Five ways to turn over a new leaf

As part of our season of New Year tips, advisers from Armstrong Watson Financial Planning Ltd share their words of wisdom on building a financial plan for all seasons.

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What do you want out of life? In many ways, that’s the most important question you can ask yourself when you start to think about financial planning. Most of us assume financial advice will simply be about making ourselves as much money as possible, but it’s far more complex than that. Ultimately, financial advice is going to be about your goals – not Warren Buffet’s, or the couple’s next door.

By focusing on what you want to do in the next five, ten or twenty-five years, you can start to make plans for you money that actually benefit you – rather than it. After all, plans that are based around what you want to do are so much easier to stick to. Here are Armstrong Watson’s tips for making a fresh start.

  1. Define your goals and make them realistic

’Most people save all year for 2 weeks in the sun; what about the 25 year holiday after work finishes?’ – Steve Shovlin, Financial Planning Consultant.

Give your retirement the priority it deserves, and you’ll be grateful when the time comes. But temper your ambitions with realism. Are you saving enough for the lifestyle you envisage? Have you allowed enough time to achieve those goals? Are you taking too much risk – or too little? And are you using the most suitable investment vehicles? Talk your plans over with an adviser who can answer all these questions for you.

  1. Measure your progress

Once a plan is in place, have your adviser perform regular reviews to make sure you remain on target to meet your goals. Reviews also provide you the opportunity to change tack if you need to and spot any emerging issues before they become problems.

  1. Maximise your money

Asking an adviser to look at your financial position can highlight opportunities or threats that you may not have considered.  This could be as simple as using one or more of your available tax allowances, or perhaps paying more into your pensions to make use of further tax reliefs.

‘Use it or lose it. As we approach the end of the tax year, look at your allowances: ISAs, capital gains tax, pension annual allowance, gifting allowance and so on – and if you can still use some, do so. Otherwise, it could mean money lost in tax.’ Ian Hartley, Financial Planning Consultant

  1. Live comfortably

Improving your financial behaviour is all very well, but changes in habits need to be sustainable. To use a dieting analogy, there’s no point starving yourself for a week if the result is a week-long binge. Use your financial plan to give yourself more control and awareness of what you’re doing, rather than punishing yourself with austerity that you can’t sustain over the long term. Once again, an adviser can help you decide on what is both effective and practical. No plan is worthwhile if it’s not achievable.

  1. Protect yourself

Make sure you have adequate protection in place – not just life insurance but critical illness cover and/or income protection to ensure your money supply isn’t suddenly cut off (because that would ruin all those careful plans you’ve made).

‘If you had a cash machine in the corner of your front room that paid you an income once a month, and it was your only source of income, would you insure it in case it broke down? Well, you are that cash machine.’ Marcus Dodds, Financial Planning Consultant.


Armstrong Watson, as an independent financial advisory firm, has been providing bespoke investment solutions for clients for many years, with branches located across the UK.