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Money / Financial management

My 15 minute challenge to get you through this recession

Here’s a challenge. We want you to spend 15 minutes a month thinking about your money. Doesn’t sound much but how many people, or couples, actually sit down and think or talk about their finances. No, we’re not talking about paying bills, checking the credit card statement or doing the banking. That’s managing your money and very different to being informed and thinking about your money in the big picture.

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So often relationships are put under strain because partners do not talk about what they each want from their money or understand where it goes. It’s crazy because financial worries are a critical cause of relationship breakdown.

And let me tell you, the next 12-18 months are going to be tough and will put a strain on your relationship.

One of the most common questions I receive is what can I do with my money. My immediate reply is “what do you want your money to do for you”. In other words you have to decide first.

Start the first month’s 15 minute session by just getting organised and making sure you both know where all your financial documents are kept and whether they’re actually up-to-date.

Collect all the insurance policies (life, disability, health, home and contents etc), check the cover is still right for you (if not shop around for alternatives) and put them in the one place where both of you can easily access them.

The same with mortgage documents, superannuation accounts and reports, bank documents, investment records as well as tax returns and receipts.

Then there’s the will. No-one likes talking about the possibility of death but the prospect of leaving your family in the financial lurch is just plain stupid. Read each other’s wills and make sure they’re current and relevant.

Just knowing where your financial safety nets are stored and what’s in them is a great start.

Another session should look at your investments. Have you accumulated too many bank accounts and could earn more interest and pay fewer fees by consolidating them?

Are you in the right superannuation investment option which matches your risk profile and stage of life? Is it time for both of you to visit a financial planner to talk about an investment plan?

Once you’re both on top of your financial position then it’s time to think about the future, what you each want from it and how to afford it.

Here’s how to do it.

It’s a game, it must be fun, it is best done without interruptions and it will take up to 2 hours.

So take the phone off the hook, put the kids to bed, clear off two horizontal surfaces (preferably not too close) and gather lots of blank paper and coloured pens/pencils.

Individually answer these questions and write the results down under three headings: –

What do you NEED in the:
-next 12 months
-next 5 years
-when I retire then

What do I WANT in the:
-next 12 months
-next 5 years
-when I retire

It helps if you have planned for this exercise and given it some thought.

Don’t hold back on what you want. Better to let your partner know now that you’ve always wanted a rural cottage, with chooks and a couple of horses, before they get too settled in that inner-city terrace you are currently renting!

This is your ultimate wish list. It’s what life is all about… making it worthwhile.

‘Needs’ are necessities. Things like rent or home mortgage payments, food, council rates, electricity and gas… you get the drift.

‘Wants’ are dreams and the little extras. Things like dining out, entertainment, holidays, car… this list should only be limited by your expectations and goals. Remember now is the time to disclose those burning ambitions and secret purchasable desires.

Prioritise your ‘wants’ lists, with number one being what you want most and 1001 being what you will most probably do without.

Then it’s show and tell time. You show me yours and I’ll show you mine.

Surprise, surprise! Shock horror? Or were you both on the same track? Sharing the ‘want’ lists is usually the eye-opener. It’s highly likely there will be some surprises there.

So now discuss your wants. Discuss, but take care not to be judgemental of your partner’s ideas. This is not the time to ridicule any idea.

These lists will form part of your budgeting and, like all good budgets, they are not written in stone. They will be reviewed at very regular intervals and can be changed as your wants and needs change.

Start tonight. 15 minutes a month is not a lot to ask to think about your financial future.

David Koch

is the host of Channel 7's Sunrise breakfast program and the founder of Pinstripe Media.

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