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Every person has regrets, and as one gets older, it is inevitable that one would start regretting certain things. And when it comes to finances, what exactly do our seniors quip about? What decisions did they make that they regret the most? And most importantly, what crucial advice would they give to those looking to retire comfortably in the future?
REGRET #1: NOT SAVING MONEY WHEN YOUNG
This is one of the most common regrets that is universal to all seniors across the world, with older folk lamenting that they should have saved when they were younger. In fact, saving $10,000 in your twenties adds up a lot more than saving in your 40’s or 50’s. Compounding works to your favour the earlier you start. Expenses also start to rack up as you age, therefore it is much harder to save when you are older.
Property, health spending, and raising a family take up most of your money, and saving money gets a lot harder when the children are begging for you to get the latest mobile device for their birthdays.
Gambling and entertainment eats away at your nest egg, so stay clear of them! It’s never too late to start getting your money habits sorted out.
REGRET #2: NOT INVESTING TIME WELL
Back in the 1980’s, investing was a lot harder to learn without the internet. Now, it is an excuse to say that it is difficult to be financially educated. With kids these days being able to build a website from scratch (without supervision), I’m sure you will be able to find something to do that will bring you dividends in the long-run.
Most people complain about not knowing what to invest in. That is a reasonable complaint, but…
The reason why most people can’t invest money, is that they don’t even invest time to learn how to invest.
Time is sacred; use it wisely, and use it on what matters.
If your financial vocabulary includes any of the following:
- buying blue-chip stocks for the long-term
- mutual fund investments
- investment-linked insurance policies
…you are missing out on a large chunk of the pie. A good diversified portfolio includes much more than just stocks. In fact, holding just stocks can be very risky, as seen during the 2008 financial crisis where most blue-chip stocks plunged by 60-80%.
Multi-asset class, multi-instrument investing is the norm now. If you’re not involved, it’s time to get started.
Another common misconception is that learning how to trade or invest is very time-consuming, but that is actually not true. Like any skill, it might take a while to learn it at first, but after a few weeks, you will soon get the hang of it and it will only require a few minutes a day to manage your finances and investments.
REGRET #3: SPENDING TOO MUCH ON THE CHILDREN
Many parents will look back on their days as young parents and quip that they should have spent less. Some of the bad outcomes include spoilt children, children who expect a lot but don’t contribute, and many more.
Among the many unnecessary expenses, parents could do well to reduce spending in any of these areas:
- Extra-curricular lessons, like ballet, music, swimming (especially if the child is not enjoying them!)
- Tuition lessons (the school system in Singapore is honestly quite robust)
- Expensive pre-school education (they won’t remember what happened anyway)
- Expensive holidays (we don’t remember them 1 year from now)
- Toys that are thrown away 3 months later (we prefer iPads, honestly)
- Expensive food at fancy restaurants (food, is still food)
- Overseas university education (a local degree can be equally profitable for your child)
- Expensive child-care services (reasonably priced ones will do the same)
- A domestic helper / maid (teaching the kids to take care of the house makes more sense)
We sometimes put too much of a premium on university education. Pay what is fair and reasonable; don’t go about spending half a million on a university degree.
Many parents have money but very little time for the children. Ask any child and you would know that he/she would much prefer spending time with their parents than having expensive holidays in Paris, Dubai, or Tokyo.
On hindsight, you would always know better. But hey, take the advice of our seniors, and spend what really matters; our time.
For what use is all these cool stuff, cool experiences, premium lessons and holidays, if we don’t get what truly matters?
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Spencer is an avid globetrotter who achieved financial freedom in his 20s, while trading & teaching across 70+ countries. As a former professional trader in private equity and proprietary funds, he has over 15 years of market experience, and has been featured on more than 20 occasions in the media.