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Lessons from the cricketing pitch for your retirement

During my years in high school and college, I aspired to be a cricketer and checked quite a few boxes. I played for school and college, and represented the state at various levels starting from under-15 all the way up to what was then University of Bombay. However, when college ended, so did my dreams of making it in the cricketing world.

That’s when I learnt that you are truly on your own. When you realise what you had going wasn’t good enough, you will have to come up with a plan B for yourself. Sadly, in cricket, after under-21, there is no under-25, quite like our professional lives. Moreover, the recent back and forth on whether to tax (or not) your provident fund is yet another reminder that you had better be in control of your own future. If an option looks unviable, look at alternatives rather than hope that it all works out.

The cricketing world is full of examples. On one hand you have names like Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Muttiah Muralitharan, Jacques Kallis and Steve Waugh who have retired well, while cricketers such as Vinod Kambli, Chris Cairns and Salil Ankola could have used a lesson or two in retirement.

While age is just a number, you don’t always improve with it. Staying at it for longer might not be the answer to making it if you haven’t already done so within a particular time frame.

For me, it was not making it to the Ranji Trophy team by the time I finished college. Sure, I could have given it a few more years but I had absolutely no reason to believe that something special would happen in that time that hadn’t already happened in the previous decade.

Like cricketers playing well into their late thirties and even forties, people like you and I might just have to come to grips with having to work for a lot longer than expected. While cricketers do it because they can and love what they do, we might just need to do it for the lack of a sustained means of livelihood if we haven’t prepared for our post-retirement innings. Moreover, runaway inflation over the past 7-8 years has affected our finances by negating salary increases, devaluing the rupee and making life unaffordable for many retirees.

Many who were on the verge of retirement now need to evaluate if they can indeed call it a day any time soon. This is also reflected in data collected from users of our website—most will not be able to retire at 60.

While those with 10 or 15 years to go, still have time to save more, those at retirement are the most affected. For example, in our study, around 80% of those in the age band of 55-60 years will have to extend their retirement by seven or more years. More than 65% of those in the 50-55 years age bracket may need to postpone retirement by 4-6 years. Those in the 45-50 years group are the best off, but among them also, more than 67% will need to move retirement 1-3 years ahead. Hence, it is important to plan and plan well in advance.

Moreover, looking at over 85,000 users of the retirement calculator, showed some interesting numbers. For example, if you are 45 years old, with current monthly expenses in the range of Rs.25,000-50,000, you should have saved Rs.59 lakh as on today to meet your retirement corpus requirement. Similarly, if your monthly expenses are Rs.50,000-75,000, the required saving is more at Rs.97 lakh.

Another learning I had, is how much you gain by being part of a winning team. Great talent in mediocre teams often goes undiscovered. If your team never makes it to the more important knock-out tournaments, how will you ever stand out? Imagine a great player in the current Scottish or Dutch team. Most World Cup viewers might not watch a single game they play in as they might be out of the tournament before the real phase begins.

Our careers aren’t very different. If you were to pick industries and/or companies that don’t have it in them to make any meaningful impact, it will become that much tougher for you to make one yourself.

Lastly, one key thing no one really told me was about investing in myself as a sportsman to become cutting edge. Some 25 years ago, I never really bothered about what I ate, or how fit I was; after all, cricket was a game of skill not a fitness contest. Nothing can be further from the truth as you come up short when the level is taken up a few notches. Likewise, I see the lack of professional development and growth all around me where people are growing in their roles by doing more and more of the same, just at a greater scale. Not that I am an expert at personal or career development, but going by my cricket learnings, if you are going to work longer doing more of the same, only at a different scale, it doesn’t augur well for the second innings.

This article originally appeared in Mint on April 13, 2016.

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