Our youngest child will be graduating high school in about month and my wife and I will soon be empty nesters. Quite literally, as I think about this season of life we are in, I look out my window and can also see the physical season changing from winter to spring. There is not much better than spring time in East Tennessee. Clear blue skies, green grass and blooming dogwoods are a sure sign we are on our way out of winter. However, you can never get too comfortable because it seems we still get our share of freezing temperatures and even snow into April. We look so forward to spring, while in the cold gray throes of winter, that sometimes we overlook what goes hand-in-hand with the new blooms; allergies. I have lived in East Tennessee for 48 years and it would seem our bodies should somehow adapt to this change and be able to ward off the itchy throat, watery eyes and runny nose that is so prevalent. I have talked with both long time residents and new transplants alike and everyone seems to be fighting the same battle.
The transition into an East Tennessee springtime is a lot like the transitions we see as our clients retire. There are constants that we need to be aware of and prepare for in advance. Then, there are always those aspects of change that are unpredictable and we must be adaptable. How can we be ready?
First, know that change is going to happen. Acknowledge it, be ready for it and have a plan. We know when we see that first Bradford pear blooming that allergies are going to be a possibility so we should have our Zyrtec ready to go in advance. In the same way, we should have a plan in place for what we want our retirement to look like and make sure we have the tools on hand to get there. Those tools might be a budget, a retirement plan and a low cost, diversified investment portfolio.
Next, we must live the plan and remember to keep our long-term focus. Short term distractions and challenges are the norm. Because of the extreme weather swings we may go from the air conditioner to heat in a moment’s notice. Similarly, we need to be prepared for career changes, unpredictable investment markets, or frightening world events. Our vision needs to be on staying the course and not letting fear or change distract us on the path we have set.
Lastly, enjoy the moment and stay prepared because the next change is on its way. On those days where expectation meets reality and we have the perfect East Tennessee spring day we need to embrace it and enjoy it while we can because summer humidity may be around the corner. Just like our retirement plan, we enjoy each day and all the messiness that comes with living life to the fullest. We just don’t know what the next day brings.
Our expectations are ideal springtime conditions. It’s what we look forward to and remember. However, we still need to be prepared for the allergies and cold snaps. The same holds true for life’s transitions. Prepare and develop a well thought out financial plan for what we expect, but be prepared for distractions and unpredictable events. If our plan is sound and adaptable we will enjoy and thrive through every season.
Lytle Rather, CFP® is co-founder of Rather & Kittrell. He is available at firstname.lastname@example.org