In Summary
  • The audit is not about how much you spend.
  • It is figuring out whether your spending and intentions speak the same language.

Sometime last year, civil servants were made to undergo lifestyle audits, which were meant to determine whether their lifestyles were commensurate with their declared incomes.

Many struggled to justify their wealth.

Things show up in lifestyle no matter how much we want to hide them.

I have been having conversations with people who are at the stage of thinking about retirement.

Usually from the age of 40 upwards. This is the stage where you have lived long enough to know that five, 10 or even 15 years down the line are not too far, and life has to become a lot more intentional.

Also, the ups and downs you have experienced so far have given you enough material for reflection.

NOT AN ISSUE

Budgeting or analysing where you spend your money is not an issue.

Many have done budgets and have a good indication of where their money goes. So the conversations we have are different.

The lifestyle audit for this purpose is not just about where you spend your money.

It is figuring out whether your spending and life intentions speak the same language. Are you happy to retain things as they are, challenge them, or change them? That’s lifestyle auditing.

You are going into a new season of life and you don’t need to carry everything with you.

It starts with what we think is the day-to-day stuff. Bills such as rent, transport and food.

You will still need to eat when you retire, but even then, your food bill reveals something.

For some people, the sheer amount that they are spending on food (even for those who no longer have children) indicates there is a lot of wastage or somebody in your house other than yourself is really benefiting from seven solid meals a day at your expense.

Some of my conversations reveal that people value having a well-stocked store. We think it is weird when the store is half or quarter full.

We might have grown up seeing that, and believe that is what a store should look like.

However, a store can be less full but with healthier food. People have also told me they sometimes shop with a just-in-case scenario in mind.

For example, just in case guests show up. So we spend money in advance for people who may or may never visit.

The same way we stay in large houses that have a spare guest room for the three days in a year that someone may visit.

HUGE EXPENSE

Where we live is usually a huge expense for many. It reveals people’s addiction to certain neighbourhoods even when they are no longer working and need to be in an accessible place.

It really is OK to live two hours from the city when you no longer need to be going there daily. You can save money on rent or get rental income from your home if you do this.

You also don’t require that fuel guzzler anymore unless you have decided that you will be making trips out of town often.

Then there is the other stuff. People tend to hide a lot of habits here.

Entertainment expenses like going out for drinks, meals, club bills and holidays seem to prevail.

To change this, it would mean you start spending less time with certain people and use that time to do something else.

Retirement does not mean you stay at home and do nothing until your friends call you for golf or a drink in the evening. It may just mean you will work differently but you still have a lot to contribute.

Many people I have been having conversations with realised they spend time and money because they were expected to.

For example, they spend on certain chamas because that is simply what they have been doing for the past 10 years. I have learnt that when you are transitioning, you have to consciously let go of some things, otherwise it is very hard to evolve and reinvent yourself.

The familiar is comfortable but it will not let us do this. If you are an architect and want to go into farming after retirement like somebody I once met, you have to probably stop going for the professional architecture networking events (and paying for them) and spend time and money learning and building the relationships you need for the future.
In a nutshell, a lifestyle audit goes beyond identifying how much we spend and looking at the ‘why’. There is no actual right or wrong.

You may want to keep some things. You may want to release others and financially speaking, you want to do things that are sustainable, not necessarily popular or what is familiar.

The aim is to shift your financial life so you do the things you truly value. If not now, when?

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Waceke is the founder of Centonomy. If you want to know more about their program on Financial Freedom in Retirement get in touch on waceken@centonomy.com Twitter@cekenduati