Business

Now's the time to get into good financial shape

Gym membership will spike this month - but as well as aiming to look after your mind and body, it’s a good idea to review your finances too

WITH many of us now making resolutions to improve health and fitness in the New Year, now's the perfect time to give your finances the once over to ensure your financial future is in good shape in 2017.

Firstly, we'd like to wish you all a Happy New Year and hope you've recovered from your celebrations and are ready to tackle the new year.

We know that gym membership spikes in January, and we also know that come February, many of those people will never visit the gym again, despite already paying for membership and those good intentions.

But, if you're feeling a little flabby after the Christmas excesses what about your finances? As well as aiming to look after your mind and body, it's a good idea to review your money.

Do you know how your investments, pensions and mortgages will perform, especially with forthcoming personal finance changes?

INVESTMENTS::

For those with buy-to-let mortgages, changes to tax relief for residential mortgages will begin in April and be phased in over four years.

According to HMRC the changes will affect you if you let residential properties as an individual, or in a partnership or trust. It will also change how you receive relief for interest and other finance costs.

At the moment landlords pay tax on any profit they make (rental income minus mortgage interest). From April, landlords will pay tax on the full income and only enjoy a 20 per cent credit on the mortgage interest.

What we believe is a little ambiguous is that if you're a basic rate taxpayer, close to the higher rate band, you could be very easily pushed into this higher rate band.

If you're a landlord and are unsure if you will be affected by the changes, or even pushed into the higher rate tax bracket, then the best thing to do is get some independent financial advice and find out how you can deal with the potential situation.

PENSIONS::

If you were planning to sell your annuity this year, a reminder that the scheme George Osborne introduced while he was still Chancellor was scrapped by the Government in October.

The original plan would have let annuity holders to swap an income for life for a lump sum. It was abandoned after the Government decided it would put consumers at risk.

If you had been planning on taking advantage of this to free up cash and are concerned about what to do, then take some independent financial advice so you can work out the best way to give you the financial future you want.

MORTGAGES::

The news that HSBC had decided to scrap its market-leading 0.99 per cent mortgage at the beginning of December, as well as raising rates on other deals indicates that rates could rise across the board this year.

With inflation predicted to rise to 2.7 per cent this year, rising mortgage costs could hit household finances that may struggle with other costs rising.

There are mortgage options available and there are always deals to be had, however, if you are concerned it is worth acting quickly, take impartial advice so you can find out if there is a solution available to you.

And one final tip, with just a few weeks to go until tax returns are due, make sure yours is in by January 31 so you can avoid a £100 fine.

:: Darren McKeever (dmckeever@wwfp.net) is Northern Ireland adviser of Worldwide Financial Planning, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. For a free, no obligation initial chat about your individual finances, call 028 6863 2692, email info@wwfp.net or click on www.wwfp.net. Follow us on Twitter: @WorldwideFP.

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