I discuss pensions, investing and other personal finance with friends and colleagues. “I might put this on a website,” I said to one. “You should!” she said. So here it is.
There are a number of factual pages that look at personal finance from my angle and I hope that there’s value in that for you.
As this is a blog about finances, let’s be clear up front – I’m not a qualified financial adviser. I don’t have recognised financial qualifications. That said, as part of my degree and my work in industry I have taken financial courses, I analyse competitors’ finances and I control budgets. Perhaps more importantly I have had an interest-only mortgage since the early 1990s, with endowments, PEPs and ISAs to pay it off. And now between my wife and I we have SIPPs, DB pensions, DC pensions, and state pensions.
I’m a chartered engineer and I’ve worked in industry for almost 30 years. I don’t think about finance exactly the same way as financial advisers or regulators. I need diagrams. I need spreadsheet models that I can manipulate to produce graphs. I need to take the whole host of written rules and use them to create models that mean something to me.
At key times, I seek advice from a financial adviser, but I go in with a lot of basics mapped out – it’s more like “is this OK and what am I missing?”
As a bit of background, I’m married and I’m the main wage earner. I’ve always worked in multi-national companies. I’m a 40% tax-payer. I’m in my early 50’s and the same age as my wife. Our children have almost finished higher education, so our finances should look rosier in a year or two. We have a bit of interest-only mortgage remaining and it’s planned to be paid off over the next four years, and that’s really our only debt. We run our current accounts with a baseline of £500 so as to avoid overdrafts if we miscalculate. Our credit cards are only a way to collect points or cashback: we pay off cards in full every month. Retiring at 55 would be nice but I suspect it might be 58 or later.
My parents and my wife’s parents didn’t have significant savings or pension pots to invest. There’s no windfall heading our way. We earned our own money and worked out how to manage investments for ourselves.
ABOUT YOU AND ME AND OUR FINANCES
I know not everything in this blog is useful for everyone. That’s the point.
It’s not easy to wade through websites and books that have huge amounts of financial info trying to cover all readers’ incomes and situations, so this blog covers the situations that are more relevant to someone like me.
This blog is most useful for people with reasonably good incomes and/or strongly growing investments who are in their 40s 50s and 60s:
• We’d love endless financial advice but we can’t (or don’t want to) afford a huge amount of it.
• We manage our own investments to some extent.
• We have enough in our savings or pensions that a right or wrong decision can make a significant difference to us.
• We want to understand our finances so we can navigate through the world of investments, tax and pensions. We think it can’t be too difficult, and we want to understand the main points and then apply that along with making special adjustments to suit our circumstances.
• We enjoy making spreadsheets for our finances. Well, I do, and I think you’ll get the most out of this site if you do too.
ABOUT THE SPREADSHEETS
My spreadsheet models should work for me (and please tell me if they’re wrong) but might have ignored something very important to you. Still, my hope is that there are a lot of people with similar features to their finances who can benefit from this blog, and who can then fill in the gaps to understand what suits them best.
I guess you will create your own spreadsheets to plan ahead. I hope you learn something from the way my sheets work. They’re not exactly my personal data: I have changed some numbers to illustrate certain points, and so that means that some examples are not consistent with other examples.
I mentions tax rates occasionally. They are English rates at the time of writing.