A conversation with Dave and Siobhan Winder
"Growing up, Siobhan and I came from modest backgrounds. Our parents were careful with money, I think you just learn that way of life. Neither of us has ever wanted expensive things or big holidays, we've always been more focused on enjoying the outdoors and being active as a family. I was fortunate when I started work, I had a boss who influenced me. I learned a lot from him, he was just coming up to retirement and explained the importance of pensions. He told me to put as much money in my pension as I could, so when I had spare cash, I put it in Additional Voluntary Contributions because I knew how important it was."
Dave had a professional career and is very aware it's been a privileged position, but he worked very hard with long hours and travel. Dave acknowledges the firm was a good employer and he was well paid with a great pension, but he realised the level he was working at was not sustainable forever. Dave is a bit of a perfectionist and highly conscientious, so he always gives 110%, "I look back and I had been on 24-hour call for 30 years."
"We could have spent more on cars and holidays, but I genuinely don't think we would have been any happier. I don't think we've missed out on experiences; we were really lucky that I could work abroad, and we went together so we've had we've done a lot of travelling while we were working."
Siobhan decided to be a stay-at-home Mum. "It was great, I was able to bring up our son and travel with Dave - I loved it and we were really happy we could afford to make that decision. My career started later and has been fulfilling and, unlike Dave, I was adamant I was not for early retirement. I felt like I was just getting in my stride."
But Dave knew his goal was to retire early. "I was doing all the right things putting money into my pension and accumulating the necessary pot. I didn't consider speaking to a financial planner, I was being careful putting money to one side and planning for the future, but if I made one mistake it was maybe that I was just focused on the finance. I did eventually get some advice from the bank, but you don't fully appreciate until you use an independent financial planner how limited that advice was; of course, they can only offer the products the bank sells. I didn't think about the difference between independent advice like FMB and other places which only offer their own products."
His plan for early retirement crystallised when he discussed it with Roger Jackson. "Roger said, "Put a date on it. When?" And that's the heart of the matter, you can retire as early as you like but the choices you make are determined by factors only you can decide. What sort of lifestyle do you need to maintain when you stop working? Once you switch your income tap off, it's unlikely you will ever make that kind of money again. It's quite a leap coming to terms with it."
The transition to retirement was made easier by setting up his own business for a while. Dave needed to prioritise his health and wellbeing but also bring in some money to bridge the gap before his company pension kicked in.
Siobhan says, "He also needed to keep busy, and I wasn't ready to retire. I was absolutely committed to my job in a school and I found it so rewarding. I'm unsure how it would have been if Dave had suddenly stopped."
Dave is practical and had done most of the work on their house, so he started doing small jobs for people. "It escalated quickly and soon I was ridiculously busy, but at least I was in charge of my own time. Maybe I could have just worked for six more months in my corporate job rather than being self-employed for six years. I would have been no worse off financially, but the work-life balance it gave me was worth it. We ate breakfast together for the first time in years and I was able to make Siobhan a morning cup of tea."
Even though Dave still had the structure of work, he underestimated how difficult the transition to retirement is. "If I'm honest, there is a certain loss of status. Now we are both fully retired it did take a while to adjust to having no schedule. My mum retired early and she said it was a lovely feeling on a Monday morning but you miss that Friday night feeling and it's true."
When the couple were both working it wasn't always easy for both of them to attend our financial planning sessions, but now they are both retired it's great that they can both be involved. For Siobhan, the cashflow modelling has been a helpful visual representation to bring some clarity to the future. "If you give me a budget I will stick to it, and that's what we have."
Dave finds it hard to change his mindset, "After years of gathering and saving to create this pot, it's hard to spend it, but that's how it is." It's surprising how common this difficulty is. Seeing hard-earned money depleted can be a challenge for many.
Talking to Roger, Dave and Siobhan's Financial Planner, he recognises that these feelings are common to many clients, "The saving mentality is great, but watching people progress through retirement, it's important to gently change this more towards a 'sustainable' spending mentality. This can be the hardest adjustment for people but can make the biggest difference."
It's also been an education for Dave, "I'm a relatively intelligent person but I'm no expert. However, just sitting in parallel with Roger is giving me a better understanding. It's not just a black art there is some logic and reason behind it. I understand so much more now. I hear people talking about things like 'lump sum' and just assuming that you must take it. It's almost burning a hole in their pocket. I've left mine in my pension which is really working for us. I know people who have withdrawn from final salary schemes not fully understanding the consequences, I just think working with a good independent financial planner gives you the knowledge to make better decisions.
Siobhan feels like they have reached a good place, "Our retirement feels like it's been a work in progress and where we are now feels great. We don't have to cram everything in at the weekend, time was a luxury now we can prioritise our health and wellbeing which was difficult while we were both working. Dave has never read as many books!"
Dave wishes people understood the importance of Financial Planning earlier in life, "We have been helping our son understand the importance of planning, it's hard to imagine when you're young that one day you won't be earning money anymore. When you finally get there, it is quite a scary vulnerable feeling, but planning, preparation and regular meetings with our planner Roger keep us on track and feeling reassured."