There are two types of people in the investment game, those behind the eight ball and those ahead of it. Those who can already meet their financial expectations all the way to the grave and those who can't. Which one are you? Do you know?
There are a few rules of thumb for how much you need to retire. One of them suggests you need 12 times your current gross income in the bank at retirement, another suggests you'll need income of 60 per cent of your last salary to retain your pre-retirement standard of living.
Or you can go to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia website and look at their "retirement standard calculator", put in your details (single male, single female or couple), what retirement lifestyle you would like and what frequency you are budgeting for and it will tell you how much money you need. A couple who wants a "comfortable" retirement in Victoria, for instance, needs $4629.34 a month and, according to the calculator, will spend 28 per cent of the money on leisure, 18 per cent on food, 13 per cent on transport, 11 per cent on health, 8 per cent on household goods and services, 7 per cent on the house, 6 per cent on clothes, 5 per cent on energy and 3 per cent on communications.
The ASFA definition of "comfortable" allows an "older, healthy retiree to be involved in a broad range of leisure and recreational activities and purchase private health insurance, a reasonable car, good clothes, a range of electronic equipment and domestic and economy internal travel occasionally"
Cripes, I wonder what the uncomfortable retirement lifestyle involves? And all this assumes you already own your own house. It's a bit depressing. Is that what retirement is all about? Budgeting your food and clothes? Worrying about how much you can spend? Because this is not something the credit (debt) boom culture is used to or prepared for.
Since the debt boom started in 1975, if there was $110 of equity left in the house, you owned an iPod. If you wanted a new car you got one. If you wanted a boat, "equity, mate" provided. Thanks to my access to the debt boom, my teenagers have better mobile phones than I do, churn through gigaknobs of data without care and don't pay a cent, and god forbid should we challenge their right to chew through our bank balance.
Since 1975 there's been no budgeting, no saving, no attrition, no reckoning, no want or need that is not met by other people's money. Have job, have access to money and who cares about paying it off? Not the banks, that's for sure, and not us. But there must come a time that spending stops and saving begins, a time when the focus goes from working and spending to saving and freedom.
When does that start? When is the inflection point? when does the fantasy spending end and reality begin?
I have grilled some retirees with experience in these matters. There are three milestones it seems that change your attitude towards money and transform you from spenders to savers. They include:
Making the last payment on the mortgage.
Paying the last school fee.
Having the last child leave home.
Completing mammoth financial milestones naturally instils feelings of financial responsibility. "Never again" is the motto and the budgeting and planning process starts, possibly for the first time.
It is the moment many of us realise the value of money: when we are released from its burden.
The children leaving home is similar, although it is also the moment you sit with your spouse and think about yourselves for the first time, possibly, ever.
It is the moment you become deservedly selfish, the first time you realise that doing everything you want to do together, and not doing things you don't want to do, is going to be enhanced by money and a financial urgency sets in.
So when are you going to wake up? I know I haven't. Emma and I have too many children to worry about "us" yet. But the time must come and the sooner the better. If we leave it to the last moment, retirement is going to be a crash course in disappointment and while my kids are texting my retirement away, they'll be telling me in my future poverty that it is all my own fault. Which, I suppose, it is.