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In a couple of days, I’m on my way to the Kruger Park, more specifically, on my way to the Letaba rest camp. But I’m facing a huge problem…

You see, I’ve got to be at the Phalaborwa gate at six in the morning. But getting to Phalaborwa is proving to be the problem.

After consulting Google, it seems I have two main choices:

  • One, I can leave Joburg at one in the morning, head past Pretoria to Polokwane. Then take a short right to Tzaneen and then on to Phalaborwa. Google tells me that this will take 5 hours and 28 minutes.
  • Two, I can leave Joburg at one in the morning, head past Witbank to Belfast. Then head off onto the less travelled path to Lydenburg. From Lydenburg I push to Ohrigstad, through the tunnel, and on to Phalaborwa. This route will take me 5 hours and 19 minutes according to Google.

Here’s the thing. The first option is the relatively safe option. Yes, there are tolls but for one there are no potholes (I hope).

The second option is the dark horse. It’s the more scenic option by far, but as I recall, the area around Lydenburg is pothole country. Worryingly, the road outside Phalaborwa is equally as bad.

While planning my journey and weighing up the options, I couldn’t help but compare this to the process of financial planning. Let’s see why I say so…

The starting point (Or the past)

The road to Phalaborwa.

To get to Phalaborwa I need to know where I am. In my case, I’m in Joburg. Knowing where I am does two things:

  • It allows me to calculate the distance I need to travel, and
  • How long it will take to travel that distance?

Someone leaving from Cape Town will have a completely different plan. They will have to travel a lot farther and leave a lot earlier if they want to get to the same gate by six in the morning.

The road to retirement.

Getting to your retirement at age 65 means we need to know where you are right now. That means knowing:

  • How many years do you have left before retirement,
  • What you will need as an income once you get to retirement, and
  • How many financial resources do you currently have?

Someone closer to retirement, with fewer investments, will have to invest a whole lot more to reach their objective than someone much farther from retirement.

The destination point (Or the future)

The road to Phalaborwa.

In my case, it’s Phalaborwa which I need to reach by six in the morning. Assuming I’ve never been to Phalaborwa, means that I’ll need to trust in a map. According to the map, the safest and surest way of getting to Phalaborwa is via Polokwane.

Alternatively, I can take a chance on the roads and get there sooner, by heading there via Lydenburg.

The road to retirement.

We know that we need to retire at age 65. We’ll also need to trust in a plan to get there. Our plan can take us on the safe route meaning:

  • We invest more than required in the expectation of mediocre returns.
  • We invest consistently every month and never cash in our pension investments
  • We review our plan regularly to make sure we’re on track

or we can take the less safe route meaning:

  • We invest less with the expectation of higher returns while realising the risks involved in taking this option.

The route (or the present)

The road to Phalaborwa.

There’s a saying that life is all about the journey and not the destination. Since I’m going on holiday I’ve decided to go with the scenic route. That’s right, Lydenburg here we come.

I’m prepared to drive slowly through the mist in Dullstroom, through the pothole areas surrounding Lydenburg and Phalaborwa, just to enjoy the beauty of the Lowveld.

  • I have a plan,
  • I know how long it will take, and
  • I’m prepared mentally for the risk which lies ahead of me

The road to retirement

This one’s more about the destination than the journey. The journey is going to be painful since, in order to achieve our goal, we must forgo short term pleasures for long term needs.

Without the financial plan, the temptation to splurge on current wants can easily outweigh future needs.

The process works like this:

  • We already know where we are.
  • We also know where we need to be, and one thing is for sure, retirement is not going to go away, and
  • We know what we need to do to get there, and in most cases, it involves sacrifice


What we’ve learnt from this article is that to get anywhere in life, you need to have a plan.

From something as simple as going from Joburg to Phalaborwa or as complicated as reaching retirement, it all starts with a plan.

Many of us are overwhelmed by the thought of retirement. Yet, it all starts with:

  • Discovering where you are,
  • Knowing where you want to be, and
  • Being willing to follow a route to get there

Without a map, I have no way of reaching Phalaborwa. Without a map you’ll still reach retirement, but maybe not quite the way you hoped for.

Is it time for you to prepare your own plan? Why not use a financial advisor from one of the oldest financial services companies in South Africa? Click here & leave your details.

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