Plan for More than you Need

​In my youth I loved backpacking with my uncle and his Boy Scout troop in the mountains of Eastern Utah. I have many fond memories of beautiful vistas, campfire stories and lots of fish. Over the years I transitioned from being a young scout to a seasoned adult backpacker. With the transition, my backpacking experience changed. As a boy it was all about the fun. As an adult leader I spent more time in the preparation stage, and found joy in helping to provide a happy and safe experience for the young scouts. This was brought home one day when a fierce lightning storm came upon our group while out on a day hike. The lightning and thunder would hit simultaneously and the hair on our heads literally began to stand up. The boys thought it was great fun, but the leaders only thought was for the safety of the troop.
Successful backpacking requires a careful consideration of how much weight to carry. If you carry too much you risk injury. If you carry too little you may lack critical supplies. Hiking in primitive areas, there was nowhere to turn in an emergency except to ourselves and what we carried in. I didn’t learn until I was older that the leaders carry a lot of extra weight so they will have the necessary medical supplies and equipment, and even spare food, to care for the troop if things don’t go exactly as planned.
Preparing for retirement it is not unlike preparing for a backpacking trip. You are heading into unknown territory (at least to you) and the lifelong safety nets, such as a weekly paycheck, are no longer there to bail you out. You must fill your retirement backpack with everything you will need, or may need, for your journey.
In November 2017, Forbes magazine ran an article on retirement planning that should concern all who are preparing their pack for this adventure. They reported that 65% of adults over age 50 provide monthly financial support to at least one adult child, and that 25% of Baby Boomers support a parent. So, like a good scout leader, it may not be enough to just figure out what you might need in retirement. You may want to consider packing a little extra in case some loved one around you needs your help. In fact, I have personally worked with many retirees who were well prepared for retirement but whose financial health suffered under the weight of caring for other family members.
My wise uncle taught me that being prepared for a backpacking trip made the difference between having a great time or finding yourself stuck on a mountain and dreading it. And that meant being prepared to care for others as well. Retirement is a tough time to come up short on supplies so prepare your “pack” with what you need for yourself, then carry a little extra for those unexpected emergencies that are certain to occur along the way.