Count your winters to, not during, retirement


Richus Nel, Financial Adviser, PSG Wealth

Winter around the world marks different memories for different people. For us in South Africa, we are blessed with a relatively mild chilly season, but we still relish the opportunity to pull on our puffy jackets and sit by the fireside, perhaps sipping on a great glass of locally grown red wine. 

Whether you love or loathe the colder months, it’s important to recognise that all of us receive only a limited number of winters in life. When you count forward (towards retirement), you may realise that the number of winters remaining is smaller than you expected. Are your financial plans on track to set you up for a comfortable retirement? For those already in retirement who saved up less than they need, it can feel like a very cold, dark season stretching ahead.


“FIRE” (Financial Independence, Retire Early) is a new worldwide trend that is gaining quite some attention.  Although I fully subscribe to financial independence, I do not support “retiring early”.  In my mind it is impossible to determine what the future will hold.  Predicting 50 years into the future (based on what we know now) feels rather reckless.  Starting a second, third or fourth career, at your own pace and with complete financial freedom, sounds like a much better idea.

That said, FIRE makes individuals take note of the number of winters they have to achieve a certain financial goal.  These individuals take control of their own financial future.  It also encourages young individuals to start investing early in their lives.  This is something they will be incredibly grateful for one day, whether they officially retire or not.

Individuals who are serious about financial independence, plan ahead and know that they have no time to procrastinate. Procrastination, not planning ahead and making financial mistakes, are constantly pointed out as some of the top 10 reasons why people fail financially during retirement.

Learn from past mistakes

One differentiating factor between successful and failing individuals is their ability to learn from past experiences. Individuals who repeat the same mistakes over again have very little chance of succeeding. Constantly reading and surrounding yourself with knowledgeable experts is the fastest way to improve results and avoid mistakes. 

Professional financial advice has a cost. However, making mistakes along the way can be way more expensive. The worst-case scenario is for those who only realise their mistakes when it comes to retirement and there is very little, they can do to rectify them. 

Know your numbers

Figuring out how many winters you have left to retirement is one of the best places to start if you want to review whether your financial planning is on track. Individuals who have sight on what needs to be done, within a realistic time frame, will see that this challenge needs to be taken head-on. Retirement is not something that happens incidentally or by just going through the motions.

Starting with the necessary urgency and remaining disciplined throughout good/difficult seasons is crucial and remember:time and investment returns wait for no one. Retirees can testify that the difference between using your time and money wisely, or not, is enormous.  Make sure that you do all you can to make the most of this season – it may very well be one that yields a significant contribution to your portfolio over the long term.