Apr 12, 2011

The Next Peak on the Horizon: Finding fulfillment and making an impact in retirement.

There are 88 mountains in the United States whose peaks lie above 14,000 feet. Colorado is home to 54 of the “14ers,” as they are lovingly called. Those who aspire to climb these peaks often call themselves “peak baggers.” Some folks try to climb all of Colorado’s 14ers in a lifetime while others have attempted to climb and ski them all in a single year. I am an amateur peak bagger.

I have 12 mountains under my belt, many of which I have climbed more than once. I love to pick a new mountain, look up reports of other’s adventures there, and chart a plan for a group of friends or family. For me, the planning is quite a bit of fun. I love to research, find the best route, pick where we will camp and determine how long the adventure will be. The hike up is enjoyable, but it isn’t the reason I do it. The best part is the view. As you ascend the horizon changes and with each step the view is more amazing. At the top, the panorama is outstanding. I especially love standing at the top reminiscing with others about surrounding peaks, pointing at those we have climbed and discussing those we plan to summit in the future.

Maybe it’s the thin air, maybe the exercise, but life feels more full on the mountain top and a different perspective is good for me. The same changes happen in life. Folks work diligently for years with one goal in mind, perhaps building a business and eventually selling or leaving a career for retirement. As we near that goal, excitement rises until finally, the moment arrives. Many get to the peak and their perspective changes. They say, “It’s all downhill from here.” Folks expect golf and fishing to be enough to make retirement worth while, but the motivation that they once had to reach their goal is gone and in some cases, we see folks feeling lost or purposeless.

There is more… The folks who are most fulfilled in retirement are those who reach the peak and instead of turning on autopilot and coasting, they look around. As they reminisce about their past achievements, they realize that there is more to do. They look out and see other peaks to climb.

For many, up to this point, financial planning has been about creating a pile big enough to ensure that it will last. The estate plan was meant to protect assets, minimize taxes, and dole out money to heirs.

What if planning was more opportunistic? Take your binoculars and look out at the needs. Are there children and grandchildren that you could make investments in that would last, that they would pass on to their children? Perhaps it is an education, maybe teaching them to give back to their community. The assets that you have saved may be around to pass on to future generations, but the investments you make in their lives will pay dividends for generations.

Is there an organization that made a difference in your life as a child, perhaps a ministry, a scholarship that you received, etc? Is there an organization that you can invest in? Are there individuals in your community whose lives could be better, much like yours was made better by the gift you received?

Making a difference is not always about giving away assets. Perhaps your experience could make a positive difference on the board of a non-profit. Think of the people who made a difference in your life. Maybe you could act as a mentor, spending time sharing your wisdom with a student or young professional. They will never forget the impact you make on them. Perhaps your guidance will reduce the heartache and difficulty that they will experience and set them ahead of the curve.

You have worked diligently to climb one mountain. You are there! Now is the time to take in the view and begin plotting a journey forward. I mentioned that my favorite part was planning the trip and inviting those that I care about in anticipation of the great view I know they will enjoy. Invite your family and friends along. Make sure that your trusted advisors are sharing their insight to make the road as smooth as possible. Your new journey has just begun! May you make a lasting impact.
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