There are parts of our lives that we can control, and parts we can’t. One thing we can control is the way we choose to look at a situation or tackle a problem, and that is often the very thing that makes the difference. Financial advisers get to see this when they have discussions with clients about their lives and plans. Many clients are enthusiastic and energetic, others are depressed and demotivated, and some seem to be living for today and do not want to discuss any plans for the future. This story looks at scenarios and cases that illustrate how today’s decisions can alter the way life plays out many years hence.

Do any of the following descriptions resonate with your position?

  • Counting the days until formal retirement after 30 to 40 years with one employer.
  • Stressed out from the pressures of corporate life and getting out early.
  • Retrenched, with an empty future, blaming the current political situation.
  • Retrenched, and now an entrepreneur. Asking: Why did I wait so long?!
  • Discrepancy at home: one of you can’t wait to retire, and the other wants to build a career.
  • Broken home: a husband has found new love, and his wife finds herself alone, needing to work.
  • The husband on his second or even third wife finds himself having to work much longer to support a new young family.
  • Caught in the trap of poor investments and needing to work forever.
  • Retired and bored, with no reason to see a great future.
  • Not taking personal responsibility for risk management like disability and dread disease.

All of these examples are real, and we all know people like this.

Take the example of Thandi and Ephraim. They are happily married and expecting their first child. They do what sensible parents ought to: they take on life insurance, and add cover for disability and dread disease. Ephraim is involved in a car accident that has him off work for 18 months. His cover helps to keep the family going through this crisis. If he had not had cover, the family would have been permanently set back.

Then there is Pat, who took out dread disease cover early. Her mom had died of breast cancer, and she was acutely aware of the need for additional support during a time of critical illness. At 52, Pat was diagnosed with the same disease. Her decision many years earlier is what made it possible for her to afford the best treatment she could get.

Or take Sally, who was shocked when her husband left her just before her 40 th birthday. There is little that can compensate for the pain, but one of the things that helped Sally cope through this process was that she had her own investments, which she had been good about making ever since her first pay cheque. Life will be tough emotionally, but she is assured of material security.

Peter is another case: he was retrenched at 42 when the company he worked for closed its doors. His family needed a treat, he decided, so he ignored advice to put his pension payout into a preservation fund, and instead took his family on a dream holiday. The result? When the holiday is an almost-forgotten memory, Peter will need to continue to work to make up for it.

Life is complex, and situations can change in an instant. However, the premise also exists that many wait for life to happen rather than being an active player in planning their future. Whatever the space you are in, take time to build up trust with a financial adviser who can come alongside you with expertise to guide your decision-making process, and to give advice on some of the products that may ensure a better performance for your life.

Communication, self awareness and planning are just three of the skills that can help you to change your picture. Workshops, discussion, self-reflection and reading are a few of the ways in which this can be achieved. There are no instant solutions. Time and energy is necessary to work on your financial life plan and to ensure that you get as close as possible to the picture you would like for your life.

Enjoy this one life that you have been blessed with. There is no second chance. Life is precious. Make the most of every day and each person in your life. It is worth the time and effort to design the life you were meant to have.