How To Save For Retirement: 5 Lessons From A Retiree
Retirement is one conversation many young people will shove under the carpet when it comes up. To them, pension seems like a million years away. They would rather assume it doesn’t exist. Ironically, the best time to brainstorm on pension is when one is young. It will be already late to have such a conversation when one is old.
No matter how much we shy away from pension, it will visit us all. Like death, retirement will happen to anyone who has life. If you are 30, retirement is only the same number of years away. If you are 40, it is only two decades away; the sum of five World Cup events.
When young people are spending wastefully on the pleasures of life, the last thing they want to talk about is retirement because they assume life will always remain rosy. Fact is, we save our pension by saving for it.
We will not be young forever. Whatever life blesses us with, we ought to make a conscious effort to plan for that season when we will be out of work. After all, a time is coming when we will not have enough strength to work as much as we are able to do today.
Having a job that pays well is a hard thing to come by these days. However, if one is able to earn something at the end of every month, they should be able to save. If life is hard in these times when we can work, it is obvious that it will be harder in our times of retirement when we can’t do any strenuous work. Proper preparation is the only way to face the hard times when they come.
Our youthful days should be spent with retirement in mind. We ought to make investments for the future. A life that has saved for pension is always safe. The lifespan of our youth is only a few days. A day is coming when how much we earned won’t matter. What will matter will be how much we saved.
In our system where a chunk of our youth get decent jobs after their thirties, it means retirement is a must-have conversation for every young person because they are already halfway through their journey. It is like being already down by a goal at the 45th minute in a football match. You have little or no time to waste opportunities.
I recently made a new friend in Takoradi in the Western region of Ghana. Sixty-six-year-old Mr. Cobbinah had some lessons to share with me after spending his last six years as an entrepreneur. Now a farmer and estate agent, he had observed how some of his colleagues who were well-to-do during their heyday struggled to survive, even to the extent of committing suicide.
We won’t always be at the receiving end of fat salaries. We will not be virile enough to take on multiple jobs all the time. The fat season of our lives will come to an end one day. Here are five timeless lessons on retirement Mr. Cobbinah shared with me.
Be intentional about your pension!
For some, retirement takes them by surprise. Before they know, it is only a few months away. That is when they come to the ugly realization that life may not be the same again after 60. But for intentional planning, they may not be able to afford their lifestyle anymore.
Pension should not be an emergency. It should be dutifully planned for from the days of our youth. Retirement should not be an afterthought since it is the destiny of every worker. When retirement happens to us at a time we least expect, we are crashed by the jaws of poverty.
Today’s financially-struggling retirees thought retirement was never going to happen. Some saved only little while others postponed every opportunity to save. They spent efforts to plan their weddings. They invested a lot of time to plan parties and funerals. However, when it came to their own retirement, they left it to chance.
Invest in assets!
Our fat season is when all is well with us. They are times we have enough strength and the luxury of time to work hard. Every person’s fat season is when they are energetic. When the fat season of our lives is over, how much we saved and invested will tell how well we will live. The season of fatness is a season for investment.
Every formal (and informal) worker should have some investment sort of to their names. It could be a farm. It could even be an investment account, a land or an apartment. When we have no strength to work anymore, our investments will work for us even more.
Retirement is a time for rest, not a time to go begging or taking on extra jobs. Like God rested after working for six days, man has to rest from their ‘9 to 5’ jobs after age sixty. Unfortunately, it is during this time of rest that our health bills will compound because of aging. When we have nothing to fall on, life becomes such a hell on earth.
We need to plan for our pension before poverty makes a plan for us. Saving for our pension is not enough. We ought to go the extra mile by investing. Retirement can be a comfort if we committed our youthful days to prudent investments.
Children are not a retirement benefit!
In our cultural setting, it is expected of children to take care of their parents. Considering today’s economic hardships, however, this expectation is always cut short. It may be the desire of children to provide for their parents. Unfortunately, their empty pockets may not allow them.
At retirement, our children may now be finding their feet in life. The few who may be fortunate to have decently-paying jobs may have started their new family, hence, have bills to take care of. Obviously, the needs of parents may be the last on their to-do list.
Parents who don’t plan for their own retirement with the hope of using their children as their benefit are in for the biggest disappointment of their lives. Even in retirement, some children may still be depending on these parents.
Take good care of your children. Provide them with all the opportunities they need to better their lot in life. While at it, take good care of your future, too.
Life is a cycle!
A couple marries. They start life together. Children walk in. These children will spend about thirty years of their lives with this couple and eventually move into their own homes to start their family, too. At the end of the day, the couple is left alone. Life goes back to how it began.
This cycle of life is what should caution a husband and wife to do all within their power to live in trust and togetherness. They began life together and will end it together. When they become pensioners, their children will be thinking about their own family.
When a man or woman spends his/her youthful days lusting after other women/men, their retirement days will be full of misery because there was no commitment to any woman/man. They would have children scattered all over the surface of the earth with whom they will share no bond. One reaps the seeds they sowed in their youthful days at retirement.
Love the wife or husband of your youth. When you are old and frail, they are going to be the only ones by your side. When all others have left you in your lonely moments, you are, at least, certain they will stay.
Build with retirement in mind!
Many build with different intentions. Some build to show off while others do so to accommodate their children. The truth about retirement is that almost all the rooms we build for our children to occupy will be vacant because those children would have left home to be on their own.
Rather than building a five-bedroom house, for instance, which may be occupied by just a couple at retirement, one could build such that the other rooms can be rented out when all children have moved out. This could even serve as an extra source of income for the pensioners, instead of leaving those rooms to waste away.
Another benefit of retirees converting their apartment into a rental space is that it helps them kill boredom at such a phase of life. Retirement is a lonely period where a couple is often deserted by their children. Having people around such does not only help to prolong their life. It helps them to share their wealth of knowledge as well.
By Kobina Ansah
The writer is a Ghanaian playwright and Chief Scribe of Scribe Communications (www.scribecommltd.com), an Accra-based writing firm. Connect with him on all social media platforms.