Wealthcheck: 'I want to live life now but save for the future'

Caroline Smith faces one of the oldest financial planning dilemmas: How can she enjoy her money now and still buy a flat next year? By Harriet Meyer


The patient


Caroline Smith, 25, from Hove, Sussex, is making a New Year's resolution to slot away spare cash each month. "Saving is one of those things I always thought I'd do when I was more financially comfortable," she says. "But even after reducing my overheads since moving in with my boyfriend, I've been using the extra money to have more holidays and meals out instead."

Caroline, who earns £20,000 a year as a marketing executive, has amassed £1,500 in a cash individual savings account (ISA) paying 2.5 per cent with Abbey, but this sum is being eroded.



"I am slowly drawing money out of the ISA. I have to make the most of life, but realise this isn't sensible – particularly as we also want to buy a flat next year," she adds. "So, I've decided to make 2010 all about saving money."



She pays £330 a month to rent a small one-bed flat with her boyfriend. Fortunately this means bills are also low, with rent, council tax and utility bills amounting to a total of £415 a month.



"My boyfriend has enough money saved for a deposit on a house so I feel like a bit of a dead financial weight in the relationship," she says. They plan to start flat-hunting later next year for a one-bed flat in Brighton or Hove.



While she has managed to wipe out student debt since she started working a few years ago, she still makes full use of her overdraft facility. "I often reach the £1,000 mark, but don't go over this," she says. She has a current account with Abbey, which charges 12.9 per cent on any overdrawn sum.



Caroline also has yet to start planning for her long-term future. While her company has a pension scheme that will match employee contributions up to 3 per cent, she has chosen not to join this. "I figure I'll worry about it nearer the time," she says. She has no protection policies in place.



The cure



Many people will identify with Caroline's situation, says Robin Keyte from independent financial adviser (IFA) Towers of Taunton. "She wants to spend now and enjoy life but also feels the need to save and plan for tomorrow," he says.



"The spending and borrowing habits of the past 10 years are definitely behind us, it is no longer acceptable for so many people to live beyond their means. In truth, we have already started the process of where reducing debt and reducing outgoings are becoming the way of doing things. Add to this the fact that taxes are bound to go up after the next general election and we have entered an era of new austerity," Mr Keyte reckons.



With some financial discipline, Caroline can start to make savings and stop dipping into her overdraft.



Savings



As a first step towards making savings Caroline needs to set herself a budget and stick to it, agree the advisers. "At present she is subsidising her lifestyle by dipping into her savings, and coupled with going into her overdraft this is a dangerous strategy," says Dennis Hall from IFA Yellowtail Financial Planning. "And with the recent court ruling declaring unauthorised overdraft charges are not unlawful, any charges are unlikely to be reclaimed. What's more, there's little to stop banks raising charges in the future."



It is a false economy to make savings when you are being charged interest on debt at a much higher rate. "A quick win is for Caroline to use some of the money in her ISA to put herself back in the black," says Duncan Carter from IFA Clearwater Financial Planning.



Caroline should then look to move what is left to a higher paying ISA. Standard Life Bank is currently paying a variable rate at 2.65 per cent. This is an instant access account. If Caroline wants to safeguard herself from the temptation of dipping into her savings she could consider putting her money into an ISA which requires notice to be give before any withdrawals are made or even limits the number of withdrawals that can be made each year.



Whatever choice Caroline makes it's essential that she focuses on building up a savings cushion, equivalent to at least three months' salary. Using sites such as Moneyfacts.co.uk or moneysupermarket.com will ensure she always gets access to the best rates.



After tax and national insurance Caroline's monthly income is about £1,310, and from that she pays £415 in accommodation costs. This leaves her with £895. "A sensible budget might be to limit herself to £10 a day during the week for lunch and treats and slightly more for weekends," says Mr Hall.



One method of budgeting is to allocate money at the start of the month into separate accounts for savings and bigger planned purchases, say the advisers. "By allocating money at the beginning of the month, it forces you to live within your means," says Mr Hall.



Property



Turning to flat-buying, "the bigger the deposit the better", stress the advisers. This will enable the couple to access a competitive mortgage deal. They also advice opting for a repayment mortgage to whittle down the capital debt, rather than an interest-only deal. "I expect interest rates to rise over the next few years so a fixed-rate deal might be sensible," says Mr Keyte. It is also wise to own the property as "tenants-in-common". As tenants in common you each own a share; you can specify how much of it each party owns, for example, 75:25 per cent.



Retirement



Worrying about pensions "nearer the time" is a risky strategy as people leave retirement planning too late and are unlikely to achieve the level of income they would ideally like in later life.



By not joining her employer's pension scheme Caroline is effectively refusing a pay rise. "She is, in theory, doing the same job as someone else, but for 3 per cent less salary," says Mr Hall.



Her employer will pay £600 a year and, after tax relief, her contributions are just £40 a month – so she is getting £1,200 towards retirement for a contribution of just £480," says Mr Carter.



Protection



"Unless Caroline has a contingency plan she may wish to buy some sort of income protection to ensure that her bills are paid during any periods of illness once she gets a mortgage," says Mr Hall.

Do you need a financial makeover?

Write to Julian Knight at the Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF j.knight@independent.co.uk

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Suggested Topics
Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
(L-R) Amanda Peet as Tina Morris, Melanie Lynskey as Michelle Pierson, Abby Ryder Fortson as Sophie Pierson, Mark Duplass as Brett Pierson and Steve Zissis as Alex Pappas in Togetherness
TV First US networks like HBO shook up drama - now it's comedy's turn
News
i100
Travel
Pool with a view: the mMarina Bay Sands in Singapore
travel From Haiti and Alaska to Namibia and Iceland
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

    Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Equity | New York

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...

    Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...

    Selby Jennings: Oil Operations

    Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...

    Day In a Page

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect