Top tips on managing your finances, getting support and making the most of your earnings – supported by Journalists’ Charity. 

by Lara von der Brelie

Journalism can be a competitive industry at the best of times, but 2020 has brought unprecedented challenges.  In partnership with the Journalists’ Charity, WIJ hosted a panel on how journalists can better manage their money, plan for the future and get help in the turbulent months ahead. The expert panel included:

  • Top accountants Andrew Subramaniam and Barry Kernon from HW Fisher’s industry-leading authors and journalists (@HWFWriters)
  • James Brindle, chief executive of the Journalists’ Charity. (@JournoCharity)
  • Faye Watts, founding partner at FUSE Accountants and co-founder of online magazine Audrey, a website for women who want to get the best out of their lives
  • In the chair was BBC Radio and TV presenter Frances Finn (@francesfinnshow)
  1. Keep records

Keeping accurate records is the most important thing journalists can do to stay on top of their finances says Andrew Subramaniam. Having a record of your expenses and invoices will save you a lot of time and stress when it comes to doing your accounts.

  1. Don’t be scared to ask for help

Reach out to the Journalists’ Charity and talk to them about any problems you’re having with your finances; you don’t need to be a member to be eligible for their support. Even if you don’t think you qualify, call them or send an email –they may be able to put you in touch with another organisation who can help.

  1. Are you eligible for any benefits?

Deciphering government guidelines on benefits can be complicated and frustrating. Barry Kernon recommends looking at the following websites to help navigate this minefield of regulations:

  • Money advice service which offers free and impartial financial advice
  • Turn 2 Us which provides information and financial support when times are tough

James Brindle also urged the audience to contact HMRC directly. Long waiting times will be worth the pain – HMRC staff often give exceptionally useful advice,

  1. Have two bank accounts

Keep your personal and professional life separate says Faye and make a different account for work expenses. This will help with bookkeeping and give you a clearer idea of your monthly costs.

  1. Keep some money for taxes

If you are self employed, set some money aside to cover your taxes. And make sure the money is stowed away in an account which is difficult to access to help avoid any nasty surprises when the taxman comes knocking. To find out more about managing your taxes, download HWFisher’s author & journalist tax guide.

  1. Manage your savings your way

Do you thrive on risk? Planning to take out your pension in less than 20 years? Where and how you manage your money depends on you. Faye recommends speaking to a financial advisor to help you to think through the best approach for managing your money based on how long you are planning to save for and your attitude to risk.

  1. Try digital bookkeeping

Tax returns in the UK will be going fully digital from 2023, so it is worth getting ahead. Barry says that while some journalists are happy storing their receipts in a diary planner, others might want try digital bookkeeping to such software?  Barry suggests using free trials to try out the different options out there. Link to free trials?

  1. Working from home? Claim money back

There are lots of different ways to get support if you are working from home.

HMRC’s ‘flat rate model’ give you £6 a week. Faye also suggests trying out the ‘actual calculation model’ based on the square footage of the room you work in, the amount of hours you spend in there and the total cost of the bills for your work space. I wouldn’t suggest something and them put people off You may also be able to claim expenses for services which have a clear dual purpose – in your private and professional life, like mobile phone bills and broadband. Link to a calculation model?

  1. Made redundant? Make a plan

First things first, “get your head above the parapet and start facing the finances,” says Faye. Start planning for the next 6-12 months and consider what your costs will be during this time. Make sure you set aside enough cash to cover the basics before spending or investing your money anywhere else. Faye suggests dividing up your expenses into three categories: ‘essentials’, ‘necessaries’ and ‘nice to haves’.

  1. Stay positive, think ahead

“Things can only get better; with crisis comes opportunity,” says Andrew. “The key is not to give up.” Faye urges journalists to invest in themselves; take the time to find out what your priorities are, be ready to rethink your plans and redirect your skills.