A client came to see me recently because she wanted to go part time but didn’t think she could afford to have less income. As a teacher, she works long hours and has sacrificed pursuing other interests for her career for a long time. We went through her finances together and, as it happened, she could afford to work less. Realising that she had financial options was a great relief and helped her to consider other plans for her future.
In the end, she chose to carry on working full time for a little longer, but she acknowledged that knowing that she could reduce her hours if she wanted to – that she had a choice – gave her a huge sense of empowerment.
Design Your Own Life
The overall point is a powerful one. We tend to forget that we do have choices in life. In truth, we all have the ability to redesign our lives and shape them into what we want them to be, whether that’s changing career, working part-time, or taking early retirement.
Often, the only thing we need to empower us to take back control and redesign our lives is a little clarity, some financial re-organisation, and a few changes to our money habits. That’s where a financial planner can help to redefine goals, examine spending and income (both present and projected), and then structure a long-term investment plan.
Creating the Next Chapter
In my experience, a person’s finances are only a facet that holds them back from pursuing a more fulfilling life. Understandably, many of us struggle with change and often it’s difficult to see beyond our current circumstances. If, after years of working, suddenly there’s the prospect of being stripped of your identity, a loss of status can feel overwhelming. It’s about the psychology of ‘being someone’ for a long time and then facing the prospect of not being that person anymore. It’s a common phenomenon and a difficult one. What’s more, sitting alone at your desk in front of a blank screen and asking yourself what you want to do with your life can feel daunting.
This is where working with a financial planner who is also a Registered Life Planner® can add real value. A life planner can help you undertake deep personal reflection, asking challenging questions that ultimately help you to get a clearer idea of what you want to be doing in five, ten or twenty years’ time. It’s a vital part of the financial planning process, but is often overlooked.
Another important part of the financial planning process is helping you to better understand your relationship with your work and why you’re spending most of your life doing it! Are you working to support dependants? Are you working to have more or retire earlier? Are you working because it has just never occurred to you that you could do something different? Again, these can be challenging questions, but your answers could be the reason you feel stuck.
How Much is Enough?
It is very easy to get caught up on the wheel of achieving, and earning, and saving. You run faster and faster, trying to earn and save more, and your living expenses just seem to keep going up. So you run even faster. You get hung up on achieving and can’t see a way of ever getting ahead.
Sometimes, you just have to stand back and ask yourself: actually, do I have enough already? Do I really need more?
What’s Your Number?
At this point, it’s important to identify your ‘number’. Your number is the amount of money you need to have in order to live the life that you want, now and in the future. A thorough audit of your current financial circumstances is necessary to help with this, along with some financial projections of what your future circumstances are likely to be.
This part of the process should involve cashflow planning with built in ‘what if’ scenarios, along with your psychological profile to identify your capacity for risk and your attitude to investing. If you’ve had multiple pensions over the years, it may also include assessing and consolidating these, as well as an overall review of the current allocation and performance of your assets and your tax situation.
An audit of your finances sometimes reveals that you’re already on track for the future you want. But perhaps more often, some simple restructuring of your investments is all that’s required to have a hugely positive impact on your long-term wealth.
If you don’t already have enough, it’s by no means the end of the dream. The next step is to identify what you need to do in order to enable you to make the changes you want. Often, this isn’t as daunting as you might anticipate and may just involve putting together a financial plan or making a few adjustments.
This isn’t a binary decision-making process. You don’t have to make an immediate choice between taking a leap now or staying put. Working with a financial planner should offer you a non-judgemental sounding board, supporting your choices with clear financial projections of the impact and potential compromises you will need to make.
Living the Dream
I’m reminded of a client who wanted to quit his executive life and travel. He had a corporate job and a family to look after. By the time he came to see me, he’d had enough but he couldn’t see a way out. He was run down and frustrated to pursue a different life that weighed heavily on his outlook.
We did a thorough review of his circumstances and an audit of his investments and, in fact, he already had enough. So, we talked a lot about what he wanted the next phase of his life to look like and put together a plan. It included a ‘super active’ phase to provide him with extra cash to travel, but it also supported his desire to retire early. His is now on the path to living his dream. Better still, he’s enjoying his job more because he has an end goal in sight and knows how long it will take him to reach it.
Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve
My point is, don’t wait until it’s too late. Ask yourself honestly: what do you want out of life and how much do you need? Maybe you already have enough. If not, what do you need to do to make it happen? Financial planning is not just about your investment portfolio. With the aid of a life planner, it’s a much more in depth and revealing process that helps you to reach a point in your life that is both emotionally fulfilling and financially strong. You have more choices than you may realise, and your ambitions may be easier to achieve than you think.
If you’re thinking about working less or retiring early, don’t wait until you reach a point in your life when you’re thinking “I should’ve”. Start making those changes now, so that you can look back and think “I’m so glad I did”.
Are you ready? Please get in touch to discuss the next steps.
This article is for educational purpose only and the views and opinions are those of Progeny Wealth. The content does not constitute advice and it is always recommended that you speak with your financial adviser and seek professional advice before making any financial decision.