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Reminders and Remembrances

Conferences & Events

As we headed to San Diego last week, two things were uppermost in my mind.

The Summit, of course — you don’t spend 10 months of your life focused on pulling together (and executing) the nation’s largest (and for my money, best) retirement plan advisor conference without running through your mind a constant list of things to be done, things that you think were done, but you’re not sure, and, of course — the things you COMPLETELY forgot about until the day before you fly out.

The other thing was my father. See, April 1 was the anniversary of my father’s passing, and while it’s been 17 years, I still remember that day. It was unexpected — on a Saturday morning when such calls are inevitably good or awful news. I had just wrapped up my weekly column when I got that call — from my sister. My father, who had been battling cancer for several years now, had suffered a series of heart attacks. By the end of the day and, sadly, several hundred miles away from our home — he had passed.

He had, by then, had nearly a decade’s worth of retirement — not as long as most hope for, but to that point he had outlived any of the men in his family line — and he was, as they say, prepared to meet his Maker. There’s a great peace with knowing such things amidst the sorrow and heartache, and I was grateful for it, and the comfort it gave my mother.

We know that, as ironic as it sounds, death is a part of life. Thoughtful individuals prepare for the possibility of death — through faith and, with luck, sound financial planning. Most don’t dwell on those realities on a daily basis, and that’s doubtless a good thing. In my Dad’s case, he — thanks to my mother’s example — had done what they needed to do to sustain their then-current, albeit modest, lifestyle in retirement — in no small part a result of the sacrifices they made during their working lives.

In this business, we spend a lot of time worrying about the risks of outliving our retirement savings. Participants increasingly seem to rely on an assumption that they will work longer, or save more later, to make up for their current shortfalls. Seventeen years later my Mom continues to benefit from those earlier decisions. Don’t bother telling me that those of modest incomes can’t or won’t save.  

As we leave San Diego this week — chock full of inspiring keynotes, insightful content, and amazing networking experiences — I’ve been reminded, anew and afresh, of just how important what WE do, and how we do it — as individuals, and as industry professionals, is in terms of helping provide a sustaining post-career lifestyle. And how lucky I am to be part of that effort.

To this day my parents’ example reminds me that those results come from decisions — big ones, and a zillion small daily ones — to set aside for the post-career life we hope to have. It is a decision, a choice.

Here’s hoping more of us make the right one — while we can — so that those we leave behind will have better, easier ones.