“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face … we must do that which we think we cannot.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
A question we often ask our clients is, “On a scale from 1 to 10, how confident are you in your current retirement strategy?” Or, if they are already retired, “How confident are you, on a scale of 1 to 10, that your money will last through your lifetime?” Usually, we get an annoyed or puzzled look in return. Then a number is mumbled, usually between 5 and 8.
What score would you give your retirement strategy? Tell it to yourself now. Write it down on a piece of paper.
We don’t ask this question to make people feel inadequate about the planning they’ve done so far, but simply to gage their confidence in their current strategies. A higher number means that, in the mind of that particular client, less help is needed. A lower number means they are less confident in their present strategies, more fearful of what the future holds. Admitting these things is healthy and necessary. It is the first step in acknowledging doubts and doing something about them.
Have you ever been afraid of going somewhere new? This can be a scary experience. That’s why we look at maps multiple times before making unfamiliar trips, even fairly short ones. We check the apps on our phone over and over to see the flow of traffic, the estimated time to our destination, alternate routes. Will we be on time? Will we get lost? Even familiar parts of town can present scary problems. What kind of parking will we find? How do the streets change after dark?
Now, let’s picture going someplace we go all the time — the grocery store, the mall, our parents’ house, the office. We feel very comfortable with these kind of trips. We don’t need to look at a map or punch anything into our GPSs. Half the journey we are singing along with music. Our greatest worry is that we might have forgotten to close the garage door.
Why the difference? When we are familiar with something, we know what to expect. We feel comfortable. A bit of road work might upset us temporarily, but overall we’re fine. Compare that to a brand-new adventure. These can be exciting and enriching but they are also — even for the most self-possessed among us — a bit frightening.
We experience this sort of thing in the major transitions of our lives. When we have to jump from elementary school to middle school, and then to high school, the stresses can be enormous. The same kids might be there, but the classes, teachers, and challenges will be new. Then we go to college, which is even more fraught. Getting married, having kids, sending them off to school, facing an empty nest — all these are new and challenging experiences, and they fill us with anxiety. Why would retirement be any different?
So why not begin facing your future now? It will make the transition into your retirement years easier. Look the project right in the face, with all its challenges and uncertainties, and put together a strategy that will lead to a realistic, comfortable, desirable goal. Will you ever be a 10 out of 10? Maybe not, but you can get close once you have a solid plan in place, a plan that’s flexible enough to deal with the unexpected slings and arrows of life. Then you can enjoy the ride, singing along with your favorite playlist while still keeping your eyes on the road — just in case a car stops suddenly, or a ball comes rolling across the road with a child close behind.
By confronting your fears about retirement now, you might even find you can do things you were hesitant to try before. Some of our clients have taken dream trips they never thought possible. Another bought that 1967 Camaro he’d dreamed of his entire life. Still others, understanding that their positions allowed them to tolerate more volatility, judiciously increased the risk levels of their portfolios and, ultimately, had more income in retirement. Understanding the route you’re negotiating, and the various checkpoints along the way, will allow you to be more vigorous in making other decisions too. It might even result in your living a life more nearly the one you’ve always hoped for. Building a solid plan can give you the confidence and vision to do special things.
Now look at the number you jotted down a few minutes ago. Is it close to a 10? If not, then maybe getting a second opinion is in order. The sooner you can face your fears and the uncertainties about your future, the sooner you can begin to take control of your retirement.
Second opinions are our specialty. We do this without cost or obligation.
Send us an email and set up some time to chat: firstname.lastname@example.org. Together we can look fear in the face and confidently build the retirement you desire.