Friday 13 December 2019
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todayonline - 27 days ago

Simplify your financial life. Get organised with checklists

Calculate your budget. Check your bills. Review your investments. Manage your loans. It can be hard to remember to do these, and more, all the time. What can help is to set up your financial life well and to use a checklist to stay on track. Five steps are essential. 1. Put your financial life in order Managing your finances can indeed take time. While little data is available on how much time people in Singapore spend managing their financial life, personal finance website GoBankingRates found that Americans spend 2.6 hours every week on their finances. Certified financial planner Clint Haynes said: “I am assuming it includes a number of various things that don t produce much of a return on your time.” Many people here and in other places likely also waste time on finances, so it is best to organise them first. For a start, create a list of all your financial accounts and how much you have or owe in each one. This list includes savings and chequing accounts, time deposits, brokerage accounts, insurance, credit cards, a mortgage, and other loans. Next, decide on your financial goals. You may want to go for a holiday overseas, pay for your children’s education, buy a house or something else. Having the end in mind makes it easier to get there. Then, use the information to set up a budget. You may use mobile applications such as Toshl or Wallet to automate your budgeting. And be sure to include savings and investments as well as your mortgage and other loan payments as part of the budget. Finally, simplify your finances. Consider automating payments for utilities and phone subscriptions or anything else that you pay monthly. Also look at how many accounts you have and consider consolidating them. For example, using the credit card with the best benefits, deposits that pay the highest interest, and one insurance company can make life simpler. Once you have your financial life in better shape, you can set up a checklist that includes a budget review once a month, investment and loan reviews once a quarter, and an insurance review once a year. 2. Use your budget to review finances monthly While it’s important to track all your income and expenses, using a budget app or just paper, you don’t need to review your finances in detail every day. Instead, compare your income and expenses against your budget once a month. This monthly review will help you understand your cashflow and whether you need to make changes. If expenses are too high, you can figure out what to cut out next month. If your income is too low, consider a side hustle such as starting a small home-based business or driving for a ride-share company. 3. Check your investments every quarter The best way to accumulate enough to reach your long-term goal is to put money automatically into a savings account or investments such as exchange-traded funds (ETFs) every month. By paying yourself first, you’ll accumulate more. Automating your investments doesn’t mean that you can set and forget them. The economic environment and interest rates change regularly. Review your investments once a quarter and make changes if needed. Investment management firm Vanguard suggests that you review your assets regularly, then consider rebalancing your portfolio to account for changes in the financial markets or your investment goals. Selling assets that have appreciated and reinvesting in those that have fallen can restore your desired allocation and reduce your vulnerability. 4. Check your loans quarterly It’s easy to get a mortgage or use credit cards and just make payments every month, without looking for cheaper rates. That may be a mistake. In Australia, for example, competition and consumer commission Rod Sim said a study found that “it seems existing customers are not being rewarded for their loyalty. In fact, they are worse off.” While few if any similar studies have been done here, the same thing may be true in Singapore. Rather than simply continuing with a home loan or personal loan, check to see whether you can switch banks and pay a lower interest rate. Consider doing the same thing if you don’t pay your full credit card balance. Even better, pay off your loans quickly. 5. Review your insurance once a year Similar to what happens with loans, insurance often becomes set and forgotten, too. It’s better to check your policies at least once a year. The first step is to check your policies and cancel anything that is not relevant or add more insurance if there is a gap. Next, use a comparison website such as GoBear or MoneySmart to compare prices. If you find a cheaper option at a reputable insurance company, consider changing the next time your insurance renews. If you have more time and more interest in your finances, you may review accounts more often and manage your money even more carefully. Since many people do not have extra time, setting up your financial life well and using a checklist and calendar reminders to review key financial information regularly can help tremendously in managing your money better.

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