Simon Read: It's the year to really get a good grip on your finances

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The Independent Online

Happy new year! I trust that the hangover soon subsides but that any well-meaning resolutions you made last night last a little longer, especially if they are to do with getting your finances in order in 2011. Rest assured that we'll continue to bring you the best investment advice and money-saving tips as normal.

And this year you could need them more than ever. Government cutbacks and tax increases mean that belt-tightening is likely to continue throughout the term of the current Government. Next week's increase in the rate of VAT to 20 per cent is likely to have an instant impact on bills and will mean we'll all have to work two days extra than last year before our earnings are our own. Tax Freedom Day won't fall until 29 May this year, according to the Adam Smith Institute. It means every penny we earn for the next 149 days will go to the tax authorities. It puts into focus the importance of tax-saving opportunities, a subject we'll return to regularly in these pages in 2011, starting next week with some advice on completing a tax return by the January deadline.

Looking further ahead, figures published by the DWP this week showed that millions of us will live to be over 100. But that could leave many people in financial difficulties because they're forced to give up work too early, according to Ros Altmann, director-general of Saga. She says companies should no longer be allowed to sack workers just because they reach 65. "They should not be denied the chance to keep working and earning money to sustain themselves as they live longer," Altmann says. I couldn't agree more, and echo her calls for a social revolution.

Would you like to question Britain's bosses about how they manage your money? I'm starting a new feature this year which will allow you to do just that. "Called to account" will feature a range of money managers who have agreed to answer your questions as honestly as possible. But the success of the series will depend on you coming up with searching questions. First up will be the man who looks after millions of motor insurance policies. He'll be followed by the man who runs mortgages for Britain's biggest lender.

I'm keen to find out why the price of car insurance is rising so quickly, and why so many lenders charges four-figure arrangement fees for mortgages. What would you like to know from them? Send me your questions for either and I'll try and ensure that their answers are interesting.

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