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These are indeed strange times – I have not really managed to get my head around all the different aspects and consequences of this pandemic. Like many I guess I’m gyrating between the “this too will pass” camp……..and the “if a clown invited me into the woods right now, I would probably just go” camp…..

I thought I would share a little nugget that I have observed in the weeks since the historical event of end March 2020 which began with the now infamous words….. My Fellow South African’s, Good evening…..

In my efforts to help people manage their money in a way that allows them to achieve their goals in life, I try to emphasise the importance of getting the basics right. And right at the top of the list of getting our personal finance basics right you will find the following concepts:

  1. Spend less than you earn – The dreaded B-word.
  2. Plan – think forward, define objectives and have a strategy.
  3. Resources are limited – choices must be prioritised.
  4. Opportunity cost – your decisions have consequences.
  5. Delayed gratification – the benefit of not consuming now.
  6. Be flexible – your plan will deviate and you must adjust.
  7. Behaviour & discipline significantly impact on your outcome.

For many of us the concepts listed above, while crucial, remain rather elusive on a consistent basis.

Then the world as we knew it changed. LOCKDOWN! And with it a ban on alcohol sales.

Behold! Many of us that had previously struggled to master even a quarter of the concepts listed above were immediately galvanised into action. Never before in my professional career have I witnessed such a widespread mobilisation of effort with one single objective in mind – having enough alcohol to survive lockdown!

The looming three week lockdown period witnessed a massive surge in the collective population engaging in the very planning process which seemed to have evaded their ability previously.

Collectively mothers, granny’s, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, friends, colleagues and mere acquaintances went into planning mode as if their very lives depended on it.

Overnight we could calculate how much beer, wine and spirits were required to ‘survive’ this period. Not just a thumb-suck, “I hope this will be enough” number. We are talking average consumption rates per day calculations which could put actuarial drawdown models to shame.

Furthermore, we were able to prioritise which drinks we wanted most of, and then as shelves emptied, we learned to settle for a back up in terms of brands or estates which could see us through to the end if required. Maybe not the first choice but we managed to see the sense in compromising the less than perfect options rather than run out altogether.

Many even went as far as to delve into the murky probability-based world of scenario planning. We had to allow for the chance that lockdown would not only last 3 weeks, or that consumption rates could feasibly increase and so we built in a contingency ….. lets call it an emergency stash….

The behaviour and discipline on display in delaying the gratification to ensure we still had some stock left after many weeks is nothing short of a marvel.

Then as is always the case, reality deviated from the plan. The lockdown was extended to 5 weeks and then into level 4, with alcohol sales still prohibited.

People refused en masse to take this lying down and they learned to adapt…. Innovation and a never say die attitude gave way to a plethora of home brewing recipes which saw pineapple prices quadruple and instant yeast stocks run out.

R45 bottles of wine have been changing hands at R300 and a bottle of Klippies selling for R1000 illustrated simultaneously the impact of inflation and compounding (albeit of desperation-levels), the laws of supply & demand and possibly even insight into the irrationality that causes bubbles…. The potential parallels are endless. 

In conclusion I would like to call Bulldust on people’s inability to plan, to show innovation, to be disciplined, to allocate scarce resources and to adjust to changing circumstances. 

That’s it people! No more excuses! Your retirement planning process from the build up phase “how much is enough?”, all the way into the consumption phase and draw-down in retirement is just the same.

You have just proven you have the skills needed to make a success of it, now find the motivation!

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Your future becomes your present…

A plan is simply a way to bring your future into the present so you can do something about it.