The pressures of the pandemic forced people to focus on their finances in 2020 like never before. As the new year dawns, perhaps you are resolving to keep up that focus in a new and more positive way.
FT podcast: Financial new year resolutions
More advice and suggestions for making your money go further in 2021. Listen here
If you’re eager to hear some fresh ideas, financial podcasts increasingly provide the “fin-spiration” we need to get our money moving in the right direction. Under lockdown, the number of people listening to podcasts has soared — and there are plenty of new shows to subscribe to that could help keep your financial momentum going in 2021 and beyond.
The FT has assembled the new year’s financial resolutions of podcast hosts in the UK and US, covering investment, saving, financial planning or even starting a side hustle or new businesses.
Many have featured on the FT’s new personal finance podcast, Money Clinic with Claer Barrett, and others will be making a guest appearance in the new year.
So sit back, put your headphones on, and see how these podcasters’ suggestions and shows could shape your own financial goals for the year ahead.
Merryn Somerset Webb
Time to rebalance your portfolio
I’m a great one for running my winners. Quite right, you might say — momentum investing has a great history of outperformance. The problem is that I’m not so much momentum investing as not-quite-getting-around-to-it investing. I fully intend to rebalance my holdings, trimming those that have performed very well and rolling the proceeds into those that have not but which I still have faith in for the long term.
Not doing so works in theory. The analysts at Baillie Gifford will tell you that you that almost all long term equity market returns come from around 4 per cent of stocks: hold those and there isn’t much point in rebalancing from them into the workaday rubbish that makes up the rest of the market.
The problem? Everyone has a different idea about which stocks make up the 4 per cent. I have one investment trust in my portfolio that is up 124 per cent in a year and another that is up 2 per cent. Both still look good to me — but why then would I hold twice as much of one as the other? This year’s resolution is to act on that thought.
Everybody needs a budget
This new year, set yourself an annual budget. I’ve built the most amazing Excel spreadsheet to manage mine, make sure I hit my savings and investment goals and be more efficient.
I see a budget like a dream — this is how my income and expenses should be looking across the year. If everything goes right, we’re going to be good. And then there’s the “actuals” tab, because sometimes you hit your budget, and sometimes you don’t. But the budget is the overall target of what you want your income and expenses and savings to look like. I complete the actuals on a monthly or even weekly basis to make sure I’m hitting my targets. If I’m not, I can make tweaks here and there. You can increase your income, and you can decrease your expenses, but it’s very hard to do if you’re not keeping track of it.
Plan a regular ‘money day’
Choose a specific date each month as your “Money Day” and diarise it as a recurring appointment. The goal here is to have conversations with your partner about your money life in the past 30 days. Discuss these three questions: What were our income sources last month? Where did all our money go? What is our current financial net worth? (This is the value of your assets less the value of your liabilities.) Doing this will improve your relationship with money over time and make talking about money an important part of your life each month.
Less is more
My resolution is to practice “masterly inactivity” — a wonderful phrase with a grim history. As I reveal in my Cautionary Tales podcast, the concept of “masterly inactivity” can apply to medicine and to parenting, but was coined during a 19th century debate about British imperial adventures in Afghanistan.
There’s a time to act, and a time not to. Every sensible investor understands the wisdom of being passive, favouring cheap index funds and regularly scheduled investments. Every trade costs money — and, worse, is an invitation to buy into bubbles and sell into panics (my own investment timing during a turbulent 2020 could have been better). But “masterly inactivity” is a more subtle concept: a willingness to bide your time, then leap into action when the moment is right. Whether making an investment or doing something more pedestrian such as switching insurance provider, I will try to act less — but more masterfully when I do.
Hang up on your landline
Fast fibre? Good 4G signal? Then get rid of your landline! BT would like you to pay an extra £15 a month for unlimited calls or £7 a month for 700 minutes. But if you do not use a landline, then do not pay for those bundles. Get pure fast broadband only — £31.99 a month (it can be less) — and ignore warnings that each call will cost you 20p a minute. They won’t because you will never make one. You will only make calls on your mobile, and over the internet where possible. Landlines are history — it’s 2021.
Use apps to change your mindset
Plenty of people will be looking to start a new career in 2021 — and not all of them by choice. If that’s you, my top tips would be to start something small on the side. I find the “quit your job” narrative quite unrealistic, but all of my career pivots have been through side projects, allowing me to transition or sidestep into a new venture.
This year has seen a rise in digital learning, with apps such as Skillshare, Knowable and Blinkist (and of course podcasts) allowing us to upskill, invest in ourselves and broaden our ideas at home or on the move. I use the Pomodoro technique of putting 25 minutes on the clock with no distraction. It’s amazing what you can do in that small amount of time.
Emma Gannon is an author and presenter of the careers podcast Ctrl Alt Delete
Talk property with your parents
Most millennial homebuyers in Britain are supported financially by parents and family members. If Bomad (the Bank of Mum and Dad) was an actual bank, it would be in the top 10 of UK’s mortgage lenders. So how best to ask for a loan appointment?
Be prepared to sit down with relatives and present a plan. Show them you’ve put serious thought into the savings and sacrifices you need to make, and be prepared to answer questions.
Do your homework first with property websites and an online mortgage calculator. With or without help, what kind of homes are realistically within your reach? How much could you save towards a 10 or 15 per cent deposit, and over what timeframe? Could you use the Lifetime Isa for the under-40s to boost your savings by 25 per cent? How affordable would the mortgage repayments be — and how do they compare with your rent? Do you need to work on your credit score?
Having a property plan makes it much easier for your relatives to see how giving you some extra help could change these parameters.
Invest time in yourself
This year has shown us that nothing is guaranteed. None of us knows what the future holds, so it’s essential to value the present. My advice is to invest your time with intention. Spend it on things that create value for you and others. That can be business or charity. Spend it on relationships that are important to you. Adjust your calendar in a way that encourages you to make time for health, relationships, business and education. Prioritising your wellbeing will only help shape you for success.
Understand your debt
Resolve to understand your debt in 2021. Whether it’s a student loan, credit card or an auto loan, we often don’t take the time to understand the terms of the debt we take on. Who do you owe money to? How much total debt do you have? How long do you have to pay it back? What is the interest rate for each piece of debt? Are you being charged additional fees? Once you understand your debt it is much easier to make a plan and start to become debt free.
Chris Browning presents the Popcorn Finance podcast — discussing finance in about the time it takes to make a bag of popcorn
Set up a ‘guilt free spending account’
Because of the uncertainty of the pandemic, many people plan to be much more intentional about their spending and saving habits in 2021 — and this is a resolution I’m making myself.
Avoid “lifestyle creep” by having clear goals about what you want to accomplish with your finances. Be mindful of how you’re spending your money and how it’s impacting those financial goals.
I’m a huge fan of setting aside a separate guilt-free spending account that can be built into my budget and does not affect those goals. If you manage to get a pay rise, bonus or a tax refund in 2021, don’t just let it make its way into your bank account — if you’re not intentional about it, there’s always a reason for money to leave you.
Get started as an investor
I used to work in finance, but I wasn’t managing my own finances very actively. I started looking for a financial adviser and met one in the City — he asked me where my husband was!
This inspired me to start my business, Vestpod, a digital platform that brings women together to talk about money. If you aren’t already investing, 2021 is the year for you to begin. The best way to learn is by getting started and accepting that mistakes may happen. Be prepared to ride out the ups and downs, and eventually, you and your wallet will reap the rewards of your long-term commitment. Contributing small amounts day after day will compound over time and so will your investment knowledge.
Start a side hustle
If you’re looking to start your own side hustle in 2021, here are my three top tips. First, pick something you’re passionate about — a problem that keeps you up at night that you feel uniquely positioned to solve in a novel way. Second, make your identity and personality a big part of your brand. It will help you build trust with your customers and give integrity to your brand. Finally, don’t shy away from putting a fair price on your goods or services. Perception is reality and folks respond positively to things that don’t appear suspiciously cheap.
My ‘PG Tips’ for investors
Here are my “pretty good tips” for investors — a few dos and don’ts for the post-Covid world. Don’t believe the myth that value investing has run its course. Neil Woodford failed due to hubris and an unhealthy reliance on illiquid stocks. There is still room for the savvy stockpicker. Don’t assume blue-chip companies are an insurance against disaster. Do reward companies which have sound cash flow, do what they say on the tin and avoid words such as “synergies”.
Don’t assume interest rates will stay “low for long” forever. Investors in equities, especially US stocks, have been partying hard for a decade. Savvy asset managers tell me that on a three-to-five year horizon they expect much lower returns from equities. Where will the returns come from? Most likely, alternative asset classes such as private equity and venture capital, but that requires expertise.
Finally, Covid-19 has turbocharged the internet. Those companies (and boards) that adjust their business models accordingly will thrive; others will go to the wall. Look at every sector through the tech prism. As one Silicon Valley investor told me: 2030 has just come a lot closer, faster.
Lionel Barber is the former editor of the Financial Times, and presents LBC’s What’s Next? podcast
Invest in staycations
My big project for 2021 involves rolling up my sleeves and converting a Suffolk farm into holiday lets. I often remind Investors’ Chronicle readers and listeners to be wary of big claims about how much Covid-19 will permanently change the world.
It may have accelerated some trends that were already there, but I agree with Bill Gates when he said that we overestimate the change that will happen in the next two years but underestimate what will happen in 10. In the short term, I believe we will enthusiastically return to many of our old ways, but over a decade I suspect we will have seen extraordinary progress in technology, healthcare and sustainability — particularly in Asia. And I am confident the staycation trend is going to continue, too.
John Hughman is the editor of the Investors’ Chronicle, and presents the Investors’ Chronicle podcast
Start a money journal
Often, the relationship we have with money is really a reflection of the relationship that we have with ourselves. Money is emotional. If I could suggest one resolution, it would be to use “journaling” to explore the patterns and emotions you feel in your own relationship with money. I find Sunday morning is a great time to sit quietly and write down my thoughts — and it’s amazing what flows out.
Ask yourself questions such as: what impact did my parents’ relationship with money have on me? What do I tell myself about money? What is this protecting me from? How do I measure the value of money?
Lean into any areas of resistance. Your beliefs, like loyal soldiers, may have protected you from exploring these emotions, but 2021 is the time to change your future financial journey by working through them.
Catherine Morgan is a financial coach and presents the podcast In Her Financial Shoes
Appreciate the wonder of compound interest
With my Maths Appeal podcast, I’ve resolved to reinforce the power of compound interest. Savings rates are at all-time lows, which is tempting more people to try investing. Don’t just focus on performance — it pays to interrogate the fees you are charged on your investments.
Fees often look like small percentages, but they have a big impact over time. Say you have a £10,000 pot. Over a 10-year period, if you’re making a 5 per cent return every year, the power of compound interest will swell this gain to nearly £6,300. But if fees and charges erode that annual return to 3 per cent, your gain is reduced to around £3,400 — so you’re giving away nearly half of your performance.
Bobby Seagull is a TV presenter and maths teacher, and presents the podcast Maths Appeal
Focus on the next generation
My first grandchild, Leonie, was born in 2020. Not all grandparents may know the annual savings limit on Junior Isas has risen to £9,000. The money is locked up until the child turns 18, meaning shares are a better bet than cash. But I also want my grandchild to have financial fun.
I have resolved to buy her some Premium Bonds. The notional interest is currently only 1 per cent, but the money will be accessible and safe, as it is government-backed. She will also be in with a chance of winning £1m every month. Since 1994, 10 children under 16 have won the top prize.
I’m giving more to charity
Despite the pandemic, British people gave £800m more to charities between January and June 2020 than they did the year before, the Charities Aid Foundation found.
But many charities found fundraising difficult, if not impossible, in 2020, while the demands on their services have increased. One estimate is that UK charities will see over £6bn of income lost in the second half of 2020.
My financial priority, therefore, is to increase the amount I give to charity. This will give me an even greater sense of fulfilment and joy while making a real difference to others. That is a brilliant return in my book.
I’m making my pension my priority
The idea of a pension remains foreign to millennials, as we are still settling into the notion of having a stable, full-time job. But, urged on by my colleague Claer Barrett, I have taken back control of my pension at the age of 31, discovering the generous matched contributions from my employer. Seizing the pre-Christmas window of change, my retirement — due somewhere around 2060 — is already looking in much better shape. Now, there’s just the other small challenge of buying a property.
Sebastian Payne is the FT’s Whitehall correspondent and presents the podcast Payne’s Politics
Get in touch
What financial issue are you resolving to tackle in 2021? Share your comments below, or email us email@example.com and we will mention the best ones on an episode of Money Clinic podcast in the new year
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