Over 30? What do you need for the rest of your life and how much will it cost?

PUBLISHED: 14:06 28 December 2018 | UPDATED: 14:06 28 December 2018

The Number by Lee Eisenberg makes essential reading, says Peter Sharkey

The Number by Lee Eisenberg makes essential reading, says Peter Sharkey

Archant

Calculating your 'Number' makes enormous financial sense says Peter Sharkey.

Have you noticed that while society harbours a laudable commitment to produce purposeful contributors who are responsible, confident and self-assured, there’s a peculiar reluctance to accommodate, or even talk about, the need for a comprehensive form of financial literacy?

The longer-term repercussions of this reluctance could prove serious, as anyone who has spoken with people on the run-up to retirement would tell you. There are literally millions of baby boomers currently careering towards retirement with very little idea of what they want from it or, just as important, how they’ll get by once a regular salary is no longer credited to their bank account each month. Yet as dramatic improvements in medicine and social conditions over the past century have resulted in significantly increased life expectancy, so there’s an overwhelming need for everyone, not just folks aged over 50, to consider what type of life they want and how they’re going to achieve it.

I would, therefore, strongly recommend reading The Number, Lee Eisenberg’s folksy, but pin-sharp analysis of retirement planning, deemed by one reviewer to be “required reading for… anyone over the age of 30.”

Thirty? Yup, you cannot start planning too early.

Early in Eisenberg’s book, he wonders whether he and his wife have achieved a ‘sufficient Number’, ie enough to live on when they retire: “We were certainly comfortable,” he muses, “not Bill Gates comfortable, but sufficiently flush…But the question of whether we had… enough to shelter us from life’s jolts nagged at me more days than not. Did we have enough? How much is enough? And if we didn’t have enough, what compromises, and sacrifices, were we prepared to make?”

The Eisenberg family’s retirement aims were remarkably similar to perhaps 95% of retirees: a (paid for) roof over their heads, children’s education costs covered, a sum set aside for possible future healthcare, the opportunity to travel and enjoy their leisure time together. Yet when he began talking to people of similar age to himself (mid-50s), he discovered that while most acknowledged that they were coming to a fork in the road, very few actually had a plan to map their way beyond it. Nor were they falling over themselves to speak to professionals capable of guiding them through a potentially awkward route and onward to a happy, contented retirement.

The Number was published a decade ago, although little appears to have changed in the interim. One pension provider recently noted that, after examining its members’ attitude to professional guidance as they headed towards retirement, “only 20% were taking advice,” prompting the firm to expand its educational support.

Strange, isn’t it, to think that as we approach our 50s, that education and learning could be back on the agenda, though why wouldn’t it? Millions of older adults learn a new language, become gourmet cooks or learn how to sail; I have one 53-year-old pal who recently collected his pilot’s licence. Each pursuit requires us to open a fresh educational chapter in our lives, so why the apparent reluctance to educate ourselves in respect of money?

For those doubtful of the merits of retirement advice, Eisenberg poses a question millions of forty- and fifty-somethings would admit to having mulled over at some stage: “What are the chances that you’ll live out your days in comfort,” he asks, before taking the question a stage further, laying a brutal, 21st century truth on the line: “Are you ready for the good news and the bad news that’s around the bend? That you’ll live longer than you ever figured, which is the good news. And that you’ll live longer than you ever figured, which is also the bad news.”

Part of the retirement preparation process involves updating and perhaps broadening our financial education. Clearly, millions have already done this, in part at least: research shows that most people want to keep working, at least on a part-time basis, until they’re into their seventies, a tacit acknowledgement that they’re yet to achieve their ‘Number’.

Effective financial education is about ensuring that people understand how to make the most of their respective pension pots and the impact longevity will have on the quantity of money and other assets they have within them.

In an age where personal debt is at its highest-ever level, where there’s little social or peer pressure to get one’s financial house in order, accepting the need to be educated regarding pensions and retirement, whatever your age, will undoubtedly help you achieve your ‘Number’.

Whatever your Number, TAM Asset Management Ltd offer investors the opportunity to invest in a variety of mainstream and ethical portfolios. For further details, please visit the MoneyMapp website: www. Moneymapp.com

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