Financial planning – how to maximise your finances

Financial planning may sound daunting, but time spent focusing on your finances today could be very valuable later down the line.

It’s like planning a journey – where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. It’s taking a look at what you’ve got now, what you want in the future and putting a plan in place achieve it.

Start by identifying your savings goals, then break them down into short, medium and long-term. You can then assess your current situation and see how far you are from these goals, and finally put a plan in place to achieve them.

Your financial plan should be ever-evolving, as your goals will change as your life changes.

Select the right age bracket for you below for our top saving tips for different life stages:

Under age 35

Your 20s and early 30s could well be the age of financial freedom. You’ve kicked off your career and are experiencing the earning – and spending – potential that comes with it.

Saving at these early career stages is about balance – maximise what you have now to achieve the lifestyle you want, whilst also getting into a healthy savings habit for the future.

It’s only natural that your short term goals are more of a priority – but don’t forget about those medium and long-term goals. Time is on your side, but the longer you wait to set those long-term goals, the harder it’ll be. Unbiased looks at the cost of delay for something like saving for your pension.

Top tips

  • Set yourself a monthly budget – the Money Advice Service’s budget planner can help you get a handle on your spending and get in control of your money.
  • Don’t take too big a bite from your income each month – achieve the right balance between earning, spending and saving.
    • Don’t forget – this balance is different for everyone so achieve what’s right for you.
  • According to Unbiased, you should look to save between 5-20% of your monthly earnings towards your medium and long-term goals – even saving a small amount will get you into that healthy savings habit.
  • Have an emergency fund – a security blanket that’ll get you through any sticky patches like a broken-down car or new boiler.
  • If you’re considering children or buying a new home, you might want to start building a ‘baby fund’ or a ‘house fund’ with savings vehicles like ISAs.
  • Keep on track of your money – use a budgeting app to analyse what’s coming and going and what you might have spare to save.

Your financial wellbeing can have a positive effect on your mental wellbeing too. So have a think about your own goal-setting using our tips and give your future self a boost.

Age 35-49

As you move through your late 30’s and 40s, you enter what could be the peak of your career. You may have more spending power but it’s important to keep on top of your finances and focus on your long term goals.

Your life may be starting to shift – so your savings goals will shift too. If you have a family it may be getting bigger, growing up or moving away. It’s a key time and the financial choices you make could help you achieve your dreams later in life.

Top tips

  • Use the Money Advice Service’s budget planner to understand your household spending.
  • You may want to set up a separate savings pot for your family’s future: everything from school uniforms to university fees – and the car they’ll ask for at 17 will be much easier to buy, if you have some money set aside.
  • You may find yourself part of the ‘sandwich generation’ – looking after kids and caring for elderly parents at the same time. Having an emergency fund can help you through any sticky patches such as care costs, a broken-down car or new boiler.
  • Don’t spread yourself too thin – prioritise your goals so you can focus your lifestyle as well as your savings.
  • Review your expected retirement income from USS and understand if you’re on track for the lifestyle you want or if you need to save more to get there.
  • If you have children, prepare them too – start to instil good financial habits from a young age.
  • Take a look at the Money Advice Service’s guide on saving money on household bills.

At this time in your life you should focus on saving towards those medium and long term goals so you can continue living the way you want to in the future.

Age 50 onwards

Your 50s are a time to put yourself first financially – any kids have left the nest and you can now focus on you.

Retirement may still be a way off, but now is a pivotal point for saving as much as you can for the exciting adventures ahead. You’ve most likely built up some savings, but it’s important that these continue to grow.

Saving for retirement is important, but enjoying yourself in the now is important too - setting yourself the right goals can help you strike the balance.

Top tips

  • Get a handle on your spending – the Money Advice Service’s budget planner is a useful tool to help you understand your spending and be in control of your money.
  • Get an idea of how much you’ll need when you retire – what will your household bills be? Where might you save money? What luxuries might you want, like holidays or a new car?
  • Pay more towards your mortgage now if you can – it’ll mean less to pay out in retirement.
  • Work out what you’ve got – look at all of your savings and income together, including ISAs, pensions, investments, other savings and property.
  • Use our benefit illustrator to estimate the income you’ll get from your USS pension at retirement.
  • If you’re not quite on track consider where you could save more – the Money Advice Service’s guide on saving money on household bills could help.
  • Understand the tax that you’ll pay in retirement and be proactive with your tax planning.

This may be your last savings push before you retire – those once-distant aspirations might be fast approaching, so make the most of saving as much as you can to enjoy the lifestyle you want after work.

Planning for retirement can be daunting – it’s always best to seek advice if you aren’t sure what’s best for you. You can find an FCA regulated financial adviser through Unbiased.

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Useful tools

Published date: 25 July 2019

Short-term goals – what you plan to do within the next year, perhaps a holiday, redecorate or treat yourself to something new.

Medium-term goals – what you plan to do in the next five years, like buy a new car, buy a new home, get married or have a child.

Long-term goals – what you plan to do in five years or more, maybe climb the property ladder, support your growing family or retire.