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Life Planning

Curve Balls


Kim Potgieter

Kim Potgieter

January 21, 2015

Unexpected curve balls can affect your retirement plan

Often we encounter clients that have a very straight-forward retirement: 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 about 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, there are people that simply aren’t able to spend their retirement savings on those dreams because life has thrown them 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 and this completely took over their lives.  For years they tried everything but nothing seemed to work, until they found a rehabilitation facility called Tough Love that finally managed to help him with his addiction.  But the years of struggle came at a cost that ate into their savings. Their son, John, has now been sober for nine 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.

Other clients had to re-evaluate at their retirement plan when an unexpected life event meant dipping 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 affirmed 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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