There are some simple steps you can take to help manage your day-to-day finances and achieve your long-term goals
We’ve asked Suzanne Cashin, a financial planner at wealth manager Brewin Dolphin for some advice.
Where do I start?
Ms Cashin said it is common to procrastinate when it comes to facing your spending habits.
But, once you start the process, she said you may be surprised by how many quick saves you can make with some small adjustments.
“For example, if you like a daily cappuccino at a cost of €3.50 a day during the working week, assuming you are doing this 50 weeks of the year, you are spending €875 on your daily treat,” Ms Cashin said.
“This is probably the cost of a very nice holiday or, if you are a really sensible individual, you might use it to make an AVC to your pension.
“If you do, you could get tax relief of potentially up to €350 on that payment,” she explained.
How do I create a realistic budget?
Before you start creating your budget, you will need to identify what your net income is, and note the amount of money you have coming in from all sources.
Once you have done that, Ms Cashin suggests you follow the next five steps.
1 Track your spending.
Look at all your essential outgoings first as they are the easiest – so make a note of your mortgage, rent, childcare, heating, power and insurance etc.
To track non-essentials, such as the cappuccino or discretionary clothing and hair spends, keep a notebook or a note on your phone of everything you spend.
Back check this against your Revolut or your bank statement to ensure you are not missing those easy tap spends.
2 Set your objectives and goals
Make a note of what would you like to achieve in 2022, and beyond.
For example, are you looking to secure a happy retirement, purchase a home or go on a holiday.
Remember, Rome was not built in a day, so make sure the goal is realistic, as if it is unattainable you won’t stick to it, and then will revert to bad habits.
3 Plan how you will achieve your goals
Work out how you will achieve these savings or goals.
For example, check all your utility providers to see if savings can be made here.
Many people do not switch providers and lose out on hundreds of euros in savings as a result.
Also, check if you can save by switching your insurance providers.
4 Adjust your bad habits
This is the hardest step as it does involve some sacrifice, but keeping track of your final goal and watching your progress toward it will ease the pain of giving up the cappuccino or the blow-dry, or the takeaway.
When considering a purchase, gross it back up.
For example, if a new dress is €100, then think that you had to earn nearly €190 working to provide that net €100 – this can be a really good way of reducing non-essential spending.
5 Revisit your plan
The most successful plans are those that we constantly revisit.
Don’t do up the budget in January and then not review it until December.
Keep checking in, and as you see your goal becoming more attainable, this will spur you on to make further adjustments.
Should I set both long and short-term goals?
Yes, setting both long and short-term goals is key to success, according to Ms Cashin.
“The initial short-term goals build the blocks to achieve the longer ones,” she said.
Research shows that it takes on average 18 to 270 days to break bad habits or adjust our behaviours.
Therefore, Ms Cashin said setting short-term achievable goals will ultimately help you succeed in achieving your long-term goals.
“For example, setting an initial first quarter goal of cutting your spending by 20% and achieving it, will instill belief that you can reach those longer-term financial goals,” she explained.
Can I save much on tax relief?
Most people are on the PAYE system, so tax is deducted at source.
But you will still need to check your allowances, tax schedules and bands, which you can do on the Revenue online system.
Medical expenses are eligible for relief at 20%, but Ms Cashin said many people lose their receipts or forget about them.
“A simple step like scanning them up onto your phone or, indeed, even storing them in an envelope will mean that you do not miss out on this,” she said.
Ms Cashin said she would encourage everyone to make sure they are claiming all their allowances for 2022.
What about pension planning?
If you haven’t already, Ms Cashin said she would suggest starting a personal contribution to a pension.
“For many people in their 30s, this may seem like a very long-term goal, but the reality is that most of us will now live well into our 90s,” she said.
“So if you plan on retiring at age 65, your pension pot will have to last at least 25 years,” she added.
For those who already have a pension, Ms Cashin said she would advise you to review it once a year.
She explained that most pensions are invested with some degree of investment in equities, and values can fall as well as rise.
She said initial assumptions will have been illustrative, so seeing how the fund is performing is very important.
“It is also good to ask about the fees and charges and make sure you are getting your annual benefit statement,” she said.
Ms Cashin said when she meets a new client she will often ask them three questions – ‘how much is your pension worth?, ‘how much are your fees?’ and ‘how did it perform last year?’.
She said the majority of people can’t answer these questions.
“So I turn the question around and ask if you had an apartment, would you be able to answer the same questions relating to them?
“In a nutshell, for many people their pension is likely to be the next most valuable asset after their home, so it should be afforded the same importance and respect,” she said.
Another important factor is to look up any old pensions you may have from previous employments, Ms Cashin said.
“Keep your address updated on these and see where you can arrange online access.
“Organise a review of these as they may be invested in strategies that do not match your investment objectives, or have very high fees,” she said.
Ms Cashin said every year lots of pensions and personal investments with life companies go unclaimed.
“So keep a note of them along with your will and schedule of other assets,” she said.
Should I consider investing?
With the current negative interest rate environment, many people will be looking to invest for the first time in 2022.
But, Ms Cashin warned that for some, the risk may not be appropriate, or indeed suitable, for their financial objectives.
“All decisions including investments are about weighing up the potential benefits and seeing if they outweigh the risks,” she said.
“In the current environment, your money in the bank is probably earning no interest or may even be losing money due to negative interest rates,” she explained.
Before investing, Ms Cashin said you will need to check if the funds you plan to invest are needed in the short term.
“Ask if you have debt that you should pay off before you invest and ensure you keep a rainy day fund,” Ms Cashin suggested.
She said they would recommend that clients maintain enough cash to meet at least 6-12 months’ essential living expenses, as well as funds to meet any unforeseen expenses.
“Again do your research, and if you can talk to a professional advisor to explore all your options,” she said.
If you can afford to take a longer-term view on investing, Ms Cashin said investing the money into your pension fund where it gets tax-free growth could be a better option.
But, before you make any decisions, read the small print.
“Check out all the fees and charges and make sure you get this in writing.
“Ask about what happens if you need to access your money early, and get the answer in writing,” she said.
As final word of warning, Ms Cashin said if an investment sounds too good to be true, it generally is.
“Investments promising vast high returns tend to also be very high risk, anything promising or claiming unrealistic returns should be avoided at all costs.”