Will This Be Your Year?

For several years before I started my own practice, I had an annual negative-self-talk ritual. It usually happened near Christmastime.

“Another Christmas has come, and I still haven’t started that business. Maybe this will be the year.” For the first few years this happened, I told myself it “wasn’t time.” After two or three more, I realized there was never going to be the “right time.” I would continue to justify my “need” for my corporate salary and benefits, until something more fundamental changed.

I would like to say that was the Christmas where the heavens opened, angels sang, a masculine voice boomed something about my destiny, and the next day I walked into my boss’s office with my resignation letter.

But no such thing happened that Christmas. What did happen was a metaphorical lightning bolt on my next summer vacation. I was sitting next to my sister on the beach (which to me might as well be heaven). There were no angels; only cackling seagulls. And there was no masculine booming voice, only my sister, saying out loud what I needed to hear.

“I don’t know when you’re going to stop talking about this business, and just DO IT.”

The magnitude of her right-ness was hard to take, but I didn’t question it. Two months later, my potential first client showed up. Two weeks after that, I resigned from a 20-year corporate career.

That was 11 years ago. In more ways than just business, 2017 was my best year ever. There is no doubt I could have quit sooner. Today I would be telling my 2003, -4. and -5 selves, “You think it won’t be ok. It will not only be ok, it will be fantastic. Don’t wait.”

Nowadays I have the honor of listening to others share their long-held dreams of starting something new – businesses, careers, retirements, families, and even a mission. Like me, many think it’s not the “right time.” As a financial professional, if I stuck strictly to the numbers, most of the time I’d simply agree. Yep, it’s easier to plan for the money we know is coming than the money we don’t.

Yet because I know that spirit of longing, instead I ask, “What would you be willing to give up in order to make that happen? What if life didn’t look so bad after your decision? What’s the worst that could result? And what could you do then?”

And finally, “But what if you succeeded beyond your wildest expectations?”

For those who don’t have an outspoken sibling, sometimes another outside party helps us remember both sides of the question.

Now, how about you? What would you like to start new? Will this be your year?

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Retirement Life: More Than Money At Stake

I knew a man who couldn’t wait to retire from his government job. Because of decades of hard work and wise money decisions, he was able to call it quits at 55. Thrilled with his newfound freedom, he immediately took to cooking, golf, dating (he had divorced at 49), traveling, fishing, and having fun. For the first few years, every time I saw him, I could see the lack of work responsibilities had lightened his step and his heart. After about ten years, he moved to a Florida retirement community where the roofs and mailboxes are almost identical and one of the few ways to stand out is by the cover on your golf cart. It seemed to outsiders that everyone looked the same, dressed the same, exercised the same, but seemed happy with their life in the sunshine.

Yet one day on the phone he said, “Y’know, I really like talking with you. I don’t have anybody to talk to here.”

I was shocked. “What? Surely there are some retired CEOs, executives, people that think like you, that play golf, and that you have a lot in common with.”

“Nah,” he said, “I don’t have that much in common with anybody here.”

I thought that was crazy. He looked like all the rest of them, dressed like them, played golf and pickleball like them. He probably was just as well off, financially, as any of them. How could he not have someone to relate to? Unfortunately at that time, I was unfamiliar with the signs of depression. Five years later, it took his life.

According to writer Mitch Anthony,  there are three myths about the “ideal” retirement:

  1. “This part of my life is going to be about ME.”

Anthony says, “This is a formula for emptiness.”

  1. “I am going to surround myself with people like ME.”

Anthony’s reply: “This is a formula for stagnation.”

  1. “I am going to do nothing but relax.”

Anthony: “This is a formula for boredom.”

Emptiness, stagnation, and boredom. Doesn’t sound much like the ideal retirement. A Mayo Clinic gerontologist told Anthony, “A life of total ease is two steps removed from a life of total disease.The first step is that they get bored, the second step is that they grow pessimistic, and then they get ill.”

This is what writer Robert Laura termed the “dark side” of retirement. For some who don’t think about how to bring meaning and purpose to their life after work, serious mental health maladies, like depression and addiction, await. Florida retirement communities have some of the highest suicide rates in the country, particularly among white males over 65 years old. Women seem to fare better. Anecdotally, several women I know have vibrant lives in retirement communities, filled with volunteering, teaching others, and various circles of friends.

South Dakota financial planner Rick Kahler responded to Laura’s article with several wise suggestions: Ask yourself how much of your identity is tied up in what you do, rather than who you are. Start creating a life to retire “to” rather than simply a job or business to retire “from.” Consider gradually reducing to part time and taking extended vacations, rather than showing up one day, and having nowhere to go the next. In your ideal week, how would you spend your time, and with whom? Have a diverse social network outside of work. Writer Douglas Bloch  complained his parents’ retirement community had no children, while his retired friends were finding fulfillment mentoring youngsters in math.

Want to take it further? Dori Mintzer, Ph.D. has a weekly live interview series – “Revolutionize Retirement,” where she interviews experts on retirement life. Sign up for free at www.revolutionizeretirement.com.

Retirement planning has far more at stake than planning how to invest your assets. For some people, a well-thought out investment plan for their time, more than their money, can be the difference between illness and premature death, and a long, fulfilling life.

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Read more about the article Investing Vehicles: Getting You Where You Want To Go
Are you in the right investing vehicles for your destination?

Investing Vehicles: Getting You Where You Want To Go

With the stockmarket falling, it’s normal for investors to wonder what kind of investing vehicles to choose right now. Stocks, bonds, even real estate, seem poised to crater as soon as we decide to buy. It’s probably the most common question a financial planner receives in times like this – “Where should I put my money?”

The media is filled with quick-fix advice on this all-important question. Research has shown that the best long-term predictor of investing success is the percentage we have in stocks vs. bonds. Further down the list in importance is the specific stocks and bonds (or mutual funds) selected.  But, financial products, or investing vehicles, are what sell pop-up ads and keep eyeballs glued to our screens. So, it’s no wonder that this is a common question.

The Question Before The Question

However, precisely because it is so important, it’s not a question that can normally be answered in an hour, or even two.

There is a reason that financial products are called “vehicles.”  They get you where you want to go.  Consider – if you get behind the wheel of a real vehicle, turn on the ignition, put it in drive, and step on the gas without a destination in mind, what happens? You might have some fun and adventure, but not a lot to show for the trip before you have to fill up again.

Wild Destinations

When investors are asked where they would like the vehicle to go, financial planners often hear something like the following:

  • Rich-Land (News flash: most of us are there already.)
  • Growth-With-No-Risk Land
  • 100%-Guaranteed-Income Land
  • Cake-and-Eat-It-Too Land
  • Whatever-the-Most-My-Portfolio-Can-Make-Me Land

These kinds of wild places only exist in Financial-Fantasy-Land. They are too vague for any kind of meaningful map. Having one of these as your sole destination is a recipe for exhaustion and frustration. No vehicle will get you there, no matter what you might hear or read.

Fun and Fulfilling Destinations

In comparison, what are some examples of fun and fulfilling destinations? Try these:

  • Have $X per year to support my basic living needs beginning in 20__
  • Replace my car with one like it every 5 years until I can’t drive anymore
  • Spend 3 weeks every year in Scotland beginning in 20__
  • Put my kids through private school
  • Provide sufficient support for the kids to attend a liberal arts college at age 18 if they want to
  • Buy a mountain house by 20__
  • Host my children and grandchildren on a cruise every summer beginning in 20__
  • Build my own boat by 20__
  • Hold a 50th anniversary party for my parents
  • Open a beachside bistro by 20__
  • Go to graduate school full-time in 20__
  • Spend 20 hours per week volunteering at the shelter beginning in 20__

These are real-life goals from real-life people with real achievability. Some of the destinations they knew off the top of their heads. Others took some time to dream, discuss, and discover.

In some cases, that discovery was hard work. But once we knew the destination, then we knew what kind of investing vehicles were necessary and appropriate. To carry the analogy further, it was obvious whether we needed snow tires, a sunroof, hatchback, manual transmission, tinted windows, or halogen headlights. Investing decisions all fell into place.

Destination First; Vehicle Later

In short, figuring out the investing vehicles is not the hardest question. The more challenging ones are:  Where do you want to go?  What do you need, what do you want, what do you want to hedge against, and what do you wish for?

If you need further help, download our lifestyle planning questionnaire: Beyond the Numbers; check out one of our books or sign up for an award-winning monthly e-letter, “The View From the Porch.”

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