Now that the holidays are a distant memory and we’ve settled into the New Year, it’s time to take a good, hard look at our finances. Financial expert Melanie Cunliffe tells us how.
When it comes to taking control of your finances, it’s a case of, “the more you know, the better”. From your cash flow to your credit score, you need to know your numbers and be across your financial position.
“Okay,” we hear you say, “but how?”.
“Start knowing what a credit score is, how it influences your life, how it is created and how to check it,” says Melanie. “What is really important to know about your credit score is what it means and how’s derived, but also what factors are monitored to create that credit score. That way you have the best chance of ensuring you have a positive credit score.”
Credit scores have always been an important way to obtain credit, but they have been made even more important with new credit reporting changes implemented last July.
“Where before the credit score could show if you have applied for something in the past, now a credit report shows missed payments, overdue amounts and even how long they have been overdue,” says Melanie. “Even if they are administrative oversights, they can start to work against you and your financial future.”
Understand what the lenders refer to as ‘non-disclosure,’ which is where your credit file or bank transactions may reveal that you have a current credit facility but didn’t disclose it.
“This could just be an oversight, too – let’s say for the interest free finance you took out for the sofa and paid off a while ago,” says Melanie. “This could still be an open facility though, and by you not disclosing it upfront the lender can be prone to thinking you are hiding something and it can negatively affect a loan application.”
Keeping an eye on your credit score is vital, and it’s not as hard as you might think. In fact, you can easily check your credit score with apps (like the one listed below) that show how it’s tracking in real time.
“We always suggest doing a credit check, at minimum, before applying for finance,” says Melanie.
Even if you have no need to take out a credit facility, Melanie says you could still benefit from one.
“Sometimes it is a case of taking out a credit facility in order to show that you can conduct it well,” Melanie explains. “While it sounds odd, taking out a credit card and using it for certain purchases, then paying it straight off, can help your credit score in a positive way.”
Beyond your credit score, Melanie recommends taking control of your budgeting and cashflow to gain financial freedom. Getting this in order will help you know how much discretionary income you may be able to free up. From there, you can seek advice from a professional about what you can do with that extra income – and, ultimately, grow your wealth.
“As women, it is vital that we take control of our finances,” says Melanie. “Being across your household finances won’t just put you in control, but will also help you know what to ask when speaking with professionals – giving you the best possible advice.
“Feeling empowered around your finances allows you to feel more comfortable, and helps you make calculated decisions around risks you want to take – or, risks you should not take.”
Help at hand
Looking for more advice? Melanie highly rates the MoneySmart website, which offers a great budgeting tool.
“We use it when our clients are getting ready to take out a loan and need to figure out how much they can afford,” says Melanie. “It also offers a wealth of information covering all aspects of the financial world.”
You can also take control of your finances with a toolbox of handy apps.
Melanie recommends this app for checking your credit score, keeping track of it and getting notified when it changes.
New to investing? Spaceship Voyager takes the guesswork out of becoming an investor, helping you make the most of your money and educating you at the same time.
Raiz takes your loose change and puts it to good use, investing it into a diversified portfolio automatically.