Aled Pashley is keen to get his finances on track so he can plan for the future – and potentially for a family a little further down the line.
The 27-year-old lives in a three-bedroom cottage in Neath, south Wales, with his partner, Charley Foy, aged 21.
Aled is self-employed and works part time in finance, and part time as an administrator at his father's financial firm.
"I currently earn around £26,000 a year," he says. "In addition, I do some work in the music industry. This involves me running a small label, arranging gigs and playing in a few bands."
Aled is working on building up his savings and currently has just over £2,500 slotted away.
"I have around £1,650 in a cash individual savings account (Isa) with NatWest paying 1.98 per cent, £800 in a NatWest e-Saver account paying 1 per cent, and £100 in a Post Office e-Saver account paying 0.9 per cent."
At present, Aled has no money in investments.
"Any spare cash left over at the end of each month usually gets put away into one of my savings accounts," he says.
Aled bought the home that he shares with Charley in January 2011 for £144,500.
"I felt it was a good time to try and get onto the property ladder as prices in the area seemed to be at the lowest they'd been for some time," he says. "My parents helped out with the deposit, contributing around £55,000. I then managed to get a mortgage with NatWest for around £86,000. I'm currently on a fixed-rate deal at 3.36 per cent, although I started with a rate of 1.99 per cent for the first two years."
The mortgage is interest-only and set to run for just eight years.
"For various reasons, the only way I could arrange things at the time was to take a short mortgage on an interest-only basis with a view to remortgaging at the end of eight years," says Aled. "When I do this, I hope to move to a more standard 25-year term – and to a repayment deal."
As Charley is still a student, the mortgage is based on Aled's earnings alone.
"I effectively pay this on my own, although Charley does contribute some of her student loan to the general household outgoings," he says.
Aled didn't take out a student loan at university, so he is debt-free.
"I do have several credit cards – including a Play.com card and Amazon card – but use these purely for the cashback incentives, and pay off my balance in full on a weekly basis. I also make as many purchases as possible with any offers I can find, or through a cashback site such as Topcashback."
Aled has opted to take out a stakeholder pension with Scottish Widows. He pays £40 a month into this. I'd like to increase my contributions as soon as it is reasonable to do so," he says.
At the moment, Aled has no protection policies in place but is keen to review this.
"My ultimate financial goal is to provide a high standard of living for myself, my partner, and potentially then for a family should children come along," says Aled. "My priorities will always be clearing debt and saving for retirement, but I also need to think about other possible future expenses, such as private school fees."
Our panel of independent financial advisers commend Aled on being organised with his finances, disciplined about not building up debt, and for working to try and amass savings both for the short-term and the future. However, they urge him to put protection policies in place as a matter of priority.
Arrange protection urgently
Life insurance to cover the mortgage on Aled's death is particularly important given Charley is not earning at the moment, says Alex Pegley from Calculis Financial Planners.
"This could cost just £5 per month for a 25-year term and would enable her to go on living in the house were Aled no longer around."
Danny Cox from Hargreaves Lansdown recommends the couple also consider the risk of ill-health.
"As Aled is self-employed, his earnings may be variable," he says. "Income protection is likely to be the best solution, or, in the absence of this, a combination of accident and sickness insurance and critical illness cover."
Aled should also make a will, he adds.
"At present, should he die, Charley will have no rights to the cottage," he warns. "Without a will the property will be subject to the rules of intestacy and pass either to his siblings or parents."
Build up a bigger emergency fund
Aled is being very organised by putting money aside for specific requirements, says Patrick Connolly from Chase de Vere.
"But he needs to continue to build his cash savings, particularly in regard to his emergency funds," he says. "Having money available in cash will help him avoid going into debt should short-term needs arise."
Ideally, Aled should aim to have the equivalent of six months' expenditure squirreled away.
Mr Pegley adds that Aled should put as much of his savings as possible into a cash Isa where all interest is tax free.
Think about investing further down the line
Aled's stakeholder pension from Scottish Widows is a reasonable option, according to Mr Connolly.
"This has an annual charge of 0.73 per cent and access to a range of investment funds," he says.
But Mr Cox adds that while Aled has made a decent start in terms of his pension saving, £40 a month is only a starting point.
"He should be looking to save a percentage broadly equivalent to half his age – or 13 per cent of earnings – to provide a decent income," he says. "Equally, if increasing pension saving to this level is unrealistic given Aled's aim to reduce his mortgage, he should look to build his contributions over time."
Increase pension contributions
Mr Connolly says investments are not Aled's biggest priority at present.
"First, he needs to build up further cash savings," he says. "Then he should look at longer-term investments alongside pensions."
Review mortgage arrangements
While Aled has done well to get on to the property ladder, Mr Connolly is concerned he has such a short mortgage term – and this has been arranged on an interest-only basis with no real plan to pay it off.
"Aled may be planning to address this at the end of the eight-year term, but I'd recommend he reviews his mortgage options now," he says.
First off, Aled needs to find out if there are any penalties for stopping his current mortgage early.
"If he can move without penalty, he should see if there's a cheaper rate available and switch to a repayment basis," he says. "If Aled is concerned about being able to afford the higher monthly cost that this entails, he needs to give some thought to how he will do this in the future."
Mr Pegley agrees that it's important for Aled to move to a repayment mortgage as soon as he can.
"This will mean the house belongs to him – and not to the bank – in the future."