We all have those ‘would’ve, should’ve, could’ve’ moments in life where we wish we had done things differently so as to secure a better outcome. If you’re feeling despondent about your financial future or are dissatisfied with the financial path you are currently on, give careful thought to the actions you can take today that will result in different, more favourable outcomes. Here are some ideas:
Check the investment strategy on your group retirement fund
If you’re contributing towards your employer’s retirement fund, check what investment strategy you are in. If you are still young and have a long horizon until retirement, ensure that you are not invested in a strategy that is too conservative for your requirements. Being invested too conservatively can have a fundamental impact on your investments returns over the long-term and can result in a vastly diminished lump sum when you reach retirement.
Set up a designated emergency fund
The coronavirus pandemic has taught many of us a hard lesson in financial planning, and the need for quickly accessible emergency funding has been made abundantly apparent. While many of us retain emergency cash in our access bonds or other facilities, there is something to be said for having a separate account earmarked for emergencies. There is peace-of-mind knowing that there is a designated pool of cash to tide you through the hard times.
Put away your credit cards
If you’re dependent on your credit cards to support your current lifestyle, consider putting them away and cutting your cloth accordingly. Using credit to maintain your lifestyle is unsustainable and sooner or later you will end up with expensive debt that you are unable to service. If you can’t afford your current lifestyle now, you are less likely to afford it later unless you make radical changes to your budgeting and expenditure. It may take a while but commit to reaching a place where you can live within your means, albeit somewhat frugally. In a world of keeping up appearances on social media, do not get caught buying things you do not need with money you do not have to impress people you do not even know.
Put a password manager in place
Banking fraud can be highly sophisticated and is often a result of passwords and login credentials being hacked. There are a number of excellent password managers that you can download for free which will store all your passwords in a central place protected by a master password and two- or three-factor authentication. If you do lose money as a result of online banking fraud, liaising with the bank to get your money back can be a time-consuming and frustrating exercise.
Check your credit score
While you may think you have an excellent credit score, take time to check your credit record online. Numerous people have discovered fraudulent retail accounts set up in their name with huge amounts of debt owing which, in turn, has negatively affected their credit rating without their knowledge. Again, dealing with large retailers while trying to clear your credit record is highly frustrating and riddled with red tape. The process is also time-consuming and may result in you having to approach the ombudsman for relief.
Make a living will
Consider a living will a gift to yourself and to those who are left to make life-and-death decisions when you cannot speak for yourself. While you may feel that your loved ones will know what to do in the event of a medical crisis, everyone responds differently to stress and trauma and, without a living will, your loved ones could be even more traumatised by having to make decisions without some form of guidance.
End toxic relationships
Whether it’s a friend who encourages you to spend money, peers that put pressure on you to keep up with Joneses, or colleagues that entice you to eat out at lunchtime, make a commitment to ending toxic relationships that result in financial difficulties and unnecessary stress. Be vocal about your intentions to take control of your financial situation and ask those around you to support your ambitions.
Use your rewards programmes
Some rewards programmes offer genuinely worthwhile rewards, but it takes some effort to set up the app and learn how to optimise the benefits. In doing so, avoid falling for the ‘spend to save’ mentality which only serves to defeat the purpose of actually saving money. Put time aside to figure out your e-Bucks, miles, cash-back options, vouchers and other rewards. Give some thought as to how you can use these rewards to purchase gifts and help fund your festive season expenditure.
Increase your repayments
Interests rates are currently very low which could give you a false sense of security when it comes to repaying your home loan, car or credit card. However, interest rates are not likely to stay low this way indefinitely so consider increasing your repayments now. While your repayments are relatively low, don’t allow lifestyle creep to rob you of your future financial peace.
Clean up your social media sites
With unemployment at an all-time high, take time out to clean up your LinkedIn profile and any other profiles that might be used by prospective employers to check your credentials or simply find out more about you. While you’re at it, check your privacy and security settings.
Put a debt elimination plan in place
Procrastination is the enemy of debt because the longer you delay attacking your debt, the more you end up paying for the debt in the long-term. There are loads of useful, downloadable debt reduction/elimination apps and workbooks that you can access to put a plan in place to attack your debt. Cutting out just one monthly expense and redirecting that money towards paying off debt can set the debt elimination plan in action.
Protect your income
If you don’t already have an income protection benefit in place, make this a priority. The risk of a temporary disability as a result of illness or injury is great, and being unable to work for even a couple of months can set your finances back. It is advisable to take out cover while you are younger and in good health, as insurance premiums escalate as you age and your health deteriorates.
Check your cell phone contract
For most of us, our cell phone contract is just a line item in our budget, but do we really know what we’re paying for? While having a top-end smartphone is great, it can be a particularly expensive exercise when you add up your monthly contract payments. Give careful thought as to the functionality you really require in terms of your smartphone. Downgrading to a less-trendy but still functional phone can save you a lot of money which can be put to much better use.
Check your subscriptions
Similarly, we very often become accustomed to having online subscriptions run off our bank accounts without giving careful thought as to whether we still need them. Go through your bank statement line by line, make a list of all the subscriptions you’re paying for, and cancel those that you are no longer making full use of.
Write down your financial goals
There’s a lovely saying that goes: A dream is just a wish without a plan. There is something about reducing one’s thoughts to writing that adds weight and credibility, and which makes one’s ideas feel realistic and achievable. Write out what you want to achieve financially in the short-, medium-, and long-term and then start planning.