Reality of retirement

In this advice column Robin Gibson from Harvard House answers a question from a reader who only has ten years to save up for retirement.

Q: I am 56 years old, healthy, have a reasonable job and presume I can work for the next 10 years.

I have a home which is worth about R2.5 million, with a relatively small bond. However, apart from an annuity worth about R300 000 I have no other savings.

My youngest child is almost independent, and in a couple of months time I will be able to save R10 000 per month. This amount can increase to R20 000 in the next 18 months.

How should I invest this money and how much trouble am I in?

The really important question here is the last one. In our view, any investor currently requires approximately R1 million for every R4 200 of monthly income they want before tax and after costs.

This yield is specifically constructed to provide an escalating income that keeps up with inflation. We are aware that an investor can source a fixed yield that is higher, but that would mean that it doesn’t increase in the future and progressively becomes worth less.

This also assumes that your capital will be maintained and over occasional periods will grow faster than inflation. This is important, because if you don’t have to use up your capital, how long you live and how long you need an income for become inconsequential. You could live beyond 100 and still have a secure income.

This is obviously the optimum position.

The next important question is then what to invest in to give you the best chance of building a retirement pot. The table below will demonstrate a value in today’s money of what your savings could be worth in ten years’ time. This is based on 18 months of investing R10 000 and then 102 months of putting aside R20 000 per month.

When looking at this table you have to consider that there are two key drivers that affect the investment return.

The first is cost. It may seem intuitive but it is amazing how investors are so easily duped. Costs reduce returns, and the higher the costs, the bigger their impact.

Where investors are usually fooled is that they are led to believe that their provider is somehow 25% to 30% better than the rest over a longer period. We are not so sure anyone can consistently claim that. There are good value options out there, so be cost conscious.

The second consideration is your choice of asset class. Investors hate volatility, but growth assets come with volatility. As a result, most dilute their returns with stabilising asset classes that have no track record of beating inflation over longer periods.

If you want to achieve returns of well above inflation, you therefore have to be prepared to live with short-term volatility. That means investing in products that predominantly hold growth assets such as equity and listed property.

Finally, something the reader has not specified is their expectations in retirement. Probably the biggest hurdle we face with individuals about to retire, is that they want to continue their current lifestyle with very limited resources.

In this particular instance, you should consider the possibility of downscaling and modifying your lifestyle to unlock the capital in your home. This will both provide more capital and potentially lower your required income.