How do you feel about your finances? Whether it’s debt that needs paying or a lack of pension funds, most of us go into middle-age with at least a couple of financial issues that need some tuning up.
To help keep our financial engines running smoothly, the government have introduced what’s known as the ‘mid-life MOT’ – an opportunity for those in their 40s and 50s to reflect on their situation and get some advice.
The idea is simple: take some time to reflect on the three key areas of work, health and money. Although the government offer online tools to help you do this, it’s perfectly possible to take yourself through the ‘MOT’, which gives more flexibility to focus on the concerns and goals that are most relevant to your life and your family. Here are some of the key aspects to consider for each area.
By the time you reach your 40s or 50s, it’s easy to feel stuck in your career, but it’s certainly not too late to make a change if you need to. Take some time to reflect on whether your job is satisfying, and whether it’s something you can continue doing for the next 20-30 years. This should be considered in terms of your own preferences, the prospects for the industry/skills you might need and practical factors (such as time and physical ability).
Are there any skills that you need to develop in order to stay competitive in your industry or make a switch to a new role? Are you getting what you need from your current role, or is it worth looking for a new position with a more flexible employer or better benefits package? This is a great opportunity to tweak your working life, so it continues to serve your need.
Heath may seem like a different topic entirely, but the mid-life MOT encourages people to think about how their health will affect their ability to work – and conversely how work is impacting your health, both positively and negatively.
One way to balance your work and your health is to look at more flexible working arrangements – working from home, for instance, can support your mental health and help you find more time to focus on other important things like preparing healthy food or exercising.
It’s also important to make sure your employer is taking steps to protect your health. For office workers, this means an ergonomically designed workstation and plenty of breaks from the screen. For other, more physical types of work, it’s worth having a conversation about the specific risks and how your boss can help you manage them.
The final step is to take a broader view of your overall financial situation. Here are three key points to help you assess your finances:
- Debt – do you have a plan for paying down any debt that you currently hold? Debt isn’t inherently bad, but if you find yourself struggling to keep up with payments then it’s time to speak to a charity such as StepChange and put a plan in place
- Emergency fund – what would you do if your current financial circumstances changed (for instance in a redundancy)? Having enough savings to cover six months of living costs can help give you some breathing room.
- Pension – how much do you currently have in the pot, and how much will you need? Many pension providers have tools to help you predict future income and living expenses. If there’s a shortfall, you can up your pension contributions or invest into another fund. Make sure you’re maxing out any employer-match contributions, as that’s free money for later life.
If you want to take the official MOT then you’ll need to head to the DWP site and access their online portal. Pension companies such as Aviva and Legal & General also offer similar online tools to help their customers get their finances in order well before retirement. Whether you opt for the DIY option or a more formal approach, this should help you feel more in control of your work and income.