Worried about inflation? Time to refresh your personal finance checklist
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Worried about inflation? Time to refresh your personal finance checklist

Updated
22
Dec 2022
published
17
Mar 2022
Financial planning amid inflation - personal finance checklist for the new year
  • Tidying up our finances annually helps us stay on track with our goals as we plan for the new year and beyond.
  • As inflation and GST hikes bite, reviewing our personal expenses and cutting down on unnecessary spending is key.
  • Ensure that your investment portfolio continues to reflect your investment strategy, comes at a low cost, and suits your financial needs, goals, and risk tolerance.

Singapore's goods and services tax (GST) will increase from 7% to 8% at the start of 2023. This will then rise to 9% with effect from 2024.

As it is, the latest edition of the Endowus Wealth Insights survey showed that cost of living has shot to the top of investors' list of worries. Record-high inflation and the GST hikes are weighing heavily on their minds. Those in their 40s through to the 60s are particularly fretting over retirement adequacy.

More Singaporeans are now concerned that they may not have enough money for retirement, as inflation erodes the value of their retirement savings. Middle-income households in particular are signalling a greater loss of confidence than before, as Endowus Retirement Report 2022 shows.

Meanwhile, homeowners and property buyers have seen a dramatic spike in mortgage rates, in line with aggressive interest rate hikes in the US to cool inflation.

Let's look at some ways to ease these worries and help future-proof your financial plans in today's investing and macroeconomic environment.

Why a personal finance checklist is important

To stay on track with your financial goals

You may have goals such as paying off your loans, saving 30% of your income each month, or budgeting for a new car. These goals will require planning and constant monitoring to ensure that you are on track to fulfilling them. Your financial checklist is a guide for you to review your financial achievements, progress, and setbacks, so as to identify areas that may need adjustment or improvement.

If you wish to learn more about how to prioritise your financial goals, click here.

To plan for the upcoming year

Fear of the unknown holds many people back from taking the first step towards financial wellness. To avoid committing the same money mistakes of 2022 in 2023, you will need to plan financially for the new year and beyond. Having a checklist of your financial goals can give you a clearer picture of your upcoming expenses, ensure that your investments and overall income can outpace inflation, and keep you on track towards retirement.

In short, having a personal finance checklist will give you an overview of your finances, plan your spending and savings, and generally offer you a greater sense of financial security.

Your annual personal finance checklist

Here are six aspects of your finances that you can look into, to help you get started on the yearly money review. They include personal expenses, debt management, savings, insurance, investments, and retirement planning.

This list is in no way exhaustive, so feel free to build on it when creating your own checklist.

Your personal expenses

The past few years have been a whirlwind of changes when it came to our spending. As more of us worked from home due to Covid-19 restrictions, our weekday lunches with colleagues were replaced with home-cooked meals or food delivery expenses, purchases of new clothing were replaced by new electronics, and transport costs likely went down.

Now, as overseas travel regains momentum, property prices and rents remain elevated, and office workers start returning to the office, there may again be big shifts in our daily expenses and big-ticket purchases.

With all these changes, it is high time you reevaluate where exactly your money is going.

If you had a personal budget or tracked your spending in 2022, it will be beneficial to review these expenses and find out whether you had stuck to your budget, or if you had actually overspent or underspent in certain categories. If you do not already have one, coming up with a personal budget for 2023 can help with controlling your spending, tracking expenses, and saving more money. Using the previous year’s spending data can help you budget better the coming year.

If you're thinking of applying for a HDB BTO flat, check out our guide on how to map your finances beforehand. For those looking to lower your tax bill amid high inflation, here's a nifty way to do so.

Naturally, you would also want to cut down on unnecessary expenses wherever possible, especially as high inflation bites. The money you save from reducing any unnecessary spending can also be invested, added to your emergency fund, or used as extra lining for your retirement nest egg. Common expenses such as unused subscription services can hinder your saving efforts. Therefore, it is prudent to include reviewing your expenses periodically in your financial checklist so you can start cutting down on unnecessary spending.

Your debt

It's important to be clear on how best to allocate your money as you juggle debt repayments while investing for different goals and saving for retirement at the same time.

Debt management has become a much more pressing issue today, with interest rates on loans now sharply higher than before. It is a good idea especially to review your larger and long-term debt commitments such as car loans and home loans, particularly as mortgage rates continue to rise.

The end of the year or the start of a new year is usually a great time to evaluate all your outstanding loans, including the accompanying interest rates. This will allow you to then think about how best to repay them, and over what duration. Read our guide on how you can create and stick to an effective debt repayment plan.

To learn how you can manage your mortgage payments in this rising rate environment, click here.

Remember, too, that not all debt is bad. Differentiating between good and bad debt can prevent you from taking on an unnecessary financial burden.

Your savings

Do you have enough money saved up to finance any upcoming big-ticket expenses? Major life milestones, such as a wedding, purchasing a new house, or sending your child off to university, would require a large sum of money. By reviewing the amount of savings you have and the required amount for these larger expenses, you can be better prepared to pay for them when the time comes.

Pick up these five tips to help you save more money and move you closer towards your financial goals.

Other than regular savings, it is also critical to have an emergency fund. Even the most prudent person cannot avoid an unexpected crisis such as sudden injury or illness or an abrupt loss of income. Your emergency fund should cover at least three to six months of basic living expenses. It should also be kept highly liquid because you would want to have immediate access to it if you suddenly need the money. Having an emergency fund can provide you with peace of mind, and prevent you from going into debt arising from unexpected expenses.

Your insurance policies

Insurance acts as a financial safety net that helps you take care of yourself and your loved ones when you need it most. With the right insurance, you can be assured that your loved ones would not end up saddled with debt should anything unfortunate happen to you. 

Some may dismiss insurance policies as an unnecessary expense because they believe adverse events would never happen to them, or that they have saved up sufficiently to pay for any potential bills. However, is it really worth wiping out your entire life-savings just to pay for one medical bill? Probably not.

As you go through different milestones in life, the protection you require will change as well. Reviewing your insurance coverage every year will ensure that you are constantly adequately insured — not over-insured and paying premiums through your nose, nor under-insured and unable to claim your full loss.

Insurance is a long-term commitment. Therefore, always be discerning when deciding on a plan, given that switching or terminating a plan prematurely can incur high costs. Speaking to a trusted financial advisor can be useful if you are not insurance-savvy.

Read more: Should you use the "buy term, invest the rest" strategy?

Your investments

It is important for investors to review their investment portfolios periodically, especially with the economy and the markets undergoing significant changes. Rebalancing your portfolio ensures that you are not carrying too much risk or wasting your investment monies on assets that are underperforming. It also ensures that your portfolio continues to reflect your investment strategy, as shifts in the markets might throw your asset allocation out of balance.

The costs of managing your portfolio should also be assessed. Costs can come in the form of fees, time, or effort. If the cost of investing is too high — for example, if you are paying too much in fees, or if managing your own investments is taking up too much of your time — you might want to consider other means of managing your portfolio to cut costs. One way is to switch to a robo-advisor, if you are currently focused on stock-picking. Or you may wish to start dollar-cost averaging, to ride out the volatility in the markets.

Your financial needs and risk tolerance levels might change over time as well. For instance, you may take on more risk when investing for your retirement fund decades away, while selecting more conservative investment options to fund your child’s education in three years' time. Reviewing your investment plans at least once a year can ensure that your investments are still matching the timeframes or the specific goals you have in mind.

Understand goal-based investing and learn why it's important to stick to an investment plan. Find out how you can set up recurring investments with your cash, CPF, or SRS on Endowus here.

Explore the Endowus Fin.Lit Academy to pick up the basics of investing or discover investment strategies to grow your wealth.

Your retirement plan

Retirement is the financial be-all and end-all for many. All that saving and investing and planning is ultimately to enable you to enjoy a comfortable retirement.

Naturally, your personal finance checklist should track your retirement planning progress and outline the main considerations for your golden years. No matter how old you are, it is never too early to start planning for retirement.

Aspects of your retirement checklist you can review every year include:

  1. The amount you want to contribute to your retirement fund each month
  2. The mode of your contribution — cash, CPF, or SRS
  3. The ways in which you will grow your retirement wealth or manage your retirement portfolio
  4. When you want to retire
  5. Your expected monthly retirement expenses
  6. Your expected monthly income from investments, CPF, and SRS payouts

Start retirement planning as early as possible, so you can beat inflation, reap the benefits of compound interest, and save yourself the scramble of trying to build your nest egg shortly before you retire.

If you have not begun planning for your golden years, here's a simple retirement checklist to kickstart the process.

For more retirement tips, check out the other articles on the Endowus Fin.Lit Academy.

Tidy up your finances yearly

Go over your personal finance checklist as often as you would like, but make sure to review it at least once a year.

Make it a habit to give yourself a financial checkup to keep your expenses and savings on track, and then review them again in the following year to see how you have fared in 2023.

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Investment involves risk. The value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up, and you may not get the full amount you invested. Past performance is not an indicator nor a guarantee of future performance. Rates of exchange may cause the value of investments to go up or down. Individual stock performance does not represent the return of a fund. 

Any forward-looking statements, prediction, projection or forecast on the economy, stock market, bond market or economic trends of the markets contained in this material are subject to market influences and contingent upon matters outside the control of Endowus Singapore Pte. Ltd. (“Endowus”) and therefore may not be realised in the future. Further, any opinion or estimate is made on a general basis and subject to change without notice. In presenting the information above, none of Endowus, its affiliates, directors, employees, representatives or agents have given any consideration to, nor have made any investigation of the objective, financial situation or particular need of any user, reader, any specific person or group of persons. Therefore, no representation is made as to the completeness and adequacy of the information to make an informed decision. You should carefully consider (i) whether any investment views and products/ services are appropriate in view of your investment experience, objectives, financial resources and relevant circumstances. You may also wish to seek financial advice through a financial advisor or the Endowus platform and independent legal, accounting, regulatory or tax advice, as appropriate.

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