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Preparing for The Reaper – one year on

Almost exactly a year ago my friend David died, struck down by a heart attack just before his 60th birthday.

Within a particular part of my social circle, where David played a significant role, I and others still mourn his absence. Things just aren’t the same.

But as I wrote at the time [1], David’s sudden death also prompted something of a re-think here at Greybeard Towers.

Specifically, the realisation that my wife – who has never really been very interested in our investing – needed to be a lot closer to the management of our investments than she had been previously.

Because if I suddenly went the same way as David, she’ll be left on her own to manage not just her pension pot and ISA, but my own – somewhat larger – investments as well.

Hitherto, I’d been the one doing the wealth management for both of us.

Making a start

We began almost immediately.Progress has been good, although there’s still a considerable journey ahead.

The file for her pension now resides in her study, and not in my office. She has the login details, and she – not me – logs in to obtain valuations and make purchases.

Does she like and enjoy it? No. But I’m left with a sense of comfort that should I suddenly expire, the management of her pension won’t quite be the alien territory it once was.

Even so, I’m very aware that all our other investments are still under my care, spread across four other investment platforms [2]. While the journey has begun, there’s still some distance to cover.

That said, it’s a journey that has been given a little extra impetus from three distinct sources.

Income as a carrot

The first was the fact that I had begun positioning our pension portfolios towards a more income-centric stance.

And while it’s fair to say that my wife isn’t especially excited by capital gains made by index trackers, income-focused investment trusts [3] (and index trackers’ income units [4]) are a different matter.

Particularly with interest rates still obstinately stuck at a historic low.

With the investment platform in question handily displaying annual dividend income at the click of a mouse, my wife can readily see how once-abstract investment decisions are contributing to her future standard of living in a manner that could hardly be more concrete.

Hello, retirement

Which leads us nicely to the second source of impetus.

For that future standard of living has itself acquired a certain immediacy.

Last summer my wife was offered and took early retirement, receiving a lump sum redundancy payment on top of her lump sum local government pension payment.

And so, at the beginning of August, she became a lady of leisure.

A lady of leisure with both the time to take more of an interest in her financial affairs, and (thanks to those two lump sums), some active investment choices to make, too.

Choices that, to her credit, she has been making.

Will power

The third source of impetus is a little more sombre.

Back in 1986, we each made wills, written for us by my bank, and with the bank nominated as the executor.

The bank in question has recently made some changes to its probate service, prompting us to re-think whether we wished to use it as an executor.

Particularly since we now have two more-or-less grown-up children, who hadn’t even been born when the wills were drawn up.

The result: A serious family discussion with the kids, on the subject of them taking over the role of executors. In the course of which, it became apparent just how much our investments had grown over the years.

So the wills are now in the process of being updated, with the kids appointed as executors.

Somehow, the whole investment management business now seems a little more serious.

What we’re managing isn’t just our retirement, but the kids’ inheritance.

Don’t fear the reaper

Where next? The journey continues, in short. Our investments need to become precisely that – our investments – and in due course, see the kids involved as well.

That said, I’m still several years short of the state pension age, and intend carrying on working long after it.

But should the Grim Reaper call, we’re rather more prepared than we were last year.

And going forward, I intend that statement to be true every year.

Do check out the rest of The Greybeard’s articles [5] on the changing nature of pension investing and retirement in the UK.