This month with no hot off the press news, and not wishing to bore you with a recap of 2005 market performance I thought it would be a great opportunity to give you some tips and hints on getting your own house in order.

Income: Are you happy with your income? The majority of people reading this will automatically answer no! If you are employed, try speaking with your boss about a pay rise. Bring ideas to his/her attention about making the business more valuable/profitable. If they see you care, and that you are adding value to the company, you're more likely to receive a rise.

When did you last look around to compare your income? Are you being paid a fair amount for what you do? Could you increase your skills through training and study to add more value to an employer?

Most people look at this from the wrong angle. First ask what can I DO to add more value to my employer so that they need to value me with a rise. Don't expect the rise just because you turn up on time and take few sick days.

If you run your own business maybe you could increase your prices? Just a little maybe five per cent? Could you reduce your costs, maybe 10 per cent? You'll be surprised when you go through your bank statements what you spend your money on! By doing these two simple steps, you've given yourself a great pay rise!

Expenditure: Go through your bank statements and list all your expenditure over the year. This will include holidays, presents and the one-off spending sprees we tend to forget about.

Can you reduce any of these, without being too restrictive?

For example, shop for telephone, utilities and internet providers on the net. And what about debt payments? Can your restructure these?

Estate Planning: So you've checked your income and your spending. What about what you have.

Firstly, do you have a Will & Enduring Power of Attorney? Is the value of your estate (your assets less your debts) more than £275,000? If so, it's likely you'll pay inheritance tax on the excess at 40 per cent.

Debt Consolidation: Do you have debts? Look at transferring credit card balances to 0 per cent but watch the transfer fees, there are many without any fees.

Can you get a lower rate loan for your car? Can you get a lower rate mortgage? You can get a 4.24 per cent mortgage now (with no extended tie-ins) which is lower than the Bank of England rate!

  • For more advice, contact Lexington on 01793 520443.
  • With Warren Shute of Lexington Financial Services