Liam Croke: Six financial ‘to-dos’ for October

Every month I advise people what their financial to-dos should be for the month ahead. And now that the kids are well back at school, October is the perfect time to check back on your finances and get them organised for what’s left of the year.

Every month I advise people what their financial to-dos should be for the month ahead. And now that the kids are well back at school, October is the perfect time to check back on your finances and get them organised for what’s left of the year.

So, I have created for you an October to-do list with suggestions you can tackle in no time at all, everything from tracking down old pension plans to getting ready for Christmas. So, let’s get started.

Track down old pensions you have in place:

The pensions ombudsman believes that up to €500 million in pension funds has gone unclaimed. People are moving jobs more frequently, working abroad etc. and are forgetting what they have accumulated with other employers.

Sometimes people think the amount is too small to take any notice of and just forget about it. When you leave an employer you have the option to bring it with you to a new scheme but how many of you said that once you bed down into a new job you will then get the paperwork in order and have it transferred over and then forget about it altogether?

Don’t add to the half a billion that has already gone unclaimed. Get out the paperwork from previous employers and transfer it over to your new scheme or at least make sure any previous schemes have your up-to-date address details for correspondence.

There a very few pension administrators in Ireland so the likelihood is that your old scheme is being managed by the same people who are managing your new scheme. And even if they aren’t the process of transferring it over is very easy and not time consuming.

Re-evaluate your budget

For those of you who follow a monthly budget, how have you being getting on since you first started back in January? Are there areas you can cut back on, get better value on, spend more on? Reviewing your budget now is a great way of assessing where you are right now and how the year has gone. It will help you focus on what you have been doing well on and what are those areas you need to pay more attention to.

You can download any number of budgeting apps on-line and they really are very powerful tools to have at your disposal which will allow you track exactly what you are spending your money on and they are very simple to use and don’t take any time to input.

Make a doctor’s appointment

When is the last time you had a medical examination? It is something you should be getting done at least once a year. We find that people only initiate examinations if they are forced to e.g. if for example they are proposing for life cover and the life assurance company requests they attend a medical.

Be proactive and get that medical carried out. Having that peace of mind knowing you are physically in good shape has proven to have a very powerful effect on your financial wellbeing as well.

And one last point for those of you who smoke – along with it being physically bad for your health, it is incredibly bad for your finances as well. For example you are paying about 70% more in life assurance premiums than a non-smoker is – the difference over a 20/25 year period is staggering, it really is.

And finally, for those of you who have given up smoking and haven’t smoked in the past 12 months, but were smokers when you took out a life policy, you are still being charged smoker rates; so now is the time to contact your life assurance company and tell them you no longer smoke and if you do you will see your monthly premiums tumble.

Trim monthly subscription expenses

Don’t waste your money on subscriptions for things you don’t use. A user of our on-line tool, My|Money, was telling me that during the summer he reviewed all of his recurring subscriptions from gym membership to movie channels and everything else in between and they came out at about €230 per month. When he figured out what he really used, he cut it down from that €230 to €90 each month.

Another person was telling me that a couple of years ago he got in Sky Sports just to watch the Ryder Cup – it was going to cost something like €40 for the month but he was happy with that, because he liked golf and loved the Ryder Cup. And once the month was over he was going to cancel the subscription. Fast forward two years and he didn’t have to add that channel for this year’s event because he still hadn’t cancelled it from two years ago.

Review what you are spending each month and be honest with yourself; are there areas you would miss if you gave them up and if there are then leave them in place. But if there are other subscriptions that you wouldn’t miss then take action now.

Start getting ready for Christmas

Start making a list of all those people you are going to be buying presents for and how much you can allocate to each. Write down an idea or two alongside their names so you are not spending more than you need to and not trawling in and out of shops in December looking for ideas.

Planning for these purchases now and budgeting for them will help you buy what you really need and want rather than simply snapping up whatever might be on sale. Doing this will prevent you from overspending when the time comes I assure you.

Digitise your financial documents

Even if you are organised and have all of your bank statements in one place, you don’t want to be exposed should your house be burgled or is damaged in a fire/flood.

Consider scanning important documents like wills, mortgage statements, life assurance policies etc. and storing them on your computer’s hard drive or on a USB stick.