Hands up all of you who admit to being financial ostriches? (You can’t see our hands going up, but they are!). Even at our brilliant School of Grazia money masterclass, our speaker for the night Mrs Moneypenny confessed even she ‘kept putting off’ searching for a cheaper mortgage ‘because it would take time to do’.
But it makes sense to spend some time doing your financial housekeeping, as FT Columnist and TV presenter Mrs Moneypenny stressed to us at our super-inspiring event in association with Penguin Live. ‘Take control of your financial destiny. Invest in a notebook and work out your Financial Finish Line – what you need to do to get to your ultimate goal. Spend one hour a week concentrating on your finances and getting them in order. If you think that’s too much just ask yourself how much time you spend worrying about money!’
So without further ado here’s 9 other things you can do this year to take control of your situation, in the words of the marvellous Mrs Moneypenny herself:
2. Look At Your Bills
‘If you have any one of these things - mortgage, electricity, internet TV, mobile phone, car insurance, house insurance, life insurance, car finance or credit cards - you can get them all cheaper right now. Even with your mortgage, even if you have to pay a penalty, but you could still save in the long run switching.’
3. Check Your Credit Rating
‘Log onto www.experian.co.uk. For £2 you can find out what your credit rating is. Poor ratings can affect everything, from getting credit to mortgage applications. Do this every year – even the simplest thing, such as having a different address to the one on the electoral roll, you could get penalized for.’
4. Consolidate Your Debt
‘If you have a store card, get rid! You could be paying anything from 18-40% interest rate on it – terrifying! It’s money down the drain. If you have accumulated a lot of credit card debt and/or other debts, consider putting them all together into one loan and then repaying that loan in manageable installments.’
5. Make Saving A Habit
‘There are £350 million sitting in ‘orphan bank accounts’ (savings accounts that people have forgotten they have). If you think you have got one somewhere go to mylostaccount.org.uk or likewise with premium bonds, check nsandi.com. Open a savings account and save £10 a month. Give yourself a year and promise yourself that at the end of the year you can spend half of it. It’s all about getting in the habit.’
6. Remember This Fact - Women Live Longer
‘Learn to be financially literate – you may be left ‘holding the financial baby.’ Consolidate your investments. If you have moved so many jobs over the years and think you have lost a pension or two click here to track them down. And while we’re on the subject of pensions, be aware of the new rule on pension auto-enrolement which is now 8%. Your employer has to put in 5% of this, which means you may be liable to pay the other 3%.’
7. Earn More
‘There are many things you can do to increase your wealth - investing wisely, buying property – but one thing everyone can do is earn more. Get a second job, or see what qualifications you need to step the extra rung of the career ladder and get where you want to be. Ask your employer if you can do salary sacrifice (it’s financially beneficial to them tax-wise) so you can pay for that course you want to do.’ Check here for more info.
8. Invest in the Stock Market
‘But be careful. It’s the equivalent of online poker, so only do small amounts. You could try starting up a share club with your friends, like a bookclub, where you all invest in a small amount each month – say £10 – and invest in the stockmarket together. Click here for more details.’
9. Make a Will
‘So important! More than half the people in the UK don’t have a will. If I can get you to do one thing when reading this, this would be a good one to do. For example if you are not married, or in a civil partnership, if you die without making a will only a certain amount will go to your partner. You can do it easily and cheaply, and this could be one of those things you use your ‘financial hour’ to do.’ Check here for info.
Mrs Moneypenny explains all these points in more detail (with more advice on subjects such as buying property and starting your own business) in her new book, Mrs Moneypenny's Financial Advice For Independent Women, £16.99. Click here to buy.