Three financial advisers talks about about the biggest mistakes they see people making.
Three financial advisers talks about about the biggest mistakes they see people making. denphumi

The biggest money blunders by the middle-aged

GETTING into your 40s and 50s can be a chance to have a bit more of a life again.

The kids are older and the mortgage is under control (mostly).

But experts warn there are still some big financial pitfalls out there for middle-aged Aussies.


1. Upgrading your life

Deborah Carlyon, a financial adviser with Stuart Carlyon, said one of the biggest mistakes middle-aged people made was upgrading their lifestyles without thinking about their retirement.

"Getting into your 40s and 50s people start to earn more money. It may be both are now working after one looking after children.

"Then they get that wealth effect."

Carlyon said that could lead to a temptation to upgrade the house, buy a holiday home or new car without much though given to retirement planning.

That often led to regrets later on about not saving more money sooner.

She said people should try and avoid the temptation to upgrade and borrow more or if they did so they needed to make sure their mortgage would be paid off by retirement.

Peter Coltman, a financial adviser at Milestone Financial Services said people's 40s and 50s were hugely important as they were some of the greatest income producing years.

"You've got to figure out where you will put it.

"You only get it once. If you are coming into your 60s you have either done really well or have some tough decisions."

2. Not having a plan

For Phil Ashton, a financial adviser with Rutherford Rede Wealth Management, said failing to have a plan was a major problem.

"They have some sort of loose expectation."

In many cases it may be a couple hasn't actually sat down and talked about what they want and what retirement means for them, he said.

"They are still flying blind and putting off the inevitable."

Ashton said having a plan meant writing down and setting goals and timeframes.

3. Living in an unaffordable house

Ashton says people often have all of their money tied up in their home.

He says the problem with tying up all of your equity in the house is that when it comes to stopping work you will have to seriously down-size to free up capital to live off if you don't have a big enough retirement savings pot.

It can be hard enough transitioning into retirement without have to move out of an area you have lived in for a while or moving away from friends or family.

He says people need to look at how much they will need in retirement and work out how much capital they will need to accumulate and whether they can afford to keep living in the same home.

4. Taking a set and forget approach to insurance

Carlyon said people in their 40s and 50s would probably still have a mortgage so it was important to ensure that was covered if one person died and was unable to pay that cost.

But she said often insurance like life insurance could be reduced as people's mortgages were paid off and the saving on the premium could be put into retirement saving.

Just cover what you need. Anything you free up can be used to pay into retirement savings.
5. Relying on New Zealand Superannuation

"Many people are still reliant on good old NZ Super for everything," says Ashton.

While current prime minister John Key has promised not to raise the age of eligibility it's possible that it will happen under future governments as is means testing.

Ashton said people in their 40s and 50s should not rely on NZ Super being there for them in its current form in the future.

5. Underestimating how long you will live for

Ashton said living until your early to mid 90s is now becoming the norm for many people.

"Don't underestimate the length of time you will live for.

The other challenge was the current low interest rate environment for savers.

Ashton said that the low interest rate environment was likely to be here for a while meaning savers may need to put aside more capital than in the past to get the income you want in retirement.

6. Giving too much to the kids

Ashton said many people didn't think about themselves until the kids had flown the coop but with people having children later in life and more blended families with people having younger children at a later age parents needed to be more selfish.

"Couples need to become a bit more selfish about their own needs.

"If they are too generous with their children it may delay their own accumulation and make a big impact on how much they can save."

Be wary of giving too much a way and being too supportive. Paying for university study can be one of those traps parents can fall into.

If you can afford to do then its fine but don't skimp on yourself to pay for something that they have the rest of their lives to pay for.

7. Making yourself unemployable

Carlyon said it was important people kept their skills up to date so they remained employable.

"Sometimes you have to invest in yourself."

People's earning power is a huge component of how they get on financially in life.
Coltman says people may have started their career thinking they had a job for life but found that was no longer the case.

Coltman said he often saw people who had been faced with a major event like being forced to make a career change later in life or being unable to get get work.

8. Having no exit strategy from work

Ashton said many people did not see themselves as retiring at 65 any more.

"If their health continues they would like to keep working in a part-time capacity into their early 70s."

Choosing to work part-time for five to eight years past age 65 also made a big difference to how much people had to save for their retirement.

Going down to part-time was much easier for people who ran their own business rather than the employed but businesses were becoming more flexible now.

Ashton said having a transition period and continuing to work could be good for people's mental health.

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