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What you need to know about spending and saving money

What you need to know about spending and saving money

One question which each person ponders upon, apart from what is the purpose of life, is How to make money? Spending money and making money are two major aspects of this life and somewhere equally important is saving money! Financial Literacy is an ongoing topic – similar to finding the purpose of life. The 2018 NFCC’s Consumer Financial Literacy Survey[i] found that 1 in 4 Americans do not pay their bill on time almost 1 in 10 have debt waiting to be collected. 43%[ii] of student loan borrowers are NOT paying on time! Now that’s alarming , especially after a college degree.

Money as a Source of Happiness

Can money make you happy? Yes, ofcourse it does upto a point. According to a 2018, study by Gallup World Poll,[iii] a survey of 1.7 million individuals found that “income satiation of an individual occurs an earnings of $95,000 for a life time and at $60,000 to $75,000 for basic emotional well-being”. It means that we all require a minimum level of income to make us feel secure and happy enough to be able to enjoy other aspects of life.

The common practice of previous generations was to work longer hours to earn more. But the norms of work cultures are changing and the new generation, especially the millennials are looking at consulting, freelancing as a means of a fruitful life which will provide a balance with personal life. A disciplined approach to money saving becomes all the more essential to fulfil the needs and desires of life then. Let us look at in detail how you can approach the practice of money management the philosophy to adopt.

Approach to Managing Money 

Most people falter in the basic approaches to the entire process of financial management. The default mindset is about saving and living with a sense of scarcity. A tough financial spot should not become the reason for an attitude of misery and also should not create a sense of desperation for material things. Striking a balance can be tough when you are deep neck.

The steps below if followed will cater to your goals and also enhance your lifestyle by creating the discipline in all aspects. How you save, how you earn, how you invest – all are interlinked to your approach to things in life.

  • Budgeting is a Saving Plan

Most people are not disciplined enough to maintain a regular log of expenses. It becomes a chore to fill up a sheet with daily expenses. However, a simple log maintained in an unbiased manner will provide a good snapshot at interval of few months of where you are over-spending and potential for saving.

Look at budgeting as the first step in creating a Saving Plan. You have to do it as part of prudent investments. There are various apps available on mobile as well as desktop to ease your effort of creating a customized tool to enter daily expenses.

  • Once you start using one, start comparing different expense heads and follow the logical approach of curbing expenses in that area.
  • While it is easier than done, a prior mindset and self-regulation has to be created. You have to agree with yourself that once you have chosen this path of “Conscious Spending” , you will follow all the rules of the game.
  • Hiring a financial coach or planner might also help for few months till the discipline sets in.
  • Discuss the areas to be curbed with your family and spouse and become a check for each other’s over-spending.
  • Credit Card can be your best friend and worst enemy. Use 2 credit cards to split expenses and get free credit for a month. However, indiscriminate use without a track of your numbers can give a false sense of available credit and time to repay.
  • Small but disciplined Investment is Good 

While keeping track of expenses is one part, making your money work for you is equally important. The propounder of this theory in “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, Robert Kiyosaki changed the concept of financial independence when he stated the obvious in the simplest of ways. Increasing one’s Financial IQ is by investing in a disciplined manner is the way to building wealth, not just working in an office.

  • There are umpteen number of financial blogs and advisory available online for anyone willing to invest time.
  • In case you cannot spare time, be sure to hire a trusted financial planner through references.
  • Investing is the next step after Earning and Saving.
  • Even paying fees for a well-seasoned investment professional will only give geometric returns in the future.
  • Quick Return, Quick Losses

First understand how investments and returns work. There are no “get rich quick” schemes which are legal – you might have a lure of creating a YouTube channel to start earning – Legit enough, true. But is it sustainable. Stray clear from schemes which sounds like pay X amount to receive X raised to n number of times in a short duration. This is the easiest form of a Ponzi scheme where you get paid initially out of the money invested by other gullible investor. However, since there is no real further investment or work being with this money, eventually the incoming investors might dry out thus leading to a breakdown of this scheme.

  • No Risk, no Gain

When you are on a clear investment path, taking risks is essential to gain multiple returns. Investing in Equities is one of these choices. You can discuss such details with your financial planner to understand the risks involved in direct equity investing, how much can you really afford to lose and finally other options such as ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) or Mutual Funds.

Depending on your Income level, Age, liabilities, dependents , and above all your willingness to take a chance, your risk appetite is determined. You can look at equity and derivatives as an investment option with proper guidance, provided the money you are investing is not out of your savings or emergency funds.

  • Save and Spend per Your Life Stage

While the above rule applies, so does this one in equal measure. Even if you are willing to take risks, be sure to provide for your dependents and medical emergencies before you invest beyond your means. If you are a young turk with 20 + years to go for your active career life, you can bear some losses more easily than a person who is nearing retirement or needs to plan for children’s education. The latter should be looking at fixed interest bearing instruments along with a small portion of equity. 

  • Retail Therapy Can cause More Heartburn

This demands a special mention as retail therapy is the bane of prudent financial decision making. A good sale can makes the wisest of them go weak in their knees. Retail analytics show that weekends  and festive seasons are the biggest push points for easy and convenient retail therapy. Even “festivals” like Valentine’s day have opportunities for marketing for couples and singles in equal measure. However, a burst of emotional shopping can cripple your financial plan like nothing else.

Shopping sprees are encountered across countries in different formats –American spend an average of US$900[iv] on Christmas gifts with an average monthly net salary of US$4,158. Singaporeans are near to it with an average spend of US$800 from a salary of US$3,973. In UK itself, RSI or Retail Sales Index is an important measure of economic activity and is tracked closely each month by the Office for National Statistics. [v] 

How to Save Money – Methods and Tips

You have created a Budget. Great! Now let us look at ways to save money so you can stick to it. One question most family households have is how to save money fast?

  • Create a Family Budget

            The money managers of the house know how much the essential and utilities cost.    Many financial experts advise on a 50/30/20[vi] approach. Here 50% of the income is dedicated for necessities, 30% for wants and desires and 20% to savings. Investing  this 20% smartly to finance your future goals is the key.

In the family, one spouse can take the role of “Cost Controller” to keep a tab on good deals available on essentials like groceries and miscellaneous things in the house. Ensuring a control on unnecessary expenses can be fruitful in the long run and create a discipline in kids as well.

To instil a sense of correct spending, give your kids only hard cash as pocket money and take a percentage from them to put in a savings account. Parting with real cash is always hard and will teach them from early on that saving a portion before spending is essential.

  • Savings plan

Finding cool discounts, reward programs, even loyalty programs can save up to the tune of 20 – 30% of your actual expenses. Credit cards come with various facilities such as discount on billings on specific locations, airport lounge access, freebies, movie ticket discounts and various other things. The idea is to subscribe to a card which provides certain benefits which you can avail. All these small savings sum up to a large amount.

How to Make Money

There are multiple ways to make money. You can augment your primary income in many ways.

  • Secondary assignments such as freelance work and on-demand consulting.
  • One can look at monetizing certain hobbies and find segments of people and communities where you can share your creative products and also earn money. This way you can start building a name for your art and a brand in future.
  • Most importantly you need to find suitable investment options per your risk and financial goals for future

There are multiple investment options you can look at –

  • Equities –these are the most common choice of investor due to ease of investing and associated hope for quick riches. However, stock selection should be done only after careful study of the economic environment of these stocks, competitors, management operations and share price movements. A suitable level needs to be looked at for investing.
  • Debt – You can invest in T-bills, government bonds, short -term debt papers issued by the government. However, one needs to know the basic eligibility criteria a minimum certain amount is required for retail investors. Also, first understanding the process of applying and redemption.
  • Mutual Funds – These are the easiest instrument of investment for retail investors where they can only buy the units of a well-performing fund with either equity/debt or balanced orientation. Investing and redemption is easily done through basic accounts and one can track the performance via regular statements. You also have the flexibility to create a portfolio of various mutual funds to create a cushion of debt oriented investments and the high risk-high reward benefits of equity investment.
  • ETFs – Exchange Traded Funds are a similar collective investment vehicle but for tracking a particular index. This way you can also purchase “units” of the index and gain atleast equal to the index performance of your country.
  • Banks and other deposit accounts – these are considered the safest accounts as they are guaranteed by the government through their entities. Also the time deposits are a good option in a high interest rate time period
  • Futures & Options – These are instruments for real risk-takers and experienced investors. One needs to understand the risks involved as these trades work on high borrowing called as leverage. However the gains can be multi-folds if the call goes correct.

How to Spend Wisely

Most of us are clueless about if we are spending our money carefully or not. This doubt leaves either a fear of spending money or the indecisiveness on how to spend our money.

The wisest way to look at an spending decision by

  • Cost- Benefit analysis

When comparing 2 or more options – which grocery brands to buy , which holiday package to choose – list down the costs breakup of each along with the associated benefits. Then rank the benefits for each option and cost. If the one with maximum benefits suits your cost budget – go for that. This will work only if both or more options mean the same to you. Herein the emotional bias of preference will always creep in and may make you change your mind finally. If you can afford it without considerably damaging your bank savings, go for it. 

  • Opportunity Cost

This is the most used economic concept in daily life. It is the cost you incur for choosing one option over the other. If you eat apples over oranges – both cost different. However, the satisfaction in one might be greater than the other. Hence this is not only a numerical measure but also a sum total of the intangible benefits one might receive – Ease of purchase of apples, flavour of the apple which you favour. However you let go of the cheaper oranges and maybe some extra Vitamin C! This way opportunity cost will be different for different people. 

Professional Management of Money

Finally, for making all of the points work for you and getting you in the habit – professional services can help in a big way.

Money Management though financial planners is one option. A financial coach will understand your spending and earning habits and guide you on a day to day basis. Credit Counselling will be useful for advising on how to fulfil your various debt and in what manner can you do so in the best way possible. Debt Consolidation Companies come into the picture if you need to service a larger mound of credit card bills or home mortgage but are unable to. They also help in setting your credit score right by advising you to control your spending and keeping a minimum balance in your bank accounts. Finally, you can always self-help and utilise the various freely available Money Management Apps which can give you alerts and reminders along with tips to invest and save.

[i]2018 FINANCIAL LITERACY SURVEY https://www.nfcc.org/clientimpact/2018-financial-literacy-survey/

[ii]4 Stats That Reveal How Badly America Is Failing At Financial Literacy https://www.forbes.com/sites/danipascarella/2018/04/03/4-stats-that-reveal-how-badly-america-is-failing-at-financial-literacy/#6ec640af2bb7

[iii]Happiness, income satiation and turning points around the world.  – https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-017-0277-0

[iv] Commentary: Retail therapy won’t repair your damaged sense of self-worth

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/festive-shopping-retail-therapy-repair-damaged-self-esteem-worth-11063028

[v]Retail sales, Great Britain: January 2019 https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/retailindustry/bulletins/retailsales/january2019

[vi]https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/how-to-save-money/

Finance

Teaching children about wealth management and why there has never been a better time

Teaching children about wealth management and why there has never been a better time 1

By Annabel Bosman is Managing Director and Head of Relationship Management at RBC Wealth Management

As we approach the end of week sixteen in lockdown, I am breathing a sigh of relief at having successfully navigated another week of juggling work and client commitments with the increasing demands of my children – age six and nine.

My day job is to lead RBC Wealth Management International’s relationship management efforts in the British Isles, but my toughest challenge right now is educating and entertaining my new junior co-workers each day.

While my children’s school has done a great job at setting up daily tasks and learning activities, there is only so much ‘teaching’ they can take from me without World War III breaking out. So instead of rigidly sticking to the school curriculum each day, I have taken the opportunity to educate my young children about a topic that is often not discussed enough in school — money.

Why now?

What I do for a living has become a central discussion in our co-working space — also known as the dining table. I have found that investment concepts can be grasped quite well by young children and this has led to some interesting conversations about which businesses are doing well in the current situation, and those that are not. Children are often more logical than adults, and in my house, this logic is helping them grasp the basics of an investment philosophy. As a result, I have even passed conversations around stock markets off as maths classes!

For young children like my own, helping them learn the basics of managing money is something that will hopefully set them up well in life. There are some great tools to help them do this – we use GoHenry, which provides children with a pre-paid card to learn about budgeting. Likewise, encouraging conversations around how they spend virtual money whilst gaming on apps like Roblox can give some really important lessons around how you look after the money you have earned – and how if something seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.

The most important thing is not to underestimate your children. Whether it is the application of a “mummy-tax” when they want chocolate or applying interest rates (albeit nominal!) if they want to borrow money, teaching our children the basics around money is something we can all do.

Incorporating new lessons

The first step is to identify the best way to approach teaching these topics in a way they will understand. Resources such as the Usborne Money for Beginners are really helpful to start conversations. There are also several YouTube clips and even TikTok channels dedicated to helping children think about money. I tend to think about what is important to them and use that as a catalyst to start conversations; for example, it could be how they can monetise their love of the gaming app Roblox.

Ending the taboo

Any conversation that leads to a greater awareness around financial discipline and security has to be a positive, no matter what the age – and there are certainly parallels with my experience and that of my clients. There seems to have been a shift in HNW and UHNW families’ willingness to talk about money. Whereas previously it was seen as very un-British to speak about money, the pandemic has meant that a more open conversation is taking place.

Whatever our financial position, we often bury our heads in the sand when it comes to money, and don’t always have a clear financial plan, but when we start to put down on paper what’s going in and out, we immediately start to feel more in control, thus becoming more engaged. It can be uncomfortable to have that conversation with your family, but we regularly speak with our clients about all manner of sensitive subjects including putting wills in place, inheritance and protecting loved ones. Naturally, this is also bringing conversations to the fore around succession planning, legacy, philanthropy and even one’s own mortality. When times are good, it’s easy to not have these thoughts at the forefront of your mind, but in challenging times like these, it highlights how essential it is to talk. And just as with my children, there are plenty of apps and websites that can help you take the first steps.

Varying generational approaches

There is no one way to educate your children about money — what worked for one generation will not necessarily work for the next. Different generations have had to address the different approaches they might take in thinking about money and try to reach a common language to agree on common goals. Whilst many of us grew up with physical pocket money from our parents after completing household chores, today’s young children rarely even touch money, they receive their allowance on an app.

A 2019 study commissioned by RBC Wealth Management and conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit found that seven in ten younger affluent respondents think that their beliefs about wealth are very different to those of their parents; with a similar percentage, 78%, believing that wealth is less easily attained or preserved today. Early, open and continuous dialogue can only help confront obstacles head on and smooth the path ahead.

These talks also allow HNW individuals and their families to talk about how they can address their non-financial goals, such as fighting climate change or supporting social agendas – something that the younger generation is acutely focussed on. Indeed, more recent social events have led to an ongoing and overdue debate around what privilege looks like and how society needs to change.

What next?

With the summer holidays fast approaching, the struggle to keep children occupied will continue, but without the pressure of the school curriculum. This is an opportunity to continue discussions with children about where money comes from and where its value lies.

I have found it tremendously empowering to talk to my children about money and getting back to basics — it may not be school learning, but it is real life learning. And as I say to my clients, the initial step to start a conversation is always the hardest.

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Finance

From accountants to advisors: changing roles and expectations

From accountants to advisors: changing roles and expectations 2

By Chris Downing, Director for Accountants & Bookkeepers at Sage

The line between strategic advisor and traditional accountant is blurring. Over the last year, 82% of accountants said their clients were demanding a wider service offering, including business and technology implementation advice. In the current climate this transition has only been accelerated.

Clients increasingly expect their accountants to take a more active role in change management and predicting their cashflow months into an uncertain future. This is enabling businesses to tackle the challenges of day-to-day operations, while keeping an eye on what the post-COVID world will look like, and the support they will need to return to strength.

To solve these new and complex, expectations accountants must develop a different way of working. They will be required to increasingly supplement the traditional, compliance and reporting aspects of their work with business advice and consultancy. To do this, accountants need the ability to move quickly and efficiently, with a firm grounding in technology and data control.

Get straight to the point

The priorities of yesterday are very different to the goals of today. Where businesses once focused on driving growth and efficiency, the objective for many now is continuity – understanding what government support is available and for how long. In the current climate, speed of delivery and client care are top of the agenda.

But the way accountants go about this is very important. Rules are changing every day – the definition of an ‘essential business’, government support and bank loan programmes are constantly in flux. In normal times, an accountant’s role is to ensure their clients are aware of and reactant to these changes. Yet, how much value does this create for them in the ‘now’?

To be valuable, new information must be delivered quickly but it should also be succinct. It isn’t useful for clients to be bombarded with email updates, or reports running into hundreds of pages, trying to explain the week’s changes. With so much present noise, it’s the accountant’s task to break through the information overload and provide the client with crucial resource only.

To understand client pain points and get to the heart of what they really need, a running dialogue is essential. Building individual client relationships will unlock the potential to deliver tailored experiences that meet their business demands. Armed with this insight, accountants can then distil complex information into digestible chunks.

A more entrepreneurial spirit 

Sharing insight is only the start.  The other half of the story relies on consultancy. In the Covid-19 environment, the routine aspects of an accountant’s work are being supplemented with the transformative changes they can make for clients. Cashflow projections for the next six months are crucial, but even more so is the advice an accountant can offer on improving the financial outlook of a business.

Chris Downing

Chris Downing

To provide this balance, accountants should embrace a more entrepreneurial way of thinking. Not only advising on how clients can meet current challenges, but also how they can innovate to drive new revenue streams in the future. Part of this means being willing to step outside of their comfort zone. Many firms are already investing in the skills and technologies they need to service novel demands – like advising on relevant accounting and finance technologies.

While many businesses remain closed to the public, even as lockdown eases, they have increased capacity and flexibility to shift operations towards what will be most effective and profitable. Clients will be open to changing their business focus to meet demand spikes in other areas as they do not have to account for a disruption to customer service. For example, many distillers shifted production from beverages to hand sanitiser while bars and restaurants were closed.

With their contextual understanding of client finances, accountants are uniquely placed to advise their clients on change and guide them through the transformation process. Though this requires a more innovative model of accounting, and one that is willing to embrace the latest technologies.

Truth in the cloud

Business advice needs to be backed by data, especially for accountants engaging directly with the CFO. Scenarios need to be modelled, analysed, tracked and compared over time to arrive at the most effective proposal for the client. This is outside the wheelhouse of traditional accounting, but it’s becoming necessary in an industry heavily disrupted by new technologies.

To keep up with the ever-growing need for rapidly available data and analytics capabilities, more and more accountants are turning to the cloud to consolidate and use their data estate, while automating the time-consuming tasks of data management. Indeed, the majority (91%) of accountants have said new technology has delivered fresh value to their business in the last year, whether it increases productivity or frees up more time to focus on client needs.

Against the backdrop of coronavirus and technological disruption, a new breed of accountant is quickly emerging. Innovation is possible for those who stay ahead of client expectations and are aware of their needs, embrace an entrepreneurial mindset and adopt the latest cloud and automation technologies. In this way, an accountant becomes an integral part of their client’s business.

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Finance

Preparing for the new normal and building a financial plan

Preparing for the new normal and building a financial plan 3

By Donna Torres, director of small business at Xero UK

There is some light at the end of the tunnel for small businesses. As the lockdown continues to ease many retailers and hospitality businesses are now opening up again, or preparing to return soon.

Preparing for what’s around the corner has always been key to business success. Whilst there is still much uncertainty, it’s more important than ever that businesses get in control of their finances and create a solid plan.

Having a strong understanding of your cash flow and a plan for the months to come is vital to helping you prepare for what’s ahead. If you’re unsure where to begin, here are five ways to start:

Take stock

Financial experts Lauren Harvey (Founding Director of Full Stop Accounts) and Jonathan Graunt (Founder of accountancy firm FD Works and Xavier Analytics) recently spoke with Xero about the uplift in businesses taking an interest in their finances and understanding their financial position.

Businesses should be using this time to review their processes and really understand their numbers. It can be helpful to reflect on your original statement – what do you really want your business to do? And has the pandemic changed this? Use this as the fuel to drive your business vision forward.

Consider the risks

The government has provided SMEs with a number of support schemes, but the conditions and capital being offered is changing.

For example, the Furlough Scheme will currently only run until the end of October and the deadline to furlough new employees has now passed. The government will also gradually be reducing the amount it pays under this scheme. Make sure you’ve accountanted for this in your financial plan so you have a clear picture of how furlough tapering off will impact your business and any adjustments you might need to make.

If you’ve taken out one of the Government backed loans, now is the time to start building repayments into your financial plan. Building a solid plan will also help to ensure that you use the money in the best way to support your business in the long-term. It can be tempting to fight the most immediate fires with your capital, but try to think about the longer term health of your business – and where the money is going to have the most impact.

Adapting to a change in demand

Covid-19 has forced businesses to adapt to a lot of changes and SMEs should be thinking carefully about how their customer demand has changed. What do customers expect from you now? For example, many are still apprehensive of shopping on the high street. This might mean some of the options you offered during lockdown like deliveries or online services should remain.

Communicate with your customers as much as possible to get an accurate view of what they need from you now and in the future. How can you fulfil this? Then it’s important to look at the numbers and scrutinise which areas are going to provide the most return on investment.

Financial Planning: where to start?

For financial planning to be effective, it’s helpful to get into habits that will provide an accurate snapshot of how your business is performing. Reconciling bank transactions daily, creating a daily simple cash flow check-in habit and examining your profit and loss statements weekly will give you a better understanding of where your business stands.

Apps like Float or Fluidly will help to give you an accurate look at your cash flow in an easy to read visual. And the recently launched Xero Short-term Cash Flow tool can help you project your bank balance 30 days into the future, showing you the impact of existing bills and invoices if they’re paid on time. You can then work out which invoices you should follow up on.

Some people can find this task daunting, but your accounts aren’t just being kept for reporting to HMRC, they are also there to give you invaluable insight into your business and to plan for the future.

Ask for help

Your accountant is there to help you to understand your finances. This is likely to be one of the biggest economic challenges you have ever faced as a small business owner. Now, more than ever, it is time to lean on your accountant to help create a robust plan.

If you do not understand something, or need guidance or clarification, get in touch and ask for their expertise and advice. If their advice doesn’t help, ask them to explain it again.

You can also check out Xero’s online guide to managing cash flow here.

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