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Green thumbs

This article originally published in The Northern Daily Leader on 3 August 2013.

One of the reasons I enjoy winter is the comatose state of much of our garden through the cold months. It’s nice to be free of the weekly chore of mowing the lawn and maintaining the garden, if only for a short while. It’s not that I dislike gardening; I actually quite enjoy mowing the lawn, but unfortunately so does Jack, and a two-year old and a lawnmower is a recipe for trouble. Mowing the lawn becomes a convoluted affair, involving elaborate diversions to keep Jack from noticing the almighty racket coming from outside as I push the mower around the lawn. As he gets older and wiser, our plans have by necessity become more complex and at this rate may at some stage culminate in Jack having a short stay at a Swiss boarding school.

So you can imagine my consternation when I looked out the window and noticed that the recent rain and unseasonably warm weather had startled the garden into life. To make matters worse, the preceding dry weather had killed off the grass, which meant that the weeds had been the main beneficiaries of the rain. There were areas of the garden where even Bear Grylls would hesitate to venture, for fear of a nasty jab from a bindii thorn or two.

As I contemplated spending the next few weekends tackling the lawn, it occurred to me that looking after your lawn is not that different to looking after your finances. Just as your lawn needs continuous care to keep it in top shape, so should you be paying ongoing attention to your financial situation. That doesn’t mean checking the prices of the shares in your portfolio every five minutes – if anything you should avoid doing this as short-term price changes are unimportant if you have adopted the correct investment approach. What it does mean however, is that you should review your finances at least every six months, and more often if required. This may range from a quick once-over of your superannuation arrangements, debt levels and an assessment of your saving goals, to a more detailed consideration of your overall financial strategy. Just what are you aiming for and how are you going to get there? For most of us the end goal is a comfortable retirement, but it doesn’t happen on its own, you have to make it happen. And even when you get there, you need to be actively protecting your wealth. There are not too many people who relish going back to work once they’ve hung up the tools for good. Don’t wait until your finances resemble a garden where only a solid dose of defoliant will do the trick; a little work now can save a lot more effort later on.