Danielle McCarthy

Retirement Income

Why you need to invest in yourself to retire well

Why you need to invest in yourself to retire well

I have a particularly resourceful friend who lives a pretty good life, despite never having quite enough money.

She is hardworking and popular with her wide circle of friends, neighbours and colleagues. She networks, barters and works for what she really wants.

A former chef turned teacher, she finessed enough grant money to pay for a two-week trip to cooking school in Italy. She knows where all the good used furniture stores are, has bartered home cleaning for a two-week stay in a holiday home, and is working on an arrangement now that will get her free housing in France for several weeks this summer. Tres bien!

I'm pretty sure my friend will do really well in retirement, though I strongly suspect she has nowhere near the $1-million plus that you would think her lifestyle would require. She has a different kind of capital: skills, smarts, and a great social network.

"Everyone is focused on the money, but when somebody retires, they usually manage," said Larry Cohen, director of Consumer Financial Decisions, a consulting group that studies consumer behaviour. "If they don't have the money, they have human capital like skills and education, and social capital in terms of friends, neighbours or a church. All these things help."

Cohen predicts: "The (retirement) solutions for the future are going to involve more of these other forms of capital."

Experts are increasingly focusing on the non-financial assets that workers can bring into retirement to help them manage on fewer dollars than might be optimal.

So what are the best non-financial forms of capital that pre-retirees can invest in now to insure a good retirement? Here are a few.

Investing knowledge

Nothing good can come of being uninformed about investing. The more you know, the more you can grow small contributions into a retirement kitty you can live off of. Break it into small bits and learn a little every month. Learning about stocks, taxes, portfolio management and the like will help you, at the very least, choose the right adviser. And it will also help you stretch your income after retirement.

Money-earning skill

The baby boom may well have psychological problems adjusting to the "withdrawal" era of their lives. It could be harder than you think to find money to see a movie or make a car payment. So develop something now that can earn money in the future. Some popular money-earning side business include TradeMe sales, handyman work, cooking, babysitting and driving.

Money-saving skills

Gardening, appliance repair, lawn mowing, scratch cooking, vacuuming ... got it? If you're the kind of person who currently pays others to do all of these things for you remember this: In retirement you'll have more time and less money.

Friends and neighbours

Can you drive each other to the airport? Share big bargain packages of toilet paper and tomatoes? Check in on each other when you haven't surfaced for a while? Does someone in the crowd make their own tomato sauce and another fix cars? Or own a beach house or a garden tiller? There's no end to the savings that a supportive collective like that can generate. And, of course, people who are connected to others enjoy life more and may be able to entertain themselves more cheaply.

Best body possible

The better shape you are in going into retirement, the less you'll spend on pain pills, back braces and more. Of course, you can't control everything that befalls you, but moving into retirement with strong bones and muscles, a good sense of balance, and cardiovascular fitness will improve your retirement fun and cut your retirement expenses.


Retirement can be like a second chance; the rules come off and you can do things you might not have considered while you were in your main buttoned-down job. Practice creativity now, just like my friend, and you'll be ahead of the game when your new job is making that smaller-than-you'd-hoped retirement fund last a long and happy time.

Do you agree with this advice?

Written by Linda Stern. Republished with permission of Stuff.co.nz.