Monday, July 29, 2019

The 30 Years Retirement Grid - Saving $1500 per month to achieve $1 Million

I was on course last week and during the course, there were several people who were in their 60s and some even nearing 70s. They were here to upgrade their skills in order to make sure they could still afford to work in their old age. I really admire their attitude to continue learning and still go through the stress of having to sit through an exam to get certified. Many of them were worried they couldn't pass the test and were so stressed out. I thought to myself at this old age they should be enjoying life why still go through this? I spoke to some of them and found out that most had to keep working and in order to get higher salary, they decided to upgrade themselves.

Most of them have been working for more than 30 years but still do not have enough for retirement. Many of them were earning as low as $200 per month back when they first started working. As inflation sets in and things become more expensive in Singapore, it became impossible to retire for them. Some of them even tell me to prepare a house overseas as retirement in Singapore will become even more impossible in the future. Is this really the case?

Is saving $500 per month for 30 years enough for retirement? 

I did some quick calculations and indeed its quite hard for low wage workers to save enough for retirement. If they had diligently saved $500 per month for 30 years, they would only accumulate a savings of $180,000. As we now know, this amount is too little to last for any retirement. For this amount to last 20 years, they can only spend $750 per month.

So, saving $500 per month is definitely not enough for retirement especially during our times now. Then, how much savings is enough?

The 30 Years retirement grid - Saving $1500 per month to achieve $1 Million

For retirement planning, we should first determine how much we need to accumulate? For simplicity sake, let's put this figure at $1 Million since this is the sweet spot to have a good retirement. I did a retirement grid which shows how much our savings and investment will become in 30 years.

Let me guide you on how to read the grid above. The left most column is the savings per month and the top row is the annual investment return. The first figure of $180,000 is derived from saving $500 per month for 30 years with 0% investment return. If there is 1% investment return compounded over 30 years, the sum will be $208,709 instead.

I concluded we need to save at least $1,500 per month for 30 years to get a comfortable retirement sum of $1.01 Million. However, saving $1500 per month is not enough. We still have to invest it at 4% compounded returns to achieve that sum. Without investment, we will only accumulate $540,000. Most of us will start working probably in our mid 20s and in 30 years, we will be about 55 to 60 years old so 30 years timeline is just nice for retirement planning.

If we're not comfortable with 4% investment return, then saving $2000 per month may be a better option as we can accumulate $1.14 Million with just a 3% investment return. If we're still not comfortable with 3% investment return, we can save $2500 per month to accumulate $1.04 Million with just 1% investment return. 1% can be achieved easily through bank interest.

Why income is so important for retirement planning?

If you look closely at the retirement grid I created, you may have notice that savings form a big part of the retirement. If we just save $1000 per month and invest at 6% investment return, we will not even accumulate $1 Million in 30 years.

This is why income is so important for retirement planning. If we earn a low income, it is really quite difficult to save more money. It becomes a very miserable life to save money with too low an income. However, do take note that most of us do start with lower income so the starting point is always more of a sacrifice but it gets easier later.

Investing is also an important part in retirement planning. Looking at savings of $1500 per month in 30 years, a person who does not invest will only accumulate $540K while a person who invests at 4% investment return accumulates $1.01 Million. This is almost double in 30 years! This also shows investing early in our life is quite important.

Retirement planning is time critical

Another thing about retirement is that it is really time critical. The above retirement grid is in a 30 years time frame so it is more manageable. If we are late in the planning stage and only have 20 years till retirement, it will be much more difficult to accumulate substantial savings for retirement.

Here's the 20 years retirement grid:

Let's look at the same $1500 per month savings at 4% investment return. This time, we could only accumulate $536K in 20 years vs $1.01 Million in 30 years. You can see how much difference 10 years is in retirement planning.

Let's say we only start saving and investing in our 40s and look to retirement in our 60s, we have to save double ($3000 per month) as compared to the person who started saving in his 30s ($1500 per month) to achieve the same retirement savings.

Start saving and investing early for retirement!

In conclusion, the earlier we start saving and investing, the better it is. Most people could not see the actual benefits of starting early so many people only realise its too late when they are much older. I hope this retirement grid will finally give you the visualisation to see the benefits of saving and investing early.

The earlier we start, it gets easier as we earn more income. This is because we only have to maintain that same $1500 per month savings instead of saving much more to accumulate that same amount if we start 10 years later.

If you're in your late 20s already, its probably good to start saving that $1500 or $2000 per month from now so that you can retire in your late 50s.

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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Updates on Life after 1 month plus of not blogging

Its been 1 month plus since my last post on 29 May. Many things were keeping me busy in life and I've been keeping things to myself struggling to understand what I was thinking about life myself. The whole of June I was still busy with work while planning for a Japan trip the whole of the month. I was so looking forward to the trip in end of June that everyday I went home after work its about more research on the trip itself. I've always wanted to go Japan and finally made the dream come true with a short 5 days trip to Tokyo. It was an eye opening experience.

Walking around Shinjuku in Tokyo

I came back from the trip around 2 weeks ago and was back to the usual busyness of work and life. I didn't have the energy to do anything after work and weekends is mostly spent with the same routine of spending time with my fiancee on Saturday and exercise on Sunday plus spend time with my family. There are lots of things to plan for our big day next year which is getting closer each day. I also had catch up with my friends as well.

Life is full of surprises in a sense that there are always ups and downs. For me, its no different and I struggle to keep myself happy on some days and sink into gloominess. It gets worse and worse when I see the struggles in my life and also in other people's life. I get worried on certain occasions about health, money and so on. Many things have happened in the past 2 years seeing some loved ones gone, some in poor health and this worries me a lot. I no longer focus so much on money anymore as I felt life is getting shorter and shorter. I do hope this feeling is normal and I'm not the only one who feels this way.

One of the reasons I stopped blogging for so long is because of all these negative emotions and I wanted to hide it and to be alone. In the 5 years of starting this blog, I don't think I have stopped for so long before. Now, I feel better and ready to take on life challenges again and wanted to share this episode in my life with all of you. If you're also facing life challenges and feel that life is hard, do not give up as you will definitely be stronger after this. Life is not always smooth sailing and there will always be problems to deal with. Yes we may get tired so we need some time to relax and recharge again. In this instance, spending money on good food and going overseas may be the best thing to do.

For work, its always busy even after 9 months on my new job. This is my 3rd job and its the most hectic among all my jobs so far but its also the job I find most meaningful to do. I've been tasked with big projects to really change things which I feel happy to take on. The working environment has been good and people are generally nicer here in the healthcare sector. This is also the 3rd industry I've changed to and its interesting to learn new things and see how different industries in Singapore operate.

For investments, its been a good year even with the trade war still ongoing. Stocks have went up crazily and with my portfolio made up of mostly blue chips and REITs, it benefited a lot. My portfolio is already up 11.3% for the year and I've started to sold some of the stocks such as Frasers L&I and Starhill global REIT. One of my favorite stock, Ascendas Hospitality trust is having a merger with Ascott residence trust and I think the offer is quite decent. In any case, I've held this stock for many years with almost 100% return on investments already including dividends received. This is the highest dividend yielding stock in my portfolio at 8.4% for many years. Its a pity I can't get that kind of dividend yield anymore if the deal goes through.

I do feel life is short and I want to enjoy fully what life has to offer. Someone younger than me and whom I'm close to passed on a few years back and till now its still hard to accept the loss. There are other things that happened but I shall not mention here. Life situations has changed my view towards it and I hope its a good change for now.