The start of a new year is a great time to get hands-on with your money and take control of your finances. Use this handy finance checklist to set up your own personal finance to-do list.
Update your budget A budget is an essential part of your financial plan, so start with that.
- Recap 2017’s budget. Which expenses were more or less than expected? Were there any surprise expenses? You need to take this into account in your new budget.
- List your expected 2018 income and expenses. Remember to include savings and insurance contributions (see Protect your assets).
- If your expenses are greater than your income, think about ways in which you could do additional work or turn a hobby into an income earner. Also consider where you can cut expenses. We’ve got some great ideas on how to save on our blog.
Top tip: Budget for price increases in items such as food and transport or petrol.
Set a debt repayment plan Paying less interest on debt and having less debt will give you more money in your pocket. Getting on top of debt is one of the best ways to improve your financial situation in 2018.
- List your debts, the amount owed and the interest you are paying.
- Work out how much you can pay each month to bring down or repay your debt.
You can use either the snowball or avalanche methods to pay off your debt. With the snowball method you pay off debts with the lowest outstanding balance first. This enables you to clear debts quite quickly and motivates you to continue paying off debt.
If you choose to pay off debts with the highest interest rate first you are using the avalanche method. The advantage of this method is that you clear your most expensive debt first so you save on interest payments.
Top tip: Pay off one debt at a time, using the method you are most comfortable with.
Protect your assets Your assets include your health and your ability to earn an income, and things like your home and your car. Take good care of these assets. But the unexpected does happen - that’s when your insurance offers protection.
- Review your short term insurance to make sure your home, car and personal items are insured for their correct value. Ask your insurer if there’s anything you can do to get better rates, like upgrading your home security for example.
- Review your long-term insurance. Make sure your life cover will be sufficient for your family if you pass away, and that your disability and dread disease insurance offer enough cover should you become ill or disabled. A financial needs analysis will guide you on how much cover you need. Remember to include any cover you have through your employer in your review.
- Has anything changed that might mean your insurance needs have changed? For example, a new baby, a new house, a divorce.
- Make sure your funeral policy will cover funeral expenses.
- Review your medical aid and note what you are covered for in the new year. Keep a check on your usage of limited benefits such as savings accounts throughout the year.
Top tip: Check the beneficiaries on your life insurance policy and update their contact details.
Review your savings and investment plans Your savings and investments are for your dreams and goals. You might be saving for a car, a home, an education or to give you an income when you retire.
- Think about your financial goals. Have they changed from the previous year or are they the same? At the start of the year it’s a good idea to revisit your goals, and add any new goals you want to achieve or remove those that are no longer relevant.
- Check how much you need to save and invest to accomplish your goals, and see if your savings and investments are on track. Or talk to your financial advisor about how much you should be saving and investing.
- If you need to save more, decide on a plan of action and work towards achieving your dreams.
Top tip: Look for savings and investments that are tax efficient, such as Retirement Annuities and Tax Free Savings Accounts.
Make or update your will Dying without a will can delay payment of your estate to your beneficiaries, and limit how much they can receive if they are younger than 18 years old. This is because any money left to a minor will be paid into the Guardian’s Fund and only R250 000 can be used until the minor turns 18.
If you already have a will, remember it may need to be updated if you have acquired new assets or your life circumstances have changed, for example you have divorced or had a child.
- Check your will and update if necessary the beneficiary details.
- Don’t forget to tell a family member or friend where you keep your will.
Top tip: Visit Truth About Money to learn more about estate planning and apply for the Wills and Estate benefit. Let Truth About Money help you draft wills for you and your spouse and ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes and your estate settled quickly and fairly.
Have a tax plan Keep all your tax documents in one file including tax certificates, receipts for tax deductible expenses and a travel log if you have a travel allowance. When tax season comes around, your documents will be easy to find, and completing your tax return will be stress free.
- Talk to your financial advisor or tax consultant about what tax you may be liable for.
Top tip: Make a note of when you need to file your return, usually by the third last week in November.
You don’t need to be a financial expert to manage your money well.
Boost your financial knowledge You don’t need to be a financial expert to manage your money well. Apply today for Truth About Money’s Financial Independence, a financial education course that will show you how to take control of your money, get rid of debt and manage your spending and savings wisely.
A final tip... Make your budget, savings goals and financial plans realistic. It is tempting to the start the year with plans of major change. Small changes that you can sustain throughout the year are what will put you in control of your money in 2018.