There’s no way to escape retirement. Even the most critical of such cases have solutions
It was a Sunday afternoon, and I had just settled into an old P G Wodehouse when the call came. I let my mobile ring thrice before I noticed the caller’s name flashing on the screen. He was a distant relative, a friendly soul who had nothing but affection for me. I took the call, and after a minute or so, had the same sinking feeling that I have had so many times in the past. Here was another person with an unsavoury tale to share, I thought.
Naturally, if you have read some of my previous columns, I am referring to the unsavoury (I have already used that word, I know, but a better term escapes me right now) but common story: the near-absence of retirement planning. In this case, the gentleman concerned was about four years away from his retirement. Would I help him with some advice, he asked somewhat timidly.
Naturally, the braveheart that I am, I assured him that certain things – a string of actions, really – could still make a difference to him, provided he took care of them without delay in the strictest sense of the word. After ten minutes, when we ended the call, I felt hollow and even dejected. How can one genuinely explain such things in ten minutes? How can a messy retirement plan (a word as grand as “plan” could never be applied in my relative’s case) be corrected and reworked over merely four years?
If you have sped through the previous paragraphs, you would know that a good retirement plan is a serious process, not a flash-in-the-pan fix that a late-comer can use just years before his retirement. To put it more severely, let me just say that a plan has to be built and nurtured – and altered as and when needed – for years in order to make any meaningful difference in a retired person’s life.
To start young and sustain a methodical investment programme is just one aspect of retirement planning. To do it in a tax-efficient manner while keeping an eye on the market (not to mention the inflationary forces that are forever working against you) is a full-blown task for any individual.
Saving money in a smart manner through a concrete asset allocation plan (AAP) would be the real differentiator for most of us. Clearly, your AAP must be in sync with your current risk profile. And it needs to be tweaked in keeping with changes in your profile.
I have found out by examining a number of cases that many individuals, despite all the critical knowledge they have acquired over a lifetime in other fields, often choose to ignore vital aspects of retirement. Realisation mostly comes late – in the case of the individual I mentioned right at the beginning, it came four years prior to his superannuation.
Now, you may now ask whether anything, just about anything, can be done in such critical cases. Well, despite all the horrible stories that I have shared with you today, I do have a sketchy solution to offer. Here goes.
Salvage what you can, in any way you can. If that means stopping an insurance policy that you would not need now (hopefully, never!), just go ahead and do it.
Assuming that you would need regular income in your retirement, work out a systematic withdrawal plan that you would initiate after a few years. The SWP should get you regular credits in your bank account, perhaps on a monthly or quarterly basis.
End all undesirable expenses immediately. Some of these may pertain to plans and programmes that you may have been running for years – with little hope to liquidate them any time soon. I am, please remember, telling you to stop the Netflix subscription that lets you relax in the evenings. Entertainment in your retired years would be, after all, as important as it is now. The same applies to socialising.
Make it all as tax-efficient as possible. Spare no expense in consulting a professional tax practitioner in order to achieve this very important goal. Income tax is a real challenge for many, and whether you are earning actively or not, there is no way you can escape it altogether.
The author is Director, Wishlist Capital Advisors
DISCLAIMER: Views expressed are the author's own, and Outlook Money does not necessarily subscribe to them. Outlook Money shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly.