What lifestyle do you want in retirement?

By Opinion Time of article published Jan 25, 2021

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By Jaco Prinsloo

The answer to this question will be different for everyone, so here are some things to think about:

Does it seem a long time away?

If you are under the age of 40, the chances are that thinking seriously about retirement may not be top of mind. The Covid-19 pandemic, sending the kids to school, disrupted holidays, and everyone’s health are more likely to be a concern. The fact is that you have time on your side, so now is the time to DO something and start saving. Consider this:

If you’re 25 and you save R500 a month for 40 years, with an investment return of 10% a year, you will have R3 188 390 at the age of 65.

If you're 45 and you save R1 000 a month for 20 years, with the same return of 10% a year, you will only have R765 697 at the age of 65.

The investment amount is the same, but it is compound interest (the interest on your interest) that makes the difference, because you have longer to invest. The key message here is: Make a start, no matter how small – it will add up over time.

Does retirement seem fairly close?

If you are over the age of 40, then retirement saving may well be on your radar, and if you are over 60 then you are probably seriously contemplating what retirement will look like for you.

Check what you have

Most people have worked in more than one job over the years and you may have a store of various pension pots waiting to be claimed as you moved from one place of work to another. Contact your ex-employers to see who administers these pensions or talk to a financial adviser to help you track down any hidden pots of gold. Those annual statements that are stuffed into a file somewhere may be very handy now. If you have moved address since you last worked at a company, make sure that you inform the scheme administrators so that they can send you up-to-date information – that is a responsibility many people forget.

Think about the lifestyle you would like in retirement

The days of working full time and stopping at retirement are now quite rare. People are generally still healthy in their 60s and many enjoy the social and mental aspects of working. Part-time working is becoming more common and now that ‘working from home’ is practically the norm, employers are being more flexible on hours. A ’phased’ retirement is much more common nowadays.

As a rule of thumb, you should plan for 60-75% of the amount you are earning before retirement once you actually retire. This can vary greatly depending on what you want to do. For many it can be the opportunity to travel or turn to a hobby full time. Some become carers for grandchildren or turn to volunteer and charity work. It is worth calculating a budget of what you think you will need. Don't forget to factor in the impact of inflation; what you have today may not buy you the same in the future.

Often people focus on the early active years of retirement and forget that they may slow down over time. Some seniors will require nursing care and move to a frail care facility if their health becomes more fragile. It is best to start planning for that day early if you think you’ll need it.

How do I get there?

Once you have thought about what you might need in retirement and how long until you get there, you need to consider how much to save and to make your money grow.

Group retirement funds

If you are working and your employer offers a pension or provident fund, then make sure you join as soon as you can. You can contribute up to 27.50% of your salary – try to contribute as much as you can. Your employer will explain the fund rules to you and the investment choices available. If you’re not sure, then speak to a financial adviser.

Personal retirement funds

Suppose you don’t have access to an employer fund. In that case, you need to set up a personal pension, also known as a retirement annuity fund. Our advisers can help you with this.

Tax relief

You can contribute and deduct up to 27.50% of your taxable income or remuneration – whichever amount is the greater – against your personal income tax. This would reduce the amount of tax you are currently paying.

Investment decisions

How you invest your retirement funds will be important in helping you have the lifestyle you want in retirement. You may be new to investing and naturally want to avoid taking any risks with your money. The longer you have to invest, the more time your money has to recover from any downturn in the market, so don’t be afraid to take some risk.

Make sure you understand what you are buying and avoid anything offering outrageous returns; the current interest rate on bank deposit accounts is less than 6%, so anything offering returns above 10% a year must have considerable risk.

Our advisers will always recommend you hold some cash for emergencies but keeping your retirement savings in cash will not give you any growth on your money at all. Worse still, the impact of inflation over the long term will mean that your cash will buy less when you retire.

Understand how much risk you are willing to take; you don't want to be up all night worrying that your money might be lost and you don’t want to sleepwalk into a retirement with no income. You need to take a sensible amount of risk to achieve a reasonable return.

Will I have enough?

Remember that on average you are likely to live for 18 to 21 years after you retire and many people live well into their 90s now, so your money has to work hard to provide you with a decent income. Review your retirement plans once a year with your adviser to see if you are on track, be prepared to take action and stay focused on the lifestyle you want to live in retirement.

Jaco Prinsloo is a Certified financial planner at Alexander Forbes Financial Planning Consultants


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