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Dear Santa, please lower my mortgage rate

This article originally published in The Northern Daily Leader on 22 December 2012.

The end of the year is always an exciting time, no matter whether you’re young or old. It’s a time of long lunches, cold beers in the garden, the background drone of the cricket on the telly and of course a festival of gifts and giving on Christmas day. And just when you think you’re done with the eating, drinking and celebrating, along comes New Year’s eve.  When I was (much) younger, New Year’s eve was the social highlight of the year; a night which required careful planning and came with high expectations. Although I’m now considerably older and slower, the last few years I’ve surprised myself by making it well past midnight on the 31st. The difference is that it now involves holding a sleepless baby, or worse than that, one with a tummy ache. Still, watching the fireworks on the television is at least something to do while waiting for the baby to fall asleep.

If you can find some time in-between the cricket and playing with your new toys/tools/shoes that Santa brought you, the end of the year is also a good time to take stock of how your finances fared over the previous twelve months. You don’t have to lock yourself in the study with a mountain of paperwork. Just by asking yourself a few simple questions you’ll be able to give yourself a little financial check-up. Firstly, how is your super doing? Were your returns ok? Have you got the right investment exposure? If you’re still working, should you be putting more into super? Are the fees you are paying justified by the service and the returns? For many of us superannuation will be one of the largest assets we own – taking an interest in your super may mean the difference between holidays at Kempsey or holidays in Italy. Next, give some thought to your living expenses. Have you asked your bank for a reduction on the interest rate on your home loan (if you have one)? Nobody should be paying the advertised rate. Ask around and be prepared to move banks if you need to. Electricity costs seem to have the same upward trajectory as a Dave Warner six off the first ball of a Twenty20 cricket match. Try this – ring your electricity company and tell them you’ve had an offer from another company to cut 10% off your current electricity bill. The worst they can do is say no, but you may be pleasantly surprised.

This is just a small snippet of some of the questions you may want to consider when assessing your finances, but it’s enough to get started. The aim is to make a start – like putting off going shopping for Christmas presents, the longer you leave it, the more you’ll regret it. Have a merry Christmas everyone and see you in 2013.