Too busy to think about sorting out your finances?
Holly Mackay, founder & CEO of consumer advice site BoringMoney.co.uk, shares her top tips on what to prioritise when time is short.
1. Saving and Pay Yourself First
The best tip is to save as often as you can, as much as you can and as early as you can. Easier said than done in the hurly-burly of just getting through the week. If you’re like me, the key thing is to set up a direct debit to automatically chip in little and often into a savings account. Interest rates aren’t that exciting these days, but it’s still worth shopping around as current accounts are mostly pretty weak.
For example, the best rates around for 12-month fixed term deposits are about 2% – Atom Bank has a 12-month bond paying 2.05%. The best easy access rate cash today is 1.33% from The Post Office. The kids get a better deal and the Halifax is offering 4.5% on a Kids’ Monthly Saver. For both adults and kids, ISAs are basically tax-free savings accounts and are often a good place to start – more on that later.
It’s often easier to mentally commit to squirrelling away money we’re going to make in the future, than money today.
‘Pay Yourself First’ is a great rule and feels relatively painless. The next time you get a pay rise, automatically set up (or increase) a direct debit into a savings account. Decide an amount which feels achievable – can you put 30% of the extra monthly money into savings for example?
The key thing is to do it before you have mentally accounted for the extra money and before you miss it. So set up the direct debit to be siphoned off on pay day.
2. Watch debt
Such a simple tip, but make sure you have direct debits set up to clear the minimum monthly repayments on credit cards.
These can be set up in a matter of minutes and save you an accidental broken credit record and unnecessary interest.
There are also lots of 0% credit card transfer deals out there, so if you have racked up a balance then think about transferring it. Banks make money from our apathy, so they reel us in cheap and then try and profit from us not being bothered to switch away from them down the track.
Don’t let them get away with it.
3. Holiday Money
Time pressure can see many of us at the airport with just a debit card and no currency plans.
I recommend a card such as Revolut, which has near perfect exchange rates and no spending fees (although ATM withdrawals are limited). I have a Monzo card, which is great.
If you’re out of time at least hop online and use the Post Office’s currency service which delivers to you. This normally takes a few days.
Don’t just use your debit card abroad or take cash out at the airport.
As a final note it’s almost always better to pay in the local currency when a card machine is shoved in your face. Don’t turn the restaurant into a foreign exchange den by getting them to convert things back into sterling!
4. Don’t be afraid of the stock market
Women are statistically more likely to avoid investing in shares and say that the stock market is like gambling.
Behind all the BS, shares are simply a way of harnessing your lot to the world’s biggest companies. You can own a tiny fraction of Alibaba, Apple, Facebook, Heineken, HSBC and Samsung.
As for returns, well a parcel of shares has made more than cash 9 times out of 10 over any 10-year period since stock markets began hundreds of years ago. The key is not to charge into bonkers stuff like bitcoin along with the latest headline.
Buy quality companies which do things you understand. There are great digital services these days which will effectively choose and manage shares for you, a bit like buying a mixed case of wine if you’re not a wine buff.
Lots of providers have online quizzes which will recommend a blend of investments which suit your wishes, needs and attitudes.
People who live on their phones will like Wealthify. Those who want the low-cost, easy, big brand option should look at Vanguard. Nutmeg is another easier option.
At least try out the quiz with firms like Nutmeg and Wealthify – there’s no obligation to do anything at the end but you’ll see what’s involved, what you could make and pick up some tips along the way.
Our Boring Money Best Buys pages will let you pick the best options for your confidence levels and see how other investors rate each service too.
The stock market is only worth considering for savings which have at least a 5-year timeframe. If this is a short-term savings amount then stick to cash and make sure you don’t just leave it in your current account. Check out the latest Best Buys for cash on websites such as Savings Champion or This is Money.
5.Don’t roll your eyes about pensions
It’s true that they are typically about as interesting as watching a tortoise hibernate. But there is an inconvenient truth, which is ‘compounding’.
This is like making a snowman – it’s ridiculously hard work at first for very little gain, but the bigger the snowball gets, the quicker it grows.
It’s the same with your money – which is why sticking aside £25 or £50 a month into a private pension from an early age makes a lot of sense.
And here’s another tip. You get free money from the Government. If you’re a basic rate taxpayer, you get a free £20 for every £80 you put into a pension.
A higher rate taxpayer? Claim back another £20 on your tax return too. Again, you can set up a pension online these days and it doesn’t have to be overly complicated – check out our Boring Money Best Buys and use the filters to see which option might be best for you.