How to save for a long period of travel
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Saving for a prolonged period of travel is essential, says our financial columnist Peter Sharkey. And now might just be the best time to go.
A traditional, hand-written wedding invitation dropped through our letterbox last month.
Though it has been as well-trailed as any television drama, the embossed, cream-coloured invitation provided conclusive evidence that the happy couple, our 28-year-old niece and her intended (31), had finally decided to tie the knot. An international stag weekend (and a hen do a month later) beckon first, but the family's reaction to the prospect of a May wedding was one of heartfelt joy. A celebratory party was hastily arranged.
Attempting to discuss anyone's future plans at 2am when Barry White is belting out You're the first, the last, my everything and much drink has been taken is a forlorn task. It didn't even cross my mind – not when the Walrus of Love is singing and everyone is dancing. The following day, however, after my brother and I, ably assisted by several giant mugs of tea, had manfully prepared brunch for what felt like 200 people, I finally had the opportunity to spend five minutes with my niece.
We've always got on well and after congratulating her for the umpteenth time (it's still difficult to envisage her as a married women though), I asked what her and soon-to-be-husband plan doing post-May 2019.
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Pointing at headlines in the Sunday papers strewn across the kitchen dining table, she said: 'We're going travelling until all of this nonsense blows over.'
The pair have been taking an English as a Foreign Language course and plan to put it to good use by supplementing their income as they travel around the world, ideally for 18 months. Both have been granted generous sabbaticals by their respective employers. Jealous? Moi?
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The 'nonsense' to which my niece pointed and the papers referred was the degrees of uncertainty currently enveloping three particularly important areas of our lives.
First, we have continued political uncertainty which is undoubtedly damaging the nation. We're saddled not just with weak incumbent leadership (and her equally poor lieutenants), but with a distinctly below-average opposition. The calibre of our politicians, far too many of whom have never worked in the real world, has gradually deteriorated over several decades, to the point where the electorate are frustrated when they hear the same bland, PR-approved replies from whichever party spokesperson is being questioned. Most people would be delighted to avoid this for 18 months.
Then we have economic uncertainty, exacerbated by a dense fog, which makes it difficult to determine whether or not we'll leave the EU.
The nation faces its most important decision since entering the Second World War in 1939, yet the lack of direction, commitment and clarity has left many businesses in limbo. I speak with a lot of businesses and the two most frequently aired questions I've heard over the last two years is: 'do we invest and expand the business?' and 'do we open an office in mainland Europe?'
Many companies, large and small, have shown huge faith in the UK by investing, recruiting and expanding their operations here, but others are happy to sit on the sidelines for now.
Thirdly, the sense of financial uncertainty is increasingly palpable.
Stock markets have enjoyed a prolonged run of success for a decade, during which share prices in some companies have more than trebled. Despite a burgeoning sense of uncertainty, most investors remain broadly optimistic, especially as the US stock market continues to boom, but based upon analysis rooted in less buoyant times, many company valuations appear increasingly stretched.
It transpires that the happy couple have been 'saving like crazy for two years,' [into their ISAs] money they hope to draw upon and combine it with their earnings from teaching English, especially in the Far East. They would like to add to it, but it's more important they're not wiped out as they plan to 'buy a small flat' upon their return to the UK.
'If we don't do this now,' my niece said, 'we may never get another opportunity.' She's absolutely right.
How many people reading this must be thinking along similar lines? The economic and financial uncertainty affecting the nation will not suddenly evaporate; nor are we likely to witness the emergence of a competent clutch of politicians capable of replacing the existing bunch.
On reflection, the thought of teaching English as a foreign language holds a certain appeal, doesn't it? Saving inside an ISA to fund a prolonged overseas jaunt makes plenty of sense too. For details, click here.
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For more financial advice, check out Peter Sharkey's regular column, The Week In Numbers.