When it comes to money matters, it can be all-too-easy to bury your head in the sand, or to put statements and paperwork in a pile and forget about them.
But if you want to stay on top of your finances, you need to review your savings, pension planning and mortgage on a regular basis to check that things are ticking along as they should be.
Here we look at some of the warning signs serving as a timely reminder that you need to take action with your finances:
Not knowing your mortgage rate
For many people, their mortgage is one of their biggest monthly outgoings. And yet a staggering number don’t know the rate they are paying.
If you’re not sure, there’s a risk you could be on your lender’s standard variable rate (SVR). This is the rate you revert to once an introductory offer comes to an end, but can often be costly. This is especially the case when mortgage rates – and especially fixed deals – find themselves at a low.
If you’re unsure how much you’re paying, speak to your lender and find out. Then do some research – or speak to a broker – to see if you could save money by remortgaging to a more competitive deal.
Read more about securing a mortgage when you are over 50
Not realising that you could get a better mortgage rate
At the same time, if your home has increased in value over the past few years and you’ve not remortgaged in that time, there’s a good chance you will be paying a higher mortgage rate than you need to.
As the value of your home goes up, the lower your loan-to-value (LTV) is likely to be as you will have more equity in your home. The lower your LTV, the cheaper your mortgage will be, and the more choice of deals you will have.
What factors affect your ability to get a mortgage?
Not knowing where your pensions are invested
If you set up a pension some time ago, you may have lost track of exactly where it is invested.
If this is the case, you need to take action, as it is absolutely vital to review your retirement savings on a regular basis. If not, there is a risk you could suffer from a misallocation of assets or be inappropriately invested.
Reviewing your pensions is particularly important for people approaching retirement. The key is to check what the pension invests in and its performance, as this will ensure you understand the asset allocation and risk profile of your retirement funds.
Learn more about tracing old pensions
Not knowing how much you have invested in pensions
If you never look at your pension statement, you may have very little idea of the total value of your savings – especially if you have multiple pension pots.
If this is the case, you need to take action, as spending just a few hours dusting off paperwork and reviewing your pension savings could leave you thousands of pounds better off.
With some pensions, you will be sent an annual statement showing how much money is in your pot, along with a projection of what it will be worth in retirement. With others, you may not be sent an update each year, but you can ask for a statement of how much you are likely to receive in retirement.
These statements are your way of working out whether your pension is on track to give you a comfortable retirement – and a reminder to take action if needed.
Read our guide to reviewing your pensions
Having too much money sitting in a current account
With savings rates having remained in the doldrums for several years, many people have left money in current accounts. But unless your money is sitting in one of the handful of high-paying current accounts available, there is a risk your hard-earned cash may have been earning next to nothing.
Make it a priority to check exactly how much cash you have in low-paying current accounts. And if you find you have a large sum piled up, earning a pitiable rate of interest, this should serve as a clear reminder that you need to take action and move your money elsewhere.
Having too much cash sitting in low-paying savings accounts
Similarly, with many savings accounts paying low rates of interest, there is also a risk that you could have big sums of money languishing in accounts paying virtually zero interest.
If this is the case, you need to find a better home for your money.
Read our guide to choosing a savings account
Having lost track of savings and other assets
The idea of losing track of your savings and investments may sound unlikely, and yet there are currently billions of pounds of unclaimed funds in dormant bank accounts, overlooked insurance policies and mislaid investments.
If you think you have money in a lost or forgotten account, you should visit mylostaccount.org.uk, a site which offers a free search across the UK banks, building societies and National Savings & Investments.
Lost pensions can also be a big problem, especially now that the changing nature of the workplace means people move jobs a lot more frequently than they used to during the course of a career.
If you have lost track of retirement savings, the free Pensions Tracing Service can help you find both company and personal pensions.
Another way to find lost pensions, insurance policies and investments is by contacting the Unclaimed Assets Register, a database run by credit reference agency, Experian. Note, however, that each search will cost you a fee. For more information visit uar.co.uk.
Once you’ve tracked down lost and forgotten cash, you will be in a far better position to take action to get your finances in good shape.