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Lessons from a Volcano

me and kili

Mount Kilimanjaro

Summiting to the top of Kilimanjaro I was reminded of a financial lesson so near and dear to financial success. Your success and your retirement depend far more on a journey than any single snap shot or step.

Climbing Kilimanjaro requires a great deal of preparation in terms of having the right equipment, the right conditioning and the right attitude.  Each is critical as they are in successful financial planning.

If you do not have the obligatory clothing the 16 degrees at the top matched with wind gusts of 20-40 mph, your time on the mountain and perhaps even this planet will be very short lived. I would also suggest the same is true for planning your financial future.  Many times we see people use screw drivers as hammers either because they didn't know it was the wrong tool or that a better solution existed. Often we grab the tool that seems the handiest rather than the one that will do the best job.  Because "failure" in finance is delayed, you won't necessarily feel the pain of a bad choice today, you assume all is well.  The mountain has a way of getting your attention rather quickly. Too bad we don't have safety alerts for our financial decisions.

The first four and a half days up the mountain were just normal walks with less and less air. They were longer than any of my conditioning days prior to the climb, but not as intense honestly. To a degree I was lulled into over-confidence. The night of the summit reality hit me like an IRS audit! Nothing I had done could have prepared me for what was next. The same is often true with saving for retirement. The process of accumulation requires sweat and self-sacrifice just as conditioning does.  There are many things you could do with the money you are saving in your 401k or IRA's. You have to make the active choice to defer things you could be buying or doing today in anticipation of a better tomorrow.

The act of saving and accumulating is intentional for certain and almost regimented when you get the hang of it.  Conditioning is no different.

You can only imagine the emotions in the van as our missionary group traveled into Tanzania and saw Kilimanjaro for the first time. The silence was deafening and yet spoke volumes of our apprehension and self-doubt.  We wondered if we had the right equipment, had prepared enough and mostly wondered if we had a prayer of success - maybe even survival!

After more than 20 years of helping people go through the retirement process I clearly recognize their emotional concerns.  My guides on Kilimanjaro had no concern of my success because they had made the climb so many times. I don't feel anxious over a properly prepared family saying yes to retirement. But that does not stifle their emotional concerns. "Have we saved enough? Could we have saved more? Are we really ready?" You can do this - one step at a time.