My name is Nick May. I have a background in IT. I’ve architected and developed mission-critical systems for big companies. Much of my career has been with financial applications, like banking, accountancy, insurance and trading.
Until a few years ago, I’d never analysed whether I was saving too little, too much or just enough. I’d always been reasonably thrifty, investing a fair amount each month into a personal pension plan. But I had no real idea when I would retire. My main reason for paying into my pension plan was to cut my tax bill!
Plan 1: A Speadsheet
Eventually I decided to do my own cash flow planning using an Excel spreadsheet. I wanted to work out how much I could afford to spend on the good things in life, things like holidays and meals out. I also wanted confidence that once I retired I could continue with the same level of discretionary spending. My spreadsheet started simple, but gradually grew more complex.
Some things kept bothering me. Was I making the right assumptions about investment growth? What if there was a market crash? What assumptions should I make for life expectancy? I started researching these issues, and gradually improved my spreadsheet. But there were limits. It was hard for me to be sure that my spreadsheet’s predictions were reasonable. Also, whenever I needed to change numbers in the spreadsheet due to changes in my circumstances, it was tedious. I had to juggle my levels of saving, investment and spending to try and achieve the best outcome.
Plan 2: A Calculator Program
I decided that what I needed was a calculator program that had:
- A financial model that could capture my relevant financial details.
- The ability to run Monte Carlo simulations to assess or verify a chosen financial strategy.
- A method for optimising the chosen strategy without endless trial and error.
Being gainfully employed, I had to work on much of this project in my spare time. Over a period of time, I put together a calculator that combined all of these elements. I was surprised to discover that what I was attempting to create was unique. At least, it was unique in terms of financial planning tools available to the general public.
Plan 3: The Company and Website
Once I saw my calculator working, I realised that it was too useful to keep to myself. I had to make it available to a wider public. To take it from a prototype to a publicly available web application required a substantial investment of time and effort. I needed to involve other people. We created a company called OkinawaZest to do this.
Okinawa is a Japanese island. It’s also the place in the world having the most people aged 100 or more. Our calculator helps in planning for a ‘zestful’ retirement, even for people living to a ripe old age. Hence the cryptic name!
However we needed the calculator to have a more obvious name. Eventually EvolveMyRetirement® was born.
On these pages, you can hopefully get glimpses of some of my thinking and approach. I’ll be writing both about financial planning in general and about relevant tools. Please feel free to contact us or email our team with any suggestions for future improvements, either to the calculator or to this blog.