It can be tempting to put off a review of your finances until the New Year – after all, the run-up to Christmas is a busy time. But many Australians will face 2018 with a festive season financial hangover, making it harder to get money management back on track.
That's why it makes good sense to sort out your money essentials today and celebrate the turn of the calendar with your finances in great shape.
Here are six steps to get you started.
1) Revisit your goals for 2017
Think back to the start of the year. What financial goals did you set for 2017, and what sort of progress have you made?
Give yourself a pat on the back for those targets you achieved. Then think about what held you back from achieving other goals – it may have been a change in circumstances, or a financial emergency that cropped up during the year. Whatever the case, if you're still passionate about achieving these outstanding goals, add them to your wish-list for 2018.
2) Review your current cash flow
The festive season is the peak spending period of the year, and that makes it critical to review your household cash flow now. If your credit card debt is creeping up, it can be a sign of tight cash flow.
Your local Mortgage Choice financial adviser can help you fine-tune your budget and develop spending strategies to find “painless savings”. Taking action today can see your cash flow improve by Christmas, and that's one of the best gifts you can give yourself.
3) Are you still protected against curve balls?
A lot can happen in the course of a year and the insurance you had in place at the start of 2017 may no longer be adequate or appropriate.
If you've completed home renovations for example, it's important to upgrade your home and contents cover. A modest increase in premiums can often provide a decent chunk of additional protection.
Don't overlook health insurance. It should reflect your needs for the year ahead. If you're planning on starting a family in 2018 for instance, it's sensible to have obstetrics included in your health cover today.
Personal insurances including life cover should also match your circumstances. Common triggers to upgrade life insurance can include taking on additional debt or commencement of private school education for your children. Whatever the case, be sure your life insurance payout would be sufficient to protect your family against financial hardship. If you're uncertain about any aspects of your current policy, contact your local Mortgage Choice financial adviser for a plain English explanation.
4) How is your superannuation tracking?
Take a moment to check your super savings. Sticking with a fund that is consistently underperforming or overcharging on fees makes it harder to achieve your retirement goals.
Be sure also to check the before-tax contributions made to your fund so far this financial year, especially if you're using salary sacrifice to grow your nest egg. Before-tax contributions are now capped at $25,000 annually for all workers regardless of age, and if you exceed this limit, penalties may apply.
5) Check your estate plans are still relevant
A formal will lies at the heart of your estate plans, and it needs to be current for your present situation.
A change in family life such as the arrival of children, marriage, separation, divorce and re-partnering are all possible cues to review your will to ensure it reflects your preferences. Contact your local Mortgage Choice financial adviser if you'd like to have a professionally drafted will, or if you need to update your estate plans.
6) Establish some goals for 2018
Chances are you'll set a few New Year resolutions. But research shows these are likely to have withered on the vine by Australia Day1.
When it comes to your financial well-being, setting goals is far more than a once-a-year tradition. It's serious stuff, and should involve short-, medium- and long-term goals that are achievable, realistic and tailored to your circumstances.
That's why it's worth taking the time today to think about your financial goals. Speak to your local Mortgage Choice financial adviser about putting plans in place to achieve them. Why wait until the New Year when you could get started making real progress today?