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Don’t Create A Retirement With Great Biceps But Girlie Legs

by Jeff Brown on October 2, 2012 · 5 comments

body builder

Many years ago one of my mentors asked me how I stayed in such good physical condition. He’d let himself go a bit, and didn’t want it to get, as he put it, outa hand. I gave him a beginning program which startled him. It included cardio work, resistance training, and consistent participation in a sport he happened to like. “Why all these things? Why can’t I just do some pushups and walk every day?” In fact, he probably could get away with a few old-fashioned calisthenics and daily walks. But he wanted better results than that approach could possibly produce. Bodybuilding provides short and long term benefits not generally found in walking or jogging. Then there are the rewards we get from playing tennis, or softball, or any number of sports which require movements not found in the gym or the joggin’ trail. Not to mention they’re a fun change of pace. Even better if they’re a bit anaerobic.

Heck, even the bodybuilders we see at the gym are almost always ignoring one or more muscle groups. The cliche is the guy with the huge ‘guns’ (biceps), and upper body strength with legs like his teenaged daughter. :) The whole idea is to end up in the best physical condition possible, right? Which is why building general body strength, agility, and heart/lungs is the best way to go. But wait, we don’t expect the 51 year old to utilize the same program as his 25 year old son, do we? Maybe, but probably not. His son no doubt loves the idea of generating huge biceps, but Dad? Not likely. Different approaches for different generations. You think Dad wants to look like Ahnold? Think he wants to go through that exhausting effort? Again, not freakin’ likely.

Think about your long term goals for retirement in the same way.

First, there’s all the parts of the ‘retirement puzzle’. How many years ’til retirement? How much capital/equity is available to get started? Already started? How ya doin’ so far? Do you have more than one retirement income source? How much income — after tax (oops) — can your plan be reasonably expected to generate? Will it all be taxable income? Will there be tax shelter involved? Is any of your income tax free? Do you expect to be in full control of the investments and the subsequent income after retirement? Or, will you be subject to various restrictions — or worse, forced to begin eating into your principal? Boomers with traditional job related retirement plans are gonna learn to hate what it means to become 70.5 years old. And no, that’s definitely not funny.

One of the many myths about retirement is that our tax bracket will be much lower. Here are a few questions that might be a welcome jolt of reality.

  • If your tax bracket is so much lower in retirement, isn’t that a result of your income being equally low? Oops
  • Relying on your traditional IRA/401K are we? Every penny will be taxable in retirement. How many millions will you need to create the income you’ll desire? Will you be able to do it at the 4% ‘safe rate’ most advisors predict as a yield?
  • Most retirees hit retirement devoid of any tax shelter whatsoever. Does it look that way for you too?
  • Does your plan call for the development of any tax free income?
  • Even if you manage to create an impressive income, will you be ‘naked’ at tax time each year, with every single dollar of income open to taxation?

Those questions are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding the retirement puzzle. Thing is, synergy works both ways — positively, and . . . not so positively. What you want to create in your Purposeful Plan is Strategic Synergism — The use of multiple strategies in concert with each other, enhancing the overall end result. Much like the combination of sports, bodybuilding, and maximizing heart/lung strength yields a much healthier, robust outcome than employing just one of ‘em, so does executing your retirement plan based on the same concept — Strategic Synergism.

Don’t create a retirement income that looks like the guy with the gorgeous upper body and the skinny girlie legs. It rarely works out well, and it’s just not pretty.

Photo: Ian Carroll

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Dale Osborn October 2, 2012 at 11:43 am

People often put off planning for their retirement – then wake up one day and relize it is too late to make any plans. The foundation should have been put in place in their 20’s and the framework added to over the years. Many who will soon hit retirement age will realize they will have to keep working in order to pay their monthly bills. It is really a shame there is not a strong financial education taught to our youth in their school years.


Jeff Brown October 2, 2012 at 3:49 pm

You’re so right, Dale. I talk with them several times weekly. Fortunately there are many who are happy to learn their situation isn’t as bad as first thought. They just didn’t know the questions to ask, much less the answers.


Joshua Bucio October 2, 2012 at 12:36 pm

That’s a great title for post. Awesome!


Greg October 7, 2012 at 5:33 pm

I once heard about a local bank teaching a school class about saving and balancing a checkbook. Apparently, word got out and people were so paranoid of the bank pushing credit cards, it was shut down. Since reading, writing, and arithmetic are tough enough, I’m not surprised that financial planning is nowhere to be found.


Charlie January 14, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Gotta love the metaphor Jeff, so many gym junkies feel they should just work their biceps and pecs without thinking about there overall health in the long-run!




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