Planning For Retirement Is Like Climbing Mount Everest


The struggle to climb to the summit of the highest mountain on Earth at 29,029 feet above sea level is long, arduous and fraught with danger. Sir Edmund Hillary is recognized as the first person to succeed in conquering Mount Everest. Although he may not have been the first to summit (there is controversy that George Mallory and Andrew Irvine did in 1924), we do know that Hillary was the first to successfully get back down the mountain. Fatigue, elevation and unexpected weather patterns cause many to die on this treacherous mountain, but how do you plan a route to safely travel down the world’s highest mountain over terrain you’ve never experienced before? You follow Sir Edmund Hillary’s example.

Hillary was a beekeeper, mountaineer, explorer and philanthropist from New Zealand. Although he had experience climbing mountains, he didn’t have experience ascending and descending Mount Everest. When Sir Edmund Hillary was asked how he was able to complete this incredible feat when others couldn’t, he gave credit to his Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay.

A Sherpa is a member of a Himalayan people renowned for their skill in mountaineering. Norgay had been on Mount Everest numerous times starting almost 20 years earlier in 1935; he had experience and expertise regarding Mount Everest that Sir Edmund Hillary simply did not have. When you’re approaching an important event in your life, do you go about it haphazardly or do you seek out people who have been there before and who have studied the terrain? Do you choose people who have the experience and put in the study time to professionally guide you to success, like Tenzing Norgay did for Sir Edmund Hillary?

Living out your retirement plan is similar to climbing Mount Everest. The climb up the mountain is long and can feel arduous at times. You are working hard at your job and are actively saving for retirement. You are accumulating assets and looking forward to the beautiful view you’ll enjoy once you finally reach the summit, aka “retirement.” However, according to Forbes, only one in three Americans has anything saved for retirement, so the odds of reaching the summit of Mount Everest are better than successfully retiring! (Of everyone who attempted to climb Mount Everest in 2017, about 50 percent successfully reached the summit.)

I’m going to assume that since you’re reading this article, you are the one in three who is saving for retirement and starting to create your retirement plan. Congratulations, you’re well on your way to reaching the summit! The question now is how will you plan for your descent down this retirement mountain?

The most common cause of death on Mount Everest is from avalanches. The equivalent in retirement? Economic changes that you have no control over, such as fluctuations in the market and inflation or increased health care costs as you age. The second leading cause of death on Mount Everest is falls, either from carelessly planting a foot in the wrong place or being in the wrong place at the wrong time when the ice gives way, which is exactly what happened with Hillary. The ice beneath him gave way and he was plunged into a crevasse. It was only through the quick actions of his Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, who promptly secured the rope using his ice axe, that Hillary was saved from certain death by falling to the bottom of the crevasse. This is where a Sherpa can save your life, just like this is how a financial advisor can save your retirement.

The skills and tools needed to save and accumulate wealth, or “climb the mountain,” are actually different from the skills and tools needed when you are descending the mountain. When you climb, you are still contributing to and building your nest egg; once you are in retirement, you need to focus on how that nest egg is performing for you. You need to protect it by building a portfolio that will be able to withstand the avalanches and falls that will inevitably come. This is where your Sherpa, your financial advisor, comes in.

When choosing a financial advisor for your retirement expedition, you want to look for someone who is familiar with the retirement terrain and who can help you successfully down the mountain. In retirement, successfully getting down the mountain means you can maintain your current lifestyle even after you retire. You need to look for a financial advisor who specializes in retirement planning and will take your personal circumstances into account, so they can look ahead and advise you on which path will get you safely down the mountain.

Opinions expressed are that of the author and are not endorsed by the named broker dealer or its affiliates. All information herein has been prepared solely for informational purposes and it is not an offer to buy or sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy or sell any security or instrument or to participate in any particular trading strategy.

Premier Planning Group is an independent firm with securities offered through Summit Brokerage Services Inc., Member FINRA, SIPC.


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