Retirement plans, sustainability, and looking overseas

Appearing in In The Black magazine, July 2022

The Rule Of 30
By Fred Vettese
ECW Press, $56

This book proposes a different method of looking at the issue of saving for retirement, using a fictional young couple and their neighbour, a retired actuary, as a hypothetical case study. After listening to the couple’s situation the neighbour develops “the rule of 30”, which essentially means that retirement saving should be wrapped into the other big costs of mortgage and childcare, to which 30 per cent of income should be allocated. But the mix should be kept flexible, as at certain stages of life the mortgage and childcare costs will be higher. When childcare costs go down more can be allocated to the mortgage or to retirement. About five years from retirement, when the mortgage is paid off or very low, the full 30 per cent can go into the nest egg.

The book provides a range of charts and graphs to demonstrate the various options. The idea is to leave people with more spending discretion rather them having to periodically pay a fixed amount into a retirement fund, which they might not be able to always afford.

Financial planners are likely to find the model set out here to be useful and interesting, and easy to explain to clients.

People, Planet, Profit
By Kit Oung
Business Expert Press

Oung, an environment, social, and governance consultant, believes that many companies want to move towards a sustainability model but do not know how to do it. In People, Planet, Profit he focuses on resource efficiency, emphasising the need for involvement from the senior levels of the company, including the board. There needs to be a plan that is circulated around the organisation with buy-in from every level. Oung looks at ways to reconsider product design, energy and water use, recycling, waste management, supply chains and process. Many of these improvements can be made without undue disruption, and there will be definite improvements in the financial results.

Why many companies fail, says Oung, is a lack of communication between executives and technical experts, so there needs to be a mechanism to ensure information flows. New metrics, based on resource effectiveness rather than output, will be needed. The ultimate aim is a strategy-to-implementation management system.

A key feature of the book is the detailed case studies showing how a variety of companies made the transition to a sustainability model. There is also a series of useful flow charts and templates that can guide a company that is ready to undertake the move.

Business Beyond Borders
By Cynthia Dearin
Dearin & Associates

The pandemic era has made many Australian companies wary of looking at overseas expansion although Dearin, a consultant with extensive diplomatic and management experience, believes that there are opportunities waiting for the bold, especially with the global middle class seeing unprecedented growth. In Business Beyond Borders she underlines the importance of research and preparation, on everything from choosing the right target to understanding the business environment to product pricing. Spend some time in the country, she says, especially if you are looking for partners. Regulations and IP rules are important, and business associations can offer assistance.

She discusses successful cases of international expansion, looking at how entrepreneurs assessed potential markets and timed their moves. There is also much to learn from attempts that went wrong: the initial failure of Starbucks to move into Australia underlines the necessity of knowing cultural mores. Be clear on your strategy, says Dearin, and focus on one country at a time. Ensure that you have sufficient cash on hand to sustain the set-up period, and put effort into developing suitable metrics. This is solid advice, provided in plain language, adding up to a useful package for anyone who is ready to look for new challenges.

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