How about putting yourself first this coming year? Is that not a great resolution to have? Most of us will agree that charity and doing things for others are great undertakings, but sometimes charity begins at home. Of course, we must help where help is needed, but if we’re in decent shape, we’re in better shape to help others, too.
I’m also a firm believer that you must manage your money, or it will manage you and your well-being.
That is why I’m promising myself that I will pay myself first this year. I want to look after my future and 2024-Andile first, and then worry about the rest. I include my wife and family in my “I”, and fortunately, we structure our household finances to reflect this principle.
By paying myself first, I mean that the debit orders for my retirement annuities and medium- and short-term investments and savings must be intact. I want to tick the life and short-term insurance boxes, make sure our medical aid plan still works for us, and have a look at my will. I also want to revisit my beneficiaries to make sure that each investment lands up where we need it to.
Administration is not my strongest point, which is why I want to make sure the proverbial dishes don’t pile up in my money kitchen. I want to revisit our budget that my wife so diligently puts together for us and clean out all the nooks and crannies. Firstly, our expenses, our subscriptions and cell phone contracts … How much interest are we paying on each kind of debt we have? How healthily is each of our investments growing? Is our emergency kitty on the empty side like the fridge when the kids’ friends have been over? Are our loyalty programmes doing some legwork for us?
I’m in the fortunate position to have had the same financial adviser for years, and luckily, he gets rid of a lot of the pain to do this kind of tracking. If you haven’t ever spoken to a financial adviser, maybe this is your year of speaking to one, or even two or three, until you find someone you trust, like I do.
Then I need to think about the tax deadlines, including the 29 February 2024 red-letter day for topping up my retirement annuities to make the most of my tax benefits. At Investo we joke and say the discounts for Tax Thursday are much better and more real than those for Black Friday.
I also want to practice what I preach. I don’t want to turn every visit to the shops into a money lesson, but I want to be more deliberate about making the kids part of our household decisions. If they get to help choose our next holiday destination, why can’t they help with the budget decisions? I want each of them to plan the activities for a particular day, and “finance” them with the available budget.
Because I work for a financial services company, I’m very aware of how difficult it is out there. People are struggling to make ends meet. Those who don’t, are really privileged. That’s part of the reason I want our family to be aware of what we spend, how we spend it, what we save, and how we save it. I want us to be proud of our money sacrifices and proud of what we can achieve later or in future because of them.
It will also put us in a position to not put only ourselves first.
As my colleague Paul Nixon at Momentum Investments puts it, if you follow the 50/30/20 budget rule – by splitting your after-tax income into spending 50% on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% on savings, you can manipulate the wants section to meet your financial goals and lend a helping hand.