Im useless with managing money. Can you offer me some advice?
Q I think I am useless with money and constant news reports about financial uncertainty and the rising cost of living etc. make me anxious. I would like to find a way to manage this anxiety and get help and information but I don’t know where to start. Can you advise me on where I should go or who I should talk to?
It is still thought impolite to talk about money, so people do not often get financial advice from people they know, and even if they did, it is unlikely to be well informed advice. Your first stop shop for financial advice should be a financial broker. Part of their job is to meet you where you are at and guide you through. In the first instance it is most like your financial broker will talk to you about ‘financial planning’, and I encourage everyone to start that conversation as soon as possible.
A financial broker will help build a picture of where you are now, where you want to go and how you are going to get there. We plan for things all the time, so financial planning is no different. For example, if you were driving from Wexford to Westmeath, you would not choose a road at random and hope for the best. You would plan your journey. If you encountered diversions, you would get out the map, decide on a new route and check on your progress.
A financial plan has many of the same components, i.e. it should help you reach your financial destination as fast as possible, But, more importantly, a financial plan should prevent you wasting time, energy, and of course, money.
Before your conversation with a broker, it is helpful to bear in mind the following five principles in order to decide what your financial priorities might be:
1. Like most, your greatest asset is likely your income. You may at some point be fortunate enough to receive a windfall, but usually, you’ll use your income to achieve your financial objectives, so it’s important to neither risk it nor waste it. Statistically people under retirement age are 20 times more likely to be unable to work for a prolonged period because of sickness than they are to die, which is why I believe Income Protection is often more important than Life Cover.
One of your first conversations with a financial broker should be about income protection if you don’t already have it.
2. Personal debt i.e. credit cards, car loans, mortgages, etc. will be the biggest drain on your income. If you’ve borrowed money, then you should make it a priority to repay your loans as quickly as possible. Always check the interest rates and shop around.
3. It’s vital to have a safety net or emergency fund of 3 -6 months’ net annual income for emergencies like sudden loss of income, unforeseen difficulties, new circumstances that may suddenly drain your financial resources etc. This fund may alternatively be used to fund investment opportunities should they arise.
4. Do not take a good, secure income for granted. With a stable income it matters less what other assets you possess. Of course, psychologically it feels more secure to own your home, and financially, it certainly makes sense. But, in actual fact treating your pension plan as an investment may be a better way to go for some. With a good pension plan, you can leave work early and, never have to worry about money again.
I certainly would not recommend depending solely on the state pension and with generous tax relief (especially if you are on the 40 per cent tax rate) it makes real sense to talk to a financial broker about pension opportunities.
5. And finally, know thyself… there’s not much point in setting yourself up for failure because you’ve set financial objectives that are impossible to attain; be realistic with yourself. Your financial objectives may involve modest changes to your behaviour, but they shouldn’t require a complete change in your personality or lifestyle.
Finally: many people think they are “useless with money” and the financial world can feel daunting, getting advice from a financial broker can demystify the process. Knowledge is power, so start now.