Want to flex those money muscles for a fresh start in the new year? Vicky Shaw seeks some expert financial advice.

After a tough couple of years for many, 2022 could mean a fresh start for your finances.


10 tips for financial fitness

Whether you’re looking to clear debts, boost savings or just hoping to free up some cash, every step counts. These expert financial advice tips could help you get started…

1. Budget for 2022

The past two years have been unpredictable to say the least. Some people have managed to save more, while others have suffered income shocks. As such, your finances may look very different from a couple of years ago – which means your budget may need to look different too.

Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, says that by setting a budget, “instead of crawling through each month on a wing and a prayer, you’ll have a plan you can stick to.

“You should start with making a note of everything you spend,” Coles suggests. “You can keep a spending diary, or check your banking app to see if it itemises things for you.

“Then use an online budget tool to input your spending, plus regular bills and big one-off expenses like holidays. You’ll also need to add all your income, and then tweak the figures. Ideally, you want to get to the point where you free up a sum of money each month.”

2. Have a plan to pay off debts

Coles says: “You’ll need to keep making the minimum repayments on everything, but start by overpaying the most expensive debt first. It often makes sense to switch your debts to the cheapest possible rate while you work through them, so less of your repayments go on interest.”

3. Save for a ‘rainy day’

“Once you’ve paid off expensive debts, you can redirect your monthly payments into an easy access savings account, and build up your emergency savings,” adds Coles. “You’re aiming for three to six months’ worth of essential expenses while you’re working age.”

Rachel Springall, a finance expert at Moneyfacts.co.uk, suggests considering which type of savings account will suit your needs. “Regular savings accounts inspire the savings habit, easy access accounts are flexible, and fixed bonds are more suited for lump sums,” says Springall.

4. Consider investments

Aside from building up an emergency savings safety net, Maike Currie, investment director at Fidelity International, suggests considering investments for longer term goals as a key piece of financial advice. Investments carry the risk of losing money, so always think carefully and do some thorough research. But depending on individual performance, they may bring higher returns over the longer term.

Currie suggests: “Create a separate investment account for these goals, such as a stocks and shares Isa, that you can add into each month. Investing in an Isa is a tax-efficient way to further boost your savings.”

5. Ditch and switch regular household bills

To go through bills, such as mobile and broadband contracts, to see what savings can be made is a great piece of financial advice we should all listen to. Keep track of how often providers’ prices and services fluctuate to find the best deal for your budget.

6. Consider switching current account

Springall says: “Switching bank accounts is simple to do using the Current Account Switch Service, and some switchers could even get a free cash perk or gift card when they do. Weighing up any benefits along with any charges before committing to a new deal is wise, and it may also be worth checking a bank’s service levels too.”

7. Make the most of banking apps

Many banking apps contain handy everyday tools, such as ones that will show you your credit score, help you budget, or divert cash into your savings.

8. Can you save by switching mortgage

Springall suggests seeking advice when comparing mortgages. “There are even deals out there with no up-front fees and free incentives or even cashback, which are great options for any cash-strapped borrower,” she says. “If someone is still locked into a fixed mortgage, they may still be better off by switching and paying an early redemption fee because of competitive interest rates available today, but they do need to work out the sums carefully.”

9. Keep up pension payments

Alistair McQueen, head of savings and retirement at Aviva, says: “Try to make any cutbacks only after you have saved into your pension. Saving today will reap strong reward tomorrow, boosted by the benefits of long-term investment growth and pensions tax relief.”

10. Are your current pension payments enough?

McQueen says: “Aviva suggests three rules of thumb to help ensure we are on track for the retirement we want. First, try to begin saving at least 40 years before your target retirement date. Second, try to save at least 12% of your earnings every month, and this can include money from your employer.

“And third, try to amass at least 10 times your annual earnings in your pension fund by the time you reach retirement. By following these rules of thumb, you should be better set to secure the retirement you want.”

McQueen says people may also want to request a free Government state pension forecast (visit www.gov.uk/check-state-pension).

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