Lessons Learned: A Financial Wrap-Up (Part 2)

Tina Haapala |


By Gary Silverman, CFP®

Since January, I’ve offered my take on both training for a marathon as well as ways to translate those lessons to tips for managing your money. I’ll wrap this series up today with a the last few tips to keep in mind while you are dealing with your financial life.

First, you can’t change what the market is going to do, but you can change how you approach retirement. It’s foolish to assume the market will be good or even average. A consistent “up” market might happen, but it might not. If instead you plan on a downturn to greet your retirement, then you will at worse have more money than you need. Not many complain about that.

Life lessons often involve pain. It might not be physical but watching your nest-egg drop 50% is not what most would call fun. Instead of wallowing in your misfortune, learn from it. After all, you paid for the lesson with blood, sweat, tears, and money. You don’t need to experience hardships to learn from them. Observe the pain that others have faced. Then modify your behavior based on your new knowledge. The most important step: remember the lesson.

Also remember if you spend too fast in your early retirement years, you will have a tough time going the distance. This is often caused by the “Keeping up with the Joneses Syndrome.” You see that “everyone” has a later model car, a nicer home, or better clothes than you. Their social media is filled with restaurant check-ins. You might even work at the same job as these “Joneses.” Certainly, if they can afford to live that way, so can you, you may think.

The thing is, you don’t know if they can afford to live that way. Most people are not saving enough for retirement. Sure, you could opt not to save 10-15% of your income to get the nicer…whatever. Is it worth it? You may see your friends enjoying the Jones’ lifestyle now, but that’s all just on the surface; they may not have anything saved for their future. You need to worry about your fiscal health, not your friends’ lifestyles.

Life is full of surprises and doesn’t often go according to plan.   This includes financial plans, and especially retirement plans. Just because your retirement looks successful (with a good-sized investment pool, well-crafted budget, and an enjoyable lifestyle) doesn’t mean you can assume everything will be okay. I’m not saying there is a crisis around every corner, but you want to have contingency plans in place for the possibility. Consider all the economic environments that might thrust their way upon you and hurt your portfolio. Be ready for them. Know what you would do (or ask your advisor what the plan is) if worse comes to worst.

Don’t be afraid of getting help with your finances from an expert. Think of it as a bonus for complaining about your struggles. Misery loves company, as they say. But company can also offer strength. If you let it.

Gary Silverman, CFP® is the founder of Personal Money Planning, LLC, a Wichita Falls retirement planning and investment management firm and author of Real World Investing