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Michelle Monck

Consumer Finance Expert
Published: 05/10/2020
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Today marks the start of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment’s (CISI’s) Financial Planning Week. The week, organised by the CISI and for the first time ever supported by its trade body rival The Personal Finance Society (PFS), aims to help improve consumers’ confidence and understanding of finances.
This includes helping more consumers to plan their finances and to make sure their life goals are supported with a financial plan to achieve these. A good financial plan can include a review of your pension arrangements, making sure your family is protected if your income reduces, a review of your savings and investments and the cost of your borrowing.

The CISI is offering all consumers a free one-hour personal financial planning session worth up to £500 during Financial Planning Week. The PFS is offering support through its pro-bono programmes, which includes 100 financial advisers offering free guidance to Armed Forces personnel. Consumers can also find financial advisers by using services such as and
The Coronavirus pandemic has affected nearly everybody’s day-to-day finances and the Money Wellness Index from first direct found more than half of adults (54%) now want to become more financially resilient. This is on top of 9 million UK consumers that identify as having low financial capability (study: Financial Conduct Authority) and just over a quarter of respondents to a CISI study stating they were not confident about their financial situation.

Rachel Springall, finance expert at, said:
“The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on consumers and businesses may well have prompted them to take a step back to reassess their financial health and there is no time like the present to take advantage of free financial planning sessions through CISI during Financial Planning Week. If consumers would prefer to do the groundwork themselves or are wondering how to keep up a regular check on their financial health, then it is worth spending some time to seek out ways to do so.”
Consumers worried about their finances or lacking in confidence can take control by following a series of steps to manage their money and debts today and for the future.

1. Set small goals that build towards achieving your main financial aims

Consider what you would want your lifestyle to be like after you stop working. It may be decades away but having a clear aim can then help you to set smaller goals along the way. A financial plan is like the old phrase that you cannot eat an elephant whole. Breaking it up into financial goals that you can achieve along the way will help to keep you focussed and motivated. You can then start to create a spending plan, starting by listing out your main expenses so you are clear where your money currently goes. This can be done using a notebook, excel spreadsheet or using a free mobile budgeting app.
Rachel Springall said: “Changing behaviour may mean that consumers are more inclined to manage their finances on the go, or to have a more hands-on approach in general. Mobile apps can be a worthwhile avenue in this respect, especially those designed to help budgeting and set specific savings goals. Money Dashboard is an app that allows consumers to see their income, expenses and connected accounts all in one place for many brands, enabling them to see their spending behaviour and whether they need to kick start their savings habit. It is free to download and could make a real difference to keeping tabs on daily changes.”

2. Switch any debts to lower rates and pay-off the most expensive

For many of us, debt is an inevitable way of life. Not all debt is bad though, for example longer-term debt such as a mortgage or a buy-to-let help you to acquire an asset and/or income. However short-term debt on personal loans and credit cards can be expensive and it is therefore a good idea to switch debts to a lower rate if you can and to focus on paying off those debts with the highest rates first (of course without missing the minimum payments on your debt). Consolidating your debts can help to reduce your monthly debt outgoings.
According to Springall, more than half of all credit card debt in the UK is on an interest-charging basis:
“As we enter the autumn, consumers may be preparing for the festive season and are concerned about covering the expense. If they decide to use a credit card to spread the cost of their purchases, then they would be wise to use an interest-free card. In fact, the majority of credit card balances in the UK are interest-charging according to UK Finance (54.9% June 2020) and £292 could be saved over one year by switching to a fee-free 0% balance transfer card*.”

Read more in our guides to good vs bad debt and how to manage personal debt.

3. Start an emergency fund

Any money released as a result of paying off a debt can then be saved to help form an emergency savings fund. During the Coronavirus lockdown in the spring, some consumers saw an increase in their spare income and as a result now have a pot of savings. Consumers wanting to earn the best savings rates should avoid keeping this money in a savings account tied to a high street bank as this could earn next to nothing. Some high street banks now have savings accounts paying 0.01% gross and therefore £10,000 would earn £1 in interest over 12 months at this rate.

Read more in our guide to starting an emergency savings funds.

4. Saving into a pension is free money

Unless they have opted out, most of those working should now all be auto-enrolled into an employer’s pension scheme. This means that all employees will have money from their employer and themselves being paid into a pension pot. Opting out of the pension scheme means you lose your employer’s contributions and if your goal is to retire sooner then you should consider paying a greater contribution into your pension earlier too.

Rachel Springall, explains further: “This week the state pension age will increase to 66 and consumers may want to bear this in mind and start planning ahead for a comfortable retirement. If consumers are able to make a reasonable payment towards their pension each month, this could provide them with the standard of living they are aiming for when they retire. Saving just £100 a month for the next 25 years can amass a pot of £30,000, but consumers may want to save even more than this amount each month. An annuity for a single life male aged 65 who has a £50,000 lump sum and takes out a level without guarantee annuity (standard or enhanced included) will receive an annual annuity income of £2,295 on average paid monthly in advance, but this is £1,080 less than the same time 10 years ago. Automatic enrolment ensures that all eligible employees are enrolled in their employer’s workplace scheme, but savers aged 18-39 looking for additional ways to provide for their retirement can also apply for a Lifetime ISA, which offers up to £1,000 a year from the Government as a yearly bonus.”

Read more in our retirement guides.

5. Check your family is protected

It’s never a pleasant thought, but if you or a family member were unable to work, what would the impact be on your family? If you are living alone, what would the impact be on your finances? Income protection and life insurance are there to take away the stress of worrying about money at what is likely to be one of the most stressful times in yours or your family’s life.

6. Releasing income as retirement approaches

Those approaching retirement should also consider a personal finance review. At this time, the focus may be on how to release income for a forthcoming retirement in the most tax-efficient way or how to release equity in a property with a lifetime mortgage. These are significant decisions so advice from a relevant expert is critical.

Take advantage of planning now for payback in the future

Keith Richards, chief executive of the Personal Finance Society, said: “We want the financial advisers already engaged in these pro-bono schemes to shout about what they do to increase awareness of the guidance they offer.
“We are also encouraging all advisers to offer existing clients, family or friends a free guidance session during the week.
“Financial Planning Week and World Financial Planning Day is a great opportunity for collaboration and for financial advisers to volunteer a small amount of their time, knowledge and expertise to make a real difference to the lives of armed forces personnel, the nation’s teenagers and wider public.
“I hope financial advisers are inspired by the experiences that current volunteers will share on social media next week and more members of the armed forces and schools will see the posts, come forward and benefit from these fantastic initiatives.”

Rachel Springall said: “Clearly the resilience of consumers’ finances will continue to be tested throughout 2020 and the impact of this year could well be felt many years to come. If consumers can put aside a little time, they could start to build a solid foundation for a brighter financial future with just a few simple steps and by taking advantage of free planning or support.”


*Credit cards – Credit card repayment based on £3,000 purchase, based on an interest rate of 18.9% APR, minimum fixed repayment of £274 (thereafter a minimum of 1% plus monthly interest or £5, whichever is higher), costing £292 in interest over one year. NatWest Balance Transfer Credit Card Mastercard, 20 months interest-free balance transfer deal with no balance transfer fee.


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