Sunél's Blog | What life is left

Sunél Veldtman, | 12 April 2024

Financial planners have extended the planning horizon for clients as medical advances extend our life expectancy.  We’re now inching towards the century mark, which is about two decades more than what planners used to work towards.

Few people of our generation ever imagined such a long life, and for many, it fills them with dread. It means more capital is needed than originally planned.  It also means that many now limit their spending, often living a life that is disproportionately frugal to their means.

Because many think they will have so much time at the end of their lives, and they need more money to fund it, they push attending to important issues and relationships into the future. Family. Friendship. Health.

I see many dreams put on hold because of this long life expectancy. Not just dreams, but living a meaningful life. A good life.

But I also see so many who never reach that future. Those who never get to see a dream fulfilled, hold grandchildren, or experience a satisfying, romantic relationship - who never get to do what they always longed to. They thought they would have more time, or that they would need more money before doing those things.

It’s as if we’re banking it all on the future before we live fully. But the future may never happen. We are not guaranteed a future.

I’m not advocating reckless spending or the cessation of retirement savings. I am urging us to also plan for a shorter life expectancy as a potential scenario.

What would you regret if you learnt that you had a short time left? What risks are you willing to take with your spending now, to avoid that regret later? Perhaps you need to ask yourself how much longer you want to work at a pace that leaves no room for life, how much longer you should frantically hoard for tomorrow like a squirrel in autumn?

Planning for a shorter life expectancy may mean that you will have to cut back later, so the question becomes, ‘Are you willing to take that risk?’

The time for some dreams run out, even for those who will live a long life. Hiking that trail. Visiting your children overseas. Holding your parents’ hands. How many of us have lost close friends, family and clients that we still meant to do something with? 

I face these questions too. I think about my time left and the regrets I may have. Perhaps you want to do the same, and take time to ponder this gift called life. You don’t know how much of it you have left. What would you like to do with the precious life you may have left?

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Kind regards,