The many difficulties faced by pensioners have motivated me to again write about this highly topical issue.
To a young, single person just starting to earn a living, old age seems far away.
It is more realistic to people with young families, but sometimes all the best intentions can't withstand the immediate financial demands of children's ever-growing needs. So, retirement savings are put on the back burner.
It is only when the children have left home that one can confront the reality of retirement. This is usually around the age of 55+, when one's salary-earning years are approaching their end.
What if you've only got five to 10 years left to work and haven't set enough aside for retirement? Is it too late?
It's never too late, especially since your peak earning years begin at about 50. But you'll have to make a supreme effort if you want to enjoy quality retirement. You should have been saving since age 25, so you have to move fast.
Examine your retirement savings carefully. This is critical if you have no other savings and this will be your sole source of retirement income.
If it doesn't provide adequately you should give it an extra boost. Since you will have far fewer expenses now, increase your monthly contributions considerably.
Once your pension plan is in place, consider where you live. If your children have left home you will have more rooms than you need, or you might have chosen a prime location to be close to schools.
Selling your large house and moving to a smaller one can leave you with a sizeable sum to invest.
Then look at how you live. Do you have expensive habits you can live without? The idea is to trim the fat, not to starve. Things that were important to you years ago might have lost their relevance but you continue doing them out of habit.
Once you have money to save, start investing it wisely. You'll need to invest fairly aggressively to make up for lost time, but "aggressively" should not mean "recklessly". If something goes wrong you don't have the luxury of time to make up your losses.
Investing for retirement should be long-term oriented, so ride out stock market turbulence for the longer-term benefit of higher returns. Above all, ensure that your investment portfolio is diversified.
If you've done all the above and the situation still looks dire, delay your retirement. While you work you reduce the drain on your nest egg while simultaneously creating the opportunity for extra savings.
Putting off your retirement might seem disappointing, but retiring without the means to enjoy it will be an even bigger disappointment.
l The writer is a director of Pioneer Financial Planning. Visit www.pioneer.co.za or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org