10 tips to help build wealth in the New Year

20 December 2019

4 minute read

Maximising returns from your investments may be on your New Year to-do list. Here are ten tips that could help.

Who’s this for? All investors

The value of investments can fall as well as rise and you could get back less than you invest. If you’re not sure about investing, seek professional independent advice.

What you’ll learn:

  • How pension tax relief boosts your retirement savings
  • Why having investment goals is important
  • Why it’s important to diversify your investments.

It's that time of year when many of us are thinking what resolutions we can make to improve our financial health in 2020. Here are 10 simple steps to get your finances in better shape and help improve your overall wealth.

Remember that we don’t offer advice, so if you’re unsure where to invest or how to manage your money, you should seek professional financial advice.

1. Reduce debts

If you’ve piled a few pounds onto your credit card over the festive season, try to pay these off as soon as possible in the New Year. Work out what you owe and check the rate you’re paying. Tackle the debts with the highest interest rates first, as these will be the most expensive. One way to reduce credit card debts is to consider increasing your monthly repayments to clear the balance at a faster pace, or switch to a card offering 0% on balance transfers.

2. Track your spending

It may be worth monitoring your spending for a couple of months to see exactly where your money goes, and whether you can free up any spare cash to save or invest. You might find you have more than you thought to spare each month simply by trimming your spending – for example, by cutting out takeaway coffees, or cancelling an unused gym membership. There’s a wide range of phone apps and online tools that can help you to track your spending, and budget effectively.

3. Use tax allowances

There are plenty of allowances to make use of each tax year – remember the tax year runs from 6 April to 5 April, so it’s worth being aware of what annual allowances you can potentially benefit from as there’s not long left of the current tax year.

One of the most popular is the ISA allowance, which is £20,000. You may pay your ISA allowance into one or more of cash, stocks and shares or Innovative Finance ISAs, which invest in peer-to-peer lending, or you can put up to £4,000 into a Lifetime ISA. You won’t pay income tax, dividend tax or Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on any investments you hold in an ISA.

You might not pay tax on interest and dividends anyway, as investors have a tax-free dividend allowance outside an ISA of £2,000 a year. However, if your dividend income is above this amount, investing in an ISA could give you the benefit of additional tax-free payments. There’s also the Personal Savings Allowance (PSA), which enables basic-rate taxpayers to earn up to £1,000 interest a year tax-free, or £500 for higher-rate taxpayers. Additional rate taxpayers aren’t entitled to this allowance, so ISAs may remain worthwhile for those who don’t qualify, or who have a large amount of savings and have used up the PSA.

And you have a CGT allowance which is £12,000 for the 2019/20 tax year. If you invest outside an ISA, any profits made above the annual CGT allowance are subject to tax at 10% or 20% depending on your tax band. Since April 2016, there is an additional 8% surcharge to be paid on residential property and carried interest (the share of profits or gains that is paid to asset managers).

However, remember that tax rules can change in the future and their effects depend on your particular circumstances, which can also alter over time.

4. Start a new habit

Making regular monthly contributions can be an effective way to build long-term wealth. Remember, however, investing should only generally be considered once short-term or unsecured debt has been repaid first. Drip-feeding money into investments gradually may be particularly beneficial if you’re nervous about the impact of economic and political uncertainty in 2020.

Bear in mind you may still lose money, as your investments could fall as well as rise in value. While there can be benefits to investing regularly rather than as a lump sum, you should also remember the impact fees have on your investment. If you’re only investing small amounts each month, the minimum monthly fee could make it expensive and may exceed returns.

5. Top up your pension

You could increase your potential wealth in retirement by paying more into your pension.

Provided that you respect the pension allowances, and don’t contribute more than 100% of your income, you receive tax relief at the basic rate of 20% on contributions made to workplace and personal pensions, so for every £80 you pay in, the taxman tops this up to £100.

The higher the rate of income tax you pay, the greater the tax relief on pension contributions. If you’re a higher rate or additional taxpayer, for example, you are able to claim up to an additional 20% or 25% on top of the basic rate through your self-assessment tax return.1

However, remember that tax rules may be altered in the future, and their effect depends on your personal situation, which can also change. Bear in mind too that you can’t ordinarily draw benefits from a pension arrangement until you are aged at least 55 (rising to 57 by 2028), so this could be a long-term investment.

6. Focus on your goals

Consider any long-term goals (i.e, more than five years hence) you might have for investing. For example, you may be saving towards education costs for your children, or planning ahead for your retirement.

Knowing what your goals are, how much you might need and the level of risk you're happy to accept in order to get there can help you work out your investment plan and stick to it.

7. Stick it out

Ideally, you should invest for a minimum period of five years to ensure your investments have time to ride out the highs and lows of the stock market, potentially smoothing returns over the long-term.

No-one can know exactly when markets might rise or fall, but staying invested can help avoid the risk of missing any of the best days because you’ve sold at the wrong time.

8. Broaden your investments

As a general wealth-building rule, it’s a good idea to hold a spread of assets. These may include shares, bonds, property and cash so that you have a balanced, diversified portfolio.

This can help even out returns over the long-term, as different assets may perform in different ways depending on market conditions at the time. You can further diversify your portfolio by spreading your investments across several geographical areas.

9. Keep emotions in check

Letting your emotions direct your investment decisions isn’t generally considered a sensible path to boosting returns.

Whilst it’s both normal and understandable to experience some jitters as an investor, during periods of volatility it’s important to try not to panic and sell out of the market at a loss. At the same time if your investment has risen in value, you might be tempted to cash in and sell if you fear possible losses to come. The key is to think about the reasons why you chose your investments in the first place, and remind yourself of these if you’re feeling nervous.

10. Reinvest dividends

Many investors receive an income through dividends, which may be attractive given low interest rates.

However, if you don’t need this income, reinvesting dividends can potentially give a substantial boost to your overall returns. That’s because your returns will also earn returns, which is known as compounding. However, bear in mind that even if dividends are reinvested if the share price falls, your investments could be worth less than you put in.

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The value of investments can fall as well as rise. You may get back less than you invest. We don’t offer personal investment advice; if you’re unsure, seek it independently. Tax rules can change and their effects on you will depend on your individual circumstances.

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