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The Australia Day weekend is often the end of the summer holiday mindset for many of us. With kids packed up and sent back to school and no more long weekends in the immediate future we tend to resign ourselves to another year of work.

For many of us there still lingers during those first few weeks back the daydream of our lives being a permanent summer holiday. Perhaps while you were lying on a beach somewhere you caught yourself wondering what it would be like if this was what every week looked like.

Perhaps you even allowed yourself the luxury of daydreaming about sipping a mojito as you look forward to yet another week of freedom.

Of course with the arrival of your December credit card statement and the reminder of how much you spent over the Christmas holidays, that fantasy is often very quickly shattered. That’s because the reality is you need income in order to survive and at the moment you don’t have nearly enough investments or supplementary income to support anything other than full time work.

But what if the fantasy of work being optional could come true? What if you could retire sooner? What would you need to change or to do today in order to make that happen? It might be different depending on your age and what is happening in your life but here are my tips for what you can do to make the daydream of a permanent summer holiday happen earlier for you, no matter how old you are.

In your twenties

When you’re in your twenties you generally aren’t thinking of what you’re doing in three months never mind fifty years away.

The thing is, if you’re smart about it, you won’t have to wait 50 years to stop work. If you’re smart in your twenties, you can still have a great time and create options for your future self.

Some things you might want to consider are putting an extra $20 per week into super. This might seem like an insignificant amount now but the power of compound interest can turn this $20 per week into over $200,000 when you retire. That’s a tidy sum of money.

Other things to watch out for are credit card debt and car loans derailing you early and creating a whole lot of debt for assets that aren’t going to increase in value.

Instead, spend your hard earned cash either purchasing assets that are going to increase in value or perhaps if you’re entrepreneurial into a business idea instead.

If you don’t have enough cash to do this, consider talking to friends and doing it together.

In your thirties and forties

These decades are where people’s life choices can really affect how soon that permanent vacation happens. So if you’ve chosen to have a family, again even salary sacrificing a small amount into superannuation can make a huge difference down the track.

Or if you’re not comfortable with traditional superannuation funds and you have the time and inclination, why not think about self-managed superannuation – particularly now there is the ability to borrow to purchase property.

Again, if you’ve bought your first home and you have some equity available make sure you use it wisely.

Consider using it as a deposit to purchase an investment property or perhaps some other type of asset that will increase in value.

Or perhaps use that equity as capital to start a business. Now is the time when you don’t have quite as long to recover from poor money decisions so think carefully before you use the equity in your home or credit cards to fund overseas holidays or assets that aren’t going to appreciate in value.

And if you’re desperate to send your child to a private school but the one that you want to send them to will take up a third of your after-tax salary perhaps do some research to see if there are cheaper options that will give you just as much value.

In your fifties and sixties

Sure you might think you have run out of time to retire early but there are still smart decisions you can make today to ensure you retire sooner or with more cash.

So if you haven’t talked to a financial planner, accountant or even a free advisor with your super fund to find out what it’s doing, go and make an appointment to do that now so you know what you are facing.

If you haven’t looked into Transition to Retirement schemes to see if they’re right for you then you should talk to your advisor at the appointment you’re going to make.

If you still have a mortgage on your home and you’re thinking you can’t salary sacrifice anything extra into superannuation until you pay that off then consider only paying the minimum repayment and then salary sacrifice the maximum into super instead.

With interest rates on your mortgage being incredibly low and tax rates lower in your fund this might mean you have more overall cash at retirement. And of course once you retire, you can grab the extra cash out of your super fund in a lump sum and pay your home loan off in one go.

Too many people are looking for a lottery ticket, a magic pill or a fairy godmother to create the fantasy life for them. Instead, why not become your own fairy godmother and do something this year to help you reserve your place on that beach all year round.


Posted by Melissa Browne – Money Manager (Fairfax) on 28th January, 2015