Five expert tips to get your finances back on track post COVID-19

Five expert tips to get your finances back on track post COVID-19
Photo credit: Getty

The COVID-19 pandemic has made 2020 a tough year for a lot of us and many Kiwis are worried about their money.

Kernel Wealth are finance experts travelling around New Zealand giving free guidance to people wanting help with their finances.

Want to know how to make sure you're facing 2021 with as much money as possible? Want advice on how to financially prepare for the next pandemic or similar crisis that comes along? They're here to help.

Catherine Emerson of Kernel has shared with Newshub five top tips on how to get your finances back on track post COVID-19.

Make the most of low interest rates

"The most obvious thing to do is look at your debt and if there's a chance to reduce the cost of it. Mortgages, of course, but also any higher interest personal loans or credit card debts that can be consolidated into something where you're paying less interest," says Emerson.

"How to really maximise the opportunity of the current low interest rates is to reduce your interest rate but keep your repayments the same. That way you'll get a double whammy, and be paying off your debt much faster."

One more thing - don't take a "devil you know" attitude, or feel you owe your bank loyalty because they've seemingly looked after you well in the past.

If a rival bank is offering a better rate, that's more money in your pocket. Banks are so competitive with each other that even if you switch, the original bank will also want to entice you back with a great offer at some stage too - along with all the others out there wanting your business.

Know your lifestyle creep

"One financial positive that came from the lockdown is people got an understanding of what their lifestyle creep was. They weren't able to spend money on all the discretionary things - going out, travel, takeaways, all those nice-to-haves," says Emerson.

"Many people also reined in their expenses to a more conservative state. As we get back to normal, it's important not to forget all that and think about how many of those expenses you want to restart."

If you like, take some time to look at your bank records over lockdown and work out what you saved. Then think about those suspended expenses as you start them again - is each one really worth it, or would that money be better used on something else?

Any saving is good saving

"You may have read headlines around lockdown about the importance of having emergency funds set aside for these types of unforeseen events. That is really good advice," says Emerson.

"But of course a lot of people didn't have savings going into this. If that's you, the right attitude from here is to recognise that and to put something in place for the next unforeseen event where it would be very helpful to have some savings."

Even if you're servicing a large amount of debt, it's a good idea to put even a little bit of each pay into a savings account. You never know when you're going to desperately need it.

Only look at your KiwiSaver if you really need

"This year, a lot of people have switched their KiwiSaver funds out of panic and reaction. Others have left it alone and if you've gone through all of 2020 so far and not checked your KiwiSaver, well done! Just let it do its thing," says Emerson.

"If you have switched your funds, you should be thinking about future you. As things normalise again, it's a good time to reassess what your KiwiSaver is actually for and what timeframe it has. Make sure it's invested accordingly - and then leave it alone!"

The worst thing to do for a young person would be moving all of their Kiwisaver money into a conservative fund then getting scared to move it back, leaving it for a few years and losing a lot of potential gain.

The KiwiSaver scheme is designed to be a 30 year or more investment. Don't worry about what's happened with it in the last six months if it has decades left.

Be realistic - you don't need to accomplish every finance goal in 2020

Think of your finances like your fitness. When you first join a gym you might be very excited and think you'll go five days per week every week - but generally, you won't, and going three days per week is totally fine.

"This has been a challenging year for a lot of people. When you're overhauling your finances, it's tempting to try and do too much. Focus on one or two - maybe three things tops - that you can really achieve this year," says Emerson.

"A year is actually a really short timeframe in the scheme of your whole life. So if you achieve one financial goal this year, instead of two, it doesn't matter in the long term as long as you're going in the right direction."

Focus on the biggest thing, or the thing that's going to have the most impact first.

Once you've identified that one main thing, make sure you tick it off well and then after all it's thrown at you, you can consider 2020 a successful year.

This article was created for Kernel Wealth