Cultivating financial confidence at different stages of life

A recent study commissioned by Sanlam has revealed that many South Africans are not prioritizing financial planning throughout their lifetime, resulting in missed opportunities for securing their financial future.

Mariska Oosthuizen, chief marketing officer at Sanlam, acknowledges that the prospect of managing finances can be daunting regardless of whether one is just starting out or nearing retirement.

However, she emphasizes that there are resources available to help individuals prepare for their financial journey at every stage of life.

“Building a financially confident future can feel like an intimidating task whether [you are] just starting your personal finance journey or preparing to enter your retirement years, but it [does not] have to be. There is help available to prepare you for what lies ahead,” Oosthuizen says.

Oosthuizen offers the following tips for each life stage:

Tips for your 20s

For people in their twenties, it is important to understand the importance of compound interest and saving early for retirement. Building a good credit score is also crucial, as it is built on good financial behavior.

It is equally important to understand the difference between good and bad debt. It is also suggested to consider life-event risk insurance, such as income protection and life insurance.

Oosthuizen notes that only 10% of 18-24-year-old South Africans are taking advantage of the gift of time by saving for their retirement, as young people often prioritize more immediate expenses due to “short-term bias”.

She advises individuals not to underestimate the value of saving small amounts.

“Short-term bias is the desire to give priority to quick gains over long-term success, and because retirement seems far away for young people, it is often deprioritized for more immediate expenses.

“You may also feel that you don’t have enough in your pocket to put away during your early working years, but thinking big means starting small.

“Do not underestimate the value of saving small amounts, which has its benefits beyond compound interest.”

Tips for your 30s

In one’s thirties, it is important to find a credible financial advisor, review financial plans and reassess financial situations, increase savings and investment contributions as one’s career progresses, and start saving for children’s education.

Oosthuizen recommends saving for a child’s education when they are born, as it is a valuable move for their future success.

“The best time to start saving for your child’s education is when they’re born. Your 30s are typically when you are planning a family, if not sooner, and it is a good time to ensure that education saving starts or is on track,” she says.

“Looking at the survey results, 82% of respondents in their mid-late 30s [34-39 years old] have children but worryingly only 8.7% of them have an education fund in place.

“As you approach your 40s, it is time to make sure that education savings are adequate to comfortably cover your child’s tertiary education.

“Investing in your children’s future success is one of the most valuable moves you can make, not only for them but also for yourself. The more successful your children are, the less they will depend on you financially later in life.”

Tips for your 40s

For people in their forties, Oosthuizen advises resisting using savings for the care of elderly relatives and continuing to save for their own futures. Oosthuizen advises people not to cash in on their retirement savings prematurely.

“Now is the time to take care of yourself, so you are able to take care of others. This means resisting all temptation to dip into your savings to support your older relatives. Continue saving while helping loved ones where you can. This can help break a cycle of dependence.

“Your 40s can be a financially demanding life stage, as your budget is stretched in every direction from your children’s education to your bond, to caring for your parents.

“It can be tough to imagine reaching your goals when you are up against these demands, but resist any urge to cash in on your retirement savings prematurely to offset these costs.”

Tips for your 50s

As retirement draws closer, it is important to increase retirement savings. Oosthuizen advises that if one has not started saving, it is never too late to begin.

Seek advice from a financial advisor to create a strategy that works for you.

She says: “With people living longer, now is the time to consult a financial adviser and urgently increase your savings if they are not where they need to be to secure a comfortable retirement for yourself.

“A good rule of thumb is that your income in retirement should be equal to about 75% of your income when working.

“If you find yourself in the same boat as nearly 48% of people in this group, with no retirement savings, starting late is better than not starting at all.

“Use this time to work with a financial adviser to get the best possible retirement saving strategy in place.”

Tips for your 60s

In one’s sixties, Oosthuizen advises that it is important to make the most of your remaining working years by working with a financial advisor to make your money work hardest for you.

Downsizing is also considered a good option to increase retirement savings and lower expenses.

“Retirement can and often does change one’s financial situation. For this reason, many people in this life stage choose to downsize.

“It has great financial benefit and by downsizing your home, car, and other assets, as well as cutting back on luxuries you can lower your expenses, increase your retirement savings, and make your money go further,” she said.

Regardless of your age, it is never too early or too late to start planning for your financial future.

Seeking the advice of a credible financial advisor can help you make informed decisions about your finances and provide peace of mind for your future.

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