The Lifecycle Financial Planning Approach

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The lifecycle financial planning approach places all your financial activity into distinct time periods, or stages, with retirement acting as the final phase in the financial lifecycle.

This approach is powerful as it provides you a clear framework for evaluating different decisions. Here are the 5 standard financial life stages encompassed in the lifecycle approach. Keep in mind the stated age ranges are merely guideposts, some of you will pass through stages more quickly or more slowly depending on your circumstances.

1. Early Career
Ranging in age from 25 to 35 years old, early career phase adults are starting to build a foundation for a strong financial future. You may be planning to start a family, if you have not done so already. If you do not yet own a home, you might be saving for one. At this stage, keeping income in step with expenses is a struggle, but it’s important to lay the groundwork for retirement saving now.

2. Career Development
From ages 35 to 50, earnings rise, but so do financial demands. Keeping expenses in line with income is a challenge in this stage. Many families are concerned with covering college costs and paying for ongoing expenses while also increasing the pace of saving for retirement.

3. Peak Accumulation
In this stage, from the early 50s into the early 60s, you typically reach your maximum income level. It may be a time of relative freedom as your children have graduated from college. Without college tuition and with lower expenses, you can accelerate savings rates to position yourself for a more secure retirement.

4. Pre-Retirement
About 3 to 6 years before winding down professionally, you should start restructuring assets to reduce risk and increase income. By this point, mortgages are usually paid and children are independent. This is the time to evaluate retirement income options and the tax consequences of investments.

5. Retirement
The final financial lifecycle phase occurs for people in their mid-60s and beyond. Once you stop working, your focus shifts from wealth accumulation to income preservation. In this stage, the goal is to preserve your purchasing power and enjoy your desired lifestyle. Estate planning and legacy considerations also gain importance as you age.

As we transition through each life stage, we should adjust our focus each step of the way to ensure our financial plan remains appropriate for our risk tolerance, age and goals.

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Simple Financial Tips That Can Make A Difference

tips2018 has certainly flew by and wow.. we’re going into March already? Perhaps now is a good time for us to do a stock-take on our money. Here is a couple of tips on how to keep more money in your wallet this year.

1. Don’t Do Mental Accounting When Building Your Budget
Mental accounting means the behavioural thinking of having different piles of money for different reasons. You might have a “jar” that says this is for emergencies or a vacation, and you’re putting money in there every month – at close to zero interest rate.

Then you also have a credit card debt. You mentally classify it as a different thing and pay your debt with income each month.

Financially, this doesn’t make much sense. Money is fungible, it really is all the same. You shouldn’t have a jar with money sitting in it that’s getting no interest or growth while you still have credit card debt.

The solution is to think about all your money as the same. People like to put cash in different buckets for different reasons, but that’s mental accounting and we need to overcome that hurdle.

2. Prepaying your mortgage
Some people add a little extra to their monthly payments to pay the loan off faster. This brings up a common question – is this a good use of the extra cash?

With current mortgage rates at under 4%, you should not be prepaying your mortgage. In fact, mortgages have really low interest rates and are designed for long periods of payments, and you should stick to that payment.

Prepaying it means you are giving up opportunity to use that money elsewhere – whether it’s paying off credit card debt or just investing it, putting it aside for retirement. If you’d be getting 8% returns on your long-term investments, why put your money in something that’s only 4%?

So from a financial planning standpoint, it’s not a good strategy. Nonetheless, people feel comfortable doing that. I know you want to feel like you’re paying off the house faster, but resist if you can.

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.

Why We Shouldn’t be Bothered with Fear-Mongers

bad-economic-headlinesThere is much fearmongering in the different media which we are exposed to everyday. Take a look at the money section of any website, newspaper or magazine and you will find stories warning you about the Chinese economy, the Federal Reserve’s interest rate policies, the impact of the U.S. presidential election, global oil markets and market volatility.

But none of these stories—while interesting to read and think about—is worthy of spending too much of your brainpower.

Why? Because these big global factors are beyond your control and will be resolved without the slightest help from you.

You cannot control how the S&P 500 will perform or whether the European region will restart pumping profits. History has shown us that there are times when the U.S. markets outperform foreign markets and when the opposite is true. This is also true when it comes to growth stocks, value stocks, small and large companies. There is no way to successfully or consistently predict what will happen next.

So why do we bother?

Psychologists call it the “illusion of control“. Our intellectual minds tell us we can figure it out, even when—trust me—we can’t!

Putting your precious time into what you CAN control is really the only sensible way to go.

Here are six actions where focusing your energies in will reap you rewards:

  1. Develop rational goals built on your values. Let’s face it, without a real plan, you have decided to drift and hope for the best.
  1. Consider possible life transitions and how they might impact your actions. Transitions rarely give notice, so considering the impact of possibilities allows you to put solutions in place.
  1. Build agreement with other stakeholders (your spouse, a partner) on strategies to reach your goals. With all parties working toward the same goals, you’re more likely to be working for each other and get things accomplished.
  1. Invest time and resources to work with professionals who can help move your goals forward. Whether it’s creating a retirement plan or a proper risk management plan, you’ll benefit from working with experienced experts.
  1. Know your financial numbers and assign priorities for savings, accumulation and spending. Consider a rating system from 1 to 5, where you assign a point system to where your paycheck and resources go.
  1. Understand more about the “whys” of your life. Our beliefs don’t just arrive in our thinking like a magician’s trick. On the contrary, your money beliefs—your mindset—come from your money history over the course of your life. And it’s that mindset that determines what you consider the norm. Taking the time to understand whether your beliefs support your values is always time well spent.

These actions are very specific to you—you make the choices, decisions and actions that will support the outcomes you desire.

Devoting time to the economic issues of China or whether equity markets will rise or fall is beyond your ability to control and will only divert your attention from what really impacts your life.

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.