Welcome to Money Matters: GLAMOUR’s weekly dive into the world of finance – your finance. These uncertain times have reminded us just how much understanding our money matters and yet… how little we talk about it and how much it’s shrouded in secrecy.
This stops now.
Keen to break that money taboo, we’re chatting all things personal finance from money saving tips to ISAs and pensions. Each week, a woman in a unique situation will give us an honest breakdown of her finances, and our expert will tell her easy tips on exactly how to tackle it. So, grab a cuppa, take a seat, and let’s talk about money…
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Antonia* is a 26-year-old freelance musical theatre teacher and vocal coach in the West Midlands. Here is her money month…
I currently work 38 hours a week (not including preparation time for classes) as a freelance teacher. Before December 2020, I was actually living in Dubai in a full-time employed position at a dance studio. However my salary was cut to 50% due to Covid, despite continuing to work full time without holiday. It was only a ‘temporary’ measure, however after remaining on the lower salary from April through to December and the high cost of living, I wasn’t in a position to sit it out. This led me to pack up and move back to the UK where I now live with my mum… and cat.
I’ve always felt like other people afford so much more than I do. It never feels like I have the money to spend on things like holidays or to put towards getting a nicer car or saving for a house. I don’t have any real savings, emergency fund, investments or pension plan at the moment and the closer I get to 30, the more this worries me!
I want to have a family without having to rely on my partner too much but this feels so far from the reality.
I’ve read so many personal finance books over the last 12 months, but they always seem to be aimed towards people who have lots of money but don’t spend it in the right places, whereas I’ve lived the last 15 months on what feels like a shoestring budget, and was only able to build up my freelance portfolio here in the UK since April.
My main question would be, where do I even start? Now money is coming in, I’ll be putting 30% away for tax, and then following the 50/30/20 rule with the remainder, but outside of that I feel like I should be so much more secure at 26.
I just want to get to the end of the month without having sleepless nights about whether I have enough money to put petrol in my car. I work hard and I never feel like my bank balance reflects that.
Current account: £164
Savings account: £160 (in cash, in a purse tucked away in my bedroom)
Annual salary: £29,220 approximately… hopefully (pre-self assessment tax)
Monthly wage: Previously anywhere between £200-£500, but taking £2435 for May
Any other incoming payments: £100 allowance from my boyfriend to put towards treating myself (but it has been going on petrol and food shopping)
Rent/mortgage: Living with parent rent free
Bills: £40 pw on petrol, £50 pw on food/cat food
Other: £ 9.99 Netflix, £9.99 Apple Music, £15 website hosting, £10 phone contract
Splurges: I don’t really ever splurge, but I’ve been giving myself £50 a month to replace makeup and cosmetics/sanitary products or buy clothes for work
Weekly budget: My income has been so low and unpredictable recently that I’ve just been scanning my card in Tesco and hoping that it doesn’t decline
What I spent this month: £490
£1000 to mum, £100 to be paid back monthly after she paid for a laptop for work for me
MY MONEY THOUGHTS
My financial hopes for the future: To not have to worry about getting to the end of the month, afford to buy a house with my other half and settle down to have a family
My worst money habit: Getting my mum to check my bank balance for me so that I don’t have to look
My biggest money worry: That I’ll never be in a position to comfortably have a family
Current money mood: 🤢
1. Financial fomo There always were millions of people in the world who could afford more than you and have nicer cars (sucks doesn’t it) but the pandemic has made this gap wider and more visible. Maybe your friends work in high paying sectors or have lucked out over the pandemic and actually managed to save. Or, more plausibly, they’re only showing you their best bits on social media. P.S you’re doing just fine for a 26 year old… We all compare, but to worry about how you can afford the lives of everyone else is by definition a losing game. A helpful reframing is to ask yourself: how can you afford a life that you want whilst doing the work you love?
2. This year isn’t your future But first, you need to be kinder to yourself and see your situation in context: you’ve been trying to run a business in a sector which has been reduced to almost nothing over the last year and a half. You could have given up, but you didn’t. The understandable mistake you’re making is to assume that the last year or so is an indication of what your future holds. Can I promise that in a couple of years you’ll be earning 6 figures and living in your own 4 bed house? No, but what I do know, and what your growing income is pointing at, is that things will only get better from here.
3. The long view It will take time and you need to view this as a long game. “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” A hack I’ve learned from self-employed life is to think of your finances in quarters and years as opposed to months. It’s a psychological trick; the financial impact of a contract falling through or illness can be a devastating hit to your financial month but is less demotivating when framed within 3 months or a year. Taking the long view also makes it much easier to accept that for a while, you will have financial fomo. Freelancing is no easy ride and almost always comes at a financial cost during the early days. The flipside is that unlike your employed friends, there is in theory, no cap on what you could earn. Focus on the next 5 years and invest in your business.
4. Pension priority If there’s one practical step you do take, it’s starting a pension. Only a quarter of self-employed people are paying into a pension which is worryingly low. While you’re not benefiting from employer contributions, you are essentially getting free money in the form of tax relief: so money that would have gone to the taxman, goes to your future. No brainer. As a rule of thumb, take the age that you started contributing to your pension (26), half it (13), ideally, this is the % of your pre-tax income that you’d want to pay in each year. I appreciate that it feels like a lot but remember you’ll actually pay less in tax as a result. For more on pensions, here’s a free super accessible masterclass. As an aside, 30% to the taxman might be overdoing it slightly.
5. The search Do some research into personal pension providers. Digital wealth managers (nicknamed robo-advisers) like PensionBee, Wealthsimple and Nutmeg are worth a look, they’re fairly cheap as they use passive funds, they have easy to use apps and there’s much less investment jargon to wade through. Charges are important because they can eat away at your returns, so check you understand what they are before committing.
Alice Tapper is the author and founder of Go Fund Yourself. For more money advice and tips, follow her @gofundyourself.
This column offers guidance, not financial advice. For personal investment advice, it’s always best to speak with a financial advisor.
*Name has been changed.