Live long and prosper.Science Officer Spock, Star Trek
In 1967, in Star Trek’s second season episode ‘Amok Time,’ the now famed Spock, (played by Leonard Nimoy) first made the now famous Vulcan greeting – Live long and prosper.
Today, we all know Australian's are living longer – but the problem is what happens if we outlive our money?
A new-born Australian today can expect to live into their 80s with many who are now aged 65 probably expecting another 30 years in retirement, taking them into their mid-90s.
Our financial lives are becoming more complicated – and interrelated
As we’re all living longer, our financial worlds are naturally becoming more complicated.
We are faced with decisions about;
- how much life insurance is enough?
- how to invest our super?
- should we pay down mortgages first, or salary sacrifice more of our take-home pay to super?
- how do we make the most of our money investing it, throughout our retirement years?
Living longer means we're being asked to make more financial decisions than we’ve ever traditionally had to face, drawing upon levels of financial understanding that may not yet be solid.
Most of us live close to our financial limits and often take a, ‘I’ll learn that tomorrow,’ approach to learning about new financial things.
Our aging parents and our increasing responsibilities
For many of us, as our parents get older and face their own new financial decisions, many of their decisions will at some time ultimately become our responsibility too.
Whether we’re helping them think about;
- how to invest their meager superannuation funds to supplement an aged pension,
- whether to sell the family home and downsize, or
- what to think about with age care and Powers of Attorney and Enduring Guardianship, or
- are they safe buying a property with others
– ultimately the end results of these decisions usually find a way back to us as their adult children.
The best time to learn a skill is well before you need to use it
Now many people are needing to make financial decisions that require the learning of a new, (often quite foreign skill) before that decision can be made.
- It’s like asking someone to bake a cake for the very first time and then asking them what’s their favorite cake they like to make?
- Put another way, it’s like asking someone what type of investor they are and then, in the very next breath, asking them how would they like to invest for the next 30 years?
Before they can make a decision about their own investing, they need to learn some of the basics like;
- There are many different ways to invest
- There are different types of asset classes (ever wondered what as asset class really is?)
- What type of investor are they (and has that changed as they get more or less education about investing) and what is their risk profile?
There are so many pieces to the financial puzzle, is it any wonder most people try and avoid the issue altogether, or utilise the services of a financial adviser like Sapience Financial to be their advocate. (yes shameless plug I know.)
The privatisation of our retirement
In the early 1990s, Australia effectively partially privatised the retirement savings system through the introduction of compulsory superannuation.
- All employers are required to withhold a percentage of an employee’s wage (called SG, or super guarantee contributions) — currently 9.5 % of wages — and deposit that into a super fund on the workers' behalf.
- This is then invested by super funds in different financial assets classes on the employees' behalf and taxed at concessional rates.
But it's up to the employee to decide how and where those withheld funds are invested - and that involves an informed financial decision.
There's a new and uncertain future ahead
I think its fair to say, when it comes to our financial future, we're all about to 'boldly go where no one has gone before.' A new-born Australian today can expect to retire at 67, and the age of retirement will no doubt continue to be extended by the government as seen in their eligibility age requirements table here.
As our life spans increase, so will our expectations about work, about how our investment and superannuation will work and how we’ll deal with death taxes.
- Many people will try and delay leaving the workforce because of the need to increase savings to finance a longer life or start side jobs to help supplement their retirement income.
- This is further pressured by the growing share of the retiring population likely to be renting, or carrying substantial mortgage debt when they reach retirement age.
A 2018 survey by JP Mortgage Asset Management of more than 8200 people and found;
- More than 80% do not have any formal investment products, and
- On average, about one quarter (23%) of respondents said their lack of understanding was a reason for not investing’s.
- The next reason on the list was Fear and volatility in the market (22%).
If we’re all retiring longer, then we’ll all need to make ongoing investment decisions about our money and super, throughout our retirement to make it last.
If we haven’t started practicing these skills throughout our life, ‘most people will risk not having any growth in their retirement savings in real terms.’
What you can do this week
- Take an interest in learning a little more about your financials each month about financial matters. Subscribe to our monthly Sapience Not-A-Newsletter. While not every article may be immediately relevant to your individual circumstances, it's designed to be a convenient relevant resource you can come back to at different times of your financial life.
- Find some friends where you can become more comfortable talking about the basics of investing in property or investing in shares and diversification.
- Ask them how they manage the normal risks of everyday life for their family?
- If you have a mortgage, make sure you use an offset account or have a really good reason why you don’t.
- Download and read our free eGuide # 31 Good Money Habits to Model for your Kids (send one to a friend and read and discuss a page a day for 30 days)
Start now and you'll begin to feel more comfortable with the realities of your financial life.
The sooner you start to improve your financial literacy, the better your decisions will be and the more helpful you’ll become to friends and family who haven’t yet started learning the basics.
And with this new knowledge and growing confidence in having more control over your financial future, in the immortal words of Spock, you will
- Live long and prosper.