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Is Your Retirement Plan Like An Apple Tree?

In our area of New York, for me October brings thoughts of a new autumn brusque feel in the air, Halloween, beautiful leaves (until it's time to rake), and fresh, crisp apples. As an apple fan, it means fresh applesauce, pie, and a host of recipes that include- yep you guessed it- apples. Here in the Northeast, October is one of my favorite months of the year. As you know, my kids live in Arizona, and the "Arizonian October" is January and February: the ripening of local citrus. When visiting, I do so enjoy going into my daughter's backyard and hunting for those two perfect oranges for breakfast. It's become a ritual, and a rewarding one at that. Just like apples here in New York, it's the same delight, just a different time and different reward- both equally satisfying.

Drawing the simile of ripening fruit to retirement, it occurred to me that regardless of where you are and when you want to retire, the time has to be right and the person and family ripe and ready for change. Retirement is a huge paradigm change in anyone's life, and the growth of the fruit on the tree starting with a mere flower and growing in time to a ripe, juicy and satisfying fruit is not unlike the retirement process, albeit a bit slower. We forget that before you can get fruit from a tree, you must first plant and grow the tree, which takes years and years of care and coddling. Not unlike market fluctuations and years like 2008, the trees endure hurricanes and sandstorms, drought and damage. It's not until the tree is mature enough and ready to bear fruit that we begin to see the fruits of its labors, not unlike making annual contributions to our IRA or 401(k) to an eventual harvest sometime in the future.

Oftentimes I am asked by new clients when they should retire. Certainly, a full analysis should be done of your projected inflows (income) and outflows (expenses) to make sure that you can afford to retire, but there is more to it- there is the human side. While we tend to make jokes about retiring soon after we start working in our 20's, there is difference between joking about retiring and actually being ready. Some folks never get ready- they enjoy what they do and find a way to keep themselves active in the occupation they dedicated themselves to their entire adult life. Others however, may be forced to retire because of health reasons. Some stop working to be a caregiver to parents or grandchildren, and some just because they have decided it was time to reclaim their independence and live the rest of their lives exploring and enjoying life. Yes, it's different for everybody, and for you, it is what you decide to make of it. I am a great believer of living life to its fullest, and try to assist my clients into retirement as soon as possible. My definition of retirement is "the ability to do what you want, where you want, when you want." It's different for everybody.

How do you know if you're ready? It's easy to crunch the numbers and figure out if you can afford it: it's the emotional side that's a bit more complex. Most of us have been set in our routine for decades, and the thought of a new living model can be scary. My advice? Don't be hasty and go by a gut reaction. Be sure to crunch the numbers with your Certified Financial Planner  or accountant, and tread carefully. This can be a wonderful, well earned time in your life- be sure you are ready and do all of your homework... and then, can you say party???

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