As we enter 2023, many of us will be reflecting on the year gone by and vowing to do a few things differently. After a year that’s been dominated by a cost-of-living crisis, with price hikes on everything from energy bills to mortgages and food, our personal finances are high on the agenda.
A new survey by Hargreaves Lansdown reveals that more than a third (35 per cent) of us are making a financial resolution this year.
Hargreaves Lansdown senior personal finance analyst Sarah Coles said: “In the wake of horrendous price hikes and the subsequent financial carnage of 2022, unsurprisingly an awful lot of us are keen to get back on track financially in the new year.
“More than a third of us will make at least one financial New Year’s resolution, with debts, savings, pensions, investments and protection all in the frame.”
Of course, many New Year resolutions end up being broken by the time January is up.
Sarah said: “However, if they’re going to last us beyond the 2nd January, we need to take the right steps to ensure we keep them too.”
If you want to make more of your money in 2023, here are five top tips for making – and sticking to – your financial resolutions:
1. Work out where you are
It’s always worth taking a little time at the beginning of the year to take stock of your debts, savings, pensions and any investments. Take a cold, hard look at your current situation. Make a comprehensive list of all your balances, debt repayments and contributions so you can see exactly where you are starting from.
2. Set your targets
The next step is working out where you WANT to be. When it comes to debts, the goal is usually to pay down any expensive debts. For savings, it’s building an emergency savings safety net of three to six months’ worth of essential expenses (if you’re working age).
For your pension, the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association says for a moderate retirement a single person needs £20,800 (including their state pension) per year, and for a more comfortable one they need £33,600.
When you’re working out how much you need in your pension pot to reach your goal, it’s not unreasonable to work on the basis that you might be able to take four per cent of the pot a year (although the actual amount you can take will vary depending on the income produced).
3. Draw up a budget
This isn’t what anyone wants to do just after Christmas, but it lies at the heart of making all your resolutions a reality. Work out what you have coming in and going out, then use an online calculator to play with the figures, so you free up a lump sum of cash each month.
Part of this process is making sure you’re not overpaying on your bills. Right now, soaring energy prices mean it’s hard to get a cheaper deal than the one you’re on, but you can still shop around for mobile deals, media and broadband.
If you want to find out more about individual financial providers, a Which? membership gives you access to in-depth, expert reviews, ‘Best Buys’ and ‘Don’t Buys’ so you can buy with confidence and make quicker, more informed decisions.
4. Use the cash you free up to hit your top priority first
Start by controlling your debts. If you have debts, it’s worth seeing whether you can switch them somewhere less expensive, so more of your monthly payments can go into paying them off. Then with the extra cash you have freed up, set up a monthly direct debit to pay them down as quickly as possible.
Once the expensive debts are paid off, you should have more extra cash in your budget, which you can use to buy any insurance cover you need to protect your family.
You can also redirect part of your monthly direct debit into a savings account, to build up emergency savings, and part into your pension to make up any shortfall.
5. Then invest
Once you have sorted these aspects of your finances, you’re in a position to start investing, and making the most of your money for the long term. The stock markets have had a rocky 2022, but remember that with investing you need to be prepared to be in it for the long haul. Plan to keep your money invested for at least five years, and only invest what you can afford to after everything else is paid for.
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