The late starter’s guide to investing
 

Prudential Investment Managers

Prudential Investment Managers

November 2018

The late starter’s guide to investing

So you’re in your late 30s – or maybe even your 40s – and you’ve never really invested or saved for your post-work future. You’re not alone. According to a recent survey by a leading employee benefits firm, only 19% of retirement fund members will be able to maintain their standard of living in retirement. While this is certainly a scary number, the good news is that starting now means you could still build up a significant amount of retirement savings.  

In a perfect world, you would have started investing in your 20s. Unlike saving in a bank account, investing in unit trusts has the potential to allow your money to grow exponentially more in value over time. The reason for this is that the returns on your investment are generally much higher over the long term, compared to the interest you would have earned if you simply left your money in the bank. Time allows your investments to take advantage of compounding, where you earn returns on your returns.

But this isn’t a perfect world, and as a late starter the reality is that you need to make up for lost time. Don’t panic and try to time the market or try to gamble with things that you may not fully understand, like day trading. Assess your situation, enlist the help of a good independent financial adviser, rewrite your household budget, and be aggressive in your portfolio. This will allow you to free up more cash to invest, as well as increasing your odds of generating higher returns over the long term.  

Being aggressive means being willing to take on extra risk by investing the majority of your portfolio in growth assets like equities and listed property, which have, over time, delivered higher returns than bonds or cash investments. Because equity markets tend to post big gains and losses in the short term, you’ll need to be able to tolerate these market swings. But as long as you can stick with these investments over the long term (say, seven to 10 years) you’ll be more likely to build up the retirement funds you need.

Of course, you don’t want to take on so much risk that you lose all the money you have. But speak to your financial adviser, and examine how much risk you can actually handle. You might be surprised. And one of the key roles of a financial adviser is to help you stick to your investment plan and avoid panic.  As you’re working with a tighter time horizon, you’ll need to crunch some numbers and make some adjustments. Use our retirement calculator to get an idea of what you’ll need to do.

Consider a few factors as you put that investment plan together. Do you really need to retire at 65, or could you work beyond that? How many years do you think you’ll live off your investments and retirement savings? What will your expenses be during retirement? Will you be able to invest as a retiree? What about starting a second job to get some extra income, or studying at night to increase your chances of promotion? There are many options to consider for boosting your income. 

One particularly tough spending call you may need to make relates to your children. After speaking to your financial adviser, you may well find that you’ll have to prioritise your own retirement over some of their expenses, such as their tertiary education. Remember, your children can take out student loans; you don’t have the option of a retirement loan. Time is also on their side - it’s not on yours.

As a late starter, the simple truth is that you’ll probably need to save and invest more than someone who started in their 20s. Accept this reality, and adjust your lifestyle so that you can still enjoy life while investing in your future. Your financial adviser can help you with that.

Whatever you do, do something. There’s a retirement plan and investment solution for everybody, no matter what your budget is or how old you are. It’s never too late to start.

For more information or if you have any questions, please contact your financial adviser or feel free to get in touch with our Client Services Team on 0860 105 775 or query@prudential.co.za