Spring has finally arrived and it’s the perfect time to refresh, reset and declutter your finances.
In the style of Marie Kondo, the Japanese organising whizz who has inspired millions to clean out their cupboards, decluttering your finances can bring many benefits.
While you work through all your contracts, investments and commitments, you will no doubt discover many that no longer fit your lifestyle or are simply costing you in unnecessary fees.
And if that is the case, then it is likely that such commitments will not be sparking any joy. And joy is the key criteria Kondo uses to determine whether you hold on to something or let it go.
So how does decluttering work with your finances and where do you start?
Where are you?
The first step is probably to assess where you are right now. That means working out your income and your expenses.
There are many ways to monitor your spending including online apps and the good old-fashioned pen-and-paper method.
Make sure you capture all your expenditure as some can be hidden these days with buy now pay later, credit card and online shopping purchases.
The next step is to organise your expenditure in order of necessity. At the top of the list would be housing, then utilities, transport, food, health and education. After that, you move on to those discretionary items such as clothes, hairdressing and entertainment.
Work through the list determining what you can keep, what you can discard and what you can adapt to your changing needs. Remember, if it doesn’t spark joy then you should probably get rid of it.
Weed out excess accounts
Now you need to look at the methods you use when spending. Decluttering can include cancelling multiple credit cards and consolidating your purchases into one card. This has a twofold impact: firstly, you will be able to control your spending better; and secondly, it may well cut your costs by shedding multiple fees.
Another area where multiple accounts can take their toll is superannuation. Consider consolidating your accounts into one. Not only can this make it easier to keep track of, but it will save money on duplicate fees and insurance. If you think you may have long forgotten super accounts, search for them on the Australian Tax Office’s lost super website. Since July 2019, super providers must transfer inactive accounts to the tax office.
Once you have reviewed your superannuation, the next step is to check that your investments match your risk profile and your retirement plans. If they aren’t aligned, then it’s likely they will not spark much joy in the future when you start drawing down your retirement savings.
If you have many years before retirement and can tolerate some risk, you may consider being reasonably aggressive in your investment choice as you will have sufficient time to ride investment cycles. You can gradually reduce risk in the years leading up to and following retirement.
Sort through your insurances
Another area to check is insurance. While insurance, whether in or out of super, may not spark much joy, you will be over the moon should you ever need to make a claim and have the right cover in place.
When it comes to insurance, make sure your cover reflects your life stage. For instance, if you have recently bought a home or had a child, you may need to increase your life insurance cover to protect your family. Or if your mortgage is paid off and the kids have left home, you might decide to reduce your cover.
Prune your investments
If you also have investments outside your super, they too might benefit from some decluttering. As the end of the financial year approaches, now is a good time to look at your portfolio, sell underperforming assets and generally rebalance your investments.
Many people who have applied Marie Kondo’s decluttering rules to their possessions talk about the feeling of freedom and release it engenders. It may well be that applying the same logic to your finances gets you one step closer to financial freedom.