In September, I managed to squeeze in a couple of short trips to Marseille for the Rugby World Cup. Even though these getaways were brief, they demanded quite a bit of careful planning.
Booking flights and accommodation may seem like the straightforward part, but there's more to it than meets the eye – especially with an elderly father in tow. Next, I needed to design our travel schedule, research the ideal pit-stops, decide whether to use cash or card, figure out the logistics of moving from the airport to the hotel, and even from the Old Port to the Stadium. Plus, I might also want to brush up on my language skills. Only after this preparation could I truly relax and go with the flow.
On the day when I had to convert my British Pounds to Euros, I received an inquiry from a potential client. He was a teacher in need of guidance for his pension. A well-meaning chat in the staffroom had spun out of control, leaving him with a tangle of questions and uncertainties.
I had to inform him that my schedule was quite tight, but I would be available in October. However, he insisted that this was too late, as he needed to resolve the matter by the end of the month.
I suggested that he could find reliable and factual information in the Teachers' Pension members' area or consider reaching out to PensionWise for guidance. To be helpful, I sent him an informative factsheet.
Nevertheless, I emphasised that providing personalised and professional financial advice was not something that could be accomplished overnight.
Even if I’d managed to meet him that month, I explained that we would require more than just a 30-minute phone call to arrive at a solution. I'd need to ask him a series of questions to gain a deep understanding of his financial situation and goals. It's only after this comprehensive assessment that I could offer any recommendations. Furthermore, he would likely need some time to deliberate his options and make a decision.
This conversation got me pondering the prevalence of underestimating the significance and complexity of retirement planning. Why do clients do this?
No shortcuts exist
This prospect is far from the first seeking shortcuts or quick fixes. It’s a common human tendency, particularly when it comes to finances, where people can easily feel overwhelmed or confused as to where to start.
Many people bury their heads in the sand completely, procrastinating until it's almost too late. They avoid thinking about the matter, perhaps due to embarrassment about their limited knowledge on the subject. Some might not even know which type of pension they have, let alone whether they are on track for retirement. It’s understandable that this can cause nervousness.
Additionally, there are those who assume that hiring a financial planner will solve all their problems. They may liken it to employing an accountant or bookkeeper. If they can hire someone who can handle the task better, they may think they can wash their hands of it.
We need to emphasis there’s a lot more to it than this.
Engaging with your financial future
While it's important to hire a financial planner before making significant decisions, I tell my clients that they cannot completely disengage, even with me by their side.
While the good news is that they don't need to be a math whiz or grasp the intricacies of the stock market to engage with their retirement plan, they do need to tune in to important, deep and detailed questions such as what do you envision for your retirement? Are there people you wish to involve in these discussions? Are there others you would like to financially support?
I explain that I don't expect them to have immediate answers to these questions. Planning for the future, especially 10, 20, or 30 years down the road, is challenging when life presents numerous variables. I say that together, we’ll work through these questions and others until we've painted a clear picture of how they want their future to look in comparison to their current retirement trajectory.
Then there’s estimated lifespan: Nowadays, the average 40-year-old has a one in ten chance of reaching the age of 100, but do they have the financial resources to sustain them until the end? This is another question that can’t be handled in a 10-minute chat.
The plan I create for a 50-year-old will undergo numerous adjustments by the time they reach their mid-60s and beyond.
In many ways, planning for retirement is similar to planning a holiday, even if it's just a 3-day trip. The preparation phase often takes longer than the experience itself – but it’s important that it does. As I told the potential new client who reached out to me, "You're making a decision in 10 days that will impact you and those around you for the rest of your life."
Fortunately, he agreed to meet with me in October.
By the way, Marseille was truly marvellous! Although not everything went as planned – even with a plan, it rarely does.