Getting your affairs in order

It is more complicated when the person needing to prepare isn’t yourself, but is your parent, but often it is even more prudent.

Billy’s Story

Billy has been married for 30 years. He is proud that he has always managed the family’s money. But since his accident, Beilly is not able to walk unaided and the pain makes it had to focus, the medication to control the pain affects his concentration and he doesn’t trust his instincts anymore. His wife, Carole, feels exhausted and stressed. Of course, she is worried about Billy’s health. But, on top of that, she is feeling out of her depth as she doesn’t understand how to manage the finances and is scared of missing payments.

John’s Story

In another village, 74-year-old John lives alone. One morning, he fell in the shower and broke his leg. He spent a week in the hospital and 2 months in a rehabilitation centre regaining his strength. Even though his daughter lives 50 miles away, she was able to take charge of her father’s finances right away, because several years ago, John and his daughter made a plan about what should be done in the event of a medical emergency.

Long before his accident, John got all his papers in order, ensuring his daughter knew exactly where to find them. He gave his daughter lasting power of attorney over his finances, hoping she would never need to use it. He ensured that his doctor had written permission to talk with her daughter about his health and insurance claims.

In contrast, Billy always dealt with family money matters, he never talked about the details with Carole as he didn’t want to trouble her and thought he was looking after her. Only Billy knew where he kept their important papers, Billy never expected that his wife would have to take over, but in this instance his lack of planning has made a difficult situation even more challenging for Carole.

As these examples illustrate, prior planning really can make all the difference.

But what is important paperwork?

The answer to this question can vary from family to family, but as a starting point try to include.

  • Names and phone numbers relatives, doctors, lawyers, and financial advisors
  • Medications (keep this regularly updated – date each amend)
  • Location of living will and other legal documents
  • Financial Records
  • Insurance information (life, health, long-term care, home, car) with policy numbers and contact names and phone numbers
  • Names of your banks and account numbers
  • Location of most up-to-date will with an original signature
  • Mortgages information
  • Credit and debit card names and numbers

But where should I begin?

The first step is to gather your important papers and copies of legal documents in one place. Where they are kept is up to you, the important thing is to make sure you tell someone where they are kept in case of an emergency.  If you don’t have close family member, choose a friend, a neighbour, or consult a lawyer. It is important to check each year to see if anything needs adding or updating.

It is bound to be uncomfortable, but it is important to have the difficult discussions with your loved ones about medical decisions, end-of-life preferences, and what you want to happen to your assets before anyone asks them. Forewarned is forearmed.

What if my affairs – or those of my parents – aren’t in order?

You will not be alone if you discover you aren’t as prepared as you thought you were, or that you don’t have the paperwork you need. Finding these issues out now is the whole point of this endeavour.

If you discover that you don’t have the cover you thought you did, or that your cover has lapsed that is also a good thing. It is better to find out when you have a chance to fix it, not at the point you need to draw upon it.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and would like to receive an independent and unbiased view of your affairs, you can speak to a member of our friendly team who will be happy to conduct an audit to highlight any concerns.

 

Creating a stable financial situation does more than alleviate stress; it provides a solid foundation upon which to build a secure financial future. In this blog our experts will explain the ways in which you can give your financial health a wellness check.

What does it mean to be financially healthy?

Your financial health impacts almost all aspects of your life – from affording a spin class after work to what age you’ll be when you can retire.

As with any form of exercise, financial health sadly isn’t something you can achieve through one high intensity workout. It takes time and effort to cultivate your present financial health and to consistently persist and look to the future, even during the hard times.

By managing your day-to-day finances and by thinking longer term, you will be able to create resilient and lasting strategies to carry you through the ups, the downs and everything in between.

Why is financial health so important?

Financial health provides peace of mind, that come what may you are financially stable. Being financially healthy doesn’t mean having money to burn, it means paying attention to different parts of your finances to make sure certain needs are met.

This year has financially tested a large percentage of the population, furlough and sadly redundancies have pushed many to their limits. Ask yourself, if your car broke down or your boiler packed up, could you afford the expense?

If the need was dire, you could look to borrow money on credit. But that’s only an option if you have a good credit history and a good credit score, both of which will be affected by your overall financial health.

Tell-tale signs of bad financial health.

If the below ring true then you may need to work on improving your financial health:

  • I couldn’t afford to pay for a common financial emergency (car breaking down for instance)from my savings
  • I have high credit card balances which I can’t afford to pay off in full
  • I’ve been turned down for a credit application because of a bad credit rating
  • I often stress about not being able to make ends meet
  • I’ve been forced into high interest credit agreements to pay my bills
  • I don’t know how much I spend each month and don’t have a budget

Even if the above do ring true for you, rest assured nobody needs to be stuck with a bad financial situation.

How to improve your financial health

Credit

Pay attention to your credit. Good credit gives you the ability to borrow when you need – or want – to. Credit cards, loans and mortgages – with the best interest rates – will be available to you if you have a good credit score.

You can improve your credit score by paying your credit cards and other debt on time each month. This will quickly have an impact.

Debt

It is easy to take advantage of high credit card limits and rack up debt, especially in the current climate. However, borrowing more than you can afford is a sign of lifestyle inflation which can lead to a spiral of debt payments that if left unchecked, can grow to consume your entire income.

Your first step should be to pay off high-interest debt as this can eat up a big portion of your income. Pay off these types of debt and avoid them if you can.

Savings

Those with good financial health have planned for both emergencies and for the long term. Emergency funds should ideally cover a minimum of three to six months of expenses if you have a stable job. Self-employed and contract workers should double that to at least six to 12 months of expenses in savings.

Rather than relying on making a transfer each month into your savings account, set up a monthly standing order, then money is saved without you having to even think about it.

Retirement

Unless you want to work forever, you will need a retirement plan. A good retirement plan gives you a targeted date to stop working and live the retirement you aspired to.

You can work out your current pension age and learn more about pensions here.

Insurance

It is wise to have a financial backup plan. Major expenses such as incapacitating illness, or fires at home would bankrupt many people without good insurance. Popular and important insurance includes health, home, and life insurance.

Anyone can achieve financial health

Like your physical, taking control of your financial health does not need to be time consuming or costly. You don’t have to be rich to be financially healthy. You don’t need a six-figure income to fund a stable financial future. But your finances won’t fix themselves. A consistent focus on your budget and financial matters is essential, particularly if you are trying to turn around financial struggles.

If you would like to speak to one of our experts about improving your financial health, get in touch today.

I have been working with my clients for over 30 years to ensure their financial and legal matters are in hand. I understand that nobody wants to contemplate their morbidity or mortality, however preparing for illness or death isn’t something that can be done retrospectively.

Having the right level of life insurance or disability cover provides peace of mind, the significance of which can’t be exaggerated.

How common is it for people to be unprepared?

Sadly it’s more common than you think. Sorting life insurance, health insurance and arranging wills seems to be a job which keeps finding its way to the bottom of people’s lists. It may shock you to learn that according to a Macmillan Cancer Support, 42% of the over 55’s don’t have a will – these individuals are actually in the age bracket where a will should be a serious consideration.

Has Covid-19 focused client’s minds?

Put simply, yes. Covid-19 has made us all question our own mortality. Our health and wellbeing has been put in the spotlight and brought the discussion about illness and death to the fore.

Covid-19 has without doubt provided some incredibly stressful and difficult times, but for some, it has also offered the time and motivation to put their financial and legal house in order. Once complete this can actually be a huge stress reliever, knowing that should the unthinkable happen loved ones are cared for and plans are in place provides a real peace of mind.

What are the first steps to planning for the unforeseen?

Many TV adverts over simplify the process, especially when it comes to arranging life insurance and health insurance. Yes you can opt for an off the shelf solution, but if you are taking the time to organise your affairs, it makes sense to do it thoroughly.

For example, there are different types of life insurance for different circumstances; the most appropriate type of cover for a young family will differ to the type of cover recommended for a single mature adult.  There are also other things to bear in mind, such as renewable rates – avoid rates that increase year on year for example.

What should we be mindful of?

We have trained for many years to ensure we offer our clients the best products for them. It is my job to provide peace of mind to my clients, and many struggle to find that peace without good financial and legal advice to reassure them.

We wouldn’t buy a house without a building survey, so it makes sense that we should seek advice from an Independent Consultant to ensure that the type and level of financial/legal cover suits our personal circumstances.

The memory of Covid-19 may fade in the years to come, but the need for financial planning and ensuring your loved ones are looked after needs to stay in the spotlight.

If you’d like to speak to me about your specific requirements – be it for life insurance, health insurance, critical illness cover, or wills – and the sensible first steps please do get in touch.

Financial planning refers to your comprehensive financial map, the map guiding your path to the achievement of future financial goals. Financial goals are not set in stone; they often vary from person to person, with age and circumstances being large influencing factors.

Our experts will help you navigate the building blocks of financial planning – starting with the importance of having solid foundations. The overarching goal is to ensure you are financially prepared for all events in life; be it a medical emergency, your child’s education, your own retirement or unforeseen health problems.

There is a common misconception that financial planning is all about investment, however this isn’t true, investments are only one part of the financial planning portfolio. To ensure your solid financial foundations the first step has to be comprehensive contingency planning.

Contingency planning

What is contingency planning and why do I need it?

Contingency planning looks in detail at your ability to respond effectively to a significant future event or situation, which may or may not happen. Your contingency plan is devised for an outcome which is removed from your ideal plan. This could be unexpected unemployment, a large debt needing payment, or a sustained increase in your cost of living. It is advisable to have enough money saved to cover three months of expenses should the unexpected happen. Once you have managed your contingency planning you can look at the next step, insurance planning.

What are the consequences of not having contingency plan?

If you were to lose your job suddenly and you had no money behind you there is usually one response, panic. Well actually two, stress and panic. Consequences can vary from person to person but could include, cashing in investments – often at the worst time when markets are down – defaulting on insurance and pension premiums, or even your mortgage.

Insurance planning

Why do we have insurance – what is the impact financially?

The level of insurance which is advisable will depend largely on your personal circumstances. We can discuss repayment of your debts, what would happen to your home if you were unable to keep up repayments on your mortgage, what cover – if any – is supplied via your employer. We can sit down with you and discuss the areas which are important to you; there are numerous options and choices dependent on budgets and requirements.

How do you know you are adequately covered?

Is your health insurance enough? What about retirement or emergency funds? These are all questions we are regularly asked. The most common forms of insurance we are asked about are life insurance and health insurance. One of our experts can sit with you and work out your exact requirements; we can then find the most suitable products to meet your needs.

Just like a plant which relies on a strong root system to grow and mature, the lynchpins of financial planning have to be secured before you can move onto the next three levels. It is these later stages where you experience the benefits of that strong groundwork.

Investment planning

Why invest? Should I not be saving?

Saving has its place, but even the top interest rates don’t offer the same growth potential that investing does. Of course it depends on your investment objectives, nobody ‘needs’ to invest but it can help to provide an improved standard of living and better financial security.

How do I choose investments which are right for me?

Investment planning is the method of matching your financial goals and objectives with your financial resources. A thorough investment plan takes into account your personal circumstances, objectives and risk tolerance; choosing the right types of investments to fit your needs, personality, and goals.

By taking into account your risk tolerance, diversification and asset allocation, we can design an investment plan to provide clarity about where – and how much – to invest in order to maximize your returns. Having an investment plan will provide you with a sound strategy to follow and stick with; even when you see your investments fluctuate during a time of market volatility.

Retirement planning

Why save for retirement?  What are the consequences of not saving?

Retirement planning – in a financial context – refers to the allocation of savings or revenue for retirement. The goal of retirement planning is to achieve financial independence. The aim is to have enough to comfortably live on once you leave work. How much is ‘enough’ depends largely on what you want to do when you retire and when you want to retire. If you don’t save enough you could find yourself working far later in life than you would like.

Our experts will work with you to analyse not only assets and income, but also future expenses, liabilities and life expectancy.

When should I start to plan for my retirement?

Although planning for your retirement is ideally a life-long process. You can start at any time, but it works best if you factor it into your financial planning from the beginning. With increasing life expectancy as well as a growing cost of living, it is best to start retirement planning from the very start of your career. The investment in a good pension will reap rewards – and save you money – in later years.

Estate planning

What is estate planning?

Estate planning is the process of anticipating and arranging – during a person’s life – for the management of that person’s estate upon their death.

Estate planning involves passing on wealth to the people that matter most to you, in the most effective way. Individuals start estate planning for numerous reasons – some may want to reduce an Inheritance Tax bill, others want to see know that their assets will be enjoyed by future generations.

I’m not sure it’s a good fit for me?

Thorough estate planning will make sure that your family is provided for and not left to face financial ruin if the unthinkable should happen. But no planning doesn’t mean that your children won’t inherit anything, but it could mean they inherit far less.

Whether you have a financial plan in place and would like advice to add to it, or you are starting from scratch, please get in touch today to discover how the Generation Wealth Management team can help you.