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Retirement goal? Half of us don’t have one

It used to be the dream we were all working toward: turning 65 and retiring to a life of golfing, sipping piña coladas and spending time with grandchildren. But the harsh reality, experts say, is that many Bermuda residents just won’t be able to afford it and will likely have to work past the age of 65. A new study just released finds Bermuda residents are woefully underfunded for retirement and have been since well before the global financial crisis that’s put us in the tough economic climate we’re currently in. What’s worse, the study finds, is that many Bermuda residents aren’t even thinking about or planning for it. The study, released by the Argus Group, shows that half of all the people on this Island do not have a financial goal in place and that younger residents, aged 18-35, are less likely to understand their pension statements. Lauren Bell, executive vice-president of Life & Pensions for The Argus Group said too many people are living in the moment and aren’t starting to plan for the future soon enough. “Individuals typically don’t think too much about retirement,” she said. “They just assume that when they get there, that somehow, everything will fall into place. But the reality is, you really need a longer period of time.” The study, conducted Bermuda Omnibus, also found the vast majority (80 percent) of those surveyed said they have not changed their retirement plans despite the global recession. Ms Bell said even before the economic downturn and recession, a lot of people were not thinking long-term, but they need to start. “It’s not a new phenomenon. I think it’s individuals’ natural tendencies to put off those things that are really in the distance, focusing on the short term, she said. “So individuals tend to deal with, you know ‘I need to pay my mortgage, I have to educate my children and to pay the bills’, but the thought of what they need to do 30 years down the road, it’s not a priority. But it needs to be.” Also of concern to pension providers is the Government’s plan to offer a so-called “pension holiday” giving employees and employers a voluntary break from making contributions. “If individuals find themselves in a situation where they need to take a holiday, then they should try their best to put it back in.” Ms Bell adds that even though times are hard for a lot of people right now, they still need to think about and plan for the future especially if they’re young. “In order to make sure you are going to be ready for retirement, in 30 or 40 years, you actually have to start thinking about it today because if you start thinking about it when you’re 60 or 65, it’s going to be too late.” To help people plan better, Argus has some new features on its website like a retirement calculator to assist people, of any age, determine if they are on track to meet their long-term financial goals. There’s also a questionnaire that can help people assess if they’re investing aggressively enough or too aggressively. The online tools are free and available to both Argus clients and the general public on the company’s website,

www.argus.bm. When asked what advice she would give to people as they plan for retirement, Ms Bell gave us these top three tips:

Get expert advice: There are a lot of great planners out there.

Plan early: Time is of the essence

Strategise: Make sure you have the right investment strategy and reassess it often. “Don’t choose a strategy and forget about it,” she warns. “You really should be reviewing it from time to time particularly if you’ve got a change in your life you got married, you had children, you’re getting closer to retirement.” So, is retiring at 65 a thing of the past or is the dream still alive? Ms Bell says the dream can be alive if you start planning early enough. “It’s like that adage ‘fail to plan, plan to fail.’ You can obtain the retirement you want if you plan early and are realistic about it.”