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Now that I am sixty I have decided to send a little note to myself in my twenties, thirties, forties and fifties. This is my forties – it seems a lifetime ago and yet it's only fifteen years or so.
Let's set the scene – you've probably got some grey hair, you're well established in your career, your children are teenagers and there are thoughts about college education and the costs that could involve. For me, my eldest daughter was off to train as a nurse, my son was tackling GCSEs and 'A' levels and my youngest daughters were getting ready for secondary school.
Notice how our lives in our forties are dominated by our children and their needs and aspirations. Our job is to be the stable centre as they experiment, move away and return, move away and return, all the time working out who they are, what they want and where they are going.
This can be exhausting for us, especially when combined with the demands of a career which is likely to be approaching it's zenith in terms of responsibility and earning power. Here is what I wish I had said to myself: pay attention to how important money is to the way you live you life and what your future holds. Take the time to really think about what you want (and why) and ask yourself these questions:
1.How Much Could I actually Save?
This is different for everyone. It's reasonable to expect there is a good income, possibly two incomes, coming into the household. Getting a grip on where it's going and ensuring you are funding your medium and long term investments will pay dividends for your future. But you'll only actually do it if you understand why. And that won't happen by accident. You need to sit down and think this through.
2.How Much Risk am I willing to take with my Investments?
This is a whole conversation. Pensions are very much in the news at the moment, followed closely by the wonders of buy-to-let property. And all of us at some time or another get presented with a 'great investment opportunity'.  For me it was a ruined stone cottage in the middle of a Welsh field that was going to become a brilliant investment and a second home... No. Let me just repeat that to myself – NO! We need to get a firm grip on what's important to us and make sure it's these needs and objectives that are driving the bus.
3.How Much Will I need?
This is where cash flow modelling (more about this later)  really comes into its own. By assessing what your likely needs are in the future and allowing for inflation, you can begin to get a really good idea of how you are really doing. If financial independence looks as though it might be happening around 85, it could be time to start taking some tough decisions about your expenditure. Now rather than later.
4.When Will I need it?
See above.
5.What do you want to Leave?
This is a very individual thing. One of my clients is adopting the 'S.K.I.Plan' (Spend the Kids Inheritance) by embarking on a very active travel and holiday programme, believing that after forty years of hard graft he and his wife have earned the right to treat themselves. And another has accumulated a small property portfolio and plans to leave each of his grandchildren a house to live in or rent out as they see fit. The point is each individual has made their decision and has a plan to achieve it.
By addressing these questions in your forties, life will be a lot simpler and easier in your fifties and sixties. And if the prospect seems daunting consider asking for help from a financial planner, somebody who will listen to what you want and has the experience and expertise to help you get it.
I'd love to hear from you, love to hear what you think about these 'notes to my younger self', so do please get in touch. And remember my job is to help you make sense of money.