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Retirement saving: three things I wish I’d done 10 years ago

Over the past decade, my investing strategy has moved far more towards seeking dependable income from dividends, and away from the growth share strategies I used to employ when I was younger.

I had some growth calamities over the years, but the timescale available to me meant I had the time for them to even out over the long run. But I don’t have that time now, and I can’t help thinking I should have made some changes to my approach a lot sooner.

Dividends

For one thing, I wish I’d moved to straight dividend investing 10 years earlier, as it’s been a gradual move and I’ve still maintained a more diverse strategy. I’ve always liked the idea of a nice recovery candidate from time to time. Some have gone well, and some not.

But getting the timing of a recovery right is very hard, perhaps even harder then knowing when to get out of an overheating growth stock. And in recent years, we seem to have been seeing more down-but-recovering stocks that have been taking a lot longer to turn themselves round. And too many that have gone from bad to worse before getting their acts together.

I’ve recently (literally only in the past few months) decided I’m never going near a recovery candidate again, and that I’ll only consider buying a turnaround stock once it’s turned around. And then only when it’s looking like a good dividend candidate.

Speculation

Part of what I’m saying is that I’ve really been trying to rein in my habit of speculating too much and, to be honest, I think I’d have been better off if I’d managed to do that 30 years ago, never mind 10.

In the past decade, the key thing that’s attracted my attention has been the oil price, and I was sure I saw some great bargains when it was down in the depths of $30, or so. I was convinced the price couldn’t say down there forever, and it turned out I was right.

But my mistake was to go for speculative investments, like buying Premier Oil in 2015 at 99p — the shares are at 78p today.

I should have recognised the best oil shares to buy were the same ones that were always the best — big ones with reliable cash flow and big dividends, like BP and Royal Dutch Shell. I’ve actually been meaning to move some investment cash into Shell shares for their dividends of close to 6% for ages, but still haven’t got round to it.

Focus and plan

My big overall mistake is that I didn’t switch my focus and planning to a retirement direction soon enough.

It was a combination of changes in the law coupled with my reaching the age of 55 that did it, and I became able to take control of a couple of company pensions and manage the investments myself.

They’re transferred to SIPPs now, and the mere fact they are pensions (and not ISAs or straight trading accounts) has focused my mind on what’s best for retirement.

I should have treated all of my investments over the years, far further back than 10 years ago, with the same “retirement” mindset.

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Alan Oscroft owns shares of Premier Oil. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.