Rachel Lacey reveals why her financial priorities are changing and how planning for adventure is helping her save more in 2023.
Somewhere in that hazy week between Christmas and new year, me and my husband sloped off for a dog walk without the kids.
While I’d love to say that we whiled away an hour talking about the books we were reading, the films we wanted to watch or what had gone down at the pub the night before, our thoughts were very much focused on the future.
Specifically we ended up talking about money (who says romance is dead?) and what we were working towards. While lots of people might yearn to buy a holiday home or move to the countryside, we concluded that, as things stood, we didn’t really have much in the way of financial, or even lifestyle goals.
In fact, if you asked us what we’re saving for, we’d probably just come up with something hugely unspecific like ‘to be a bit better off’ or ‘to not have to work until we’re 80’. If pressed, we might say we’d like to help our kids with the cost of going to university, or to help them buy their first homes.
But while we certainly do like the idea of retiring in comfort and giving our kids a bit of a leg-up, they are slightly generic as financial goals go, not to mention a bit vague.
Countless studies have shown that if you set specific goals and put in place a plan, you’re far more likely to achieve them. And any financial adviser will agree that goal-setting is a vital part of the financial planning process; goals give you focus, they motivate you and trigger new behaviours.
When it comes to retirement, new year can be a great time to plan ahead, think about how much income you want in retirement and much you need to invest to meet those goals.
As for us, although we’re saving for retirement, we hadn’t really thought much about our shorter and medium-term financial goals.
We don’t even know yet whether our two boys will want to go to uni and, quite frankly, the thought of them needing their own home feels a little ‘distant’ at this stage.
So as sensible as our ‘goals’ might be, at the moment they aren’t enough to really motivate or drive us to save as much as we can, which is ultimately what having a goal should be all about.
But as our walk went on – and moved on from sensible conversations about money – I did end up have something of a moment of clarity.
We ended up getting a bit reminiscent and started chatting about the holidays we’d had this year.
We’d struck holiday gold in 2022. As the world opened up after the pandemic, we were finally able to have a few weeks away in Florida, courtesy of a lockdown redundancy payment. It was a trip we’d wanted to do for years.
And, as the nation was gearing up for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, we rather spontaneously decided to jump on a plane for a (bargain) week in Tenerife.
One overseas trip was a novelty for us, let alone two.
Both trips were brilliant in different ways. But as we chatted about our favourite moments, what was becoming increasingly clear to me was that what I really wanted to invest in was now and the next few years.
One of my sons rather boldly started talking about our next trip to the US pretty much as soon as the plane landed. I’m not quite sure at this stage when we’ll be able to afford another trip like that, but what I do know is that I’d like us to be able to get away whenever we can.
It's not about indulging our kids with fancy holidays or giving them the ‘best’ experiences; it’s about investing in quality family time, which is easier said than done when you’re under each other’s feet at home, vying with YouTube and the PlayStation.
Although my youngest has only just started secondary school, our eldest is choosing his GCSEs. I hadn’t given it much thought until now but it suddenly feels like it won’t be too long before they won’t want to hang out with mum and dad and move on to other, more independent adventures.
It's funny; when the kids were little (and holidays were arguably much harder work) it felt like we had all the time in the world. Now it feels like the number of family holidays we have left are numbered.
I just wish I’d had the foresight to realise this a few years ago; we might have planned and saved a bit more. But right now more ‘Lacey family adventures’ feels like a concrete financial goal, even if it’s a relatively short-term one.
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It does also feel like a bit of an indulgent goal. But isn’t that what a goal should be? Something we want and will make sacrifices to achieve?
It doesn’t, of course, mean that we’ll be neglecting our retirement savings or stop putting money away for the kids’ future, but it is already motivating us to save as much as we feasibly can.
I very much doubt 2023 will be a match for 2022 holiday-wise but, after that, if we really put our minds to it, who knows?
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