Great time for a fresh start

Britain’s predictably unpredictable weather undoubtedly contributes in no small part towards our propensity to book summer holidays comparatively early.

By contrast, the French and Italians, for example, leave such arrangements until much later in the year, mindful that, if necessary, they can embark on a day trip or two to the coast in the knowledge that glorious sunshine is virtually guaranteed.

Indeed, whereas the French and Portuguese rarely holiday abroad (why would they?), come January and Brits invariably find themselves seduced by evocative photographs of blue skies, azure-coloured seas and the obvious sense of warmth oozing from pictures of exotic locations adorning the travel pages of our newspapers and magazines.  

Not surprisingly, January is the travel industry’s busiest month for summer holiday reservations, our indigenous dank, miserable weather a major contributory factor to this regular seasonal surge.

The likelihood is, then, that if you haven’t already booked your 2013 summer break, you will at least have given it some thought. Me? For the record, my wife and I are off to watch the Tour de France – not, I hasten to add, as some post-Olympic arrivistes; it’s something we’ve been doing for several years.

It was quite a squeeze fitting three weeks in France into the new diary, what with a forthcoming schedule comprising several landmark birthdays and a noteworthy wedding anniversary.

Then there’s my new year resolutions. “Get fit” is as regular a January diary entry as the Epiphany, though having acquired a new, fancy-looking exercise bike, there’s little excuse this year. Other resolutions inevitably revolve around improving one’s lifestyle, undertaking charity work or starting something completely different.

But hold on a minute. Before signing up for those engaging-sounding adult acting classes, or intellectual talks to be given by the local archaeological society, consider just how all of this activity will be paid for.

It’s great having a diary full of activities, holidays and anniversaries – what  might be called ‘fun stuff’, but unless you’re remarkably wealthy and have no need to worry about money, some consideration will need to be given to settling the bills.

In truth, most of us spend an inordinate amount of time organising life’s ‘fun stuff’ and not enough planning our financial futures.

For some reason, we delay and postpone this absolutely pivotal undertaking, finding more excuses to procrastinate than an overweight, newly track-suited  runner will concoct to prevent him from actually getting started.  

It’s not easy. It takes time to assemble papers relating to endowment policies, insurance, pensions and existing investments. It requires thought to consider how much we may require in later life, be it to cover our children’s university fees or the amount we may need in retirement. And unfortunately, there are no compelling colour photographs to accompany this exercise.

Yet with our diaries still laden with acres of empty space, January presents us with the perfect opportunity to reserve time for serious financial planning. Granted, it may jostle for space with auntie Beryl’s eightieth birthday party and it would be wrong to categorise it as a fun activity, but creating enough time to consider your financial future will prove considerably more worthwhile.

There are two ways in which individuals may go about this – they’re easy enough, they merely require a desire to get started.

The first is to do it yourself. Consider where you are now, your age and existing financial commitments and where you want to be in say, five, ten, or even twenty years. How will you achieve this, being realistic both in what you can save and what you can achieve? Having done this, you’re up and running. It doesn’t matter if subsequent calculations are made on the back of a *** packet provided you finalise a realistic financial goal against which you can regularly check your progress.

The second option is to have someone do the legwork for you. Admittedly, you’ll still have to assemble life’s driest paperwork: insurance documents, bank account statements and the like, but the beauty of paying for financial advice is a professional planner does much of the thinking – and suggesting – for you. Yes, it will cost, but so too will jetting away to foreign climes and if you get your financial planning right, you’ll continue to be able to go away for many summers to come.  


posted on 14 January 2013 09:44 byPJS