The secret to a successful resolution is to keep it simple and to break it down to something manageable. Financial change starts one step at a time. Instead of saying “I am going to be debt free,” rather select one debt that you are committed to paying off in 2017. If you aim to start accumulating wealth, decide how much is reasonable to commit and take the time to fill in the paperwork – believe me, filling in forms is the hardest part of the commitment!
Here are some financial resolutions that you should aim to achieve this year:
Put money away for emergencies
Any attempt at building up financial stability starts with an emergency fund. There is no point in focusing on paying off debt without building up a buffer that prevents us from falling back into debt again. The rule of thumb is to have at least three months of expenses set aside, but for now, make your resolution to have at least R10 000 in a savings account set aside for real emergencies.
Start with a single debt
Being debt-free starts with a single step. Select just one, relatively small debt and pay it off . This will be easier to achieve than tackling several debts at once and will provide you with the motivation, and cashflow, to target the next debt. Remember to close the account or cut up the card once that debt is paid, otherwise it is too easy to access the credit again.
Open up a debit order
You can start investing for as little as R350 a month. The hard part is selecting the investment and then completing the forms and FICA requirements. Don’t overanalyse. Just start with a low-cost tax-free savings account offered by a unit trust company or an exchange-traded fund like SatrixNow. Most application forms have the option to include an annual escalation. Commit to increasing that debit order by 10% each year for hassle-free savings.
Make a future commitment to your retirement
Speak to your HR department and ask them to increase your retirement contribution percentage when you receive your next salary increase. The money will be deducted before it hits your bank account, so you will not even miss it.
Start a contingency fund
An emergency fund is there for those unexpected life events, but we also have day-to-day expenses that push our finances beyond our budgets. For example, a holiday or buying new furniture. These are not necessarily items you can just pay for from your monthly cash flow but they can be planned for. By building up a contingency fund you don’t have to pull out the credit card or take out a personal loan when you want to spend on non-essentials.
Update your will
Everyone needs to have a will, even if you have no financial dependents. There will still be family or friends responsible for winding up your affairs should something happen to you. A will makes it a lot easier for them. If you haven’t updated or even looked at your will in a few years, you need to read through it and see if anything needs to be updated. There are online wills which meet requirements for a small, uncomplicated estate, but if you have children or several assets, it is worth seeing an expert to get the right advice.
Write up a list
It’s time to get your admin in order, so set aside time now in your diary to commit to putting together a list of all your investments, policies and bank accounts. Include the full name of the product as well as the reference number. This will give you an overall idea of what investments and policies you have, and it makes it easier for your family to handle your finances should something happen to you. You may even discover a savings account you had forgotten about.