While a number of developed economies throughout the world continue to showcase overt signs of growth, it appears as though everyday citizens are yet to feel the true benefit of this. This is especially true for those approaching retirement age, who, according to a 2013 HSBC report, are facing the prospect of exhausting all state and private pension funds within a relatively short period of time.
The survey, which canvassed the opinion of more than 15,000 respondents across a total of 15 global markets, suggested that the average citizen will have spent his state and occupational pension capital just 14 years into retirement. With the average international retirement length now 18 years, the failure to save can have significant implications for an entire generation of citizens.
This problem can be overcome, although it requires individuals to adopt a proactive approach and consider alternative methods of generating and saving income. By thinking broadly and outside basic pension plans and savings accounts, it is possible to prepare for a bright and financially sound future beyond retirement.
1. Live a frugal and enjoyable lifestyle
For anyone who contributes to an occupational pension and is expecting to supplement this income with state funds beyond their retirement, there is a tendency to take a more relaxed approach towards making additional savings. This represents flawed thinking, however, as your ability to live a frugal and financially prudent lifestyle can boost your pension income and correct any potential shortfalls. Although this should not impact negatively on your enjoyment of life, it is important to cut costs where possible and maximise savings, discounts and promotional offers.
2. Recognise yourself as a viable financial asset
Beyond savings accounts, pension funds and fixed-rate bonds, you should also consider yourself as a viable financial asset. Equipped with knowledge, experience and a carefully honed skill-set, you have an innate capacity to earn that is likely to be the single most influential factor on the quality of your life beyond retirement. By recognising this quickly and maximising your earnings through activities such as freelancing and consultancy, you can lay the foundations for a financially prosperous retirement.
3. Learn to plan rather than save
Goal setting is key to challenging established thinking patterns and cultivating more positive behaviour, especially when it comes to building and retaining wealth. It is important to set the right goals, however, as saving money is only possible if you can minimise spending, optimise your earning potential, and remain free from debt. This requires considerable forward planning, which enables you to consider your long term financial goals and minimise any risks that may prevent you from achieving them.
4. Consider the dual benefits of healthy living
We live in an age of information, where citizens have never been more knowledgeable about health issues and the impact of a poor dietary regime. Cultivating a healthier lifestyle not only enables you to improve physical fitness and live longer, but also provides you with an opportunity to save money by eliminating costly practices such as smoking, drinking alcohol and consuming fast food. Over time, these savings can quickly accumulate and boost your personal wealth considerably.
5. Take advantage of financial freebies and tax breaks
Taxation is not only a controversial issue in developed economies throughout the world, but also has a huge impact on your earning potential and capacity for long-term savings. As a financially astute individual, it is important to understand pension plans and tax laws, and use them to your advantage. In terms of private occupational pensions, for example, it is important to ensure that you match the contribution of your employers and access the free capital that is offered. Certain savings and retirement accounts also offer considerable tax breaks, alongside additional investment options that are free from capital gains scrutiny.
6. Develop financial literacy as a core skill
This brings us to the need for financial literacy, which is now being considered as a core feature of the educational curriculum for students throughout developed economies. Without being financially literate, it is impossible to understand staple economic factors such as interest rates and their impact on investment income and earnings. More specifically, it is important to understand how fluctuating interest rates impact alternative investment options, so you can calculate which offer the best financial return at any given time.
7. Follow economic trends and the course of inflation
On a similar note, inflation and the cost of living are key economic factors that also impact disposable income levels. Not only is it important to understand these concepts, but there is also a need to follow the real-time economic trends that surround them. For example, it was recently announced that disposable income levels in the UK would not rise until at least 2015. This means that financially-aware consumers can look to regulate their spending and avoid heavy borrowing as inflation continues to rise disproportionately.
8. Think like an entrepreneur and take calculated risks
The nature of the global economy has changed considerably since the Great Recession, not least in terms of labour market evolution and the prevailing method of working in developed nations. As a result, we are now in the age of the ‘accidental entrepreneur’, who can be characterised as having a marketable skill and an appetite for taking calculated risks. This kind of mind-set is key when it comes to investing your hard-earned money, as you cannot hope to generate sizeable returns without placing your capital on the line in the first place. In the quest to supplement your retirement income, a slightly risk-averse approach can often deliver the best possible results.
9. Never borrow money to fund your lifestyle
Economic recovery is often driven by consumer borrowing, especially in the modern age where there are a host of new and innovative short-term lending options available. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with this, it can become an issue when you borrow money as a way of bridging a short-term shortfall in income or sustaining an existing lifestyle. This leads to the cultivation of cyclical and long-term debt, which can slowly eradicate your savings over time. With this in mind, you should only ever borrow money with a clear goal in mind (such as an investment) and if you have calculated the potential risks and returns.
10. Be proactive and continually look for new opportunities to save
Above all else, your capacity to save money and boost your private pension income relies heavily on your outlook and financial philosophy. Even if you are in full-time employment and saving a considerable amount of money each month, it is crucial that you continually look for new opportunities and vehicles through which you can maximise your income. This type of proactive approach will reap significant rewards over time, especially for younger citizens who are still developing their career path.