Your money management checklist
First published 18 July 2016 • Updated 25 July 2017
Produced in partnership with Moneyhub, this ten point guide will help ensure you never lose track of your finances again.
As part of our ongoing mission to help consumers take better control of their finances, Unbiased is partnering with Moneyhub to offer our users a free trial of Moneyhub’s premium service. The concept behind Moneyhub is simple – enabling you to see all your finances in one place, on all your devices, and so give you a better understanding of your money.
What we like most about Moneyhub is that it treats your finances as a single coherent whole, much as a financial adviser does. Moneyhub cannot itself give you financial advice, but it can make the process of using an adviser much smoother and potentially even more effective.
You can learn more about Moneyhub here. To see if you could benefit from better money management, use our checklist below to sort out the key areas of your financial universe.
The money management checklist
- Is your monthly income largely predictable? If so:
- Is your average monthly expenditure (over a year) lower than this figure?
- Does this expenditure include regular savings?
- Could you afford an interest rate rise (e.g. on your mortgage / loans)? Have you worked out how much?
- Does your monthly income tend to fluctuate? If so:
- Do you keep a rolling account of your monthly average across a full year?
- Can you answer ‘Yes’ to all the points in the previous question?
- Do you save into an emergency fund for when you need cash at short notice?
- If you are self-employed, have you consulted an accountant about taking your income in the most tax-efficient way?
Why this matters: The cornerstone of money management is ensuring that your spending is under control and doesn’t regularly exceed your income. It’s the simplest rule – but the one that’s most important to get right.
- Do you pay into a pension? If so:
- Is it a workplace pension with employer contributions?
- Do you have a SIPP (self-invested personal pension) or stakeholder pension?
- Are you paying in the maximum contributions you can afford?
- If you are a higher-rate taxpayer, are you claiming additional tax relief?
Why this matters: A pension is by far the most tax-efficient way to save for retirement, and they have recently become more flexible than ever. If you are in employment, you should have a pension scheme provided by your employer. However, as few as a quarter of self-employed people are currently saving into a pension.
- Do you have a mortgage? If so:
- Are you still on the best deal you can achieve?
- If not, how much could you save per month by remortgaging?
- If there are early repayment penalties, how long would they take to recover through monthly savings?
- Which suits your needs better: lower monthly costs, or lower long-term costs? (This will help determine your ideal mortgage term)
- If you are currently on the best deal for you, when will this expire?
- Do you have any plans in place for when your mortgage deal expires?
Why this matters: A mortgage is your single biggest and longest-term financial commitment. As such, getting it right – and keeping it that way by regularly remortgaging – will be central to organising the rest of your finances.
- Do you have any non-mortgage loans? If so:
- How much of your income is spent on repayments?
- Can you increase your monthly payments to settle them early?
- Do you have savings? Would you be better off using savings to pay off some or all of your loan(s)?
Why this matters: Loans can be useful, but they act like parasites sucking away your regular income through compound interest. If you take one out, make it a priority to get free of it as soon as you can.
- Do you regularly use one or more credit cards? If so:
- Do you pay off the balance in full each month?
- If not, does your card offer the lowest interest rate you can achieve?
- Does your card offer any perks such as cashback?
- Do you have more than one active credit card?
Why this matters: It’s always best to pay off a credit card balance in full each month. If you have even a penny of outstanding balance when the payment deadline passes, you will pay interest on the whole balance that month, not just the penny. Similarly, don’t use credit cards in cash machines (easy to do by accident) – you’ll pay interest on the withdrawal immediately.
Also remember that owning multiple credit cards can harm your credit score, so if you have some old ones you rarely use, cancel them.
- Do you have savings? If so:
- Are they earning the highest interest rate you can achieve?
- Do you move them regularly (e.g. annually) to find the best rate?
- Do you add to them with regular payments (or just when you can afford to)?
- Are you saving with a particular goal in mind?
- Do you classify some as ‘emergency savings’ and are these equal to three or more months’ salary?
- Are you saving tax-efficiently (either with cash ISAs or using your personal savings allowance)?
Why this matters: Inflation will erode the value of your savings over time, so it’s important to find the very best interest rate. A good strategy is to move your savings every year to find the best ‘new customer’ interest rates available.
- Do you have investments? If so:
- Do you keep these in an ISA? (e.g. stocks & shares ISA or innovative finance ISA)
- Are your investments in a single asset class? (e.g. equities or bonds)
- Do your investments include peer-to-peer loans?
- Are you aware of the different risk levels of various asset classes?
- Do you know your personal risk tolerance for investment purposes?
- Have you constructed your portfolio to reflect your risk tolerance?
- Do you (or your adviser) regularly review your portfolio to make sure it still matches your risk tolerance?
- Are you investing with a particular goal in mind, and does your portfolio reflect that?
Why this matters: The growth on stocks & shares is subject to capital gains tax, unless you shelter these inside an ISA. It’s also important to understand the different asset classes and the different levels of risk and reward they offer.
- Have you started planning for your retirement?
- Do you have clear plans about how and where you want to spend your retirement?
- Have you worked out how much your planned retirement may cost?
- Do you have a projection of how much your pension will be worth at retirement?
- Do you have any final salary pensions?
- Does your pension scheme come with any valuable additional benefits?
- Have you thought about how you will take an income from your pension?
- Do you know when you will receive your State Pension and how much this will be?
- Will you need any other sources of income in retirement?
Why this matters: Ideally you should start to plan for your retirement 10 to 15 years before you actually retire. Seeing a financial adviser at this stage can greatly boost the final value of your pension pot and help you make the right choices at retirement.
- Could you answer most of the above questions by opening a single app?
Moneyhub gives you a complete overview of your financial universe wherever you are, so you can see all the ways in which your money is working for you and how you could improve your financial circumstances.
Take advantage of Unbiased’s special offer today and claim a free 3 month trial of Moneyhub Premium. To find out more, head over to our Moneyhub page.