Financial Planning for Australians: Balance Today and Save for Tomorrow

Key strategies to manage your finances effectively, ensuring both a comfortable present and a secure future

Managing your financial situation always involves tension between how you live your life now and preparing for your future – whatever that looks like.

The worry about not getting the balance right and making unnecessary sacrifices now – or not having enough money for the things you want to do in the future is a common and valid concern we hear when we talk to clients. You want to be living your best life now which means not living too frugally or worrying about your future. At the same time, you don’t want the choices you are making now in how you live your life to impact or make impossible the wonderful life you envision for yourself down the track.

Balance whatever your stage of life

We all have financial goals – whether you are saving for your children’s education, working towards that once in a lifetime round the world trip, freeing up finances for a gap year, or setting yourself up for a wonderful retirement. It’s important to balance your ‘now’ with your ‘future’ when it comes to spending, saving, and investing to make sure you can achieve those goals. You don’t want to regret your spending – or on the other hand live a frugal life and look back on opportunities you missed while you were squirrelling it away.

The tension between the ‘now’ and your ‘future’ with respect to your finances can be even more heightened when you have retired. It can be a strange adjustment suddenly not having a wage coming in and living off your savings, super and investments. It’s common, and quite understandable, to worry about not having enough to last the distance, particularly given that a 65-year-old today may live well into their 90’s and could spend up to three decades in retirement.i No one wants to outlive their savings.

However, many retirees live unnecessarily frugal lives as evidenced by a 2020 Retirement Income Review which found that most people die with the bulk of their retirement wealth intact.ii Those that live frugally do so often not from necessity but because they don’t have an understanding of their financial needs, including how these will change over time, and how much they can afford to spend.

How the balance changes over time

That balance is hard to hit. It is different for different people, and your approach to saving and spending will change at various stages of your life.

If you are paying off a difficult to maintain level of debt or in the final stages of scraping together a deposit for a home, making sacrifices now in the way you live life your life might feel OK. Equally if you have spent much of your life building wealth, letting loose the reins a little and going on that cruise might be something you are extremely comfortable with.

Certainty now and confidence in the future

Whatever your stage of life, achieving the right balance comes from having an in-depth understanding of your financial situation now, and establishing and maintaining a personalised plan that takes into account all aspects of your financials – your earning capacity, level of debt, assets and very importantly, the life you want to live today and your goals for the future.

The importance of receiving support with financial planning is reinforced in a recent report which indicated advised Australians are significantly more likely to say they feel confident in achieving their financial goals (71 per cent) compared with those who are not receiving support (55 per cent).iii

The same proportion said that they were living well now, stating their finances allow them to “do the things I want and enjoy in life.” And those receiving advice are also balancing the “now” with their future needs. Those accessing financial advice also indicated they were more likely to be financially prepared for retirement and have a higher savings balance.

This confidence that comes from receiving personalised advice also means being more prepared when people leave the workforce (and a wage) behind. Advised Australians are significantly more likely to feel very or reasonably prepared for retirement (76 per cent), than those without advice (45 per cent).iv

The key to achieving a balance between living your best life now and being financially secure in the future is knowledge. If we know that tomorrow is shaping up well for us, we may worry a little less today, feel a little less guilty when we spend today and be less likely to have regrets about spending – or about missing out – further down the track.

i https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/life-expectancy-deaths/deaths-in-australia/contents/life-expectancy
ii https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2021-02/p2020-100554-ud00b_key_obs.pdf
iii https://www.netwealth.com.au/web/insights/the-advisable-australian/understanding-australian-advice-clients-better/#download
iv https://www.netwealth.com.au/web/insights/the-advisable-australian/understanding-australian-advice-clients-better

This article is intended as an information source only and to provide general information only. The comments, examples, words and extracts from legislation and other sources in this publication do not constitute legal advice, financial or tax advice and should not be relied upon as such. All readers should seek advice from a professional adviser regarding the application of any of the comments in this article to their particular situation.