7 ways to take control of your finances
Saga Personal Finance
18 Jun 2020
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Having been through all the uncertainties of the past few months, now might be a good time to take a closer look at money matters and prepare as best you can for a stable financial future.
Reduce your energy bills
If you’re looking to reduce your outgoings, one of the easiest ways is to pay the lowest price possible for your energy bills. The single most effective way of doing this is by switching supplier, not once but regularly. Discounted tariffs tend to last one or two years before reverting to a standard tariff, which many of us stay on for some time before looking for a better deal. Switching supplier doesn’t have to be onerous either – Ofgem has a ‘How to switch energy supplier’ guide and Martin Lewis’s Cheap Energy Club is a popular resource.
Simple things you can do right now to reduce your energy bills are turning off lights when you leave a room, only boiling the amount of water you need and waiting until you’ve got a full load before putting the dishwasher or washing machine on. And you can make your home more energy efficient for the winter ahead by improving insulation, upgrading your boiler or appliances or, as a longer term investment, installing solar panels.
Shop around for insurance
To get the best prices for insurance, don’t leave it too late to shop around before your policies are due for renewal. If you decide to renew with your existing provider, make sure your details are up to date and your cover still meets your needs. For example, review your voluntary excess, consider adding or removing additional cover options and, for car insurance, check your stated usage and mileage are accurate.
Look out for loyalty discounts, cashback offers or even cover that comes with a fixed price feature, which can give you peace of mind knowing your price will stay the same for a set number of years if nothing changes on your policy during that time.
Switch broadband provider
Another service that is worth reviewing from time to time is your broadband to see if you could be getting a better or cheaper service – or both! If you’ve been on the same broadband deal for a while, you might be surprised at the comprehensive packages you can get at very competitive prices.
Saga offers a handy broadband comparison and switching service.
Review your pension provision
If you’re not drawing your pension yet, finding out how much income you might get in the future is reasonably straightforward as long as you receive up-to-date pension statements. If you don’t have this information and you’ve lost contact with your pension providers, you can use the government’s Pension Tracing Service. You can also apply online for a State Pension forecast.
If you need help with any aspect of reviewing your pension or even understanding what type of pension you’ve got, a good place to start is with the free guidance available from the government’s Pension Wise service. Alternatively, you might choose to take all your pension documentation to an independent financial adviser.
You can top up a pension pot that you or your employers pay into – called a defined contribution pension – by making additional payments. There are strict limits on how much you can pay in, normally not more in a year than you earn, but that money doesn’t have to come directly from your earnings. It can come from your savings and you’ll still get full tax relief.
If you’re happy with your own pension provision, did you know you can set up a pension for a grandchild? Find out more about this and other ways to save for your grandchild here.
Check interest rates on savings
With the Bank of England base rate so low, you might find it difficult to get too excited about savings. But you can still be taking advantage of the top savings accounts available, remembering that your cash is protected under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme up to £85,000 per individual, per institution.
Saga has two savings accounts available – find out more about Saga Savings here.
Getting the most out of your credit cards
If you don’t pay off your credit card balance every month, what interest rate are you paying? And could you be getting a better deal? When applying for a new credit card, the best rates go to the people with the best credit ratings, so the promotional rate you see at application stage may not be the rate you end up getting. 0% balance transfers are great for helping you pay off a debt more quickly, but be sure to check what the interest rate will be at the end of the discount period just in case you haven’t cleared your balance by then. If you pay off your credit card in full every month, you could consider one of the many reward credit cards available, where you get cashback, air miles or reward points.
Equity release – an option for some
Over 55s with a home worth at least £70,000 may be able to release a tax-free lump sum to pay for home improvements, to help out family members or for a number of other reasons. There are also equity release plans that enable homeowners to draw down regular payments to supplement their income in retirement.
Equity release isn’t suitable for everyone as it reduces the value of your estate, so if it’s something you’re interested in, it’s important to talk to an adviser from a service that’s a member of the Equity Release Council. They should thoroughly understand your needs, do a financial review and consider your other options before recommending any equity release products.
The Saga Equity Release Advice Service is provided by HUB Financial Solutions Limited.
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