This time of year the spiders are out in full force around my home. Three of them have recently captured my attention. Below is what I’ve observed and how it relates to retirement.

Spider #1  Several weeks ago a spider took up residence in my bathroom on the window ledge above my shower. My wife isn’t tall enough to see this spider and its web so if and when she finds out about it I’m sure its existence will be cut short. But I have been fascinated by watching it work over the weeks. It is a very diligent worker and has been working incredibly hard to build an amazing and intricate web. This morning I noticed its web was huge, but also the spider had died in its own web. Although it had worked hard and spun an amazing web in my bathroom, my bathroom is not a high traffic area for other insects. His hard work built a great web but it built the web in the wrong location.

Spider #2 … This spider has a never give up attitude. Every time I step outside to bring the garbage out it has spun a new web that I step right into. I kind of freak out and flail my arms around peeling the web off my face. I get irritated with myself because I keep forgetting to wave my arms around in front of me before I walk outside. This spider apparently thinks it has a piece of prime spider web real estate for flying insects because it keeps building in the same place even though I keep knocking the web down. Unfortunately it probably does not catch many bugs because it is spending all of its time rebuilding the web that I destroy every night on my trip to the garbage can. The spider is working hard and there are more bugs in this area but it spends most of its time re-building its web than it does catching insects.  

Spider #3  … This spider has really figured things out. It has spun a web on the side of my house just near an automatic light that comes on over my garbage cans. It has spun its web in such a way that I walk right past it and never touch it. The insects are attracted to the light and are forced to go through a narrow space from my fence to the house to make their way to and from the smelly garbage cans. It is really a perfect location for a spider web. Light attracts bugs and it has a lot more insect traffic near the smelly garbage cans, a small space to travel that forces insects to take a narrow path and and a web that is out of my way so that I do not destroy it every time I walk by. This spider enjoys a lot of insects to eat, less work than the other two spiders and a great lifestyle all because it chose wisely where it would build its web.

I don’t know how spiders decide on where to build their webs, but because I enjoy teaching I wish I could hold a workshop to teach some of those less successful spiders what I have learned through my observations. If only the first two spiders knew what the third spider knew their lives would be incredibly better.

There are some similarities to retirement planning.

Spider 1 … is very much like some retired folks I meet. They work really hard on managing their investments in retirement. They are always coming up with better and more sophisticated ways to manage and protect their hard earned money. They spend hours researching, building spreadsheets and burying their noses in the internet, books and magazines on how they could or should be doing this better. Often times the results they get are not bad, but when compared to the broad market index, they could have done just as well by simply following a stress free, low cost indexing diversification strategy. Instead they spend a lot of their time researching, investing and managing their money. At the end of their time, they have more money to show than friendships. In some cases their faith, family and friendships have all suffered.

Spider 2 … is also like some of the retirees I’ve met. They work hard to make a great web. They want to be good stewards of their resources, but they just don’t have the time or inclination to devote to figuring out what is best, what should be next and where or how to spend their time. They have the best of intentions and find they are incredibly busy, sometimes even more busy in retirement than they were during their working years. However they make investments based on emotions and the financial adviser who is the latest TV personality who shouts recommendations the loudest. They end up frustrated that their account really doesn’t ever really grow that much. Just like spider two, their investment account grows for a couple of years, but then something comes along and wipes them out and they find themselves starting all over again.

Spider 3 … is like many of the people I’ve met. They have learned to hire experts to help show them where to invest their hard earned money. They have worked hard to build their savings and are good stewards, but at this point they don’t want to spend too much of their time maintaining their investments. For most of them checking in a couple of times a year seems to be just right. They are enjoying a time in their life where they are no longer working. What they have in terms of asstss is what they have and if something comes along and tears down their portfolio, then they may not have enough time on their side to recover. They certainly do not want to have to go back to work and rebuild from scratch.  

These folks are committed to mastering what it means to live the “good life”. They recognize that their faith, relationships and time are far more valuable than their money, and therefore they invest in those assets wisely. They have worked hard and built a great web. They are at a place in their life where they want that web to work for them and provide for them, but they do not want to spend all of their time building the web every day, maintaining the web, re-balancing the web, protecting the web, or finding opportunities to capture or risk to avoid for their web. They simply want to put their feet up enjoy a good bottle of wine, spend time with family and friends and share the abundance they have worked hard for.

I may not be able to teach spiders where to build their webs, but as a firm that specializes in working with folks who are retired, we see a lot of what works and what doesn’t. We can, and do, teach other retired folks about these concepts ideas and strategies. If you are retired or thinking about retirement consider attending one of our upcoming events.