The Herald Bulletin

August 10, 2013

'Big Joe' Clark: When it comes to retirement, not just any road will do


The Herald Bulletin

---- — As the saying goes, if you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there. The older I get the more convinced I am of the simple brilliance behind this statement.

August 5 marked the one-year anniversary of my summit to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. The top of the mountain was glorious but what changed my life was the preparation to be able to reach the top.

For years my nickname has been "Big Joe" for obvious reasons. I had tried diets of all shapes and sizes to no permanent avail. There simply was no direction, no focus and no real purpose behind the diets and exercise. Simply saying that I was losing weight to become healthy got me nowhere. When I accepted my brother’s challenge to climb the mountain, the direction and purpose were clear.

The first thing I had to do was change habits and begin walking. I didn’t ride an elevator more than twice over the next 16 months. I didn’t know exactly what it would take to reach the top, but I knew it would take focus and sincere effort. Ultimately the work paid off and my brother and I stood on the tallest standing free mountain in the world at 19,341 feet above sea level.

What does this have to do with the world of financial planning? I would honestly say everything. Most people we run across save for retirement which in my mind is like losing weight to get healthier.

I routinely ask people how much they put into their 401(k) plan at work and the usual answer is “all they let me.” What if it is more than you need to save? What if it is far less?

We need purpose and clarity in planning and the families we serve need to be as clear as possible about what they are trying to accomplish. Simply put: Begin with the end in mind. To do that, you must define the end. If you clarify the reason, you can best pick the road that can get you there in the most efficient manner.

The amount of investment advice is endless and the economy is certainly anything but clear for the average American family. Most generals will tell you to plan everything you can but recognize few if any battle plans ever made it to the field.

Undoubtedly we live in a fluid and ever changing world. It would be wrong of me and naïve of you to believe that we have this all perfectly figured out for the next 30 years. What we can address is where we want to go. We call this your financial vision and it is clear.

You will have to make many decisions in the future like when to retire, when to buy and when to sell and countless other choices. If you take the time to create and clarify your financial vision you will have a better chance of staying on the right road for you.

Joseph “Big Joe” Clark, whose column is published Sundays, is a certified financial planner. He can be reached at bigjoe@yourlifeafterwork.com or 640-1524.