There are a fair few things in life which catch us and our plans off guard. Indeed, Covid19 and it’s global, multi-level impact across lives and livelihoods is one of those black swan events none of us could have anticipated let alone prepared for.

But making plans for the unexpected more generally is something we can do and is a core value of any good financial planner. Our job as financial advisers and financial planners is to prepare our clients, as much as possible, for the unexpected.

During this extended period being spent at home, with many working from home or being furloughed for some time, having a reality check and adapting financial plans is an activity many are already undertaking, and others are considering. But what can you do and what proactive steps can you take?

Our team have brought together seven areas that people should either be considering, actioning or have already concluded. It’s a cut-out-and-keep guide that’s as timely as it is timeless.

Access to cash

Cash is king, although contactless payments have taken precedence in the shops, and the access to liquid funds is vital at times like these. The fundamental key to financial planning is making sure you have enough short-term liquidity. We’re often told to have money set aside in a savings account; specifically, enough to cover three to six months of living expenses. That’s not a random range, it’s designed to allow you to not only cover unplanned bills like home or vehicle repairs, but also to get you through a period of unemployment.

Make a plan — and stick to it

Look at your financial plan. Did you have one? If not, now is the time to start. It’s the old adage: if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else. This is the most fundamental and first thing we advise all our new clients and indeed it’s something that can be reviewed annually. Even when circumstances and unexpected events such the Covid19 coronavirus occur, a solid plan will provide a point of reference and a landmark by which to navigate the uncharted waters. What do you most want to achieve financially — early retirement, comfortable retirement or passing on wealth? Whatever it is, write it down and then start to work out how to achieve it. Timing markets is impossible — so don’t try to. Invest and hold, if it is the plan and if it is the right thing for you to do. If you planned to top up your ISA by £20,000 this tax year, rather than trying to time the market, just stick to the plan.

Pensions dilemmas

Pensions are not what they used to be in that there is so much more flexibility and many more options today for both those on company schemes and those who have private pension provision.

The magic of compound growth means that the first contribution is the most valuable. If you start a pension plan at age 20 and stop contributing at age 35, you should have more money at 60 than someone who starts at age 35 and whose contributions double from 35 to 60. Equally, if you only start saving at 40, there are plenty of other achievable scenarios.

Look at where you have invested your funds. Often you ticked some boxes on your first day in a job, then never looked at them again. Have you ever asked whether the risk you’re taking is appropriate? Also, look at the charges — what do you need to achieve each year to cover these?

You may have received a final salary (defined benefit) transfer valuation earlier this year or be thinking of getting one. As always, investigate this very carefully, as it is often not the right decision to lose the guarantees which the final salary pension scheme offers you.

Protection

As financial advisers we would urge our clients to look at protection. What would happen to you or your family’s finances should illness or death occur? Having a plan is important, but protecting the plan is vital. So, review your current insurance cover (you may have policies through your workplace as well as personal cover). When it comes to things of value, our instinct is to protect them. We do this with our car, our house, our mobile phones but do we spend enough time and money protecting ourselves? See whether you have enough income replacement, critical illness and life cover.  What could stop you achieving your dreams in life? Often, it could be your ability to earn. How much do you spend on insuring yourself? If average earnings are around £30,000 and you have over 30 years left to work, it is likely that you are worth close to £1m. Is that worth insuring?

Tackle ‘life admin’

Lockdown is the perfect time to tackle the proverbial ‘cupboard under the stairs’ – those things we never find time for. Have you made a Will and is it still up to date? The same applies to a power of attorney. Every pension you hold will have an expression of wish form (pensions death benefit) — again, usually something you fill in on the first day of a new job and then forget about. More generally, what state are your finances in? Review your expected incomings and outgoings. Now is not the time to be too scared to check your bank balance. It’s essential to know the reality of your financial situation. Check exactly what you’re expecting to come in over the next few months and make a list of all your outgoings, including food, housing costs, and any essential bills. Equally, it’s important to treat your budget as a living document – a budget only works if it feels realistic to your circumstances, which can change, particularly in the current climate we find ourselves in.

Rethinking income

For those that take a “natural income” from their investments, these are particularly difficult times. Receiving a letter stating that your dividends have been suspended is not good news. But there are always options and a thorough financial adviser will highlight these to you and work with you to create a stable and productive plan.  Don’t just accept the weaknesses in your plan — embrace them and think of ways to amend them. You will then be in a much stronger position to weather the next crisis. Have you ever considered the benefits of diversification? To protect your income strategy in future, make sure you have diversified investments and perhaps more crucially, diversify your strategies. Use different strategies in different tax wrappers within one overarching plan.

Be prepared to be flexible

What doesn’t get measured doesn’t get improved. Therefore, we at Fiducia Wealth Management recommend at least one comprehensive review each year.

The most important aspect of financial plans is that they must be adaptable. Sometimes you put money into the plan, sometimes you take money out (which is why you don’t put all your money in pensions). A financial plan is a living document that changes and adapts with you and your life and needs.

Plans are made to be reviewed, but the crucial thing is to make sure you put aside enough cash when times are good, so you don’t have to raise cash at the worst possible moment when times are bad.

If you have concerns surrounding any of the issues raised in this article, or would benefit from discussing your financial circumstances with one of our advisers, then please contact us by visiting the website where you can arrange a free, 1:1 online consultation or call.

If you would like to know more about how we as Financial Advisers can help you set, plan and achieve your financial goals then financial planning section of  our website: Financial Planning or send us email at: email@fiduciawealth.co.uk

The information contained in website is for guidance only and does not constitute advice which should be sought before taking any action or inaction. The information is based on our understanding of legislation, whether proposed or in force, and market practice at the time of writing. Levels, bases and reliefs from taxation may be subject to change. Accordingly no responsibility can be assumed by Fiducia Wealth Management Limited, or any associated companies or persons, its officers or its employees, for any loss occasioned in connection with the content hereof and any such action or inaction. Professional financial advice is necessary for every case.

Fiducia are an award winning firm of Financial Advisers based in Dedham near Colchester situated in the heart of Constable Country on the Essex Suffolk border. www.fiduciawealth.co.uk

Fiducia Wealth Management Ltd. Dedham Hall Business Centre, Brook Street, Dedham, Colchester, Essex, CO7 6AD.

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