When Is the Right Time to "Grow Up"?

Benjamin Haas |

The title of my article this week could be misleading. Adam and I had a meeting a few weeks ago and the topic of “growing up” was discussed. Talking about “growing up” was not about maturity levels or responsibilities. It was about sitting down and thinking about the next phase of life for this gentleman. It was about his retirement.

This gentleman, who I’ll call Bob, isn’t ready to grow up. His retirement is not imminent, he’s motivated by his work, and he’s not exactly sure what he and his wife want their retirement to look like. So, the urgency to plan isn’t there and therefore he continues to put off planning for what we consider to be the biggest financial decision of his life. He’s not alone. But we often meet with people who are about to retire or are already retired, and Adam and I find ourselves saying “if only we’d met them a couple of years ago, we’d have been able to help them with X, Y and Z to potentially put them in a better spot.” Planning ahead is important.

I’ve struggled for years to articulate what I feel to be true about my job. That “planning” for the future is not an activity that happens in a vacuum. It’s not an isolated event. It’s not even a math equation or a document that a program spits out. There are too many assumptions to make, too many variables to consider and too many changes that occur over time to ever feel like a big binder of data and recommendations will feel relevant for too long. Planning is an ongoing process.

To me, it’s as much about the questions that lead you through the journey, as it is about the answers you hope to find. “Growing up” doesn’t mean you need to circle a date on a calendar or know exactly what you want retirement to look like. What “growing up” is about is starting somewhere. Anywhere! Even the process of eliminating variables and figuring out what you hope to avoid in the future is important. Because ultimately, the process of planning is supposed to provide you with perspective for future decisions, pros and cons of different options, cause and effect to different actions or results. It’s Social Security, healthcare and Medicare, income taxes and taxable distributions, estates and legacy planning – these are important topics to consider in planning.

My point is this: if you’re nearing retirement and haven’t “grown up” yet and created a retirement plan, that’s ok. But recognize there are two options: continue to avoid the thought of retirement and let the chips fall where they may OR work with a CFP® who can help do some of the heavy lifting and have the right conversations to begin to narrow in on what you may want your retirement to look and feel like.

For many people, the thought of retirement and all of its moving pieces may feel overwhelming. But that is where Adam and I are most excited to look at someone’s entire financial life and their goals and start putting puzzle pieces together to craft a clear path forward, even when they are not exactly sure what they want their retirement to look like. “Growing up” is a process, and a series of conversations that can truly add perspective to what’s next in your life. The time to grow up is now.


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