Combining the desire to enjoy life with the stability of a secure financial future will allow you to sleep soundly, knowing that you're protecting your family's finances no matter what life throws at you. But where should you begin?

It’s great to live for the moment – especially when you have a young family. Time is precious, after all. But it’s also important to recognise that sometimes, spontaneous financial decisions can create a long-term ripple effect. This can make it more difficult to achieve your goals and dreams as you grow older.

It’s important to adopt a long-term outlook rather than thinking only about what you want right now

1. Get organised

Taking the time to get organised and fully understand your current situation can help you spot anything you might need to tackle quickly, and provide a sound basis for developing your financial plan. As part of this process, you should:

  • Make a list of all your accounts. This should include current accounts, savings accounts, loans, credit cards, investments, and pensions. You may want to keep a tally of your balances in a spreadsheet, and keep login details in a secure password wallet.
  • Make a list of all your debts. If you have multiple loans, hire-purchase arrangements and credit cards, it’s easy to underestimate the total amount you owe. So be brave and be honest with yourself – you need a clear idea of your overall debt liability to start reducing it.
  • Review your outgoings against your incomings. This will allow you to see where you can ‘cut the fat’ from your outgoings and use that money more wisely to invest in your future.
  • Create a filing system. Most financial companies prefer to engage with you digitally – it saves them money. But there will always be some physical paperwork you need to keep hold of. So, rather than throwing it into a drawer or leave sitting in your email inbox, set up a digital and physical filing system. It will make your life easier when you can instantly retrieve the files and have a clearer idea of your financial position.
  • Start building up an emergency fund. A key step to protecting your family is making sure you have enough savings set aside – usually three months’ worth of household income. This is generally the time it takes for protection insurance to kick in if you were unable to work, plus you have access to funds if faced with any unexpected bills.

2. Set clear goals for a long-term future

To manage your money successfully, it’s important to adopt a long-term outlook. Rather than thinking only about what you want right now, try to also think about what you want for your family in five, ten or even twenty years.

To do this, you need to set some goals. They don’t need to be specific, but they should give you a good idea of the type of life you envisage for yourself and your family. Dream a little – if you don’t think big now, you’re unlikely to take the steps required to achieve them.

Jot down everything that comes to mind. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • Where do you see your family in five, ten or twenty-years’ time?
  • How do you want your career to pan out?
  • Do you want to educate your children privately?
  • Will they go to university?
  • Do you want to give them a helping hand to buy a home?
  • How many holidays do you want a year?
  • Are you planning a lavish lifestyle, or are you happy living modestly?
  • When do you want to retire?
  • How do you want to spend your retirement?
  • Are you planning any ‘big’ purchases along the way?
  • And what about your parents? As they grow older, do you need to plan for their care?

The more in-depth and detailed you can be, the better. This exercise will help you figure out what money you’ll need in the future, and provide an indication of the financial decisions you may need to take to achieve your dreams.

It’s at this point that many people seek the services of a financial planner. They can help you identify and prioritise your life goals, and offer advice on the financial steps you should put in place to achieve them.

Put a financial cushion in place to protect you and your family at times of adversity

3. Consider investing in a protection policy

Life is full of unknowns, so it makes sense to put a financial cushion in place to protect you and your family at times of adversity, if you can afford it. Insurance is hardly the most exciting purchase – after all, there’s nothing to show for your money. That is, until you need it, at which point it might become the best investment you ever made.

While there are many types of protection insurance to choose from, the right policy for you will depend on your circumstances. If you’re in good health, living in rented accommodation, and don’t have any dependents, your needs will be significantly different to someone with children and a large mortgage.

When considering your options, a financial planner can help you assess your needs and recommend a set of protection products that fall within your budget. Here are some of the most common:

– Life Insurance – pays out a lump sum or provides a monthly income upon the death of the insured person.

– Income Protection – replaces your monthly income if you become unable to work due to illness or injury. Although Short-Term Income Protection (STIP) policies can also replace your income in cases of redundancy, standard Income Protection products do not.

– Critical Illness Cover – provides a one-off payment if you are diagnosed with a critical illness.

– Private Medical Insurance – covers the costs of private healthcare from diagnosis to treatment.

– Mortgage Payment Protection Insurance – pays your mortgage for an agreed period if you’re made redundant or become unable to work because of an accident or illness.

This is not a comprehensive list, and the features of each one can vary from one policy to another. Your financial adviser will be able to guide you and recommend products to suit your specific requirements. To learn more about protection products, read How can I protect my family financially?

4. Pay off any expensive debt

Whether credit cards or a car loan, expensive debt chokes your budget and eats away at your cash flow. So, paying the most expensive debt as soon as possible should become your top priority.

This means using disposable income to reduce your credit cards and loans as quickly as possible – and avoiding the temptation to rack up any more debt.

5. Plan your estate

If you have a partner, dependents, or assets, you need an estate plan. An estate plan details the assets you own and what you would like to happen to them when you die. Without one, your family may be faced with uncertainty, financial hardship and an unexpected tax bill when you pass.

At the very minimum, an estate plan should include a will and a power of attorney.

A power of attorney allows others to act or make decisions on your behalf, if you become unable or choose not to make your own decisions. Without one, your partner won’t necessarily have immediate access to your money in the event you lose mental capacity (for example, as a result of a serious accident or illness). This could leave your family struggling to pay the bills or meet your medical expenses.

A will details how you would like your property distributed when you die, and who you would like to care for your children. If you die without one, you’ll have died ‘intestate’, which means the State controls how your assets are split. In these circumstances an unmarried partner may not receive anything. And if your children are left without a parent, the State will elect your children’s guardian, not you.

An estate plan can also help limit the potential inheritance tax (IHT) bill your beneficiaries may have to pay. With a bit of forethought and the help of a financial planner, there are ways you can structure your finances to ensure this figure is minimised.

For more on this, see 5 steps to prepare financially before your death

Choose an adviser that you get on with and feel you can trust

6. Partner with a trusted financial planner

Finding and partnering with a financial planner means you’ll have a trusted expert on hand to represent your interests, offer advice and guidance, and help protect you and your family at every stage of your life.

It’s important to choose an adviser with the right qualifications and experience, but they should also be someone you get on with and feel you can trust. Find the right person, and you’re likely to have them by your side for life.

You may be interested in reading How to find a financial planner you can trust

Amber River Financial Planning

An Amber River financial planner will assess your needs, goals, your family circumstances and the risks you face before recommending the most appropriate financial strategy. And when it comes to protecting your family’s finances, because all of our advisers are independent, they’re able to search the entire market to find solutions that perfectly match your requirements.

Get in touch

To speak to one of our team, arrange an appointment or find out more, call 0800 915 0000, or alternatively use our contact form here.