It’s the start of a new year, so what better time is there to hit refresh on your finances?
While you’re focused on your financial New Year’s resolutions, here are five tips to make sure you’re starting off on the right foot
1. Look back to move forward
It’s always good to learn from your experiences, the good and the bad.
Chronos Private principal adviser Chris Giaouris said you should take stock of your income and outgoings over the past year to figure out how to tackle 2022.
He said the more you delay planning, the worse off you will be.
“You can just run blindly throughout your life and see how you go, and that could work,” Mr Giaouris said.
“Or you could sit down and look over what’s happened in the past and then use that information to make a better-informed plan going forward.”
He said people tend to take a “stab in the dark” and underestimate how much they will spend for the year because they haven’t put in the time to find out how much they’ve spent in previous years.
And don’t just consider the big expenses: Groceries, public transport fees and streaming services all add up, and it might be time to change things up.
For example, Mr Giaouris said if you use a reloadable public transport card, you can figure out how much you paid over the past 12 months, and find out whether there is a more efficient option for you.
“Do I buy a monthly pass? Do I buy a yearly pass? Is that actually going to be more efficient for me?” he said.
“Without that information from looking back, you’re kind of just having a guess.”
Looking back at your expenses might also help you identify leaky buckets, such as multiple superannuation accounts.
2. Reassess your super fund
If you’re a while away from retirement, superannuation might be the last thing on your mind when it comes to your finances.
But there are tens of thousands of dollars at stake, according to Canstar chief spokesperson Steve Mickenbecker.
“The reality is that whatever your age, it’s the right time to fix up your super now,” he said.
Since November, Australians have been stapled to their current super funds in a bid to prevent the accumulation of unnecessary fees from multiple accounts.
But if you had multiple accounts before the new measure, you could still be on the hook for fees that could erode your super balance by up to $50,000 by retirement, according to Super Consumers Australia.
Mr Mickenbecker said “the time is now” to sort out your super, to avoid a hit to your retirement savings and hundreds of dollars in upfront administration or membership fees.
“If you are young, do not let it just slip by because retirement looks like it’s 40 years off,” he said.
Mr Mickenbecker said you should look for a super fund with strong investment performance and reasonable fees.
And he said if you are young you should also consider choosing a balanced fund over a conservative one.
Although this involves more risk, it will deliver higher returns, and younger Australians will have enough time recover any money lost due to short-term sharemarket volatility.
3. Build up an emergency buffer
A 2021 Canstar report shows 14 per cent of Australians took on debt last year.
Mr Mickenbecker said this debt was not for major purchases such as a home, but for general living expenses.
To avoid going into debt in the future, he said you should build up a buffer for when times “aren’t great”.
The first thing you need to do is draw up a budget taking into consideration your income, essential spending, bills and similar commitments, and then set aside some money for “a bit of fun”.
The leftover amount after these costs should go into your savings account via direct debit every pay day, he said.
But before you build up your savings, you should get rid of your debt.
4. Pay off your debt
If you don’t get out from under the weight of your debt, you will end up “working for the bank, not for yourself,” Mr Mickenbecker said.
He said you should apply the same budgeting and direct debit process as you would for your savings, and plug any extra income into your repayments.
“It’s amazing how fast you knock your debt over if you make substantial extra repayments,” he said.
“You’re not just paying interest, you’re starting to clear the principal of the loan much faster.”
He said you should also avoid using your credit card or buy now, pay later services so you don’t end up replacing your debt.
5. Get an expert opinion
Mr Giaouris said if you want to work on your finances, getting the help of a professional is no different to hiring a personal trainer at the gym when you want to lose weight.
“Sometimes people need some help with this sort of stuff,” he said.
“[A professional is] going to keep them accountable.”