My money lessons: “Mum taught me to save, but to enjoy life too”

12 May 2020

Claire Sweet is a money coach at Peace Together Money Coaching. She talks about the important steps you need to take if you want to achieve your financial goals

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I suppose it is about balance. I lost my mother 10 years ago when she was just 59. She had saved money all her life and had all these plans for retirement, but never got there.

So that taught me to balance what you need today with what you need for the future. Of course you need to save money for retirement and emergencies, but you also need money along the way to enjoy life – go on holiday, drink some gin.

I sometimes tell people that you can’t take money with you, but you can spend it on meaningful things.

I am married with two children, aged 17 and nine, and live in Kent. We moved from Herne Bay, where we had a detached house with a garden, to the countryside near Canterbury a couple of years ago. I like the outdoors, and had felt cooped up in my office. I wanted to balance my work with spending time outside.

It is so much more peaceful here and we now have five alpacas in our garden, which I can see from my home office.

That all began after I bought my husband a voucher for alpaca trekking, in a classic case of buying someone a present you actually want for yourself. We did it and we fell in love with them.

They are pets really – we don’t make any money from them – though my husband does sell the manure at the bottom of the garden. At some point we would like to build a visitor centre so that others can come and enjoy seeing them too.

Part of that balanced approach to money is being conscious of your spending and financial goals and not frittering your money. If you have a dream that requires money, be that a holiday or a car or whatever, you have to take an active decision to put a set amount of money away each month. A lot of people have a dream but don’t do anything about it. The dream remains a dream.

Not being organised, or saying “I’ll put aside whatever is left over at the end of the month” often does not work, as the money ends up getting spent on other things.

There are people out there who are so careful not to overspend that they don’t end up enjoying what they have. There are others who go the other way and spend everything. The first step is awareness of what money is coming in and what is going out.

A lot of people are asking if now is a good time to be investing. I think people are very cautious about being seen to be OK if other people are not.

Others are saying that now is a good time to get their finances sorted out because they are at home more and they have more time to think about it and act on it. That obviously doesn’t apply to parents with children at home!

There are some things to consider avoiding. I think it is about making sure you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Have some money in emergency savings. If your income is variable, then you should consider having these reserves so that you effectively always get paid.

It is also about keeping your expenses under control and not letting them run away from you.

In terms of my own money, I have money in a cash savings account, as well as some Premium Bonds. I have long-term investments in pensions and Isas. For investment Isas and pensions, the market is at a low point – but then again these are long-term products.   

Claire Sweet is a money coach at Peace Together Money Coaching. As well as being a financial adviser she has a passion for the environment.

Do you have a lesson you’ve learnt about money you’d like to share? Please email editor@moneywise.co.uk

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