Wealth Check: 'I need to fund my dental courses'

Jessica Langford is a newly qualified dental nurse and has no debts, but she wants to obtain qualifications in radiography, sedation or dental hygiene to further her career. However, the 20-year-old cannot afford to continue renting her property in Dudley, West Midlands, while studying at the same time.

She recently moved into a one-bed flat and, like many, is having trouble managing her outgoings with just £75 a month to spend. The only way she can improve her salary and achieve her long-term goal of saving money for a home and family is by taking these extra courses. However, she does not know how to fund them.

Case notes

Name: Jessica Langford
Age: 20
Monthly income: £1,100
Monthly outgoings: Tax £114
National Insurance: £70
Household expenses, (including rent and home insurance): £716
Annual expenses (including registration and insurance for work and car costs): £125

She wants advice on how to manage her outgoings so she can save up enough cash to take further qualifications. Advice this week comes from Nick Evans, of One Life Wealth Planning, Diane Weitz, of Ashlea Financial Planning, and Robert Forbes, of Plutus Wealth Management...

Debt

Jessica should be proud she has avoided getting herself into debt so far and is in a fairly stable, independent position. Her main focus, says Nick Evans, should be increasing her income. Her gross annual salary is about £13,200, but salarytrack.co.uk reports the average national income for a dental nurse is £17,316. If Jessica takes these courses she can therefore expect her salary to rise. This would give her more financial security in the future.

Evans says that if she starts studying again she could find it financially difficult for a few years but it will be hugely beneficial in the long run. "Short-term pain is worth it for longer-term gain," he says. "With greater income comes more options later, so Jessica should tough out the monthly battle to make ends meet, get the qualifications, negotiate well on her salary and in a couple of years' time she will be glad she did."



Qualifications

Jessica should ask her employer for financial support because the practice would benefit from having a better-qualified nurse. If her boss needs encouragement then Jessica could negotiate a delayed pay rise (brought about by taking the extra courses) in exchange for her employer funding the courses. "While this may seem counter-productive, your longer-term future relies on increasing your income and these qualifications are essential. If your employer won't offer support, you may need to think about moving to an alternative practice where your dedication can be rewarded," suggests Evans.

She may also get help from the NHS, as it provides bursaries for the medical profession and may be able to help fund courses. Even if she cannot find funding, Jessica should consider saving the money or borrowing it, he adds. "While debt may seem to go against your natural instincts, look on it as an investment in your career and earnings potential," he says.



Benefits

Although Jessica is not eligible for tax credits, Weitz says she may be able to receive housing benefit which would increase her ability to save. She should check he eligibility by visiting dwpe.direct.gov.uk.

"Jessica should contact HMRC to see if her work-related courses are tax deductible," says Forbes. "If they are, then that would help with the expenses."

He says she should also contact her broadband, utilities and home insurance providers and make sure she is on the best deals and cut her gas and electricity bills, maybe by switching supplier.



Buying a home

Weitz says Jessica should not think about buying her own home just yet. "She is doing well to save anything from her salary and achieving a deposit for a house may be unrealistic until she has completed her studies and achieves a higher income," she says. "With the average age for buying a property at 31, Jessica should be in no hurry at all," says Forbes. "She should concentrate on building a solid financial foundation first, she can plan for a deposit on a property, retirement and all the bigger things in life."

For a free financial check-up, write to Wealth Check, The Independent, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF; or alternatively email wealthcheck@independent.co.uk

More information

* To find an independent financial adviser in your area, visit www.unbiased.co.uk

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