For James Stevenson * (58) retirement is just around the corner and he can’t wait for all that lies ahead. Most of all, he looks forward to being in sync with his wife and two adult daughters. He has, after all, been heading off to bed well before them and waking hours before they stir for years on end. An apprentice pastry chef at the age of 16, James has remained in the food industry for over four decades and his work has long involved early starts and being away from the family. For James, his best possible life means no longer working and having the time for the things that interest him most. Come November he’ll farewell his employer of the past 20 years and retire.
Here, James shares his story and explains the importance of Financial Planner, Michael Craig in that story.
Our Penrith based Financial Planner, Michael Craig has been guiding James and his wife Maria* with their finances for over a decade and together, they have been working on strategies that will allow James to retire early.
That goal has been driven by both lifestyle reasons (James’ work schedule having dictated the lives of the family for so long) as well as health reasons.
Six years ago, James, through no fault of his own, was involved in a very serious car accident. By his own admission, he was lucky to survive. James has retained a permanent injury from the crash – a compression fracture in one of the vertebrae of his spine and is unable to partake in physical activities that most of us take for granted such as running, bike riding or playing golf. Fortunately, though, James is fit and healthy.
Not surprisingly, the accident marked a turning point and helped James understand that stopping work and enjoying life was of great importance.
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James has always taken a very active interest in his finances and says that Michael understood where he was coming from early on.
“Michael could see that my interest in superannuation was not about the value of the portfolio. In that way, I probably differed from other clients. I was more focused on how to get growth from the particular units within my super and I understood that value would come from that growth. We worked on building the asset base of my super and set up elements like salary sacrifice a long while ago.”
James acknowledges that getting the balance right was key because with one only income in the household and therefore, only one superannuation fund, it was important that the couple’s finances would sustain them in retirement.
As James sees it, the relationship with Michael works in part because of its simplicity. “If I make a phone call to him, he returns that call,” he says. “Michael listens and we feel valued. He’s always asked us what we want rather than telling us what we want, and I see a real distinction with those two approaches.”
Regular, in-person catch-ups to discuss goals, objectives and targets are always par for the course but over the years, there have been occasions when Michael went the extra mile.
James explains. “I was the executor of my parents’ estate and Mum left some inheritance to her grandson, my nephew, who was just 14 years old at the time. I was looking for a way to maximise the investment for him, but the banks could only offer term deposits.
Michael delved into it for me and came up with a solution – a growth bond which is going to be far more beneficial and also avoid many of the taxes other options had. Michael set it all up and didn’t charge a fee for all that extra time and work. What do you say to something like that? That’s above and beyond if you ask me…”
Michael’s involvement in those inheritance matters have been repaid in their own way though, with James readily referring family and friends to Michael for financial planning advice.
It’s an exciting time for James and Maria. In just a matter of weeks, James will get up in the pre-dawn darkness he knows so well and head off to work for the final time. He is owed several weeks’ leave and, just like every year for the past 35 years, he and Maria will head off on a romantic holiday to mark their wedding anniversary. In the past, they’ve visited Fiji and Hong Kong but 2022 will see them exploring South Australia. At every stop, James will open the car door for his wife, just as he’s always done.
James is so looking forward to the simple things – nothing fancy and expensive just the opportunity to enjoy a cuppa in the morning together or sit outside in the sun for a family lunch; everyday things that those early starts and constant travel for work have robbed the family of for years. And in time, the Stevensons will turn their attention to the veggie garden, seek out perfect fishing spots and head off for local walks to take in the beauty of the Blue Mountains.
A life in sync is truly the best possible life for this family.
*Names have been changed for personal reasons
Featuring Penrith-based Financial Planner
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