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Expert Insights for Smart Financial Planning

Safely Traversing The Retirement Danger Zone

Reaching your peak savings goal is only half the journey.

Pablo Bugani via

When climbing Mount Everest, everyone enters a very dangerous elevation zone where oxygen is very scarce. In this "danger zone," the human body burns more oxygen than it can take in from normal breathing. Even when supplementing with added oxygen, people must overcome incredible levels of fatigue and exhaustion to make it to the peak.

See Also: Are You Saving Enough for Retirement?

Some sadly never make it safely back down the mountain. In fact, most people who die on Everest die while descending from the summit. Many make it to the "top of the world," only to fall victim to the "danger zone" on the way back down.

Statistics show that the most critical years for retirement planning are the three years before retirement and the three years after retirement. This crucial six-year window is like the "retirement danger zone." Any serious mistakes in this narrow window of time can have devastating affects on your retirement, driving you to postpone retirement plans, reduce income expectations or even work longer than planned.

This "danger zone" is a great metaphor for effective retirement planning, highlighting a very important aspect of retirement that is often neglected - the distribution and income phase. With the disappearance of pension plans over the past few decades, we must now manage longevity risks, health care costs and stock market risks all on our own. While we are very focused on the accumulation phase of retirement planning—ascending to the peak—we do not pay as much attention to the distribution and income phase—which is like coming safely back down the mountain after having reached the summit.


Remember, getting to the top of the mountain is optional; getting safely back down the mountain is not. While the accumulation phase is very important, planning on how to protect your assets and distribute them in the form of a reliable 20- to 30-year income stream is equally, if not more important.

When planning for our clients' retirement income, we consider many approaches depending on needs and resources. We look at controlling taxable income, managing required minimum distributions, optimizing Social Security and sequence of withdrawals, as well as generating some guaranteed income to fund lifestyle needs.

The guaranteed income really brings a high level of comfort when planning for retirement. To do this, we investigate different annuity options, and in some cases carefully structured cash value life insurance strategies. These approaches are new to some, and can be somewhat complex, so it is imperative to work with an adviser who specializes in this area. When done properly, retirement planning is well worth the effort to get you "safely back down the mountain."

Please watch this video from that explains retirement planning in a very powerful way, and I hope it gets you thinking.


See Also: What Is My IRA Required Minimum Distribution?

Ian Maxwell is a fee-based fiduciary financial adviser with Concert Wealth Management. He is a graduate of Williams College and a former officer in the USMC. Advisory Services offered through Concert Wealth Management Inc, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor.

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