Now that you’ve saved for retirement, it’s time to spend wisely: Warren MacKenzie

February 21, 2019

If we save diligently, or inherit wealth, or otherwise get to retirement with money, that’s half the battle, says Warren MacKenzie, head of financial planning at Optimize Wealth and the author of three books on retirement planning.

More important, he told a recent meeting of the Ottawa Share Club, is spending your money wisely.

MacKenzie told the story of three siblings who each inherited multi-millions. After a few years, he says, “one is broke, and living in a trailer with his girlfriend.” A second has burned through three quarters of the money already on “cars, clubs and (the high life),” while the third sibling, an accountant, has most of her share left, is overwhelmed by it, and feels it was “the worst thing that ever happened to her,” he told the audience.  All three, he explains, lacked a strategy to use their wealth wisely.

MacKenzie says that many people fail to accurately estimate their retirement costs. “You need to calculate your expected expenses, and exaggerate them” to build in some room for the unexpected, he says. You “should assume you will live to age 100,” he adds, and estimate what your future medical costs might be for things like long-term care.

If you do that, and you find that there’s still a surplus, you may be wasting the opportunity to use some of your savings for other purposes, he says.

Most in the financial industry “don’t encourage people to think about a surplus,” he says. That’s because the financial sector makes money from managing your investments, but don’t want you to take the money out and spend it.

But caution about the future, fears of being “hit by lightning or a tornado,” compel many of us to hang on to our savings, even if we have more than enough to cover our needs.

Research, he noted, shows that there is a relationship between money and happiness, but it is different than one might think. Those making only $10,000 a year tend to be less happy than those making $50,000,” he says. But there is “no difference in happiness” for those making any amount that is more than $50,000.

“Money is a lot like food – too little is bad for you, but too much is bad for you too,” he explained.

In his view, those with more than sufficient wealth to cover their retirement expenses have options.

  • Do nothing, like most people, and hang on to the money for life (you’ll face income taxes and the stress of managing it)
  • Live richer and treat themselves more (spend the surplus on yourself)
  • Pass money on to the kids, but in stages (communicating with them about when they need it)
  • Give the money away (and let the kids figure things out on their own)
  • Create a multi-generational legacy (such as a foundation)

He says that communication about money between the generations is critically important; the kids should know if there is money coming, but should also know if there isn’t. A surprising 70 per cent of attempts to transfer wealth between generations fail, he pointed out. “Perhaps it is better to give money away while you are living – there are few legal disputes about smaller estates,” he says.

It’s a good thing, he says, to leave your kids no money but to pass on good values. It’s also good to leave money and values. But, he says, it is not a good idea to leave money “without passing on good values.”

Philanthropy is a positive thing that helps out the charity “but benefits the donor even more,” he said. He concluded his talk by noting that “he who knows he has enough is rich.”

Warren MacKenzie’s latest book, is The Philanthropic Family, subtitle – 5 Keys To Maximizing Your Family’s Happiness And Leaving A Lasting Legacy.  We thank the Ottawa Share Club for inviting us along to hear Warren MacKenzie’s talk.

Before you think about what to do with any retirement surplus, you need to be saving for that first day after work. An option for your saving strategy is a Saskatchewan Pension Plan account. Check out the SPP today.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Shelties, Duncan, Phoebe and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22
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