Retirement planning: who will succeed?

My wife and I were hiking recently in a forest, and we stopped to watch a flock of colorful birds dart and dive through the trees. The birds would fly at high speed over and around branches and tree trunks as they pursued bugs and flirted with each other.

It occurred to me that the birds could move so fast because they simply perceive the open spaces between the branches and trees and then navigate through them. While they would need to be aware of the solid objects in their airspace, if they focused on the obstacles, they'd be paralyzed with fear and wouldn't be able to fly through the forest so quickly.

The birds see the way through the things, not the things in the way.

What does this have to do with retirement planning?

There's no denying that we face significant obstacles during our retirement years, including volatile stock markets, inadequate retirement savings, lack of affordable health insurance, and the high levels of obesity and poor health in our older population. But all the news isn't bad: I've previously written about creative and innovative ways we can address these challenges, such as sharing living quarters, finding unusual ways to generate income or meet your living expenses, how to close Medicare Part D's donut hole, and financial strategies to squeeze more money from Social Security and your retirement savings. While I acknowledge that some ideas may not work for every reader, my hope is that they inspire readers to seek their own creative solutions.

How to retire with no retirement savings: The "Golden Girls" solution Retirement planning outside the box: Move out of the suburbs
Medicare Part D donut hole: How to close It yourself

In response to these ideas, I often get comments or emails from readers that say something like this:

"What planet are you on?"

"That would never work."

"I can't stop laughing at your suggestions."

"What an idiotic idea!"

But these readers never offer better ideas of their own.

These people focus on the things in the way.

On the positive side, I also get comments from readers who share their stories (which I'll be sharing in future posts) of how they're surviving and thriving in their retirement years. I never cease to be amazed at the creativity and resilience of these readers, and they tell me they're quite happy with their lives.

These people focus on the way through the things.

When it comes to your retirement, will you be paralyzed with fear of the obstacles, or will you free your mind, be open to creative possibilities, and soar like a bird?



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    Steve Vernon helped large employers design and manage their retirement programs for more than 35 years as a consulting actuary. Now he's a research scholar for the Stanford Center on Longevity, where he helps collect, direct and disseminate research that will improve the financial security of seniors. He's also president of Rest-of-Life Communications, delivers retirement planning workshops and authored Money for Life: Turn Your IRA and 401(k) Into a Lifetime Retirement Paycheck and Recession-Proof Your Retirement Years.

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