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There's more to retirement planning than clairvoyance

Global, October 20, 2015

When Alison Bullock was 29, she went to see a clairvoyant. It was on her bucket list of things to do before she turned 30. He told her that either she would have major plumbing problems at her house or that she was pregnant with a boy.

Homemaker Alison Bullock

Luckily for her, it was the latter, an adorable baby named Theo, born nine months after their meeting. Everything he predicted that day came true, including the birth of her little girl, Zoe, two years later. And his premonition that the holiday home she was about to buy in Spain was a bad idea. She bought it anyway.

Two years later, when the housing market in Spain totally collapsed, she wished she had heeded his advice.

There were other things that Alison was able to check off her bucket list, too. Like escaping the sleepy village she grew up in forty minutes from London, mastering a foreign language (she learned three, Dutch, Greek, and Spanish), and traveling the world.

Breaking the homemaker mold

Alison isn't your typical homemaker. Yes, these days she doesn't work outside the home. And true, she is currently being supported by her partner. But unlike 65% of those polled for Aegon's 2015 report, Homemakers Are Not Off the Hook: How Should They Be Planning for Retirement Alison is not relying on her partner's income for retirement.

A savvy businesswoman-turned-stay-at-home mom, she built a successful career as an IT specialist in system's integration, a highly specialized job that took her to Japan, the Netherlands, and Australia, where she eventually met her partner, Kon, a project manager, in Melbourne.

Only 29% of homemakers with children are likely to describe themselves as habitual savers. Not so with Alison, who had already invested in stocks and property before having her first child.

Alison always planned on returning to work. But her husband's expat contracts, which last typically between 18 months and two years, have kept the family moving and made steady employment for Alison nearly impossible.

Expat isolation and loneliness

When I met her at her charming apartment in Amsterdam, she was preparing for their next move, this time to Japan. She spoke candidly about the struggles of being an "ex pat" wife, of the loneliness it can bring, and the isolation she felt when the kids were young and they were living in Greece.

"Kon was so incredibly busy with his high pressure job that I would only see him for like, ten minutes at night. My twice-a -week Zumba class was my lifeline." she said. "The teacher spoke English and we would have a coffee afterward. Those two coffees a week were the only conversations I had with any other adults."

She differs from many women, both in and out of the work force, in her financial literacy.

Forty-eight percent of homemakers are not confident that they will be able to retire in a lifestyle they would describe as comfortable. Alison doesn't share those fears. In addition to her partner's support, which she envisions continuing in to retirement, she feels confident in the investments she has made, including her Spanish holiday home, which has finally begun to appreciate in value.

She also knows her skills are in demand and, given the worst-case scenario – a failed marriage, an illness, or the death of her partner – she is employable and prepared to work. She also differs from many women, both in and out of the work force, in her financial literacy. "I know exactly what assets Kon has," she says. "And I know mine too."

Preparing for the worse-case scenario

"If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I want someone to see it, so I have left all my financial information on my laptop and I also sent it to my dad," adding, "Kon doesn't function well in emergencies."

Forty-eight percent of homemakers are not confident that they will be able to retire in a lifestyle they would describe as comfortable.

 

For the time being, she is tackling homemaking with the same energy that she did her vocational life. She is working on a screen play, set in Japan, and has completed a final draft of her first book, based on her own drive to facilitate a stronger marriage though a more holistic approach, one that she wishes someone would have counseled her on when she was younger.

You have to go through a rocky stage and see if you can weather it. If you decide you can, well, that's the real point at which you should get married. Why aren't we taught that at 16? That's information that can be useful for the rest of your life."


 

Further information

The Aegon Center for Retirement and Longevity carries out the largest annual global retirement readiness survey of its kind. The facts quoted in this article are taken from its recent report - Homemakers Are Not Off the Hook: How Should They Be Planning for Retirement?

Written by: Lisa Lipkin is a professional storyteller and CEO of storystrategies.net.