Curve balls

When unexpected life events affect your retirement plan

A lot of the time we encounter clients that have a very straight forward retirement in the sense that they work hard, save well, and then retire with enough money (and a well structured retirement plan of course) that allows them to pursue their life goals and live comfortably.  In these situations, when we talk bucket lists, we usually chat about exotic holiday destinations and adventures they want to pursue.  However, often times, as you will see in the stories that I will share with you below, there are people that simply aren’t able to spend their retirement savings on those dreams because life has thrown them a few unexpected curve balls.  Their bucket lists involve simpler, real-life desires that a few of you may be able to relate to.

Wally and Elaine were about to retire, but they had already drawn a substantial amount of money from their retirement savings.  Their son started abusing heavy drugs at a young age which completely took over their lives.  For years they tried everything but nothing seemed to work, until they found a rehabilitation facility called Tough Love which at long last managed to help him with is addiction.  But the years of struggle came at a cost which ate into their savings. Their son John has now been sober for 9 years and is happily married.  Wally and Elaine have had to make a few lifestyle adjustments in retirement, but they tell me that seeing their son happy cannot be quantified, and that the money was well spent.

There were other clients of mine that had to relook at their retirement plan when an unexpected life event meant that they had to dip into their retirement savings.  Bill and Linda’s daughter was in her 30’s and happily married, but in an unfortunate turn of events her husband started losing his sight.  She was a professional but hadn’t really been able to build a thriving business at that stage.  When Bill and Linda came to see me we had to structure their retirement income so that they were able to support two households – their own, and their daughters.  The long-term plan was to help her build a thriving practice so that they wouldn’t have to support her indefinitely.  Much to my surprise they echoed the sentiments of Wally and Elaine, and told me that they too had no resentment or regrets when it came to supporting their daughter through this tough time.

The lessons that I took from these experiences are that family and relationships are more important to most people than money.  I also learnt that everyone has very different priorities, and that a goal on a bucket list could be as real and emotional as saving a family, and doesn’t necessarily have to be frivolous.  It also reemphasised the importance of planning.  In the situations above, with the help of qualified retirement specialists, these people were able to make their lives work with the resources they had.

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