Don't waste your time and money in mid-life
FOR years, all the money you earn is spoken for as you meet the cost of bringing up a family.
All of a sudden, that changes and you find in mid-life that you have some spare cash – and some spare time.
Make the most of it, as it might not last long. Many of the “sandwich generation” find they are under financial pressure supporting ageing and ailing parents or twentysomething offspring who can't find work.
But if you are among the lucky ones, how should you make the most of these extra hours and cash?
Rather than wasting them, it is worth making sure you 'bank' them in the most efficient way.
You can't get time back, so spend it wisely, perhaps by taking up volunteering.
It might be too late to be an Olympic Games Maker but there are plenty of organisations closer to home that would love to capitalise on your free hours.
The UK’s biggest day of volunteering – CSV Make a Difference Day - takes place this year on Saturday October 2012. To find out how to get involved visit http://www.csv.org.uk
For local volunteering activities, try http://www.communitiestogether.org.uk/ where you will find details of centres across Staffordshire including Cannock Chase, East Staffs, Lichfield, Newcastle, South Staffs, Stafford, Staffs Moorland, Stoke-on-Trent and Tamworth.
Meanwhile, when it comes to savings, you need to ensure that you take full advantage of tax relief and make your money work for you.
Each person can invest a maximum of £5,640 a year in a tax-free cash ISA, so that is your first move.
But as the years go by, don't automatically leave the money where it is, Check that you are still getting a competitive rate of interest.
If you are not, look as the possibility of transferring to a deal that pays more.
An example is the West Brom WebSave ISA 6 account, which pays an impressive 3.18% annual interest on a minimum investment of £1,000. This rate includes a 1.66% bonus which is payable until the end of September, 2013.
The 3.18% rate is the Annual Equivalent Rate (AER) and is slightly higher than the account's quoted 3.16% tax-free rate. This is because the AER reflects the fact that interest is credited to the account on April 5, 2013, meaning interest is then paid on interest until the end of the bonus period.
The maximum you can invest in the account this tax year is the annual cash ISA allowance of £5,640, but you can also move any additional funds held in existing cash ISAs into the account, up to a maximum of £75,000.
You can make withdrawals whenever you want, but you must give 60 days' notice each time or lose 60 days' interest.
This account can only be opened and operated online.
The Coventry 60-Day Notice ISA pays a higher rate of 3.25% tax-free, but it does not accept transfers-in from existing ISAs. That means the maximum you can invest this tax year is £5,640. You can open the account with a minimum investment of £1.
The rate includes a 0.50% bonus paid for the first year the account is open. Again, you must give 60 days' notice if you want to make a withdrawal.
If you need urgent access to your money then, you can make a withdrawal without giving notice, but you will be charged 60 days' interest on the amount withdrawn.
The Coventry account is operated by telephone, but can also be operated in branches, by post or online.
Neither account will suit savers who need regular access to their cash, as you have to give notice before you make a withdrawal.
Remember too that both accounts' rates include a bonus, which means that you may want to move your money once the bonus period ends.
With any account that includes a bonus in the rate, always make a note of when the bonus disappears, as you will need to move your money at that point if the rate is no longer competitive.
If you don't want to keep moving your money, then your best bet may be to go for a 'clean rate' account, with a rate that doesn't include a short-term bonus.
Virgin's offering of 2.85% makes its easy access ISA he best 'clean' rate ISA on the market, both for transfers and new ISA money.
The account permits savers to make unlimited withdrawals without notice and allows transfers-in from other ISAs.
Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.