Published December 03, 2012
We all grow up learning that we need to first earn our paycheck and then spend within its means. We play by these r ules as children with our allowances and then as adults with our salaries. We pay our bills first, and we can have some fun with what is left over. We have these 2 simple rules embedded in us from the very beginning, and yet we stray from them to disastrous consequence. Simply put, these 2 rules define your paycheck versus your playcheck. When implemented, these 2 simple steps will provide you sound sleep, allowing you to rest easy knowing you have a worry-free retirement.
Now I must admit, these 2 steps are not solely my own creation. I have a co-creator—a self-professed “granny” who was a fellow plane passenger. She helped me create this strategy based upon a simple conversation we had at 35,000 feet in turbulence—an apt analogy for our financial situations at times. However, her sound logic eased the long and uncomfortable flight into a time I now look back upon with great nostalgia.
I was on a flight back from a conference in Chicago that had been delayed 3 times due to bad weather. Once we had finally boarded, the flight attendant then announced it would be a full flight. Most all the passengers on the plane minus one, my row mate, let out a collective sigh. I must confess I felt lucky she was beside me. Not because of her gentle disposition but because she was smaller in stature, which on a long delayed flight is invaluable for elbowroom. Being from the South I grew up with a “granny” as opposed to a grandmother. My flight mate reminded me of her, and I gave her a pleasant smile. As soon as I did I almost regretted it, thinking I just gave her the green light for a trip’s worth of conversation. Normally, I would welcome that, yet I was tired and just ready to sit in silence and hoping to be in my own bed soon. Just as I had feared, she took my smile and struck up a conversation. In retrospect, it was the best plane conversation I have ever had.
She started with the typical stuff: where are you flying to, what do you do, are you married, do you have kids, why were you there, etc. I proceeded to give short answers hoping to end our conversation early. That did not faze her as she kept going. I took a breath and decided to just give in to the inevitable. I informed her I was at a financial conference and then proceeded to regale her with my vast experience and what new things I had learned while in Chicago. As I did, she smiled at me whimsically and almost sympathetically with a maternal look on her face. It was similar to one that my mother gave me as I was bragging about something I learned in school yet, unbeknownst to me at the time, was mixing up the facts.
She then finally interjected and hit me with the soundest advice: “Honey, that all sounds fancy and confusing to me. I am sure you are smart to understand all that. I only know 2 things about financial matters. Never risk your rent money, because no good can come from that worry. Then treat yourself to a lil’ bit of fun with some of what you got left over.”
In truth, we all fall short of adhering to our upbringing. Our debt is at an all-time high, both personally and nationally1. We spend what we do not have and borrow to fill the gaps. We save for retirement and then expect to act differently than we did the preceding 40 years. The rules are not different, and the game is not different. We just need to go back to what we have learned and incorporate those simple, time-tested philosophies back into our retirement.
First, when retired you still need a paycheck. This paycheck is now coming from you instead of a company. The origin of the paycheck is not what is important though. It doesn’t change the game or the rules. So, you need to ensure you are placing enough of your assets in a financial vehicle where you can obtain a guaranteed income to cover your expense, your “rent.” Do not put those assets at risk. As my companion so eloquently put it, “no good can come from that worry.”
Last, with the assets you have left over you “treat yourself to a lil’ bit of fun.” These are the assets you can take on some more risk. If you have some gains, great! You take a nicer vacation or buy a nicer car. If you experience some losses, you still sleep well at night knowing all your expenses are covered.
In the plane that evening, I determined to incorporate the simplicity of her logic into my own practice. It was almost too simple not to. I simply determine a client’s retirement budget accounting for future inflation and then ensure they meet those needs. From there, we place the rest in areas where they feel comfortable and allow for some more growth opportunities. My clients do not worry unnecessarily and all sleep much better at night now.
We continued to chat the rest of the way back home. The turbulence was still there but I was mostly unaware of it. The flight seemed somehow smoother. Much like I believe my clients feel regarding the financial markets.
About the Author: Charles Heinzelman is CEO of Silver Swan Wealth Counsel, LLC. He has been heard on KVET, KJCE, and KLGO in Austin, Texas. His office locations are in Round Rock, Texas and Tampa, Florida. For more information, visit silverswanwealth.com or email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org