Sowing the seeds: 5 things we can learn from gardening when planning our retirement

‘Lockdown trends’ might seem like a distant memory, but various newfound hobbies have endured. When our usual activities were out of reach, gardening was a popular candidate – and, now that spring has arrived, many of us are putting our green fingers to the test. But did you know that gardening activities offer a number of lessons for long-term financial planning?

Overview:

  • Gardening was a popular lockdown activity, as millions invested time in planting seeds for future results.
  • From deciding exactly what you want to achieve to seeking advice on the best ways to grow, there are many parallels between gardening and long-term financial planning.
  • Both require specialist knowledge and skills – getting advice from the experts is essential if efforts are to be rewarded.

From banana-bread-making to the rise of video-calling, so-called ‘lockdown trends’ have dominated the past two years. Amid various lockdowns and restraints on movements, gardening soared in popularity as we turned to nature as escapism. In fact, one survey found that gardening was the second most popular activity in lockdown, after watching TV and ahead of cooking, reading and exercising.1

And, although things are finally moving past the ‘new normal’ into a state of ‘normal’ in the UK, the arrival of spring means many of us will be putting our newfound green fingers to the test.

It might surprise you to learn that there are numerous parallels between gardening and investing for the long term – not least preparing for changing conditions and being patient!

Here are the top five principles that will guide both gardeners and investors to success:

  1. Plot the path

Like gardening, successful investing starts with understanding what you want, when you want it, and how to get there. Sharon Bonfield, Propositions Manager at St. James’s Place Wealth Management, points out:

“If you’d like radishes in your salad all year round, you have to keep planting them every few weeks. Similarly, when you’re saving for a rainy day, you need to keep replenishing your pot if you dip into it.”

But you’d need to take a different approach if you wanted an asparagus crop, she adds:

“It takes months for the seeds to germinate and three or four years to get the asparagus spears. You have to look after it all that time without getting anything back, but when it starts producing, it can do so for decades.”

What’s more, if you want to plant something that will produce results in a matter of weeks, you’ll need to identify the appropriate options.

  1. Avoid the shade

We all know there’s no point trying to cultivate a sun-loving plant in the shade! Similarly, if you want your money to grow over the long term, it needs to be in an environment that provides the potential to produce the returns that you want. For example, a retirement fund that depends entirely on cash is highly unlikely to provide the pension pot you want later in life.

  1. Don’t forget to water

Both gardens and retirement plans need attention over time. You might get away with putting something in and then leaving it for a few years; however, it’s not a good idea, nor is it a recipe for peace of mind. Bonfield adds:

“You can spend hours with these plants because you’re planning, looking after them and working out what they need. It’s like putting your money away and hoping it’ll grow. It’s important that it’s in the right place, and if it’s not working, you might need to adapt as you go along.”

But when you’re keeping an eye on it and making sure it’s growing as you’d expect, you can rest easy knowing that you’re on course to reap the rewards eventually.

  1. Plan for a stormy day

That said, both gardens and investments will invariably be affected over time by the unpredictability of conditions. Unpredictable conditions may come and go, often leaving damage in their wake. But gardeners know this is all part of the experience, and they may have to adapt and make changes over time. This is also the case when it comes to long-term investing, as Bonfield points out:

“It can be useful for investors to think about what happens when gardens are affected by bad conditions and weather. You’re not going to dig it all up and start again; instead, you’ll manage it, make changes and stay patient.”

While the short-term impact of a downturn can be uncomfortable, simply giving up could be very costly. In contrast, staying the course and making any necessary alterations gives you a chance to benefit from any eventual improvement in conditions.

  1. Listen to the experts

If gardening isn’t your area of expertise, it’s prudent to ask for advice. Bonfield says:

“You wouldn’t build a vegetable patch without knowing what kind of soil you require, what you should plant and how you should manage it,”. “Unless you’ve done it before, you’ll go online, read about it and get advice.”

Again, there are parallels with financial planning – it can be beneficial to have a seasoned expert keeping an eye on your retirement pot and making sure it’s growing as you’d expect. Bonfield concludes:

“You wouldn’t throw something in the garden and hope for the best, so why would you do that with your savings and investments? You want to know that your money is working hard and that it’s likely to get the results you want. So if you take advice from specialists, you’re more likely to achieve success.”

Putting in the groundwork

To summarise, it’s clear that there are many ways in which the lessons of gardening can stand us in good stead when it comes to saving for retirement. It’s crucial to be patient, and have a sense of the long-term outlook – and an experienced financial adviser can help keep you on course.

While the benefits of gardening endeavours are not always immediately obvious, all keen horticulturists know that the fruits of their labour will usually be rewarded in the long run.

The same goes for our finances – when we have an idea of how we want things to be in the future, surely it pays to put in the groundwork now?

Contact us now for a no-obligation meeting: 01444 847825.

Source:

1 Garden centres set for a rosy return as gardening is the second most popular retail activity, GlobalData, 14 May 2020 (figures based on GlobalData’s monthly survey of 2,000 nationally representative UK consumers, conducted in early May 2020).

The value of an investment with St. James’s Place will be directly linked to the performance of the funds selected and may fall as well as rise. You may get back less than the amount invested.

An investment in equities does not provide the security of capital associated with a deposit account with a bank or building society.