Friday 23 September 2016

Pay yourself first! The secrets to painlessly save more money

When you’re still getting to grips with your finances, your first concern is usually “Where did all the money go?” after you’ve burnt through your monthly student stipend or pay-cheque. The same can be said at the start of your career, when having financial independence from your parents, increases the temptation to go on spending sprees which rival the Kardashians.

Once the panic sets in, your go-to problem solvers are your older family members, who, let’s face it, are supposedly better at “adulting” than you. While their advice is useful, do not fall into the trap of doing what your grandparents may have done and simply save cash at home, or into a single savings account, pay all your bills and expenses first, leaving you with very little to call your own at the end of the month.

So what can you do to save money without acting like Scrooge?

Write it down

Monitor your expenses to get a good idea of what your spending habits are. Factor in one-time expenses like insurance payments, car expenses and periods of heavy outgoings like Christmas, birthdays and weddings.

You could use pen and paper, or create a spreadsheet to keep track of all your transactions. By far the easiest method is to do it on the go and have your financial overview constantly at hand on your smartphone. With a large number of money management apps available, it is very easy to keep tabs on your expenses.

Pay yourself first

Make yourself your first priority when it comes to financial loyalty. The best thing to do at the start of each month is to pay yourself a pre-established sum of money from your salary into a specific account. Do this by standing order and you won’t even notice it being taken out.

The remainder of your salary will allow you to pay bills and expenses, dictating your spending habits and making you a more conscientious and responsible consumer. At this point, multiple accounts are a must.

Compartmentalise your money

Diversify the way you channel your money by having different accounts for different purposes. A second savings account not affiliated with a debit card, means that unless you physically go into a bank and withdraw money from your account, you won’t be able to use those savings, which in turn means that you’re guaranteed to save that sum each month.

Creating a current account associated with a chequebook is also useful for large payments, while having to regularly check that you have enough capital in the account to effect payment. E-banking has now become standard practice, so make sure you become familiar with this method of money management as its features allow personal banking to be easier.

Get to know your Financial Advisor

Personalise your banking. Set up a meeting with your local branch’s financial advisor and explain what your long term savings plan is. Listen to his advice but be upfront about your financial limitations. You cannot over-stretch your incoming cash over a large portfolio. Make sure that you create a solid rapport with your financial advisor and meet them every six months to a quarter to discuss any changes to your accounts. Show an interest in making long term investments once you’ve saved a good lump sum.


Property is the most solid form of investment, but having the capital to start off with takes time. This is where your financial advisor comes in. Start small and invest in a mixture of low risk bonds and higher risk, higher yield shares and always insist that they are capital guaranteed. This way, if a specific fund you invest in goes belly up, you are at least guaranteed the return of the initial capital invested. However, long term investments tend to fluctuate and hanging onto them over a long period of time, can yield profit through interest.

Think of your future

Become knowledgeable about other physical, movable property you could invest in, like collectables, antiques or art and make sure that what you like is timeless enough to promise profit in years to come: perhaps turn these into investment buys. Think about starting a private pension plan or life policy which is, again a long term form of saving guaranteeing peace of mind.

Thinking about changing jobs? 10 tips to transition smoothly into your new career

Changing jobs is not a decision to be taken lightly, but it will inevitably occur at some point or another in your working life. Given that we spend the greater part of our adult lives at work, having a job which is fulfilling is important as it enhances our identity.

If you’ve reached your full potential within your current job, change is a must. The psychological benefits of leaving a place where you are feeling tired or burnt out, are not to be underestimated. Lack of stimulus is as bad as financial and intellectual stagnation, and any combination of these three is a major cause of unhappiness.

So if you’re reconsidering your employment options, here are some pointers to help you make the move seamlessly.

Do your homework

Preparation is key. Whether you want to change job within the same industry or change your field completely, lists are your friends. Make a list of pros and cons of your current job and then adjust the pros list to the new position you’re looking for. This will help you focus better.

List your transferable skills if you’re looking outside your current field. In previous blog posts, we highlighted how important it is to clean up your CV and keep it relevant to the job you’re interested in: the same applies to cover letters.

Do your fieldwork

Once you’ve established the area you want to move into, get in touch with professionals already working within the market and get an insider’s view. Sometimes, job descriptions can be overly positive to attract possible employees, and nothing beats an honest outline from someone in the know. You do not need to have formal sessions, simply pick an acquaintance’s brain while out socially – from a wine bar to the gym.


Use your contacts wisely and involve yourself in events like public lectures, open days, charity events and sponsored meet-ups which will allow you to meet and make a positive impression on the right people and make useful professional links.

Embrace social media

With more than 80% of the Maltese population having a Facebook account and checking it multiple times daily, these apps are the way to go if you want to put yourself out there, while simultaneously keeping a finger on the pulse. Follow the companies you think might be potential employers and actively engage with them.

Make sure you set up or update your LinkedIn profile, clean up your Facebook page, get yourself onto Snapchat and organise your Twitter and Instagram wisely. You can bet any future employer will find a means of assessing your social media presence. While media exposure is good, don’t allow it to compromise your integrity. Sell yourself for the right reasons, with the right pictures and comments, and focus on internet fame rather than infamy.

Find specialist recruiters

Narrow your search for a new job by getting in touch with recruiters who specialise in your field of interest. Establish a good relationship with them and be clear with what you want. The more they know you, the more likely they are to find the right fit for you.

Be honest with yourself

Assess your ability to perform within your new job and identify areas which require improvement. Then take action. A prospective boss who sees an employee willing to take a genuine interest in their development and training, will be more reassured of your commitment.

Hang on to your old job

Until you find a new one. Consider your financial situation and ask yourself whether it is sensible to spend some time unemployed until you find new work. A gap in your CV also raises questions with future employers, so have an explanation ready.

Keep it under wraps

Take a friend or family member into your confidence but don’t make your new job search too public. Minimise the potential for your current employer and colleagues finding out that you plan to leave. Maintain professionalism and commitment to your current job and don’t run your job search on company time. This will facilitate the severing of ties without the animosity.

Try an internship

Yes, it’s probably unpaid; but the benefit of gaining some valid work experience while on an internship can be invaluable. If the internship cannot be fitted around your current working hours, try taking a sabbatical and use it to improve your chances of employability.

Consider part-time or freelance work at first

Breaking into a new business or profession can be hard work and might involve a pay cut at first. Many jobs require experience in the field and nothing beats the flexibility of part-time and freelance work to give you a leg-up into the workings of your new career. Proof of having explored your new field part-time could help you fast-track your progression in your new job.

Finally, keep training – your brain is only as old as you allow it to be. Recent research on brain plasticity in adults has proven that the adult brain can be kept agile and taught to develop new skills as easily as that of younger teens and children. All it takes is the right attitude and effort.


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