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Creating a system for retirement

Strategic Plan WhiteboardAt a previous employer, I worked for a manager who would tell me: “A system isn’t a system, unless you work it.” These are very wise words. I have had to apply this advice in so many ways across my marriage, parenting adventures, business, and friendships. When he would say “system,” my assumption was that he meant something sterile, cold, boring, or even Excel-like (as in the Microsoft program). In reality, the system we’re referring to is a way of caring for people in a consistent way given the context of the relationship. Of course, it wasn’t until much later that I would realize the wisdom he was trying to impart. (Thanks Bryan!)

How systems create consistency

We all have expectations that a system produces a common experience with the same product or service, regardless of the timing of the interaction. Our world revolves around this concept of systems, in fact. Look at Disney, any fast food chain, and (at least hopefully) airlines, though it hasn’t always been that way when it comes to my connections or my luggage. For example, what if you were admitted to the hospital for appendicitis and as the doctors and nurses are running around randomly, it dawns on you: “they don’t have a system.” How eager are you to have them operate on you without a system? How would you feel about their ability to perform consistently?

Why your retirement plan needs a system

Your retirement plan is no different. You don’t want your plan to resemble the movie Home Alone, like the McCallisters running through the airport trying to catch their plane! You will need a system, because the very people counting on that system to work are the ones you love the most… yourself included. Plus, if you don’t plan your retirement properly, the stress transfers to those who must care for you with their personal resources —  when they need it for themselves. Or, end up consuming yourself and your spouse with the worry of outliving what you have put aside.

In Person MeetingHow a financial advisor can help

In our modern day, one can put together a holistic retirement plan that pulls together all your assets, liabilities, savings, and goals in one place. (When we say “plan,” we mean the WHOLE plan, not just your 401k account.) You and your financial advisor can then measure your investments against your risk tolerance – while battling inflation, market ups and downs, and your life expectancy. This is what a financial advisor should be doing for you… and it’s just the start.

3 next steps to take after your retirement plan is set

After you have a plan set in motion – a system – there’s more to do:

  1. While managing your investments, you also need to receive ongoing planning in several other areas concerning finance: insurance, your estate, and long-term care. Life doesn’t stop changing just because you have a plan!
  2. Establish consistency and commitment, or else you won’t be working the system. Having a plan is key, but in this phase, you stick to the system. Contributions are made to retirement plans and spending is kept in check.
  3. Remember the value of “NO.” This can be one of your most powerful defenses in keeping a system alive. As in: No, I don’t need that new thing I have to drain my savings for to purchase. No, I won’t skip IRA contributions this one year. Time marches on whether we’ve contributed to our retirement system or not, and we can’t get that time back.

Make It Happen NoteWhat you gain from having a system for retirement planning

One of the things I’ve learned about the human species in this career is that we need consistency in our plans – otherwise, the plan just becomes unmet good intentions. We need a system to operate within and create good patterns in our life. When we have a pattern, we typically stick to it. We live in a solar SYSTEM for goodness sake – that literally revolves in a pattern!

Having a system for your retirement planning – which creates consistency – will allow you to make choices out of confidence instead out of fear. That’s a good place to be.

March 2019


Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. No strategy assures success or protects against loss. Investing involves risk including loss of principal.


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