The new year is a great time to get serious about your finances according to Deakin University’s financial planning Associate Professor Adrian Raftery.
Adrian suggests that people are more likely to find success in setting goals to reduce debt or save more rather than resolving to lose weight or give up smoking, so here are ten goals to get you started.
1. Control or reduce debt
We have been blessed with some large interest rate cuts over the last few years but expect them to be on the rise … and fast. Just how much they will rise by is anyone's guess but I suggest you prepare for them to rise by 2 per cent. There will be pain so try and take advantage of these lower rates (and petrol prices) whilst you can and create a buffer for future years.
2. Cut up the credit card
It is probably the hardest thing to do as most of us view the credit card as our "security blanket". But it's really the devil and the quicker that you take decisive action the better.
3. Government co-contribution
Want some free money? If you earn less than $36,021 then put an extra personal contribution of $1,000 into super and the Government will match it with $500. It phases out when your income reaches $51,021. If you haven't started yet this financial year then start putting in $40 per week from now til 30 June.
4. Don't incur late fees
Get into the habit of paying bills on time. Don't be lazy and get slugged with late fees by being inefficient. $30 here and $50 there adds up over 12 months.
5. Write up a budget
Most people get put off by the thought of having to write up a budget but they are really important for any household savings plan. Excel spreadsheets has an excellent tool to make it an easier process. Simply type "Personal Budget Template" in the help menu.
6. Save for a rainy day
Got caught out in the GFC? Don't let it happen again. Open savings accounts – one each for education, holidays, Christmas and emergencies. Put a regular amount from every pay packet into each account – as well as some extra funds into your superannuation as a pre-tax (concessional) contribution. Remain disciplined and don't access these funds!
7. Build your nest egg quicker by paying 15% rather than 49% by salary sacrificing into super
Salary sacrificing into superannuation is one of the best, and legitimate, ways to minimise your income tax bill. You can contribute up to $30,000 per year into super ($35,000 for those aged 50 and over) which is only taxed at 15 per cent instead of your marginal tax rate (potentially 49 per cent).
8. Spending diet
There are two ways to save money – earn more or spend less. "Cut the fat" out of your spending. Eating out, socialising, technology, clothing and transport are the main areas to focus on. Look for bargains and buy in bulk. Worry about the cents and the dollars will look after themselves.
9. Get fit
Enter into a few fun runs and challenge yourself to get fit. Behind the scenes you will be reducing your binging on junk food and alcohol, which always puts a dent into savings.
10. Monitor your resolutions
The worst part about setting New Year's Resolutions is not following through with them. A note in your diary (or Outlook calendar) to review your goals every three months can set you back on track if you have been slack.
SIX GOLDEN RULES WHEN SETTING GOALS
- Write them down – by putting your goals onto paper you develop a challenge for yourself to try and achieve. Don't be afraid to put some pressure on yourself.
- Be specific – don't just say that you are going to save. Put down an exact figure that you want to save such as $325 per month.
- Goals must be realistic – you are not going to make a million dollars so it is a waste of time putting that down. You want to set goals that are challenging yet attainable if you put in the hard yards. Dangle the carrot sufficiently in view by not making them easy either.
- Set timeframes – don't leave your goals open ended. Set a date that they must be achieved by. For example, pay off your credit card by April 2015.
- Monitor your goals – put a note in your diary or Outlook calendar to review your goals every three months. A mid-year financial check-up can set you back on track if you have been slack.
- Don't get lazy – get into the mindset that you are going to take control of your finances this year and just do it!
About Associate Professor Adrian Raftery
Adrian is the course director for financial planning at Deakin University and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, a Certified Financial Planner, a CPA and a Chartered Tax Adviser. Adrian is the author of 101 Ways to Save Money on Your Tax – Legally! and is a Director of Dr Super Strategies.