Pick your financial dream team
The 2012 European Championships are upon us and, seeing as you won't be able to escape the football for the next few weeks anyway, we've jumped aboard the bandwagon to give you our financial dream team.
We've set out our stall in an attacking 4-3-3 formation, designed to make some winning saves and help you reach your financial goals...
Anyone who remembers the playground cry of 'bagsy last in' knows all too well that going in goal was something most of us tried to avoid. We all knew we needed someone to go in nets, but no one wanted to think about it or actually do it. Unfortunately, if you were the last one picked for your team, it was usually you who did the honours.
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However, despite this generally negative outlook, the goalkeeper assumes a very specialist position. Having a good stopper as the last line of defence is a vital part of any successful team.
So, in recognition of this, trying to keep a clean sheet for our financial dream team will be:
Life and critical illness Insurance
Whether it's being stricken with a terminal illness or death itself, our own demise is not something we like to think about. But having life insurance is arguably the most important financial product you'll need if you have dependants who rely on your income to cover a mortgage or living expenses.
The amount of cover you require is dependent upon factors such as the size of your mortgage, additional income from other householders and the age of children. The cost of this cover - called the premium - will depend on factors such as your age and lifestyle habits, as well as your state of health and family medical history.
It is important that you get the right level of cover so that your family is not left short should the worst happen, so it's worth contacting an independent advisor to work out a suitable level for your circumstances. You can reach our impartial advice squad at MoneySupermarket on 0800 142 2023.
With a safe pair of hands behind us, we've opted for an equally solid back line - no dodgy offside traps, no fancy sweepers, just a flat back four that offers security and protection when called upon.
A solid central defensive pairing forms the bedrock of any team and so with this in mind we've plumped for car insurance and home buildings and contents insurance which, like any good defenders, will sit at the back and do their job with minimum fuss.
Car Insurance (capt)
Car insurance is a legal requirement. If you have a car, you have to have car insurance whether you like it or not. That's why we've also made this financial product captain of the team.
It is now more important than ever to have adequate insurance as the Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE) law means that your car must be covered at all times unless you have officially informed the DVLA that it is off-road via a SORN declaration.
Car insurance costs can differ greatly between insurers and so it's a good idea to shop around. Simply using MoneySupermarket to compare prices could save you an average of £389 on the cost of your renewal.
Home and contents insurance
None of us like to think that our house will fall down, burn down or be cleaned out by burglars one night, but it is a possibility. In this case we all need to have adequate home insurance to guard against such eventualities.
If you are a homeowner you need both buildings and contents insurance and are likely to get a discount if you buy both from the same insurer. Tenants only require contents cover as the fabric of the building itself is the responsibility of the landlord.
When insuring your contents make sure you have enough cover so that you could replace everything should you need to do so. Keep in mind that particularly valuable items may need extra, separate cover.
We want our full backs to be solid in the tackle but have the ability to get forward and chip in with a few goals and assists. So at right back we have:
An ISA is a solid and dependable savings account that can offer us a good return due to the fact you won't pay tax on the interest earned. If you take out a cash ISA you can invest up to £5,640 before April 5, 2013m, which is the start of the new tax year.
Cheshire BS Direct cash ISA (issue 3) currently offers a market leading interest rate of 3.35% (AER) that is fixed until November 30, 2013.
Taking up the left back berth is:
One of the big men in the team, the personal loan, is great for those major purchases that a credit card may not be suited to, such as a new car or home improvements, and you can get the best interest rates on loans between £7,500 and £15,000.
Sainsbury's Bank is currently leading the field here as it has dropped its personal loan rate to just 5.9% for those wanting to borrow between £7,500 and £15,000, the lowest rate since September 2007.
This rate only applies however, to loans taken over four or five years. Anyone wanting longer will have to pay the slightly higher rate of 6.1% APR. You must also be a Nectar card holder to apply for the loan but you can pick one up easily free-of-charge in store.
Bear in mind that the 5.9% rate is only representative, which means it only needs to apply to 51% of all successful applicants. If your credit score is not up to scratch, you may not be among them.
And so to the midfield, where many a game is won or lost (or simply bypassed depending upon who you're watching). We've opted for a three-man midfield, with two holding and a more attack minded midfielder providing a link to the forwards.
First off, the two holding midfielders will be mortgage and current account.
Your house will most likely be the biggest purchase you'll ever make, so you'll want the cheapest rate possible on the mortgage deal. By using MoneySupermarket's mortgage comparison tool you can instantly compare the best rates online.
However, like a good solid defensive midfielder, mortgages aren't as easy to come by as they used to be and you'll probably need a clear 10% deposit with a good credit rating before you'll be considered for one.
Sitting alongside your mortgage is another vital financial product that is at the core of your personal finances, your current account.
You may have been with the same bank for years and your current account just sits there while money passes through it - just as a central midfielder takes the ball from the defence (your salary) and passes it onto the strikers (your latest shopping spree).
However, it doesn't have to be like this. It makes sense to shop around for the best deal on your current account and ensure that you're making the best returns on in-credit balances and you are not paying over the odds in overdraft fees.
The Halifax Reward current account for example, could earn you £60 per year when you pay in £1,000 per month - whether you are in credit or overdrawn. It also offers a free switching service and a fee-free overdraft for the first three months for anyone who does.
So then who will be our attacking midfielder, turning defence into attack but capable falling back to provide extra cover when needed? Well that'll be the...
Easy access saver account
Easy access savings accounts are a great way to save for an emergency, whether it's a car repair or an unexpected bill, as you are permitted to make penalty-free withdrawals whenever you like.
The Post Office's Online Saver, which can be opened with just £1, offers a market leading interest rate of 3.17%(AER) for the first 12 months, although it falls to 1.65% (AER) thereafter so you might want to move your money then. It also offers a maximum investment of £2million, which is enough to buy another squad player.
Now we're at the business end of things we've gone for a three-pronged attack with players that work hard to get the best returns possible. Leading the front line will be the Cashback credit card...
Cashback credit card
A striker can be a mercurial talent which, used correctly can produce excellent results, while mishandled, can leave your team in a mess - and a credit card is pretty much the same.
Used wisely, a credit card is a great financial tool but get it wrong and you can end up running up a spiral of insurmountable debt. So when using a credit card you should ensure that you pay the balance off in full at the end of each month so you do not accrue high interest charges.
If you pay off the balance, you can use your credit card to even better effect if you get one that gives you rewards or cashback every time you spend. For example, the American Express Platinum Cashback Credit Card which is exclusive to MoneySupermarket offers 0% on purchases for 16 months and, so long as you apply via MoneySupermarket, will also pay 1.25% cashback on virtually everything you buy - and then double cashback of 2.5% for one month every year.
Once the introductory period is over, the card charges a representative 14% (variable) on purchases but when you factor in the £25 fee, the representative APR becomes 18.5% (variable).
Either side of the frontman are the supporting strikers the 0% balance transfer credit card and the stocks & shares ISA.
0% balance transfer credit card
The supporting striker should help out the frontman, doing much of the leg work to pull defenders away to open up a route to goal. A credit card that offers 0% on balance transfers can work in this way as, as it allows you to transfer outstanding balances from another card (usually so long as it's not part of the same banking group) and charge no interest on it for an agreed time.
The current market leading credit card is the Barclaycard Platinum credit card with extended balance transfer which offers a whopping 22 months interest-free on balance transfers subject to a 2.9% transfer fee.
You should try to ensure that you have paid down the balance by the time this introductory period ends as the representative APR then jumps to 17.9% (variable).
The other supporting striker role can be a temperamental talent - playing the stock market has no guarantees, and the results you get from a stocks & shares ISA could surprise or disappoint you. Financial advisors only tend to recommend that you use a stocks and shares ISA if you have money you are looking to invest for at least five years this is because stock markets can go down as well as up, so you could lose money.
Stocks & shares ISA
Like its team-mate at right back, a stocks & shares ISA offers significant tax benefits. But remember that investing in equities makes it a mercurial player - you might get back less than you invested. If you want to back your instincts, though, you can invest up to £11,280 before April 5, 2013.
If you're thinking of investing in a stocks and shares ISA then use MoneySupermarket's comparison tool to compare rates instantly online.
On the bench
Every team needs a good strong bench that adds depth to the squad and can be called upon occasionally, to possibly come in for an injured player or make a tactical change if things aren't going right. So here are our substitutes.
Not something that we need to think about all-year round, travel insurance is our super sub that we can call on when we need it. You can compare a great range of deals on travel insurance here.
When some team members are flagging towards the end of the game or in extra time, you can bring on a substitute to inject some fresh energy into the game. And if you have been on the same energy tariff for some time, you should consider doing the same and substitute your current supplier to save money. Use MoneySupermarket's comparison tool to instantly compare energy prices and suppliers.
As with your energy supplier, you may want to consider substituting your mobile phone provider to try and save money each month. Or, if you're happy with your provider, you may want to change to a different tariff or even a pay-as-you-go deal.
You can compare all the latest pay monthly contracts or pay-as-you-go deals by visiting Moneysupermarket's mobile phones channel.
Although the internet is gradually infiltrating every aspect of our lives, be it via smart TVs or smartphones, you probably don't think about your broadband provider too often.
However, if you think that your connection is not quite up to speed or you're paying over the odds, it's worth comparing broadband deals to see if you can get better value for money elsewhere.
It's also a good idea to see if you can get a cheaper deal by teaming up your broadband with your home phone and television subscription package.
Moneysupermarket's money saving vouchers are the team's substitute goalie, coming on to make savings when you might not expect it.
Using our deals and vouchers channel you can save money on everything from electronics to experience days - it's end-to-end stuff!
Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.