The unrealistic retirement plans of the middle class

October 3, 2017 . Vidya Bala

When an acquaintance of mine did some serious home buying and child education planning with me, he refused to even discuss retirement. He felt the retirement figure I discussed was simply impossible to achieve, and that there were other means to secure retirement. That got me thinking about the unrealistic notions many of us may have about retirement. Please remember that these notions can make things financially challenging when you near retirement – whether early or at 60.

middle class
Insurance and PF will see me through: First, pension plans make poor investments and deliver low returns. Therefore, they meet only a negligible portion of your future living expenses. Second, provident fund, whether EPF or PPF are no doubt powerful savings tools; except that when your parents saved, the returns were in double digits and they contributed in it from an early age till they were 58-60 years, thus maximising compounding of money. Today, returns have steadily dwindled. And when you switch jobs, you often withdraw your PF to your bank account and it vanishes in no time.

Inheritance will take care of me: Real estate, gold and financial instruments will no doubt be passed on to the next generation, but are we overestimating how much? If we’re being realistic, average life span is on the rise, and we know of 70-year-olds with 90-plus year parents. The amount spent on healthcare increases and inheritance dwindles. Isn’t it more prudent to begin financial planning, if there will be little or no inheritance? The inheritance may simply boost quality of life at best.

I’ll work longer: Some of you in your late 40s and 50s talk of working longer. While the sincerity is appreciated, would there be jobs? With most of us in jobs aided by technology, redundancy is a high risk transpiring now, unlike in the past where our parents worked till they retired.

The truth is – retirement planning does not need for you to be working too hard, working long or depending on inheritance to get there. It simply needs disciplined saving and smart investing. A Rs 5,000 a month investment over 35 years can compound to Rs 3.25 crore at a 12% annual return. The retirement figures you are told are therefore not unrealistic. All you need to do is remove other unrealistic notions.

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