Now you know where you are starting from, you can begin to consider where you want to go to. Remember, SMART planning means setting targets that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based. A useful starting point would be to refer back to the section on a lifetime of personal financial planning and create your own goals for the short term, medium term, and long term. Give yourself time to think about your goals. You might find that the list gets longer or shorter, but either way it will benefit from a few days’ thought.
Whatever your age or circumstances, you will also need to consider the following:
• Have you made a will?
• If you already have a will, does it reflect your current circumstances?
• Discuss your will with your spouse or partner, or your parents or children so they know
(a) that you have made a will, and
(b) where it is.
If you wish, you can let them know what your will contains.
• Has your spouse or partner made a will? Have your parents?
• If you are in business, have you thought about the disposal of your business if you should be taken ill or when you retire?
• If you are not in business now, is starting your own business a goal for the future?
• Consider your insurance needs – life cover; hospital or sickness cover; cover for loss of earnings; keyman insurance.
• It is never too early – or too late – to begin saving.
You should now have identified your principal financial goals. The next step is to prioritise them. If you have children just starting primary school, this is a good time to begin saving for their higher education. You may have up to twelve years to invest. By starting now you can build up a substantial sum that will be available when your children start university or college.
If you have included a new or second home on your list there are two important points to consider:
1. How much will you need?
2. When are you intending to buy the house?
Set yourself a realistic goal in terms of both price and timing.
If you have included ‘a comfortable or secure retirement’ on your list of goals, you should be considering your savings options. Pension schemes attract tax breaks, so the value of your investment can grow in a relatively benign environment, but when you retire you can withdraw only a quarter of the value of your pension fund as a tax free lump sum. The remainder has to be used to buy an annuity, the income from which will be fully taxable. You should, therefore, give serious consideration to investing in parallel to more flexible investments.
Before choosing a savings or investment vehicle ask yourself the following questions:
1. Will I need to access any of my money at short notice?
You may need funds at relatively short notice for some unplanned event and it is important that you do not lock all your spare cash in an investment that denies you easy access to your capital.
2. How prepared am I to risk losing some of my capital in return for possible higher growth?
Remember that some investments are intended for the long term. With these investment products you might find that the costs are front-end loaded, or that bonuses are added after five, ten, fifteen or more years, or that the nature of the investment is such that values are volatile. Other investments, such as bank or building society deposits, cash IBDs, etc., may give less scope for capital growth, but are generally secure investments that give immediate access to your savings.