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My two sons, who are 10 and 12, have been involved in Cubs, and now Scouts, for years. They love learning survival skills, exploring their natural surroundings, and connecting with nature. Through their involvement, I’ve become familiar with the Scout’s motto, “Be Prepared” and have been thinking a lot about it in terms of retirement. When a Scout goes camping for the weekend, they don’t know exactly how the weekend will unfold. It could rain, they may have to fend off a ferocious badger, or one of them may fall ill. Or they could have beautiful sunshine and a very pleasant two days away! Because Scouts can’t predict the future, they must have faith in their skills and be prepared for anything that may come their way. Doesn’t that sound a lot like retirement?

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“Be Prepared…”

But how many of us have the time, resources, and energy to heed this important warning? People often come into our office asking for help with their retirement plans and have a long list of ‘to-dos’ which includes a number of things they feel they need to get done before retirement in addition to all the things they want to do after they retire. Things like paying off their mortgage, setting aside money for their children and grandchildren, and making sure they qualify for the final ‘big’ bonus are just a few of the things that often feature on their lists.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with having lots of plans for your life. There are still many things I want to do with my life, but I also know that unless I prepare for them, I won’t be able to achieve them. One of our core values at Brighton Financial is to always be transparent. We don’t beat around the bush when it comes to our clients’ futures and we often need to have frank and open discussions with them about topics that they may not feel comfortable being frank and open about (like their finances). And in the spirit of transparency and honesty, we’re going to share something with you: most of the people who come to see us are unrealistic about their retirement plans. This isn’t just our opinion, it’s simply a cold assessment of the facts. By understanding what a person wants to achieve and by assessing what they have in place to achieve it, we can establish if they’re going to tick off many of the ‘to-dos’ on their list. And more often than not, we encourage them to whittle their list down.

As you can imagine, this isn’t always what our clients want to hear, but we see little point in being asked for our opinion if we don’t express it fully and provide the rationale behind it. Though it may not be what someone wants to hear, in the long run, it’s often one of the most positive conversations they’ll ever have!

If you’re thinking about your own ‘to-do’ list and wondering if it’s perhaps a little too big, try asking yourself the following questions:

  • Are you prepared?
  • How do you know?
  • What have you done to really find out?
  • Are you being realistic about things? (Maybe the Porsche will have to be a Mondeo…)

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Retirement is the longest holiday of your life. We want it to go swimmingly for you, but we also want you to be prepared in case an unruly badger comes uninvited to the party. How do you prepare? Take a moment to picture what you want your retirement to look like and write it down, just like you would if you were packing things for an upcoming trip. Now, start putting numbers to it. Do you have everything you need? Do you have more than you need and more than you can comfortably afford? Are you planning a trip in a luxury camping van instead of a more humble tent? Ask yourself:

  • What sort of income will I realistically need to do what I want to do?
  • What ‘large’ things might I want (and need) to spend money on? (New cars, home renovations, carers, etc.)
  • Is it realistic that my resources will cover this?

The biggest part of our job is planning. We engage with our customers and learn more about them than just their finances– we also get to know them more personally and learn about what drives them, what’s important to them, and what their dreams are. We help them get to where they want to be and ensure they stay realistic along the way. Like a Scout leader, we help them prepare. And it’s as we channel our inner Scout leader that we say the following: Don’t leave your retirement plans to chance. Be prepared. Stay on top of your financial arrangements and your goals and make sure the two are aligned– and know what to do if they’re not! This is what we help our customers with, but it’s never too soon to start helping yourself. Be prepared… Retire happy.

photos found here, here, and here.