You’ve heard it all before:

‘Nice people don’t talk about it’
‘it’s not the size that matters, its what you do with it’
‘beware of STIs’
‘How was it for you?’

Yet we’re not talking about sex but your life savings (hang on, life comes from sex so perhaps we are talking about sex!). It was Warren Buffet who said that saving your money with no clear purpose or plan was like saving sex for your old age. You simply miss out on some of life’s great pleasures.

Life savings, like sex, is a taboo subject in polite society. Everyone does it (at least to some extent), yet most of us are reluctant to talk about it – instead we announce that we are perfectly happy with whatever arrangements we have made and rapidly move on to talk about the weather. Nice people don’t talk about it.

In an earlier blog I talked about Colin’s campervan. Colin had a puritanical approach to savings that prevented him from spending money to realise his dream. He was concerned that once spent, the money was gone. Having overcome his anxiety, the campervan proved the trigger to a whole series of adventure (including paid project work). Two years later -when it was time to sell – he got back all bar £500 of his original savings. The message – it’s not the size of your savings that matters, it’s what you do with them!

An STI you may not have heard of is Afluenza – this socially transmitted infection was identified by psychologist Oliver James. He used the term to describe the mindless pursuit of ‘more’ – leading to debt, stress and anxiety. With human life expectancy having increased 50% in the last 50 years – we now have 50% longer in life to acquire or save even more – unless you know what you’re doing with it – it will bog us down – this is one STI you want to avoid.

And finally, there is that question. Not the post coital banter between willing partners but the searching judgement of your descendants. The baby boomer generation from all around the world have had many advantages – the post war peace dividend, near full employment, generous pension provision, longer lives and rampant house price inflation. As a result, unprecedented numbers now qualify for a voluntary ‘additional’ tax – death duties. This is a tax on those who fail to manage their life savings and instead just let them grow. How will you respond when your children and grandchildren ask what you did with all that good fortune. When it comes to looking back on your life – how was it for you?

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Written by John Small

John’s business career started in the technology sector working with ICL and Fujitsu before moving to International Finance where organisational change and development has been a constant theme.