Regularly reviewing your savings and investments ensures that your money is in the right place and working as hard as possible for you.
Most of us know this, but it can be tricky to know the best way to tackle the task. There are plenty of considerations and checks to be done, so where do you start?
Seven signs that you need to get on top of your finances.
You can pay a financial adviser to do the hard work for you. Or if your affairs are relatively simple, you can follow our checklist below.
This should help ensure you’re on the best path to maximising your money:
Make a date with your finances
Ideally, this should be once a year. Priorities can change quickly, and many of us fail to alter our investments to reflect this. If you’ve had children, or received an inheritance, then it could mean taking action sooner. Or perhaps the stock market has sunk and it’s time to consider your losses, and whether to stay put or jump ship.
Whenever you choose to undertake a review, do this well ahead of the end of the tax year. That way you can make the most of any allowances on offer, and have your affairs in order before another financial year kicks in.
Before you start, set aside half an hour to gather any paperwork you need, and login details. This way, you’ll be more inclined to stick with it once you start a review.
Read Annie Shaw's guide to investment mistakes.
Check investment performance
This can seem complicated, but with a bit of breaking down you can see how hard your money is working.
- First, check how much your investment is worth now, compared to the value at the start of the period.
- Take into account any income received, such as bonuses, or dividends. Deduct fees and any other administrative costs.
- You’ll be left with a figure, known as the actual return. Divide this by the figure at the start of the period, and multiply by 100%.
- You’ll get the real rate of return on your investment. Then take off the rate of inflation over the time under review. You’ll be left with the total return.
- If the return is more than zero, you’ve made a profit. If it’s less, then the investment could be worth ditching unless you’re hopeful of an upturn.
Of course, if you’ve plunged into high-risk investments you can’t guarantee you’ll have made a tidy profit. But then again, you could’ve significantly boosted your wealth if the timing’s right.
Whatever the return on your investment, it’s worth checking it against lower-risk options such as cash accounts. There’s little point sticking with a high-risk strategy if it’s failing to make you any money over the long-term. Deduct a top cash rate from your total rate of return to see if you’re making money.
Remember historical performance
You’ll want to consider investment performance over the long-term. Ideally, nobody should invest in the stock market with a view to needing the money in a few years’ time. A five to seven year timeframe is a good start, and even longer if possible.
Taking this into consideration, a year’s performance may be a poor judge. Past performance isn’t necessarily a guide to the future. However, it’ll show you how a particular investment has performed over market turbulence, perhaps, and whether it’s recovered.
However, if an investment is producing a return of 4% and you need 7% you may need to see what your options are. You could look to reinvest dividends, if you haven’t been doing so, invest more money or take more risk.
What is investment risk?
Rebalance your investments
Consider if your risk profile has changed since you last reviewed your finances? If it has, you might want to shift funds into lower risk investments.
Alternatively, you could change the percentage of your portfolio that you hold in cash and shares. Ask yourself if you are too heavily invested in one asset class that you’re not comfortable with.
Check the management team
If you’ve chosen actively managed investments, which are run by a particular manager, keep an eye on who’s in charge. Top-performing fund managers have been known to be tempted to rival investment houses.
Any replacement may see performance sink, but you’ll have to make a personal judgement call on whether to sell or stay.
Find out how tax on share dividends in changing.
Set up reminders of expiry dates
If you’ve put money in notice accounts, or fixed-term bonds, set up email reminders for the expiry date. This way, you’ll remember to check what else is on offer in the month before the rate you’re on runs out. Otherwise, you risk being shifted into another account paying a paltry rate of interest.
Use your tax allowances
Take advantage of ISAs and other tax-efficient ways to save. You can use sites, such as moneyfacts.co.uk, to find out the best rates. If you are saving a nest egg for your children’s future, are you making use of Junior ISAs? And what about tax relief on pension contributions? This can make a huge difference to your retirement pot.
For more tips and useful information, browse our money articles.
As part of a review, is it worth streamlining your investments? For example, if you’ve gathered numerous accounts and policies over the years, you may want to reduce the admin. Perhaps a few or more could be shifted into once account paying a decent rate.