2 Investing Biases that Hurt Your Retirement Savings

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Being aware of our behavioural biases could mean a significant increase in retirement savings. There are two common biases that can affect how we save for retirement:

1. Present bias – the tendency to put more value in current or short-term decisions than the future

2. Exponential-growth bias (EGB) – the tendency to underestimate and neglect the power of compounding investment returns.

A person with present-bias may intend to save more in the future but never do so; while a person with EGB will underestimate the returns to savings and the costs of holding debt.

All is not lost, however, as understanding your own biases is the first step to creating a proper retirement savings plan to fund the lifestyle you want when you stop working.

Self-awareness has the potential to reduce the impact of our biases. For example, a person who is aware of his/her EGB could rely on the market to acquire tools or seek advice, and a present-biased person could use committed arrangements to control the impulses of his/her future self.

It is proven that people who understand their EGB, hence accurately perceived the power of compounding, had about 20% more savings than those who neglect compounding completely.

So what does this mean? Be aware and keep check of your biases, and your retirement nest egg could be a lot bigger.

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Cultivate a Healthy Relationship with Money

cultivate moneyCultivating a healthy relationship with money is the foundation of a rich and happy life. Just like any other relationship, for your money to blossom, it needs attention and care. You don’t want to stifle it with worry and fear, but you also don’t want to be careless. You need to get to understand it, treasure it, and not be afraid to let it go. If you strike the right balance, it will always be there for you.

The first step to understanding money is to figure out how much you need to live the way you want. You can spend your whole life pursuing more money, or you can figure out what it takes to live and be happy. Money is a tool to fund your life – when you think about money as a tool, it’s easier to plan.

How much do you need to meet your necessary expenses?

The mortgage, the rent, your other fixed bills, your life & health insurance, your kid’s education? How much is an important number because you if you can’t afford your basic lifestyle, life becomes one big money worry.

The next hard step: Regular saving

This trips many people up. It usually involves delayed gratification, and we don’t like that. It also involves investing, which can seem scary and complicated. But we must save for the things or experiences we want soon and in the future, and we must invest to prevent our money from losing value due to inflation.

Retirement is the most daunting savings need of all because it involves big numbers and many assumptions – assumptions on our longevity, health, returns on investment, inflation rates, etc. For most of us, our CPF is the only source of income we will have in retirement besides our savings. For this reason, saving at least 10% of take-home income each year (or more if you start late) is critical.
After you understand how much money you need to meet your emergency fund, your necessary expenses and your retirement savings, then you can focus on what else you want to create a rich and happy life. A healthy relationship with money means knowing that you can’t have everything. Instead, you figure out what in life brings you the most joy and satisfaction, and you prioritize those things.

You will know you have achieved a healthy relationship with money when you worry less about it and start feeling good about how you are spending and saving it. Get started working on this most important relationship now for a happier future.

Money Advice that Don’t Grow Old

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Many recommendations I’ve made are as applicable today as they will be in future, and they bear repeating. Here are some of the best financial moves for you to consider:

1. Understanding and managing your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about money is as important as understanding how money works. Our brains are programmed to make poor financial decisions. Exploring your money history and learning to identify your unconscious beliefs about money can change your financial behaviours forever. It is important to gain control of your finances and become comfortable using money as the valuable tool it is.

2. Building an emergency reserve to cover living expenses for three to months if you lose your job or experience a business slump is a necessity. If you are retired, having one to three years of cash available to cover living expenses can help you avoid taking money out of investments when their value has declined.

3. Retirement will happen, sooner than you think. Start early — as in the day after university graduation — and be consistent in investing at least 20 percent of your paycheck.

4. Learn to appreciate the word “budget”. Creating a way to track and manage income and expenses is an essential skill to thrive financially. Numerous free or inexpensive tools, like Mint.com and Expensify, can help.

5. Run from consumer debt. Personally, I use credit cards for almost every purchase for convenience and cash back rewards. However, it’s of vital importance to pay the card off every month, without fail.

6. A house is a home, not an investment. Don’t buy more home than you can afford, and don’t buy without a down payment.

7. No asset goes up forever. Price declines, even crashes, are part and parcel of investing. It’s essential to understand that the value of your portfolio will fluctuate. Be prepared to ride out downturns. Selling in a down market is a big mistake that will cost you dearly.

8. The fundamental strategy for managing market ups and downs is asset class diversification. This doesn’t mean having money in different banks, with different brokers, or with different fund managers. It’s about having a good balance of mutual/exchange-traded funds that invest in SG and International stocks, SG and International government bonds, real estate investment trusts, commodities and junk bonds.

9. There are no free investments. Pay attention to the fees associated with any investment, as well as how the advisor recommending any investment is compensated.

10. Pay yourself first. The most successful savers and investors I know simply take all their fixed expenses, taxes, and retirement plan contributions off their income earned, then spend the rest. This means learning to live on 30% to 50% of how much you earn. Certainly, it isn’t easy, but one of the most valuable money habits to cultivate is to save something for the future, instead of spending everything that comes in.

You may have likely heard of these pieces of advice before. There’s a reason for that: it works, and never goes out of style.

A Quick Guide To Retirement Planning

Many people work their entire lives with one goal in mind – retirement. It’s one of the most important life events that is experienced by most people.
From a personal and financial perspective, achieving an easy, well-funded retirement is a lifelong process that requires early planning and commitment to a long-term goal. Once you reach retirement age, you can then enjoy the benefits of a comfortable retirement in which you have more than enough money to cover your living costs.

Managing Your Retirement

When it comes to retirement planning, the earlier you can start in your career, the better off you will be.

The problem, however, is that most young people are not thinking about retirement. After all, when you are in your 20s or 30s, being 65 or older can seem like forever.

Even for older people, it can be daunting. While everybody would like to retire in comfort and financial security, the amount of time and complexity of creating a successful retirement plan can make the whole process somewhat intimidating.

As a matter of fact, retirement planning often can be done very easily. All it takes is a little homework, an obtainable savings and investment plan, and the long-term commitment to preparing for your retirement years.

How Much Do You Need for Retirement?

After you stop working, your expenses don’t stop. In fact, given the fact that you probably will be dealing with more health issues, they are likely to be higher.

So how much money do you actually need to fully fund a comfortable retirement? While an exact answer is impossible to give, there are some factors that should be considered:

Medical Expenses – If and when you become ill, you are going to want the top-quality medical services that are available. Most people don’t want to have to depend on charity or welfare. In Singapore, everyone is entitled to MediShield Life benefits. But this publicly funded program only covers minimal expenses. And there often is a gap between what the government will pay for and what you actually need.

Living Expenses – You are still going to have to live indoors, wear clothes, eat food, and have heat and fresh air to breathe when you are retired. All of these things cost money. Even if your mortgage is paid off by the time you retire, you are still going to have to pay property taxes, homeowners insurance, and maintenance costs.

Other Expenses – A comfortable retirement includes such non-essential expenses as entertainment, transportation costs, and other expenses that don’t fall into the other categories.

Add these all up, add the rate of inflation between now and your retirement date, and you have a general idea of how much money you are going to need for your retirement. Now all you have to is multiply that number by how long you expect to live!

Start Planning Now

Retirement planning is a process that takes decades of commitment in order to achieve the end result: The comfortable retirement you deserve. The concept of saving and investing money in a retirement fund may seem daunting, but with a few basic calculations and commitment to a realistic plan, you can achieve it.

How Can You Cope With Long Term Care?

Screenshot (259)I would like to share with you the story of two friends of mine, who are in distress because their parents require long term care.

George and Joanne are a married couple in their late 40s. George just put his parents in a nursing home, which costs $2,000 per person every month. At the same time, Joanne’s mum is living with them while receiving in-home medical and nursing care. Such home care services costs $1,100 every month.

All 3 parents are either suffering from dementia or stroke, which hampers daily activities like eating and bathing. In particular, George’s mum has lost control of her bladder due to dementia.

They feel stressed and emotionally drained. Both sets of parents have lost their savings and independence, because they lack long term care insurance.

After struggling with long term care for their parents, George and Joanne want to protect their kids from the financial and emotional burden of having to care for them in their old days. They realised they need a long term care insurance policy.

As George was sharing with me, he felt that if his and Joanne’s parents had a long term care policy, instead of creating this emotional and financial burden for the family, the policy would have paid for the care and help them maintain their independence.

Lesson learnt:
The greatest risk we will face in retirement is requiring long term care. Without long term care insurance, we are playing the wrong odds. What is really worrying George and Joanne is this fast approaching dark cloud of a $100,000 per person risk, for an average 5 years stay. How are they going to pay this amount when they still have to save for their retirement?

If you are 40 years old or older, long term care insurance builds a shield around your nest egg, protecting you and your family from that risk so you can enjoy spending quality time with each other in retirement. Your kids will be grateful they don’t have to worry about changing your diapers or giving you that uncomfortable sponge-bath, because you planned ahead.

If you have parents age 40 or above, long term care insurance will pay for the care of your parents at old age and help them maintain their independence. Most importantly, you don’t have to pay for long term care expenses such as Nursing Home fees and hiring a caregiver on your own.