Spring clean your finances
MoneyPlus Features Team | March 12, 2020
Time to read: 5 minutes
Now’s the time to sort, simplify and spring clean your finances with these simple steps.
The clocks jump forward this month and spring is in the air – we hope we can inspire you to freshen up your finances too, to try and help them sparkle.
Simplify your current account
Your bank current account is a good place to start your financial spruce-up.
Sift through your statements and see if there are any payments you just don’t need to make any more. Rarely used memberships or subscriptions? It’s time to clear them out.
Then take a look at those big monthly payments. Some may be non-negotiable, but if you’ve not shopped around for a better mortgage deal for a few years, or you’ve stayed loyal to the same energy supplier, credit card or insurance companies, for example, some quick online or telephone price comparisons could leave you hundreds of pounds a year better off. Shop around!
Laura in our MoneyPlus team has her own money spring clean success: “My car insurance renewal quote was £670. So I called my insurers, said I was looking elsewhere, and they cut it to £550. When I asked how else I could reduce it, they asked: ‘Still driving 10,000 miles a year?’ When I said it was 6,000, the price dropped to £450. That’s £200 saved in 10 minutes.”
Sort, declutter and find any lost pensions
If you’re the kind of person who pushes pension statements into a drawer when they arrive, hang on! Taking a real interest in your pension now could make a big difference over the longer term.
There’s a lot to learn about the benefits of saving for your future in What’s so good about a pension? This could help you get a little bit excited about the future and the chance to live it on your terms when the time comes.
There’s an estimated £10 billion in ‘lost’ pensions out there.
It’s your pot of money, so look at what you have – online or on your annual statement – and consider whether you want to top it up. Remember, the value of investments can go down as well as up, and could be worth less than was paid in.
Like many people, you’ve probably moved jobs (the average person changes employers every five years) and you may ‘think’ you have various pensions, but you’re not really sure where, or how much they are worth.
You are not alone, as there’s an estimated £10 billion in ‘lost’ pensions out there.
To track down past pensions, you need to contact your former employers, or if that’s difficult, you can use the Pension Tracing Service on 0800 731 0193.
Once you’ve tracked those past pensions down, you can then request the value of each pot. One of the MoneyPlus team was recently delighted to discover one of her former workplace pensions was worth £20,000.
It could make sense to combine your various pensions together into one pension pot. It’s easier to keep an eye on how much you’ve saved, how your pension investments are performing and if you’re in the right investments for you. You could save on admin time and even fees, too.
If you’re considering transferring your pensions like this, we’ve got helpful information on transferring here. Do bear in mind it’s not right for everyone. You wouldn’t want to give up valuable benefits or guarantees in any existing pensions and there’s no guarantee you’d get more as a result of transferring. So consider all the facts carefully first – you may need to take financial advice. There’s normally a cost for this.
Sort your life admin
While you’re polishing your finances, don’t leave your nearest and dearest out of the tidy-up. The unexpected does happen, and it’s wise to be well prepared.
Right now, more than half of UK adults haven’t made a Will. But it’s straightforward to do, and it’s a good idea to be crystal clear about what you want to happen to your estate – and for parents, your children – in the event of your death.
Putting even a simple Will in place could save the people you love a lot of time, heartache and costly lawyer’s fees.
Solicitor Kanika Sohpal says the modern ‘blended’ family, in particular, usually requires a clear Will: “You will need to think about how you provide for your intended beneficiaries and balance any competing interests of a spouse/partner and your biological children.”
If your circumstances change – for example you get divorced, change your plans or have new additions in the family – it’s important to keep your Will up to date.
Avoid ‘accidental inheritances’: Your Will doesn’t cover your pension
According to The Telegraph, “millions of people are in danger of inadvertently leaving money to the wrong people” because they don’t realise their Will doesn’t usually control what should happen to their pension savings.
If you have pension savings make sure your ‘beneficiary nomination form’ is up to date so that your pension provider can consider who to pass your pension money to. Sometimes this can be passed on tax free.
To make sure your provider knows who you want to leave your pension savings to, fill out a form with them and – crucially – keep it up to date.
Power of Attorney
No one wants to think about how to take care of themselves or their finances if they weren’t able to, whether that’s now or in the future.
But if a power of attorney is in place (you may wish to get legal advice from a solicitor and there is also a cost to register this), then you know that someone you trust will manage your money if you’re not able to.
There’s helpful information about this here.
Do you want to call in the professionals?
If all this financial spring cleaning looks like more than you’d want to handle on your own, you may want to consider bringing in a professional, because financial advice is not just for the super wealthy.
Advice to help you get to where you want to be financially, guidance on your pensions, your savings and how to manage your money tax efficiently can help you move towards a more solid financial future.
If you don’t have your own adviser, you can find one in your area at unbiased.co.uk. Please note there is usually a cost for financial advice.
* 1825 is a trading name for Standard Life Aberdeen group’s advice business.
A pension is an investment. Its value can go down as well as up and could be worth less than was paid in. The information here is based on our understanding in March 2020 and shouldn’t be taken as financial advice.
Tax rules and legislation can change. Your own circumstances will have an impact on the tax you pay.
Standard Life accepts no responsibility for the information contained in the websites referred to in this article. These are provided for general information only.