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5 great tips to save for retirement
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September 06, 2005 15:17 IST

'Retire in peace' -- how often have you heard this before? A lot of life insurance and mutual fund advertisements have this line plastered across their products. You would think retiring was the simplest thing in the world.

Come to think of it, it can be. With a little thought and planning, 'retire in peace' can become a reality and not just a line on some billboard.

If retirement to you means lazing on the sofa reading a book without any worries, then that's not very different from how most of us wish to spend our retirement. The difference however, is in the planning and application to achieve that standard of retirement.

While some only dream of a blissful life after 60, some actually get down to achieving it. The dream can be a reality for you as well, you just need to outline a plan and be disciplined and patient.

While a lot of people associate retirement planning with men, in our view that is a misconception. Anyone who will retire (and all of us will one day) needs to plan for it. If women are going to retire they need to plan for it too.

Working women, of course, do retire, but homemakers retire too. Many may not associate retirement with homemakers, although they do work like all of us and have as much right to take a break from the drudgery of work at some stage in their lives.

Likewise, they are entitled to do things that other retirees do like read up, spend time with grandchildren or just laze around. There is another reason why homemakers must plan for retirement, it's because they do save money and anyone who has income in any manner, needs to put some amount aside for the proverbial rainy day.

When you think of it, you will find that there is more than one reason to save for retirement. The all-important reason is the cost of living, rather, the rising cost of living. We all have heard this before and have probably repeated it often in front of a child -- 'son when I was your age, a litre of petrol used to cost only a few rupees, today its close to fifty rupees' or 'a packet of sliced bread cost a few annas, today its for ten rupees.'

So what explains the rise in prices of these goods? Its called inflation, which simply put, means that purchasing power of money falls over time, so you buy less for the same amount of money or you have to pay more for the same quantity of goods.

Back in the 80s it was a lot cheaper


Price (Rs) in

















LPG Cylinder




The reason why the rising cost of living should feature prominently in your retirement plan is because when you consider inflation, the money you want to set aside for retirement suddenly appears very little.

An illustration will help you understand this better. Let's assume that your annual expenditure at present is Rs 100,000. You are 30 years away from retirement. What will be your annual expenditure then, after taking into consideration the increase in cost of living?

Our calculation tells us that if you assume a 5% inflation rate for 30 years, the Rs 100,000 annual expenditure will soar to over Rs 432,000 by the time you are ready to retire! And you will need this money every year after you retire. So if you had planned to set aside Rs 100,000 for your retirement, because that is how much you need today, you would have saved for less than 25% of how much you really need (i.e. Rs 432,000).

Another reason why women may have to be a little more prepared to meet the rigours of retirement is because they tend to outlive men. While this is a global trend, its equally applicable in the Indian context. According to the 1991 survey, the average Indian woman lives for 58.7 years compared to 57.7 years for the average Indian male.

Living long is a good thing, but if you outlive your spouse it means that you have to fend for yourself and pay all the bills on your own. Living long could also bring with it the risk of more illnesses and medical problems. Therefore, providing for them becomes imperative.

Put plainly, planning for retirement is a lot more important than you may realise. Your present standard of living is going to be that much more difficult to sustain even 10 years down the line unless your income rises at the same rate as the cost of living.

However, when you retire, you may not have an income stream, let alone any increase in income. So how do you bridge the gap?

The good news is that if you start planning for retirement early on, you can bridge the gap between what you have in your hand today and what you would like to have when you retire. The important questions you need to ask yourself are:

The first question is best answered sitting across with your investment consultant. He will help you do the calculations. You have a starting point in our illustration on how inflation impacts your annual expenses over the years.

The answers to the second and third questions are a little simpler. But even they are best tackled with the help of an informed investment consultant. We would like to highlight a few important points over here.

What to keep in mind while saving for retirement depends a lot on your age and how much money you are willing to set aside every month. If you begin saving for retirement early on in your life, you can set aside smaller amounts.

You can also take on more risk by investing in equities; remember over the long term (20-30 years) equity investments can really boost your retirement kitty. If you delay saving for retirement, you will have to invest larger sums of money to save for the same amount; also the share of equity investments as a portion of your retirement savings will have to be lower.

This is because while equities can be rewarding over the long term, they can erode your savings over the short term.

Perhaps the most important thing that will help you plan for retirement is an early start. If you haven't started already, start right away.

Our illustration will help you appreciate how an early start can go a long way in accumulating a meaningful sum of money for retirement.

Lets say you want to save Rs 10 lakh (Rs 1 million) for retirement. If you start early on in your life trying to save for this sum of money, its relatively easy. But as you delay saving for it, you will notice this sum begins to appear impossible.

The early bird gets it

Time to retire (yrs)





Money to be invested





Monthly (Rs)





Annual (Rs)





(Assumed that  appreciates at 12% compounded growth)

Notice how the sum you need to set aside to save Rs 10,00,000 starts rising sharply with even a 5-year delay. This number nearly doubles every 5 years. For instance, you need to set aside Rs 7,500 every year if you start saving 25 years from retirement.

If you postpone saving for it by 5 years, you will need to set aside Rs 13,879 every year. Over a period of just 5 years, your commitment has increased from Rs 7,500 per annum to Rs 13,879 per annum, an 85% increase. If you delay saving for retirement even more, it will become impossible beyond a point.

Tips for saving for retirement

1. Start saving early for retirement, when you are about 30 years old. Start even earlier if possible. That way you give yourself at least 25 years. You can set aside smaller amounts at this age. As you delay, you will have to set aside a larger sum.

2. When you are younger you can invest larger amounts in equities. You can do this by investing in stocks and equity funds. Unless you are good at reading and understanding company balance sheets and have the time and expertise to track stock markets, we strongly recommend that you take the mutual fund route.

3. Be disciplined. While its good to go to the movies, dine, have a binge once in a while, don't compromise on the money you have decided to set aside every month for retirement. And importantly do a 'cost-benefit analysis'. If the Rs 1,000 you spent on movies and dinner last week was instead invested in an equity fund, it would have grown to nearly Rs 20,000 (at 10% compounded growth) after 30 years!

4. Another aspect of financial discipline is to keep your retirement savings intact, don't touch it unless absolute necessary. At least not to organise a birthday bash for your friends. However, if there are more compelling reasons like, God forbid, an operation or your daughter's medical college fees, then go ahead and withdraw money from your retirement kitty.

5. Review your financial plan regularly. Some decisions you took may need to be reviewed. Maybe your investments are not growing the right way. Your standard of living has probably improved -- you first lived in a single bedroom flat, you have now shifted to a double bedroom flat, you will now have to set aside more money to maintain the same lifestyle at retirement. The review is best done under the guidance of your investment consultant since he is the one who helped you set a plan in the first place.

To know how parents should go about securing their children's future and the role women can play in the same, download your free copy of the Money Simplified.

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