As we age, the demands of our skin, body, and health change; our money is no exception. The start of a new year is always a good time to review our finances. How have your obligations changed? Are your financial or retirement goals different from last year’s? What does your investment portfolio look like?
Now that I’m in my 40s, I am painfully aware that I have less time to build my nest egg than, say, a woman in her 20s. But what I lack in time, I try my best to make up for in cash. Ideally, the amount we should set aside for saving and investing should be proportional to our income. Earning more means being able to invest more, not just spend more.
Our risk appetite changes as we age and, also, as we reach certain milestones in life. Two women of the same age and income bracket can have vastly different risk appetites. Marriage, mortgage, and motherhood are just some of things that would determine how we invest.
In your 20s, you’re fresh out of school and perhaps in your first job. It is also at this point in your life where you may be thinking, “Hey, it’s not that important to start investing now. I’m just barely making ends meet.”
According to Michael Gilmore, author of The Little Book of Zen Money, money worries are a huge component of the mental health crisis in the world today but the good thing about being in your 20s is that you don’t have to over-complicate your investment strategy. It is also during this period of your life that you can afford to take things slow and learn as you go.
“For women in their 20s, portfolios can be easily split in two categories: low-risk, high-access for an emergency fund of three to six months of spending, and then the rest into higher risk assets like equities. Both my daughters are in their 20s, and saving a high percentage of their salaries via robo-advisors and ETFs,” says Gilmore.
Robo-advisory platforms like Stashaway or Endowus have really changed the investing game for people who want to access their cash without getting penalised for early withdrawals. If you’re not sure about locking in your money for many years, then such solutions can provide a relatively low risk way to multiplying your dollars while giving you the assurance that you can tap into your funds if you ever need to pay for your flat’s downpayment or your wedding.
As you move into your 30s, you’ll find your attention and energy divided across career, relationship, and even childcare. Whereas your 20s could be about saving up to pay for life’s big events, your 30s would be when you’re getting ready for the long-term. Like the ants in Aesop’s fable The Ant and The Grasshopper, you are working hard to save up for “the winter” — your retirement.
Your main investment portfolio could consist of a mix of ETFs with varying time horizons while a small portion of it could be for things you’re interested in or curious about such as crypto, REITs, commodities, and stocks. For those with children, endowment plans that mature just as the kids go off to college could be a low-risk investment option.
While you’re busy growing your money, don’t forget to protect your wealth as well. This decade will see us making big purchases like family homes, cars, jewellery and vacations in far-flung destinations. It is therefore important to ensure you’re adequately insured. On top of your life and health insurance, you’re also adding motor, travel, and home protection insurance to the mix.
Gilmore warns, “The most important to learn during this time is the difference between gambling, speculation and real investing. When we invest, we are slowly but steadily building ownership of an asset, or assets. When we gamble or speculate, we hope one thing is going to go up faster than the other — and sometimes the cost of that speculation is that we lose everything.”
For the majority of us, it is unlikely we could become overnight millionaires because of a single well-timed investment, so have an investment strategy and be disciplined about sticking with it.
The 40s could be a sobering decade for many of us as we struggle with dimming career prospects and growing family demands. Both our children and parents now seem to require more money and we are left wondering if we’d be able to retire comfortably at all.
“For some of us in our 40s, the time to really compound investment gains is now behind us, unfortunately, and so financial planning should be a question of managing expenses to maximise savings and planning for retirement-related spending,” says Gilmore.
He further cautions that it might be tempting to take wilder bets to make bigger gains if you feel like you’re behind on your plans, but this would be unwise. If it doesn’t pay off, the situation could be even worse. Instead, focus on saving first, and making regular investments in large indexes.
For women who have already built a decent nest egg by their 40s, now is the time to think about which risks are appropriate for the rest of your lives, and which aren’t. Perhaps less exposure to global currencies, or thinking long-term about where to live and lock in the correct assets. Gilmore recommends the book “Beyond the 4% Rule” by Abraham Okusanya. It examines all the different scenarios of how you can allocate your wealth and what could happen.
Ask yourself what is the lifestyle you wish to have in your retirement years. Does it seem unrealistic to think you’d be able to keep to a simple, no-frills lifestyle? If so, you’ll have to set aside a lot more cash than you believe you’ll need.
It is always scary to look at our finances in close detail because then we’d be forced to face some uncomfortable truths. However, we cannot bury our heads in the sand and hope the problem will go away or resolve itself. If there are gaps in our investment strategy, it is best to address them as soon as possible.