Living the Australian dream… author’s timely tips on making the most of retirement

Patricia Howard
Author, finance journalist and financial planner Patricia Howard

Retirement looms large in most people’s lives, but the path to it can sometimes be fraught with problems and concerns about making the best choice for those later years. Author, finance journalist and financial planner Patricia Howard has written a handy easy-read book, The No-Regrets Guide to Retirement in which she advises how to live well, invest wisely and make your money last.

Howard, a licensed Australian financial adviser, author and financial journalist, has a commerce degree from the University of Melbourne, holds her own Australian Financial Services Licence and recently passed the FASEA financial adviser exam. She has written for The Australian, The Australian Financial Review and The Age

“So many people enter retirement expecting the worst,” Howard says in a preface to the book. “They worry they won’t have enough money. They worry that their funds won’t last as long as they do, no matter how much money they have.

“They worry they will miss out. That they won’t be able to do all the things they’ve dreamed about doing in life. That they simply won’t enjoy life anymore.”

Howard says she wanted to write a positive, practical, uplifting boost to help people make the most of their financial situation whatever that is, but more importantly a book that will hopefully change people’s attitude. 

The No-Regrets Guide to Retirement will help people plan their retirement in an optimistic way, even though this might be a stretch for some readers.

“Throughout the book I refer to Australia’s generous welfare system and I do believe Australians are fortunate to be able to access the Age Pension,” Howard says. “I know many will baulk at this. I can hear them grumble: ‘It’s impossible to make ends meet on the Australian Age Pension, so how can she call it generous?’”

Howard says she thinks Australia’s Age Pension rate is generous and people retiring in Australia have wonderful opportunities. So many people in the world don’t have access to these.

“I have been blessed with the great opportunity and challenges of living overseas, mostly in what are referred to as ‘third world’ countries such as Brazil, Mexico and Kenya. It is a term though that suggests these countries somehow lag behind a so-called ‘first world’ country like Australia.”

She says while it’s never too early to start planning retirement, it is also never too late with just five simple steps enough to make a big difference to a person’s financial position and ensure they have a better, healthier retirement.

Think through how you want to live in retirement. A financial healthy retirement begins with good planning. Don’t be guided by some outdated rule book or how your parents might have lived in their retirement.

Investigate whether you will qualify for the Australian Age Pension. In planning retirement many people overlook whether or not they may be eligible to receive the pension. This is a big mistake. If you do qualify for the age pension it can make a big difference to retirement and obviously remove a lot of financial pressure.

Maximise what you have in superannuation. Too often people think they need a million dollars in super to retire comfortably. While that’s a nice goal to have, too often it just prompts people to give up on their superannuation.

Make sound investment decisions. Howard says that might seem obvious but it’s worth focusing on because it will stop people from making poor investment decisions in retirement and help them focus on solid, reliable income generating investments.

Live within your means. Once people have sorted out their financial investment, know exactly how much money is coming in each year and make sure to live within your means.  This is especially important if someone is receiving an income stream from their own investments.

Howard points out that in retirement, more than at any other time of life, the only thing holding people back is themselves and the limitations they place on themselves.

Some of her advice: Start a business, make money from travelling, write a book, start a blog, go back to school, a tree change, a sea change, get fit, get involved.

“Retirement is your time to do these things you’ve always dreamed of,” Howard says. “When you’re retired and you are asked ‘What do you do all day?’ the right answer is always: “Exactly what I want to do.”

The No-Regrets Guide to Retirement how to live well, invest wisely and make your money last by Patricia Howard (Wiley, $29.95) is available from good book stores.