Financial freedom consists of having enough savings, investments, and cash to afford your desired lifestyle. It also means building a nest egg that allows you to switch careers or retire without earning a specific income.
Aim to achieve this by paying yourself first, enrolling in your employer’s retirement plan and maximizing matching contribution benefits, building an emergency fund, and developing an investment strategy.
As state pension ages climb, the idea of flexible retirement planning has gained popularity, but it’s essential to realize that it’s not a panacea. If you cut back on your work hours before you’re meant to retire and your pension assets lose value, there are still a lot of hazards.
It could mean you have to return to work or find other ways to top up your income later in life, for example, by working a few more years or moving into a new job with lower pay. In addition, your pension may have to be withdrawn sooner than expected if you’re not careful.
The concrete design of measures and strategies to flexibilize the retirement transition also impacts who can access and benefit from them. For instance, different rules on the timing and duration of a gradual retirement transition affect its accessibility and the related financial costs and risks.
A phased approach to retirement can benefit employers as it allows the organization time to adjust and retain critical skills. It can also help employees ease the change and transfer knowledge to younger workers. That can save companies money by saving on recruiting and training costs. It can also stop valuable institutional knowledge from walking out the door and potentially be lost forever.
Flexibilization promises that it will save financial costs by allowing people to prolong their working careers, either by continuing in their current jobs or by delaying full retirement. These savings have to be generated, however, from somewhere. They can be financed by individuals themselves, by their employers (in the case of occupational pensions), or collectively by pension contributors in the case of contributory schemes or taxpayers in the case of public-financed ones.
If you change your pattern of work during flexible retirement, it will inevitably reduce your earnings. The difference can be made up by drawing on your pension savings. However, you should know that any money from your pension plan will significantly impact your income tax rate, as you will likely move into a higher rate bracket. A qualified adviser will discuss your options and help you find the right balance.
Money freedom is spending less than you earn and living within your means. Using the power of compounding and starting early, you can build financial independence. You can achieve this by following a budget and eliminating unnecessary expenses like credit card debt. It is also helpful to save up an emergency fund at least three to six months’ expenses.
Another form of freedom involves a sense of adventure and exploration. You can pursue this through work or travel. For example, reduce your working hours and focus on your hobbies or retrain for a new career. You can also take a gap year or a sabbatical and explore different cultures. The idea is to break free from traditional societal norms and follow your path.
Many pension reform debates in Europe have focused on the need for flexibilization of retirement transitions. By implementing such measures, it can achieve a balance between the competing goals of pension reform. It can help us in promoting longer working lives while saving more money at the same time. However, a closer look at existing schemes for flexible retirement shows that they are yet to be available to most workers. These schemes, such as subsidized wage top-ups, are often based on eligibility criteria and are only accessible to employees with a sure job title or seniority.
While money is essential to financial freedom, it’s usually not the most critical ingredient. For many people, the key to their financial freedom lies in the flexibility of their time and their sense of adventure. It might be through a career that allows for travel, a sabbatical, working from home, or saving diligently to have the financial cushion for an extended vacation or early retirement.
Flexibility on the aggregate level involves measures allowing for early retirement, which have gained importance in debates over recent pension policies against the background of (further) increasing statutory pension ages. The degree of flexibility in retirement transition, including accessibility, eligibility, financial costs, and risks, is crucial in determining which individuals can take advantage of flexible options and how they can benefit from them.
Using assets to finance your retirement can also provide you with more freedom. Still, there’s always the risk that global disruptions like stock market crashes, inflation, geopolitical conflicts, or supply-chain issues could cause you to lose value on your investments and force you back into work prematurely. And, of course, you can’t count on being able to sell your assets at the right moment or at all. This kind of flexibility is meant by being “cash-rich but time-poor.” Having the option to re-enter the workforce later can help you avoid these risks.