Retirement is one of those life events that most of us don’t seem to pay attention to until it is looming in the near distance. When you’re young, fit and healthy, retirement seems so very far away – but ask anyone over 65 and they’ll tell you it crept up on them practically overnight.
We all need a sound retirement plan if we want to continue living comfortably after we stop working; even in a country like Australia, which has sound social security provisions.
However, some of us will need to put a little more thought into this than others. If your ability to bring in the big bucks is intimately tied to your age and physical ability, then it’s never too early to start planning how you’ll fund your retirement years.
How long can you really keep working for?
For those working in office-based positions, doing full-time hours well into their 60s doesn’t seem like a terribly difficult slog. Sure, they’d rather be out on the golf course or sunning themselves on a cruise ship somewhere, but if financial circumstances dictate they need to keep working a little longer, they could pull it off.
But what about those workers who rely on their physical fitness to earn a wage?
They could find their working years cut short, or be forced to take on lower-paid work to see them through to preservation age – which means less money going into their superannuation, and less to live on when they retire.
Are you one of the Australians who should be thinking seriously about how to fund your retirement?
These are just some of the occupations that can have a shelf-life that falls well short of retirement age:
For tradespeople such as builders and landscapers, and manual workers in industries like warehousing and delivery, every day on the job is like an 8-hour gym session. When you’re young and able, it seems like a win-win – you get to work outside and enjoy the sunshine, maintain your ripped physique, and get paid at the same time.
However, as you age, getting up and out to the job site at the crack of dawn can become a lot less appealing.
Add a bad back and a little arthritis and suddenly your six-figure tradie income starts to dwindle as you find it harder to carry out the work effectively.
Many tradespeople dodge this bullet by building their business up while they’re in their prime and training apprentices who can take over when they’re no longer able to handle the heavy stuff. They move on to managing the accounts, doing quotes and supervising projects –they rely on their employees to get the physical side of the work done and maintain their reputation. It’s a good idea, and they are planning ahead, but there are some other options they can also add to the mix.
Depending on the sport of choice and skill level, professional athletes have the potential to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars or more per year – not too shabby for doing something you love. But the nature of this career path means it can all be gone in the blink of an eyelid if you’re unlucky enough to become seriously injured.
Even if you manage to perform at your peak for your entire career, your days are numbered – there aren’t many sports out there you can continue to play at an elite level past your mid-30s or early 40s.
There may be a handful of jobs going in media and coaching, but for many professionals retirement from their sport means taking on laborious work at a fraction of their former salary, which is a recipe for financial ruin when they’re accustomed to living the high life.
Cash-rich athletes would be crazy to spend big without considering how they intend to finance their lives once they have passed the peak of their career.
It’s not just tradies and sports professionals who need to think seriously about their golden years – nurses, childcare educators, disability support workers and emergency services professionals all put their bodies on the line at work, and many find themselves unable to continue in their usual roles as they approach retirement.
Unless they can slide into a supervisory role or re-train, these dedicated professionals who have spent their lives helping others could find themselves unable to continue in the career they love, and starting from scratch on the job-hunting trail in your 40s is never a walk in the park.
So how can you prepare – realistically – for your retirement?
The obvious strategy is to replace part or all of your active income; ie your day-to-day occupation which keeps you afloat financially only so long as you work. Create a passive income strategy to ensure you can survive and thrive when you’re no longer able to perform your physically demanding job.
It’s smart to start working on this passive income while you are still young so it can help top up your superannuation when it comes time to retire, or you’re forced to retire. If you ask your superannuation company to estimate what your retirement pension is likely to be - given your age and income – you will probably be disappointed or even deeply shocked!
To top up superannuation, you could look at acquiring a share portfolio or purchasing property as an investment. This gives you the option of living off either the dividend payments or rental income and, of course, you can sell when required.
Shares and property both deliver similar returns over time, but shares tend to be a lot more volatile than property. You just need a one-line Tweet from an impulsive US president to send the worldwide share market into a tailspin. Property is a lot less subject to compulsion and it also allows you to leverage your contribution a lot better than shares do. These are the reasons property feels more comfortable to many investors.
In conclusion, thinking ahead as early as possible about passive income will ensure that you can relax and enjoy your retirement without money worries.