Martine Rolls: About time I started a retirement plan

By Martine Rolls

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Too often you see elderly people in the supermarket with calculators and shopping baskets holding just a few basic food items, then putting things back on the shelf because they can't afford them.
Too often you see elderly people in the supermarket with calculators and shopping baskets holding just a few basic food items, then putting things back on the shelf because they can't afford them.

I have a question for those in their late 30s or early 40s, like myself. Are you putting money away for your retirement?

Or maybe you are working towards owning a property portfolio so you can live mortgage free when you get older and get a passive income from tenants paying rent?

Are you good with money? I may be a banker's daughter, but good with money I am not. To give you an example, I own too many shoes, handbags and pretty dresses that I could have easily left in the store. Living frugal all the time just isn't much fun.

To date, I don't have a financial retirement plan at all. At this stage, all I've got is KiwiSaver, but I've been self-employed for more than a year now and have made zero contributions since. I don't even know for sure who manages my funds.

It could well be that things will get tough when I retire. It is frightening, but easy to imagine, that there won't be near enough money to live on comfortably.

How can we be sure KiwiSaver still exists 25 years from now? Who can be sure we can still claim superannuation?

Can you look into the future? At times, I seriously wonder if I'm going to make it to retirement age at all.

Even if my kids become wealthy I would not expect them to look after me in my twilight years, I don't want a sugar daddy and I'm not betting on winning Lotto either.

I read somewhere that it is more likely to get struck by lightning twice than winning first division. I don't mind dreaming a little, but it's highly unlikely I will ever get a big win. I'd have better luck making an appearance on Who Wants to be a Millionaire and taking home the cash. Trivia is my thing, dumb luck is not!

But the questions about how I'll manage in old age remain. I really should make some sort of a plan soon.

Today, I had a look at an old favourite online, www.sorted.org.nz. It has all sorts of easy to use budgeting tools including a retirement calculator.

My calculation tells me that to get to the retirement lifestyle I would like, and my life expectancy is about 80 years of age, I need to start saving an additional $175 a week now. After expenses, that's close to half of my average weekly income!

Maybe Google would give me some answers, so I searched "save up for retirement at 40". That's how I found a story on nzherald.co.nz by personal finance writer Diana Clement headlined "Twenty Ways to Blow Retirement Saving".

"Ask most 20-year-olds and they think they'll never reach retirement age, or think they'll start saving for retirement in their 30s or 40s. Someone who starts saving at age 25 and puts away $1200 a year will have considerably more than a 45-year-old who saves $2400 a year for 20 years, even though both have put the same amount of their own money in," she says.

Right now I think that if I'm still fit and well by the time I reach 65, I'll keep on working. I may need to, but chances are I also want to. Then Diana's story pointed out that continuing to work is not for everyone.

"I've read that as many as two in five have to retire before they want to because of redundancy, or disability as a result of illness or accident. Being forced to go on the invalid's benefit can be financially devastating. If they're under the age of 65 they will only be entitled to invalid's benefit at $256.19 a week for a single person or $426.98 for a couple," she wrote.

Too often I have seen elderly people in the supermarket with calculators and shopping baskets holding just a few basic food items, then putting things back on the shelf because they can't afford them. The thought of being old and in that position horrifies me.

Okay, I have another 25 years to go before even thinking about taking it easy. So fingers crossed, hoping for the best, and I will try putting away a few extra dollars a week from now on, and I will think twice no matter how tempted I get by all those gorgeous handbags and stunning leather boots at the shops. In the meantime, I will keep working for as long as I can. Who knows, hard work may get me sorted after all.

Martine Rolls is a Tauranga writer and digital strategist.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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