Setting small financial goals on your way to the larger ones can help with your long-term motivation and maintaining your financial fitness. There's a good chance you’ve made some progress and know some of the areas you want to work on. The tricky part is often knowing which step to take next.
To make the process manageable, it helps to think of your finances in sections. We like to start with four areas of financial wellness: budgeting, debt, savings, and protection. Make each area strong - they are all interconnected and if one piece of your financial foundation is unsteady, it may not take much to throw off your entire plan.
Where you start will depend on your unique situation, including where you're starting from and where you want to go in the future. You could be starting out, hitting your stride or looking to maximise your money.
Here's some small steps you can take today to keep your finances on track, whatever your position.
|Starting out||Hitting your stride||Maximising your money|
|Budgeting||Review your budget to see where you can make savings.||Consistently track your spending and plan for your short-term goals.||Spend no more than 50% on your essential expenses.|
|Debt||Understand what you owe and make a plan to pay off credit card debt.||Pay off high-interest loans and work on improving your credit score.||Check your mortgage to make sure you’ve got the best deal.|
Know how much you are saving for retirement.
Maximise any matching pension contributions from your employer.
Understand where your retirements savings are invested.
Aim to save 13% for retirement, including employer contributions.
Review your retirement savings are invested appropriately for your age, time horizon and risk tolerance.
Start saving for university if you have children.
Know your allowances and maximise tax relief on your retirement savings.
Review your investments annually.
Explore tax efficient investing.
Build up £1,000 in contingency savings.
Nominate a beneficiary for your pension.
Look into life assurance if you’ve got dependents.
Build up 3-6 months in expenses for your contingency savings.
Look into critical illness and income protection cover.
Start planning for inheritance tax.
Make a will and assign a power of attorney for health & welfare as well as property & financial affairs.
Consider other insurance needs.
Make your plan a reality
Knowing what needs to be done is half the battle. But you may also need specific strategies to help put your plan into action.
For instance, not everyone is a natural saver—it can be a challenge to manage day-to-day spending or pay off debt. Mastering your budget could free up more money to save for the future and help pay down credit cards and loans. If you’re able to, increasing the amount you save by as little as 1% can have a huge impact over time.
For others, knowing they have plan in place should the worst happen is important. You can protect your pension by nominating a beneficiary, this is done through an expression of wish form. You can nominate one person, or divide it between family, friends and charities.
Remember - you’re an investor
A strong foundation of budgeting, debt management, saving and protection can help you achieve big, long-term savings goals, like retirement or funding a child's education. But investing is a key component in a long-term plan as well.
When you joined your company’s pension plan, your contributions were probably invested into a ‘default investment’. These are designed to be broadly suitable for most people. However, you may want to adopt a different approach that suits your specific situation. An investment mix tailored to your goals and time frame, your financial needs, and your feelings about investment risk can help find the balance between risk and reward that's right for you.
Take the next step now
Log into PlanViewer to see how much you are saving, adjust your contributions, understand where your retirement savings are invested and nominate a beneficiary.
The value of investments can go down as well as up, so you may get back less than you invest. The minimum age you can normally access your pension savings is currently 55, and is due to rise to 57 on 6 April 2028, unless you have a lower protected pension age. This is not a personal recommendation for any investment or action. If you are unsure of the right approach for you personally you should contact an authorised financial adviser.