Reviewing your finances at least once a year allows you to stay on top of what's working for you and, more importantly, what's not. You can then take the lessons you've learnt to make the next 12 months your most successful year yet.
We'll show you how to review your finances and how to introduce changes to make your next year a big financial success.
Your starting point
Firstly, review how your savings, any investments you made and pensions have performed this year and whether debt repayments are on schedule.
This may seem daunting but will produce an accurate overview and put you in a stronger position to make better informed financial decisions.
List your accounts and check the starting and closing balance for each
Review the performance of each type of account individually - savings, investments or pension. This is because each type of product has different features and restrictions that will affect performance. For instance, investments carry a higher risk and larger potential gains than savings accounts, so could fall in value one year but rise higher the next, so take this into account when reviewing how your finances are doing
Reviewing your savings accounts
Fixed rate savings products use a set rate so you know how much interest you should have received over the course of the year, making it easier to see how your savings have performed. Other savings accounts are variable which means the rate may have gone up or down over the year.
In either case, take a look at your statements over the last year, and add up just how much interest you earned over the course.
After you've worked it out - you might find that you're not altogether happy with how your savings have performed. If this is the case, then it's a good time to ask yourself a couple of questions like; Are there better rates available?, Could I get better rewards elsewehere?
If you think you could get more out of your savings elsewhere then consider switching your savings account.
Remember, banks and building societies usually benefit from people sticking with them out of habit, so if you aren't getting what you want from them, take action.
Reviewing your pensions
Unless you opted-out, you would have been auto-enrolled into a company pension. These are usually 'defined contribution' (DC) schemes where the pension you eventually receive is based on how much you and your employer have paid in.
Pension funds work by investing in a range of companies, assets, and markets in different geographical, industry or risk sectors such as; emerging markets, mining companies or technology investments.
By taking stock at the end of the year, you can review the funds in your pension and if they are underperforming then you can change the funds you invest in.
Reviewing your debt/credit repayments
Debts form part of our overall finances and repayments should be reviewed to see if you can save money. Find out what interest you are paying and take a look around the market to see if the interest rate you're being charged is still competitive.
If you have a personal loan, it's worth checking whether you can switch providers to save you money on your monthly repayments. It's a bit like switching energy providers to one that can offer you a better deal.
Reviewing your investments
As most investors know, their investments can go up or down and short-term changes are not always a problem, particularly for longer-term investments because you often have time to weather the changes before you reap any benefits.
If you invest, through cash, property or shares, then the end of the year is a great time to study the market and research the companies or assets you are investing in to understand their possible financial direction and performance and then make changes if appropriate.
If you can make a habit of reviewing your investments at the end of the year then it can provide a helpful annual comparison which will inform your future investment decisions.
For example, your review might lead you to change the balance between your investments to help spread the risk. Take financial advice if you are unsure.
Reviewing your tax efficiency
Set your review a few months before the end of the tax year (April) to check you're making the best use of the various allowances available to reduce the tax you pay.
You can earn up to £12,000 in the 2019/20 max tax year before income tax is due and you can pay up to £20,000 each year into one or a combination of a cash and investment ISA, tax-free.
The maximum annual pension contribution is £40,000 and the lifetime limit is currently £1m. You receive tax relief on contributions.
If you are selling shares or property remember to use your Capital Gains Tax allowance.
Your review should incorporate any major changes that affect your money, such as a change in your mortgage rate. Re-calculate the increase in your mortgage repayments and make sure you can afford it.
If you are self-employed or employed on a fixed-term contract, how will you cover gaps in income?
The final step is to make changes to improve your financial position. Think about what goals you want to set for the next year. These may include; finding a cheaper mortgage deal, switching to a better savings account rate or tax-efficient products, adjusting pension contributions or changing your investments.
Our articles cover a wide range of mainstream financial products and employee benefits. Terms and conditions of each product may vary depending on your provider. Please ensure you check the specific terms and conditions of any financial products and employee benefits available to you from your employer.