5 Lessons About Financial Planning From Climbing Mt. Rainier (Part 1)

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Karl and the rest of the group climbing Mt. Rainier

Read this Periscope for some key financial planning lessons from summiting the highest mountain in the state of Washington a few weeks ago.

Halfway there, the summit is

Reaching the summit is only half the trip. The scarier was coming back down. We took the Kautz Route up the Nisqually Glacier, which is a long and steep snow-covered path. We reached our goal before noon on day 3, but we still had a dangerous descent down a steep icefall. Our guides roped us up and kept their calm.

In many ways, reaching retirement is like that summit. You work so hard to get there, but the journey is far from not over. And then, it can feel dangerous to reap the benefits of your hard work and live off your investments, especially when the stock market is as volatile as it is today. Our guides assured us that we were safe, they had been here before with other people, and we would make it down just fine. They were right, and the experience was great!

In financial planning, it’s the same story. Retirement planning is a lot easier with a professional guide, like anyone on the team we have here at A&I!

Physical health is increasingly important

As we age, our health becomes more and more important. I trained for months to be able to carry the heavy backpack and mountaineering equipment up the slopes. Five out of the seven people who started our journey were physically able to make it. No one got hurt, thank goodness, but two had to turn around.

I was the second-oldest guy on the trip. The other man, a mere six months older than I, was a retired army ranger and still in great physical shape. We both agreed that it takes a lot of effort just to maintain, let alone improve, our physical shape as we age. Nothing changes with financial planning—maintaining health is critical to reaching our goals!

Mental health is just as important

On a long hike through the snow, we were separated by 30 feet of rope. This was five to ten feet longer than the widest crevasse. If any one of us fell into a glacier, the rest of us would still be on the surface to arrest his fall. No one fell except the guide, who was able to pull himself out on his own without us. We had a long time to think quietly, alone, whatever thoughts we had.

Similarly, when we reached camp, even after setting up a tent and eating, we had long days with lots of hours of sunlight ahead of us. This gave us even more time to think. If we had unpleasant thoughts, then we had only ourselves to blame. Mental health on the climb is crucial to success.

In financial planning, mental health is almost everything. We spend a lot of hours here at A&I discussing behavioral finance. We discuss acting on emotions and other expensive mistakes. And we invest in emotional markets, where behavioral factors provide investment opportunities that may take many years to manifest. Maintaining a positive mental attitude is critical to investing success.

Remember, pessimists sound smart, but optimists make money!

Continue to “Part 2” of climbing Mt. Rainier

About the author

Karl Frank, Certified Financial Planner ®, MSF, MBA, MA, is the President of A&I Financial Services LLC, a local business that specializes in wealth management, insurance planning, and retirement planning. Karl cares for business owners and the businesses that care for them. Learn More about Karl.