Seven Cures for a Lean Purse
more than that if you can. Save for the long term, for your mortgage deposit or pension, depending on where you are in life. If you need to save for short to medium term things, such as a holiday or car, that should be in addition to and separate from the 10%+ that you save for your long-term needs.
Your 10% can include your pension contributions, ISAs, premium bonds or any kind of high interest/restricted access savings account. With compound interest, your purse will get very plump over the coming months and years, even if interest rates remain low.
2. Control your expenditure.
If you’re going to save at least 10% of your income for the long-term, you must make sure that your current spending is no more than 90% of your income. This means wherever you are on the income scale, you’ll need to apply some self-discipline when it comes to treating yourself and your loved ones.
For a start, keep your credit card(s) for emergency use only, and if you do use them, pay them off before you start racking up interest. Similarly, avoid taking out loans, unless you can justify the interest you’ll end up paying for that privilege. A car acquired on one of the popular leasing schemes can be justified if it’s essential for your work or business. But a loan for a holiday? Staycation would be a better choice. Learn to distinguish between wants and needs. A roof over your head and food on the table are needs; a month in the Maldives is a desire. Treat yourself to that when you have saved 10% of your income for a year or two and you can afford to fly off to paradise without dipping into those savings.
The secret to controlling your expenditure is to build a budget and then stick to it. If you have Microsoft Excel you can download a template to help you track your spending over a week or month. You can also find ready-made templates on the internet or apps for your phone. Work out how much you spend on mortgage, rent, travel to work etc. and set yourself limits on items such as eating out, entertainment, travel etc. This will help you keep below 90% of your income.
3. Make your money multiply.
You are looking for steady returns over the long-term, not a lottery win. What you need is a steady increase in your capital, your core wealth, such as compound interest from an ISA or savings account, or – more risky – dividends from shares you hold in well-managed companies, including your employer, if they have an employee share ownership scheme. If you are not an expert in financial products and investment vehicles, find someone who is. Don’t make any commitments until you talk to a professional financial adviser. Explain what your investment goals are and ask them to help you develop a plan for realising achieving them.
4. Guard yourself from loss.
The sickening nightmare of seeing your dreams of wealth turn to dust as Bitcoin plummets or the bloke you met in the pub the other night disappears with your life savings. One way to guard against loss is to make it an unbreakable rule that you do not touch that core wealth that you are saving and investing for the long-term. Keep a ring of steel around that! If you are tempted to try your luck with Bitcoin or currency trading, only use money that you can afford to lose. That means any money that you have left over after you have saved your 10%, paid the bills and filled your belly. Money that you might otherwise spend on nights out can be handed over to the online bookies, if you can budget for it – see the second cure above. Never use a credit card or a loan for spread betting, gambling or any high risk investments. Before you engage in any high risk investing or betting, though, make sure you have thoroughly researched the field and that you understand what you’re getting into. If online poker is your dream, practice with your mates for match sticks first.
5. Make your home a profitable investment.
Owning your own home (and ideally a few buy to let properties) has become an obsession over the last thirty or forty years. Given the way property prices have ballooned over that time, it makes perfect sense to get on the property ladder as soon as you can, particularly when house prices are increasing at a much faster rate than incomes.
However, be aware that at some point the bubble may burst. Yes, people have been saying that for years and it hasn’t happened yet. But it is becoming increasingly likely that the authorities will take steps to let some of the air out of the property market. Potential measures include revaluing property tax bands and punitive taxes on buy to let properties and properties left empty. A major increase in house building is unlikely to have much impact on house prices by itself, but when combined with the potential tax changes, we could see prices reach a plateau and stay there for some time.
Given all that, the best approach is to find an affordable house or flat in an area where you would like to live for the foreseeable future, bearing in mind such things as local amenities, schools and the journey to work. Think also of the benefits of paying a mortgage and gradually acquiring total ownership (leasehold and freehold issues aside) of your home over 25 or 30 years, compared with being beholden to a landlord who can raise the rent or evict you at a month’s notice, and who will still own the roof over your head despite all the £000s you put in his or her pocket.
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