How we planned our Retirement- A personal story!
On 1st January each year as the ‘new year’ dawns, everyone solemnly swears to some resolutions. New year, new me is the basic idea.
As 31st December shifted to 1st January on calendars and in our minds, I also made a resolution. Or rather, a promise. New year, new us was that promise and it was for me and our little, cute 4-piece family.
Who is talking to you?
Hi, people. I am Deepti and I am a regular working woman from a middle-class household, most probably like you.
I live in the high-rise city of Gurgaon and work in an MNC (quite typical, isn’t it?) My husband is a ___ in the Gurgaon branch of SBI. We have 2 delightful kids- a younger son and an elder daughter. Both of them are huuuugely adorable (of course my mother’s bias would creep in).
In the past, my near year goals consisted of losing weight, going to the gym, saving up for a foreign trip, and being a more attentive mum. This year, though, as my husband crossed 42 and I crossed 38, we sat down to have a talk about the future.
The kids were still studying. We planned to send both of them abroad, depending on their individual wishes. That was a major expense of ours.
Apart from that, we planned to build a house in Chandigarh for our retirement years. Gurgaon was good when one worked but for someone not working? It was a black hole that ate up money. My family lived there and my husband, too, loved the place. So that was where we planned to build our permanent post-retirement abode.
We sat and discussed these plans, always being mindful of the time frame we had for actualizing them. At one point my husband looked at me and asked:
‘Do you know what we are doing?’
‘Umm… talking about our future?’
He smiled. ‘No. We are retirement planning!’
Mapping the journey from here to there
I pondered this for a moment and then smiled. ‘Yeah, we are. How strange but also cool.’
‘Do you want to do it properly?’ my husband asked. He seemed very excited suddenly. Any form of planning and strategizing does that to him.
‘Sure! Might as well make this official.’
So, for the rest of that Sunday afternoon, we sat and mapped out a retirement plan to the best of our abilities.
We began by envisioning our lifestyle. How did we want to live on a day-to-day basis? What were our non-negotiables for that time?
Other questions we addressed:
- At what age did both of us dream of retiring?
- Where were our kids during that time?
- How much would our monetary contribution to their lives be?
- Did we want to travel a lot in our retirement?
- Could we take those trips during our working years?
- How much would we need on a daily basis in Chandigarh?
- How would we save up for emergency medical situations?
- How much would my husband’s pension be able to provide for?
Here we broke off to call our family there and inquire how much they spent and where.
Even while making lunch, we continued discussing our answers as I made rotis and my husband warmed the sabzi. We also called in the kids and explained to them what we were doing. We asked them if they had any thoughts about this far-away future. What did they see themselves doing? What were their goals and ambitions?
All in all, it turned into a deeply introspective and fun family exercise for a Sunday afternoon.
In the evening, my husband and I sat down to coalesce all the tidbits that we had discovered, and write down our retirement goals. Then we estimated how much it would cost to live the lifestyle we envisioned. Summing it all up, we arrived at our RAG- Retirement Amount Goal.
Even though we were tired after all the mental crunching, we felt satisfied. Clarity had dawned and we could start planning our next steps with the RAG as the North Star.
With the RAG and our target retirement age clarified, we calculated how much we needed to save monthly in order to reach that goal well in time. We definitely weren’t saving up that much.
So, for the entire month after that, we resolved to keep an eye on our expenses and note down every single one of them.
We wanted to see which of our expenses were absolutely necessary and which were simply leaking us of money.
The revelations astounded us because we discovered that we really weren’t the smart money savers we thought we were. I could easily poke holes in my purse when shopping and my husband was way too fond of interiors to resist buying them. In reality, both our home and closet had no more space.
At the month-end, we sat again and discussed ways to cut these expenses.
We assigned budgets- something we had done only loosely before- for each of the areas. Household, travel, clothes, interiors, loan repayments, petrol, children’s education, children’s expenses. We informed our kids of these changes, too, and encouraged them to save up if they wanted something expensive in particular.
We still weren’t able to hit our monthly desired goal. What to do?
Finally, I decided to take up a freelance writing gig doing technical writing for agencies and companies. I could do it over the weekend and once my husband or I received a raise, I could let that go if I wanted.
Within the next couple of weeks, I asked around and mostly Googled a lot. Within another week, I had landed a freelance gig and was able to add some amount to the retirement fund. My husband also volunteered to work and between the both of us, we were able to scale up the writing time and hence, the amount I made each month.
After 6 months of freelancing, not only was I enjoying it but I was making a good amount consistently. My daughter helped me with the science topics sometimes while my son provided technical expertise. As a family assignment, it worked pretty well.
One day my husband rang me up at the office and said ‘we should get a retirement plan!’
I was skeptical. ‘But, we are doing a good job ourselves. We’ll even be able to take that Italy trip we had wanted with the kids.’
‘Yes, yes, but I have been reading up and it says here that’s it good to invest in one.’
‘Here. On Google.’
‘You know people write all kinds of lies and crap on the Internet. Why should it be true?’
‘Because I think it might be! Let’s just look into it once? Please?’
I sighed. ‘Fine. But, if it doesn’t seem to fit, we won’t go for it. Okay?’
I could hear the excitement again. ‘Done.’
All prepared and secured
So, as per my husband’s request, we looked through retirement savings plans. There were simply so many to choose from!
Finally, through a friend of ours, we discovered Aviva’s range of retirement plans and leafing through them, found them worthy of discussing at least.
We traipsed to their office on a Friday afternoon and after discussing the retirement planning we already had underway, we looked through the options they offered. We could choose between the Aviva Annuity Plus plan and the Aviva Next Innings Pension Plan.
We decided to opt for the Next Innings pension plan, because with this plan we would get to create a good corpus for retirement, and then once we reach closer to the retirement stage in our lives, we would have the option to opt for their Annuity Plan too. (We made sure we read all the terms and policy details before taking this call, ofcourse!)
So, now I write to you after having planned and worked to build a retirement corpus.
The saving and the building is ongoing, but I feel secure that my husband and I chose to take matters in our own hands and then trust an expert with them. The people at Aviva educated us about other aspects of retirement planning, too, that we weren’t aware of.
If you are reading this and feeling that you are ‘too late’, you aren’t. Even post 50 a retirement plan can be thought about after all!
So, wherever you are in your career or life, start there. By clarifying your RAG and calculating your expenses against it. Then, when the time seems right, go to an expert and get a retirement plan even if you continue to build up a little corpus alongside.
Your kids, your future, and most of all you, yourself will be grateful.
AN Feb 89/20