battering lately - so the natural reaction may be to have some resistance to continuing or even increasing your contributions.
There is a silver lining here. You would be ‘buying low’. The market is currently depressed, meaning that share prices are lower than they have been - that’s why the value of your retirement savings has fallen. So, any money you invest now could buy more units in those investment funds. And when the market picks up, you’ll have the potential for more growth if you have taken advantage of the opportunity to buy units while the price is low.
2. Corona-proof your investments
During this turbulent time, it’s easy (and understandable) to feel and act like a rabbit stuck in the headlights. Taking a long hard look at your pension and investment savings seems almost impossible at a time when the social, political and economic fabric of our world is changing irrevocably. But dealing with a market crisis is as much about thinking through the world after the volatility has passed as it is reacting to the here and now.
Leigh Himsworth, UK Fund Manager at Fidelity, is a good example of an investor identifying opportunities among all the uncertainty. He immediately bought more shares in all the UK supermarkets. Beyond stocking up on loo rolls, he made the call that many of these might benefit from a longer-lasting advantage than the one they were gifted by panic buying. He realised that the billions of pounds a year that was spent on eating out in the UK was likely to be re-directed towards the big grocery stores. More on this here.
3. Check what’s in your pot
The most infuriating thing about the ‘new normal’? The notion that we all now have ‘a lot more time on our hands’. Cue emails about making time to read books and download meditation apps. For the many of us facing a balancing act of childcare, home schooling, cleaning the house, cooking three meals a day and navigating the mute/unmute button on work conference calls, there is very little ‘extra time’.
That said, it is true that self-isolation has been a time of reflection and reassessment about what really matters and getting on top of yourfinances. Now is as good a time as any to take a long hard look at your retirement savings. Many of us won’t know how much we have saved in our pension pot, or even where that money is invested.
The best way to check how much you have in your workplace pension is to log into PlanViewer..
4. Track down lost pension savings
Given that very few of us these days will work for the same company throughout our working lives, there’s a good chance you have a few pension pots dotted around. Over time, it can be difficult to track these down. Likewise, often when people move house the data held by past pension schemes becomes out of date.
The Pension Tracing Service can help. It has details of over 200,000 pension schemes and can help people find previous pensions - and the added bonus is that it’s completely free of charge.
Remember though that there’s no tracing service for private pensions as these aren’t on the Pension Tracing Service database. You must contact your scheme provider to find out what your pension is worth. If you don’t know where to start, a good option will be the Unclaimed Asset Register.
Important information: The value of investments can go down as well as up, so you may not get back the amount you originally invest. Eligibility to invest in a pension and tax treatment depends on personal circumstances and all tax rules may change. You can't normally access money in a pension until 55. Investors should note that the views expressed may no longer be current and may have already been acted upon. This information is not a personal recommendation for any particular investment. If you are unsure about the suitability of an investment you should speak to an authorised financial adviser.