By Robin Trimingham
Long-time financial columnist Martha Harris Myron is no stranger to the need to be frugal. Born in Bermuda, her father operated a sewing machine sales and repair business on Wesley Street during a time when many families struggled to make ends meet. Her upbringing instilled in her a lifelong sense of the importance of counting every penny and value of planning for your long-term health and financial future as early as possible.
Moving to New England to live with her grandmother at the age of sixteen afforded Martha the opportunity to study medical technology and an internship at the Boston City Morgue. Her eclectic career path has also included working in garment design and the construction industry before finally obtaining a degree in accounting and a Master of Law degree once her own children had completed college.
It was then that she embarked on a career as an international professional finance consultant to Bermuda residents, advising both their multinational families and businesses on cross-border financial planning; ultimately specializing in assisting with the unique financial challenges for international citizens living, working, and straddling what she refers to as “The North Atlantic pond” (the territory comprising the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Europe, and the island of Bermuda).
It’s no wonder then that Martha’s no-nonsense approach to personal financial management makes her twenty-year financial column with the Royal Gazette an enduring success because she has lived through five major recessions and appreciates exactly what it takes to recover from setbacks in a complex financial jurisdiction.
“Bermuda does not have an independent financial planning website like Yahoo Finance. There’s a huge need for a place for people to obtain trustable financial facts to help them make financial decisions without trying to sell product,” she says.
Now in her seventies, Martha’s days are busier than ever. In addition to writing her weekly column, she has recently released her first digital format book entitled “The Bermuda Islander Fundamental Financial Planning Primer”. This book, which is the first in a series of seven that she has planned, focuses primarily on personal financial matters for island residents – and future titles will include information and topics ranging from risk and insurance, to investments.
She is also in the midst of recording a series of “Fast Fact” audio tracks to accompany the various segments of her eBook on The Royal Gazette and is looking forward to participating as a regular panellist on a new video series entitled “Leaders in Action – Looking Ahead” which is being produced by Olderhood Productions International to air on social media around the world.
When asked if she had any thoughts of slowing down, she laughed and confided that the secret to a fulfilling later life is to find something that you are interested in that promotes your own sense of purpose and identity and enables you to continue to contribute to society.
In Martha’s mind, planning for your financial future requires taking a good hard look at a lot more than your bank balance. “Many people don’t have a sense of purpose when they leave work, and this frequently leads to unhappiness, marital discord, and spending money excessively or inappropriately.” In fact, given that older people still have so much to offer, she questions whether many people should really retire at all.
“I really don’t think this later phase of life should be called retirement at all,” she said. “People really need to start planning what they are going to do next at least 3-4 years before they leave their current job. It’s essential to figure out what you can do either part-time or full time to maintain a sense of personal value.”
Rather than think about retirement, Martha advises, “Just think of this as another change in your journey; and if you really are going to retire make sure you practice first – practice how you will live, what you will do, and experience how it will feel to either spend time with your spouse 24 hours a day, or how it will feel to be alone all the time depending on your circumstances.”
Our later years can be lengthy, so having a purpose in life is essential, and while it can change over time, it is the bedrock of our later years. Every individual is different in many respects – we have our own individual standards and character. Moreover, the things we enjoyed when we were younger may not hold the same appeal as we age. What we planned to do in our later years can change – due to not enough money, not enough energy – or simply because our goals have changed.
Finding purpose in life is something to plan ahead of time and continually review and revise, as necessary. “And above all, make sure you realize that later life is not just about money – the key to a long and prosperous retirement is to stay connected and stay involved.”