Featured Taking stock of our financial future

Taking stock of our financial future

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Robin Hodgskin’s career has been built on planning for retirement—a transition that holds little personal appeal for her right now.

“I enjoy vacations,” says Hodgskin, a 60-year-old from Yarmouth. “But I really love what I do. I want to work for a long time.”

As a senior vice president, financial advisor with Morgan Stanley Wealth Management—a firm she’s been with for 29 years—Hodgskin helps people realize their financial goals. She works with partner Glenn Parkinson in the Compass Rose Group, based in Portland.

“People say, ‘I work so hard I deserve a good retirement.’ But that’s not what it’s about,” Hodgskin says. “Knowing that you’re going to retire and you’re going to get a certain amount of money for the rest of your life is increasingly a thing of the past. A lot of baby boomers no longer have pensions. So people are needing to fund their own retirements. That means that each individual needs to be more responsible for their saving and spending.”

With a background in mathematics, business and computer science, Hodgskin started out working on financial planning software and “ultimately fell in love with the planning aspects.” From that analytical perspective, retirement investment is all about the variables you can control, Hodgskin explained. All retirement plans are a permutation of what goes in and what goes out.

But it’s more personal, too. She starts by asking her clients questions such as: If money were absolutely no object, how would you spend your time? If you knew that you had only 24 hours to live, what would you most regret not having done in your life? Of all the gifts of time or money that you have given to a charity or a cause, what has been the most meaningful to you?

“You want to start with a goal, and you think about what you love—what is your dream? The new retirement is not ‘retire and do nothing,’” Hodgskin says. “We’re not likely to be dying younger and having health care cost less, so we should all be planning for a cushion. Nobody ever says, ‘I wish I had saved less and had spent more money in my lifetime.’”

Having the nest egg you want is about more than how much money you make or how long you work. “A lot of people just spend a lot more than they think they do, because they’re not really tracking it,” Hodgskin says. “It’s like anything you do. How do you lose weight? You track calories.”

In other words, retirement investment is about discipline over time.

“There’s a huge difference between how much money you need for retirement if you retire at 50, meaning that whatever you have at 50 needs to last the next 40 years, versus retiring at 70, meaning that whatever you have at 70 needs to last the next 20 years,” Hodgskin says. “Start as soon as you can. If you can make a small regular contribution to both your kids’ education fund and your retirement fund, it will make a tremendous difference. if you decide to retire early and if things don’t go well, it’s hard to figure out how to make that up. So I advise people to give themselves a cushion for the unexpected.”

If there are bumps in the road—like a downturn in the economy that affects your investments—being flexible enough about the plan to be able to self-correct is important. Spending less. Saving more. Retiring later. Renting out a second home. Downsizing to a smaller place in the empty nest years. “Any of these adjustments can help you get there,” Hodgskin says.

Baby boomers grew up with parents or grandparents who lived through the Depression and imparted that generation’s respect for saving and thrift. Boomers don’t tend to pass along those values to their kids.

“There’s something about baby boomers that we want to give our kids every opportunity,” Hodgskin says. “If you find you are in a place where your kids are going to college and nobody has saved for that, there’s no reason why you have to pay for it. People say they’ll have to rob from their retirement fund to do that. But what would be the long-term implications?”

Hodgskin helped her own three 20-somethings pay for their undergraduate educations, but they contributed, and now they’re successfully funding their own post-graduate degrees. “They understand that I’m not going to fund their lives forever,” Hodgskin says. But, more importantly, she’s taught them how to do it themselves.

Hodgskin and her husband, Arthur Bell—who was the stay-at-home parent for many years—are empty-nesters who are passionate about biking, skiing and hiking adventures. Hodgskin describes her outdoorsy lifestyle as “making the Maine landscape my life.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, another of her personal passions is financial.

“I enjoy investing for positive change, also known as sustainable and impact investing—that is, investing in companies that honor the principles of environmental, social and governance issues and that think about how they are leaving our world for the next generation.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer from Scarborough.

Photos by Lauryn Hottinger

This material does not provide individually tailored investment advice. It has been prepared without regard to the individual financial circumstances and objectives of persons who receive it. The strategies and/or investments discussed in this material may not be suitable for all investors. Morgan Stanley Wealth Management recommends that investors independently evaluate particular investments and strategies, and encourages investors to seek the advice of a Financial Advisor. The appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor’s individual circumstances and objectives.

Tax laws are complex and subject to change. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC (“Morgan Stanley”), its affiliates and Morgan Stanley Financial Advisors and Private Wealth Advisors do not provide tax or legal advice and are not “fiduciaries” (under ERISA, the Internal Revenue Code or otherwise) with respect to the services or activities described herein except as otherwise provided in writing by Morgan Stanley. Individuals are encouraged to consult their tax and legal advisors (a) before establishing a retirement plan or account, and (b) regarding any potential tax, ERISA and related consequences of any investments made under such plan or account.

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, member SIPC

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