2024 is a leap year, so, this 29 February, why not take advantage of your extra day and do those pieces of financial admin you’ve been putting off for too long?

When Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar in 45BC, he added an extra day every four years to compensate for the fact that the Earth takes around 365 and a quarter days to orbit the sun.

However, his calculation was slightly off and, over a long period of time, the Julian calendar began to drift out of sync with Earth’s movements.

The first to tackle this problem was Pope Gregory XIII, who created the Gregorian calendar in AD 1582. This new calendar retained the extra day every four years, but dictated that leap years would only occur in century years that are divisible by 400.

Fast forward to the current leap year of 2024, and you’ll have an extra day in February to do with as you please. So, with the end of the tax year approaching, it’s a great opportunity to tackle some of the financial jobs you’ve been putting off.

There's nearly £400 billion currently sitting in savings accounts, earning 1% or less in interest

Below are seven suggestions for pieces of financial admin you could do this 29 February. And, while the tasks outlined may benefit you, many of them could also be of huge emotional and practical assistance to your loved ones if you became unable to manage your affairs or you pass away.

1. Check you’re getting the best financial deals

Savings rates have increased significantly over the past couple of years, which means you might not be getting the best rate of return. Could it be time to switch?

According to Yorkshire Building Society, nearly £400 billion is currently sitting in savings accounts earning 1% or less in interest. If your savings account is paying this low level of interest, you could be losing out on thousands of pounds a year. For example, by moving £50,000 from an account earning 1% to an account earning 4%, you could earn an extra £1,500 in annual interest.

You may also want to look at switching bank accounts. Alternate banks could offer more advanced digital banking tools and resources, cash incentives for switching, and better customer service among other benefits.

In addition, it’s worth checking you’ve made the most of your ISA and pension allowances before the tax year end. You can’t carry any unused ISA allowance into the next tax year, so if you don’t use it, you lose it – speak to your Amber River adviser if you’re unsure.

2. Check your pension expression of wishes

An expression of wish form tells your pension provider who you’d like to receive your pension in the event you die before you retire. Because pensions aren’t usually included in your will, it’s important to complete one of these forms for each pension you hold.

If you’re working with an Amber River adviser, they should have already considered this for you. However, it may be worth checking that you do have one and that it accurately reflects your current wishes.

Note that a pension expression of wishes is not legally binding, but your pension provider should take it into account when deciding what to do with your pension.

financial admin

3. Update your will

It’s a good idea to regularly assess your will to make sure it reflects your current wishes. After all, certain life events can often change how you may want to pass on your estate.

Common reasons for updating your will include:

  • A new child or grandchild in the family
  • A change in your marital status
  • If an executor or beneficiary of your existing will has died
  • If your financial situation has changed

To ensure that your will accurately reflects your wishes, it is normally a good idea to speak with a solicitor – they can help you through the process.

4. Set up a Lasting Power of Attorney, Power of Attorney, or Enduring Power of Attorney

If you ever become unable to make decisions about your affairs, it can be important to nominate an “attorney” who can act on your behalf. This is normally done by creating a legal document.

Depending on your location, this document can be known as a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), Power of Attorney (PoA), or Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA). If you don’t nominate an attorney, a loved one will have to apply for the right to make decisions on your behalf. This can be expensive and time-consuming, and it may mean the person appointed is not the person you would have chosen.

Arranging an attorney now can make the process simpler and ensure someone you trust is empowered to make decisions on your behalf. A financial planner can help you with some aspects of the process, but you will also usually need to talk with a solicitor.

5. Go through your bank statements

Everyone’s guilty of signing up for subscriptions they never use. Whether it’s a gym membership, mindfulness app, or yet another streaming service subscription – once you’ve signed up for this kind of direct debit, it’s easy to forget about it.

Regularly going through your bank statements can be an easy way to keep on top of how you’re spending your money. So, this 29 February, take a look at your outgoings. If you spot direct debits you don’t use, you can cancel them, freeing up money which could be redirected towards your savings and investments, or current standard of living.

financial admin

6. Create an In Case of Emergency document

In your absence – for example, if you are incapacitated in hospital – it can be difficult for your loved ones to carry out your wishes if they’re missing key information about your affairs. To make life easier for your family, preparing an In Case of Emergency (ICE) document can be of huge emotional and practical benefit. An ICE document should contain key information that will help your family to keep your affairs in order if you’re not able to.
Information typically contained within an ICE document includes your:

  • Personal details
  • National Insurance number
  • Location of will and LPA/PoA/EPA
  • All your bank and savings account details, with account numbers and passwords if online
  • Details of any investments you hold, such as ISAs, General Investment Accounts, and shares
  • Details of any insurance policies you hold, including provider and policy numbers
  • Details of professional contacts, such as your solicitor or financial planner

If you’re currently working with an Amber River adviser, they may have already considered this option for you. However, this 29 February, why not check that it’s up to date?

If you haven’t already completed an ICE document, then speak to your Amber River adviser. They can help you to prepare one, and ensure all relevant information is included in it. Without an ICE document, your loved ones may struggle to find important information about savings, investments and insurance that you hold. Having one in place will help reduce their stress at an emotional time and minimise the risk that an important asset is overlooked.

7. Check the date of your financial review

Working with your Amber River adviser to review your plan can give you peace of mind that you’re on track to achieve your life goals. If we’ve already crafted a bespoke financial plan for you and you’ve signed up to ongoing contact, you might already have a review date in the diary. If you’re not sure when yours is, please contact your adviser.

Get in touch

If you don’t have a financial plan, or would like a review of your current one, set up an initial appointment with one of our independent financial advisers by calling 0800 915 0000, or alternatively, use our contact form here.