It's never too late to plan
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As we get older, it’s tempting to feel regret. Regret over our past decisions. Usually over risks not taken, but often over risks that we have taken that have backfired on us.
And most of us feel some level of guilt about our finances. It’s hard to balance the demands of our lives now and still be responsible for the future.
We understand. All of us have made embarrassing financial decisions. We’ve spent when we should have saved, we haven’t invested when we had a great opportunity, and we’ve invested in what we shouldn’t have.
The trouble is this guilt can lead us to avoid engaging with our money. We avoid it because we’re worried that we’ll be told that we’ve blown it. That it’s too late for us. That we’re behind where we should be and that we won’t catch up.
It’s like the old adage that the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. It may be true, but it’s certainly not helpful. And an attitude like that doesn’t get any more trees planted.
It’s okay. Now is a great time to plant a tree
When it comes to our money, no matter where we find ourselves, we always have options and opportunities.
If you’re within five years of retirement, now is a great time to start engaging with your money decisions. You’ve probably enjoyed some good returns in your super over the past ten years, and it would be smart to lock these in by rebalancing. You should also start looking at ways to invest your super so you have certainty of income when you reach retirement. It’s what finance types call ‘laddering’ and it means that there’ll be money there when you need to spend it.
And get your debt in order. Especially your non-tax-deductible debt, like credit cards, personal loans and your mortgage. Start with the smallest debt first and pay it out. You’ll feel encouraged by your success and move on to the next one.
Control what you can control
Most pre-retirees fear running out of money in retirement more than anything else. That’s okay. There are still things you can do to make the money last. It’s a factor of three things: the length of your retirement; your withdrawals and your investment returns.
You can’t control how long your retirement will be. We simply don’t know how long we’re going to live. Even if we did, it wouldn’t help. Most of us don’t even know when we’ll retire. Recent research by CoreData shows that most of us retire unexpectedly in spite of our plans. The most common reasons for unexpected retirement are: forced unemployment; our own ill-health; and our need to care for a loved one.
But we can control how much we draw and, to some extent, our returns. Most of us can differentiate between our needs and wants. And we’re more than happy to tighten our belts when required.
When it comes to our investment returns, we might not be able to control the direction of the share market each week, but we can control most things. We can control how much we invest in shares, when we invest and when we sell.
It pays to take an interest
The Nobel prize winning economist Milton Freedman said it best. No one cares about your money as much as you do. It pays to take an interest in your finances. And it’s never too late to start planning.
When you do, it won’t be a matter of ‘if’ you’ll achieve your goals. It will be a matter of ‘when’.
Michael Bowman and James McMaster are co-founders of When Financial Solutions