With 2018 just around the corner, it’s time again to commit to your New Year’s resolutions. Yes, the healthy ones that shrink waistlines of course, but also those important financial ones could leave you in better financial shape.
“Your financial well-being is one investment that is always worth making,” says Floris Slabbert, Country Manager of Ecsponent Financial Services, “This is a good time to implement good financial habits. With market and political volatility expected to be perpetual themes, 2018 is unlikely to bring financial relief without a concerted effort on your part.”
So, how can you improve your financial situation in 2018, asks Slabbert, and most worryingly, how can you do so in such a challenging financial environment? It requires introspection, he explains. An honest examination of yourself, your finances, what you really want to achieve in a year, what’s realistic – and what lies beyond then.
Slabbert has offered a five-step guide to reinvigorate 2018 by helping you reassess your financial situation in stages. Throughout, he offers valuable tips to make the best of what you have.
1. A new budget? Enforce it like the financial disciplinarian you are.
Draw-up a refreshed budget for 2018 that considers all your new expenses, while keeping a strict eye on the old. Make provision for rising costs due to inflation, factor in expected interest rate changes and consider how these will affect your spending. Now is also the time to cull those truly unnecessary expenses of old.
As always, it is important to prioritise your necessities, such as bond repayments, vehicle finance instalments, medical and other insurance, and of course, regular savings and debt repayments.
But, a budget is only as good as the disciplinarian who enforces it, so be strict with yourself to reap the rewards later in the year. Habitual weekly or monthly monitoring is the key to a good budget, so Slabbert’s tip for this resolution is to set aside a monthly morning to keep tabs on your spending.
2. Save why don’t you? And save a little more!
Perhaps the most clichéd and necessary piece of advice is the most important. Starting with an emergency fund is your first priority, even if you start small. Inevitably, emergencies spring up in various forms, whether a broken-down car or appliance, so set aside the necessary funds weekly with the knowledge that rainy days can actually be sunny.
Similarly, saving up for special occasions, such as birthdays and holidays will give your budget motivation and direction, which is always fuel for the financial disciplinarian as you seek momentum.
Slabbert’s tip for this resolution is buried in a little money saving trick: Link your savings to a notice period, even if as little as 24-hours. It will cut the temptation of using it elsewhere, which is the temptation you’re looking to cull.
3. Break free from debt – break free from its mental shackles
If anything, you will have succeeded in 2018 if you haven’t acquired new debt. Avoid it at all costs like the financial plague that it is, and restructure your thought processes to believe in this reality: If you can’t afford it, don’t borrow for it. Of course, it’s difficult when we’re all human, but as we’re all capable of being a better financial person, supersede yourself and redefine your debt mentality.
As for the debt that is currently weighing you down, pay it off without fault, paying more than you need to – even by R100 – for the quickest resolution.
Of course, Slabbert’s tip here is the most satisfying one, which when achieved, will leave you with an unmatched relief: Once you’ve settled a credit facility, close it. Never will you feel this good again!
4. Bonus! What bonus?
When you re-energise your budget for 2018, you set yourself new financial goals. Whether these are debt-shedding or jetting off to Mauritius, they are your financial priority. As such, a bonus or increase, if you’re lucky enough to get one or both, should be solely considered as a contribution to your goals and nothing else. Do not spend it elsewhere just because you have it: Rather consider it a fast-forward button to reach your goals; go about using extra money in such a way that they bring your goals closer, quicker.
Slabbert’s tip for this resolution is profoundly simple, especially if the extra money you receive is significant: Get professional advice to get the most from it. Then, whether it ends up in your bond repayment or in your retirement annuity, or indeed stashed away for that ticket to Mauritius, you’ll know it is for the best.
5. Think long-term too – it’s the best way to think
With your 2018 budget under wraps, you should already have a clear idea of what you want to achieve in the short term and how you can go about it according to this advice. But, importantly, it’s the long term too that’s worth considering, as financial decisions also deeply affect them.
As such, any short-term budget must be structured with a long-term friendly solution, whether the long-term includes financial independence by 65, starting your own business or saving for university fees when you children need them. Ask yourself: Is your short-term budget accommodating for the long-term and if not, what is the safest and most affordable way to adjust it?
Slabbert’s tip here follows on from his last. Once you have your short-term goals in place, and a firm budget to achieve them, literally place them next to your long-term goals. Then, consider how changing one affects the other. At this point then, clarity is essential. Approach a professional and get clarity on how best to unite both.
“You may end up saving more money and achieving goals quicker than you thought when you seek the advice of a professional,” concludes Slabbert. “A financial advisor is not for the rich and famous. A financial advisor is for everyone to manage what they have, in the hope of squeezing out a little bit more – not only for now, but for twenty years from now too.”
Happy new year!