Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Wednesday | April 29, 2009
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Jerrold Johnson's tips on good financial planning

Jerrold Johnson

One doesn't need a lot of money to start investing. According to Jerrold Johnson, financial adviser with Jamaica National Fund Managers Ltd, the best time to start investing is (always) now. Johnson shared with members of the public some of the elements of a sound financial plan, during a JN seminar at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort in Ocho Rios, St Ann. Good financial planning consists of six basic components, he says.

  • 1. Savings and investment

    Johnson suggests that, as a rule, you should save 10 per cent of your salary (more if you can, as in our Jamaican context inflation severely affects long-term investments). Making use of discounts and avoiding fees such as those attached to the use of debit cards will also save a few bucks. So will cutting back on phone calls, asking for discounts, cutting energy costs and even choosing where to eat.

    "I went to a convenience store to get a bun-and-cheese and a soda and, all of a sudden, that was $300; I went to the supermarket and I was able to get it for under $150. We don't think about simple things like that, but those are the things that are going to help."

    If you have been made redundant, you need to look at how being redundant can be used to your benefit.

    Regarding investments, Johnson suggests that you seek a safe and secure institution with which to invest your funds. He reminds readers that, generally, the higher the returns on investment, the higher the risk.

  • 2. Debt management

    Refinancing debt to a lower interest rate is one way of cutting expenditure. Also, making the minimum payments on debt repayment will leave you with more money at your disposal. Work on paying off the loans with higher interest rates, while paying the minimum balances on the others.

  • 3. Retirement income

    When work is over, you still have to go on living. It is important, therefore, to have an income during your retirement years. The main sources of income are from the government NIS (national insurance scheme), private individual plans, and individual retirement schemes. The most important source of retirement income is the one that you provide for yourself. It is the one you have most control over.

  • 4. Budgeting

    One of the first steps in financial planning is deciding what you want to achieve and when you want to achieve it.

    "This is because you have to have something by which to define your success. After that, your central issue becomes your budget. This is going to set out how much money you have coming in, how much money you have going out and it is also going to set out how realistic it is to reach your goal."

    If necessary, changes have to be implemented to achieve your goal.

    "One tip is to track your spending for three months, saving your receipts and tallying them each week. Update your actual spending on your budget weekly."

    Johnson suggests you operate at least five accounts: one each for salary, regular spending, savings and emergency cash, and investment.

  • 5. Estate management

    This is often neglected in the financial-planning process but critical in passing on any wealth you have created on to the ones you love. Having an up-to-date will is extremely important. Carefully consider how you hold your assets. Jointly held assets make for simpler and less expensive means for transferring your estate at death. Consult a good lawyer for advice.

  • 6. Insurance

    Insurance is your friend. No one likes to be left paying for all the expenses. Insurance is a cost-effective way of sharing responsibility. It's done with automobile insurance - if you have an accident, you share cost of repair with the insurance company in exchange for a yearly fee called a premium. We suggest that investors take advantage of insurance opportunities as, in the event of a medical emergency, accident, natural disaster, or even death, the first thing do be used to cover those expense is the savings or, even worst, the investment you have worked years to build.

    Get life insurance when it is affordable (the younger, the cheaper). Keeping in mind that most people generally have a decreasing need for insurance, the need is greatest at the birth of your last child, as, if you died when they were born, provision would be needed for them the longest, until they were no longer dependent on you.

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