Look before you leap, they say. And so it is with investing. Before you jump in, sort your house out.
Before investing, get your house in order
Taking risk responsibly involves preparing for the worst: recent stock market falls on account of inflation and rapidly rising interest rates serves as a salient reminder. By building-in buffers and getting the correct insurance and paperwork done, you will give yourself greater financial peace of mind and reduce the possibility of having to sell investments at inopportune moments to fund and bridge crises.
Here’s four areas we think you should consider:
Clear any expensive debts
First and foremost, clear any expensive debts. Credit cards or other forms of fast credit will charge far more interest in a year than you could possibly hope to achieve in investment returns. Zero those first! And for the same reason, never use credit to fund investments (if you’re struggling with debt, the Money Advice Service has some suggestions).
Create a rainy-day fund
Next, the all-important rainy-day fund. Unforeseen events WILL occur, such as broken boiler or a roof damaged by a storm. This is where savings accounts come into their own. They will hand back a small bit of interest while offering easy access to your cash with very little risk (well, up to £85k – the limit of government protection). Read our article on the different types of savings accounts here. We also explain all the ISA accounts, which include the Cash ISA. As a rule of thumb, you need between 3 – 6 months’ salary, depending on your responsibilities.
Sort out insurance
One area a financial adviser will always look at is life cover. Serious illness or death could lead to a nightmarish squeeze on you / your family’s finances.
Your two financial calculations (see here) will have painted an idea of the debts stacked against you, like mortgages, and also the running costs of your life. EQ Investor also have a really good financial tool that helps you understand your financial health – see here.
Life covers pay out a lump sum and are a good way to protect entire families. Decreasing life insurance will also pay out a lump sum, but its cover falls in-line with a repayment mortgage. Cover for critical illness / income protection pay out a monthly income in case you get very sick or injured.
There are plenty of comparison websites to help you find the best deal, but broadly, covers become more expensive the older and sicker you are. Make sure you check the details though – your family wouldn’t want any nasty surprises!
Write a will
Our final bit of recommended housekeeping. A will is a legal document that stipulates exactly what happens to your estate when you die. Failing to write a will could lead to it being shared in way you wouldn’t have wanted or chosen, and could lead to higher costs in terms of inheritance tax.
The Money Advice Service offer some guidance in creating a will.