12 quick ways to review your financial plans this Christmas

By December 14, 2023Financial Planning

The run up to the festive period is traditionally a busy time for many; however you may find time over the Christmas holiday period to sit down and review your financial position.

Data from H M Revenue and Customs suggests that this is precisely how some individuals use their down time over the Christmas period. Last Christmas saw 22,060 individuals file their Self Assessment Tax Returns between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day last year, with 3,275 filed on Christmas Day itself.

With the festive season looming, we thought it would be a good opportunity to take a brief look at 12 ways you can bolster your financial plans over the Christmas period and into the New Year.

Think about this year’s Individual Savings Account (ISA) allowance

In the current Tax Year, each UK resident is entitled to save £20,000 into an ISA, where those savings or investments are exempt from tax on interest and capital growth. The increase in cash interest rates over the last year could lead to many more individuals paying tax on interest from savings held outside of an ISA. Using the ISA allowance will shelter cash from both Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax.

Consider your protection policies

It is a sad fact that many people have insufficient financial protection in place to safeguard their loved ones. Research undertaken by Direct Line Insurance in 2022 found that only 35% of those questioned hold life assurance. Separate research from Charles Stanley suggested only 7% of individuals have either a Critical Illness or Income Protection policy in place.

The end of the year can be a good time to take stock and ask yourself some honest questions about the robustness of your financial plan. Would your spouse and children cope financially if you suddenly died or became seriously ill and could no longer earn? Are your current protection policies still up-to-date and appropriate for your needs?

Review your CGT allowance

The Capital Gains Tax (CGT) allowance has already more than halved this Tax Year and is expected to halve again from 6th April 2024. Making best use of the allowance is now more important than ever, and it would be sensible to undertake a review of an existing investment portfolio to consider whether any action is needed.

Make use of annual gift exemptions

You are allowed to gift up to £3,000 in each Tax Year, without considering the Inheritance Tax (IHT) implications. There are additional exemptions that may be available, depending on your circumstances. If you are looking to reduce the potential impact of IHT on your Estate, making regular gifts can be a useful way of mitigating an IHT liability, in conjunction with other tax planning strategies.

Review your pensions

Assuming you are not affected by rules such as the Money Purchase Annual Allowance (MPAA) or Tapered Annual Allowance, you can contribute up to £60,000 into your pension (or up to 100% of your salary – whichever is lower) in the current Tax Year. It may also be possible to carry forward unused allowances from previous tax years.

Pension contributions can be a great way to save towards your retirement in a tax-efficient manner, and as pensions are usually exempt from IHT,  a pension can also shelter funds for loved ones on death outside of your Estate.

Take stock of your mortgage

For many people, their mortgage is their biggest liability and monthly outgoing. The hike in interest rates over the last year has led to increased payments for those on a Standard Variable Rate mortgage. For those currently on a fixed rate deal, it would be sensible to start to consider your position when the current deal expires.

Consider joint tax allowances

If you are married or in a civil partnership, then it is possible to transfer assets to your partner to make use of their allowances if available, as well as your own, or to be taxed at lower rates, if applicable. For instance, CGT can be avoided or reduced by using both allowances to share a capital gain.

Check emergency funds

Whilst everyone has a different view about the balance that would ideally be kept in a current account, we feel it is sensible to keep at least three to six months of outgoings accessible to cover any emergencies that could arise. Take time over Christmas to consider the level of cash you are holding to see if you feel comfortable. If the balances you hold are higher than you need, could you move some of the surplus cash to another home where it could be more productive?

Review your credit rating

Checking your credit score at various points throughout the year can be a good idea, as it can affect important areas of your life such as mortgage applications. There are a number of useful online resources that allow you to check your credit score.

Make sure you have completed an Expression of Wish

If you have a workplace or private pension, completing an Expression of Wish form with your provider will let them know who you’d like your pensions savings to go to if you die. It is worthwhile reviewing the nomination regularly to make sure that it continues to reflect your wishes.

Check your State Pension forecast

By using the Government Gateway service you can receive a State Pension forecast, which will indicate your likely State Pension and the date at which it is payable. It will enable you to identify any gaps in your National Insurance record, and check whether any action is needed.

Speak to one of our advisers

Make it a New Year resolution to undertake a comprehensive review of your financial circumstances. Speaking to an independent financial planner can help identify areas that you may have missed, and undertake a comprehensive and holistic review of your current position and whether you are on target to meet your needs and objectives. As a Chartered Firm, our advisers are highly experienced and can take an impartial review of your finances. Speak to one of our advisers to arrange a review.