Building a strategy that meets your financial needs

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Preparing ourselves for life to be really strange for some time

The only constant in life is change, which is why individual financial life planning should not be a one-off exercise. Reviewing your finances regularly is essential if you want to stay on track to meet your financial goals. Making sure your finances are in the best possible shape will also make sure you stay on course to achieving everything you want.

Everyone has been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the measures needed to control it. It’s likely that coronavirus will loom over us until we have an effective vaccine, so we need to prepare ourselves for life to be really strange for some time.

Changes in your financial circumstances
As situations in our lives change, it’s important that our financial plans are updated by carrying out regular reviews. One of the main reasons why you should review your financial plan regularly is to reflect any changes in your financial circumstances, be it internal or external. You’ll also have different goals and priorities as you enter different stages of your life. So where are you currently?

Early career
You’re likely to be just starting out in your career and might be feeling a little unsure how to implement a budget or manage and maximise your cash flow. A house deposit may be on your horizon, or perhaps you are considering your investment options, but you’re just not sure how to get started. It’s never too early to start looking at your financial position.
When you first begin earning an income, budgeting is the critical financial skill that you need to master. Developing a suitable budget and building the discipline to live within your income so that you don’t fall into a debt trap is key.
Once you learn to contain your expenses to available income, you should start building savings into your budget. The emergency fund will have the first claim on your savings, and this is an urgent and important task.

Initiating some investments for retirement is another key task at this stage, even though the goal may seem too much in the future to be relevant now. Investments for other goals are optional at this stage and can commence once your income and savings stabilise.

Middle-aged
This is the stage that you’ll find the most demanding. You’re settled in your career, a young family means your expenditure has increased, and you are looking to repay your mortgage fast while also funding your children’s education and/or childcare.
Receiving professional financial planning advice will help you manage an increasingly complex budget, as well as looking to ensure your family is protected in the event of something happening to you. Of course, you may also want to know if you can afford an annual holiday to enjoy the family you now have.

Implementing a plan early in this stage will allow you to reap the benefits later on in life, as well as providing security for your family and any other dependents.

Pre-retirement
You may now be looking to leave the workforce soon and want to find out if this is financially possible. Your children are now adults and your expenditure has steadied, so you may be starting to look seriously at your ideal retirement lifestyle.
By managing your personal finances prudently so far, this stage of your life will be the golden stage for your finances. Your income is higher and seeing an upward growth trend, while your expenses have stabilised, resulting in growing savings.
Being mindful of expenses is important even at this stage, and the focus of budgeting is to maximise on savings and investments. Managing your investments is critical in this period. Many of your goals are close to being funded, and the investments may need to be rebalanced to reflect this.

Your life and other protection requirements should be updated and aligned to your current and future situation. Now that you have accumulated wealth, it’s time to consider how you would like to eventually distribute your estate in the most tax-effective way.

Retirement
You have finally left the workforce and are looking at how to maintain a steady income, discovering what benefits you may be entitled to, and how to maximise these.

Budgeting becomes the focus of finances once again during retirement. The object now is to control expenses to stay within the available income. Managing your investments to generate income and protect it from rising inflation also becomes a primary investment activity at this stage.

Adequate health protection is critical, as health costs can throw your income off the rails. Life insurance may be relevant only if it is required to protect retirement income for your spouse, and debt should not be a big part of your finances at this juncture.