Four Ways to Test Your Financial Fitness

Whether it’s a great education for your children, or a stress-free retirement a little further down the line, we all have life goals which need to be paid for.

Think of these financial goals as hurdles. As with any hurdler, you must get a great run between jumps.

The sprint is underpinned by multiple factors. You must maintain your fitness over the weeks, months and years because on the day, you need to be able to cash in on your efforts and utilise the momentum of your training and preparation.

Similar to an athlete with a big competition on the horizon, we must maintain our financial fitness as we close in on future life events.

Here are 5 important issues to consider when testing your financial fitness ahead of retirement.

  1. Your pension might run out…

You could well live to 100 – in fact you may be twice as likely to live to your 100th birthday as your parents. A girl born today in the UK has an impressive 1 in 3 chance of reaching this milestone.

On the face of it; excellent news. Clearly medical advances in detecting, preventing and treating major killers such as cancer, heart disease and stroke have come on leaps and bounds.

However, for your pension, this is a double-edged sword. Most people actually underestimate how long they live – often, by up to 10 years.

If you take stock of the fact you have a high chance of living for another 35 years past retirement age, then the need to plan ahead come sharply into focus.

You need a cash flow plan if you are retiring.

Work with a trusted personal adviser to get this done. If you are thinking about your retirement years in advance – good for you – you should sit down with your adviser and plan exactly how much you need to put aside and how best to invest.

  1. Care

We have established that living a very long life is a distinct possibility. Although during retirement we normally see our living costs reduce, long term care can cancel out this positive effect.

From relief on income demands in our 60s (our children having flown the nest, our mortgage paid off) we may find ourselves in somewhat of a tight spot if we need to pay for professional long-term care.

The average cost in the UK is over £40,000 per year – and it leapt by almost £2,000 last year.

Think carefully about the financial implications of spending a full decade in your 90s!

  1. Is your pension portfolio as fit as you are?

Is your portfolio set up for a marathon, or a sprint?

Opportunities to invest in lower cost funds that track the markets rather than higher cost ‘actively managed’ funds, the managers of which attempt to beat the market, allow for a ‘long-distance portfolio’. That is, a portfolio that can stay the test of time throughout a long drawdown period in retirement. Expensive actively managed funds are proven not to work.

98% of active fund managers underperform their benchmark.

Carrying as little excess weight as possible is important. If you hold a pension portfolio, make sure the charges are not over the top and that you are not paying more than 0.07 – 0.15% for the privilege of holding a passive fund like such as an ETF.

Also ensure that your pension plan is not being eaten up by expensive insurance options that you do not require.

Buy term insurance separately if you must – there is no benefit (other than to the offshore life provider) in confusing insurance with investments.

  1. If we’re honest, our kids probably still need us

With the ever increasing difficulty in getting onto the housing ladder, the dramatic increases in student fees and the inability of many to start saving until well into their thirties, young people have it tough.

When it comes to one off costs such as a wedding – they may be hopelessly underfunded to juggle this along with everything else.

Enter mum and dad.

That’s right, you are very likely to have to support your children in some way during your retirement and it’s best to plan for the inevitable. Although you won’t be paying their school fees or funding university, you may well be helping your grandchildren in a similar fashion.

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