0 Kick your finances into shape for 2017 By The Bower Team / In Retirement Planning We’re almost half way through January already… hands up if you’ve already broken some or all your well-intended resolutions? Well don’t worry, we’re sure you won’t be alone! Rather than making trendy yet short-lived pledges like dry January, or perhaps resolving to lead a clutter-free lifestyle, wouldn’t it make a longer lasting, more positive impact on our lives if we all pledged to kick our finances into shape? With just a few simple changes to your everyday spending and budgeting habits, you could soon be enjoying a fatter wallet and a better night’s sleep to boot. There’s no time like the present, so grab yourself a coffee and work your way through these top tips… Set a goal Having an achievable goal or objective is so important when organising your finances. Much like a new diet or gym regime, for long-term success you need to focus on the end goal. Whether you’re working towards a holiday of a lifetime, clearing a burdening credit card, or just wanting to enjoy the benefits of a bigger disposable income every month, commit to that goal and remember why you’re doing this. Create a budget Once you have your financial goal in mind you need to decide how you’re going to achieve it. If you haven’t already got a budget in place for your household, then now is the time to do it. There are plenty of free budgeting apps available, but a simple Excel spreadsheet or pen and paper will work just as well! Begin by finding out how much you have coming in at the start of the month, then deduct the essentials like mortgage payments and bills. Once you can see how much you have left over each month, you can identify where savings can be made in your finances, and how much you can afford to budget for weekly spends on groceries, travel and entertainment. Once you have your budget, be firm with yourself and stick to it. Reign in your outgoings Here’s where you’ll need to put in a bit of elbow grease to see some tangible results – but trust us, it’s worth it! We all have utility bills and insurance policies, but when was the last time you compared them to get a better deal? Savings of potentially hundreds or even thousands of pounds a year are there for the taking, you just need to know where to look. For ease, visit a few comparison sites (GoCompare, Compare the Market and uSwitch are all good starting points) and discover in minutes how much you could save on your utility bills, car and home policies just by switching. Boost your incomings If credit card debts or outstanding mortgage payments are causing sleepless nights, perhaps consider ways in which you can boost your cashflow to really kick your finances into shape? Part-time work: Many of us at retirement age have the time, energy and experience to take on a part-time job. You might find the social aspects of returning to work a real bonus too! Downsizing: Not everybody wants to work into their retirement of course, and many are unable to. Fortunately, there are other ways to boost your finances in retirement. If you are a homeowner, then you could consider downsizing your property to free up the cash you need. Equity Release: Homeowners aged 55 could alternatively consider equity release. By unlocking some of your property wealth, you could clear your credit cards, pay off your remaining mortgage or simply boost your day-to-day finances without having to sell the home you love. If you are considering equity release then make sure you contact an independent specialist who can explain everything carefully to you, including how a plan will reduce the value of your estate and the amount of inheritance you leave. Make your cash work for you If you have savings and credit card / loan debts, then make your money work harder for you. According to the Money Charity, every household in the UK owes an average of £2,450 on credit cards, which would take over 25 years to repay if we only make the minimum repayments. If you have the cash sitting in your savings, then consider using it to pay off any high interest debts you have that. The interest on your debts are likely to be costing you far more than you are earning from any interest on your savings.