The Herald Bulletin

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Columns

February 14, 2014

'Big Joe' Clark: Planning for retirement similar to Olympics training

As we watched the Winter Olympics, I pointed out to my wife a salchow jump and then a death spiral.

She looked at me with surprise and asked how I had learned about figure skating. Then she asked my opinion on the competitor’s technical score. It was sweet but I had to remind her that my opinion on what I like and don’t like hardly qualifies me to pass judgment on the entire routine.

Truth be told, we pass through life passing judgment on many little pieces of information or observation without truly grasping the context of the entire issue. We have devoted much ink to this conversation over the years but perhaps too much ink cannot be wasted in addressing the blunders inside of retirement planning.

Unlike the few minutes when Olympians get to begin, perform and ultimately end their performances, your retirement plan must last as long as you do. In fact there should be some resources left after you are gone! The skaters’ scores confuse me even though I can watch the entire routine, so imagine how challenging it can be to determine if an investor’s retirement “performance” is successful.

Beginning with the end in mind, I would suggest you first define success. For most of us that proper definition will have nothing to do with the return on an individual investment or even your portfolio over a single year. Success will come from your money lasting longer than you do while allowing you to maintain the lifestyle to which you have grown accustomed. That is most people’s definition and a worthy end objective.

The focus has to be multi-faceted. You must pay attention to the amount you are saving and accumulating. Often people save whatever the minimum amount needed to gain an employer’s match to put into a 401(k). What if it isn’t the right amount and what if it’s in the wrong investment tool?

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