Plan for More Gold in Your Golden Years: Goals Involving Asset Decumulation

We spend a good portion of our lives working to provide financial stability for our family and ourselves. This work includes efforts to provide income for retirement or at the point we are no longer able to work. Financial planners refer to this as asset accumulation. We put money aside in IRAs, 403(b)s, 401(k)s, SEPs, money purchase plans, and on and on. We want to save as much as possible. When the market takes a dip or a plunge, we obsess and often do the wrong thing – sell low.

When we retire or are otherwise unable to actively earn income, our focus shifts. Now we are concerned with how much monthly income we will have and for how long. Financial planners refer to retirement income planning as asset decumulation.

People in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s are likely to be familiar with investment risk. They have many more risks with which to contend. A sampling includes longevity risk, inflation risk, excess withdrawal risk, unexpected health care risk, long term care risk, frailty risk, elder abuse risk, sequence of returns risk, forced retirement risk, reemployment risk, employer insolvency risk, loss of spouse risk, unexpected financial responsibility risk, and public policy risk.

With so many risks to consider, it’s critical to set some solid retirement goals and consistently work to accomplish them. The design of goals and management of actions to attain them are important life skills for us all. These are skills we develop, not innate talents. Fear of not getting things right can lead to paralysis.

Developing the skills for successfully setting and managing goals takes practice. And it’s important to continue to enjoy the learning process. Often, the process can be more rewarding when you work with a trusted advisor. I take the time to help my clients formulate their goals. Then I support them in achieving them through our monthly calls, with more frequent interaction as desired.

The science behind setting goals and achieving them has been tested and proven. Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist at Stanford University, provides research-based tips to help us develop and accomplish our goals.1 Blending some of her tips with those of my own, I recommend the following approach to set and accomplish goals.

Select goals that matter

When you feel a deep connection to the goal, you will be more committed to achieve it. A meaningful goal requires relevance to your concerns. When it comes to retirement income planning, consider developing goals that meet specific long-term needs for security, comfort, and fulfillment. It’s important to plan for uncertainty!

No one knows how many years they will need to be able to cover expenses once they retire. You may live to celebrate your 100th birthday and that means you would need income to last from twenty-five to fifty years depending on when and how you retire.

You may experience a variety of events including unexpected health issues or you may remain as healthy as you were at fifty. The point is that no one can predict the future but you can set goals to prepare for many of the unforeseen situations that will occur during your later years.

Seventeen percent of people who live to be one hundred years or more fall into poverty. That’s nearly double the rate for U.S. seniors overall. Female centenarians have an average annual retirement income of approximately $12,200 while males average $17,500. The poverty rate for a single-person household is $11,670.2

Describe goals in a positive way

Articulate your goals in terms of what you want to bring into your life rather than what you want to exclude. Positivity triggers motivation; a negative approach will inhibit your success.

If you need to accomplish goals that require reducing certain disruptive behaviors or habits such as overeating, reframe the goal to support a positive outcome. The odds of achieving your goal will significantly increase.  

Positively framed goals

  • Shift from three big meals per day to five or six smaller meals. Order the Juice Plus+ Complete nutrition packets and a Vitamix blender today. Make it easy for me to change my style of eating.
  • Purchase a Fitbit Surge wrist device and Fitbit scale this week, so I can monitor my progress and stay motivated.
  • By year-end, get my body fat percentage back down to 20 percent. I want to get off most of my meds and avoid becoming pre-diabetic.

Negatively framed goals

  • Quit eating after 11pm.
  • Stop procrastinating on meeting to review my portfolio and estate plans, and to develop my retirement income strategy.

Many factors contribute to our satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, with retirement. Health is a leading concern. It significantly impacts our financial, physical, and mental wellbeing. Our health is also a factor that we can typically choose to control.

By listening to our bodies, we can make positive changes that will benefit us now and even into retirement age. If your body fat is 30 percent or above, you will likely experience major health expenses during your retirement years, if not before then. I have adjusted my health related fitness habits and continue to set goals that include living by the motto: Eat Like a Bird. Fly Like an Eagle! I encourage you to do the same if you haven’t already started down this path.

If you need additional motivation to set fitness goals and make long-term changes to your diet, consider the risks associated with neglecting your health. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases some of the health risks associated with being overweight or obese include Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, stroke, and certain types of cancer. Overweight is indicated with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9 and obesity with a BMI of 30+. The prevalence of being overweight and obesity among adults age 20 and older in the U.S. is an astounding 68.8 percent! The number of men and women are similar, about 36 percent, in prevalence of obesity. 3

Welcome failure as part of the learning process

Failing is a vital element of the learning process. The key is not to abandon your goal when you do. You may experience self-criticism, self-doubt, and even guilt when you fail. If it happens often, you may have what Carol Dweck refers to as a fixed mindset. People of all ages can be in this situation.

Individuals with a fixed mindset need to look good, avoid challenges, get defensive, view projects as pointless, ignore assessments from others, and resent the success of peers. People with a growth mindset exhibit a desire to learn. They look for challenges, work through setbacks, know it takes practice to become better, welcome constructive criticism, and are inspired by the success of their peers.4

Failure is a part of life and does not define you. For example, if you backslide a few times as you embark on a new style of eating, it’s okay. Recommit and begin again tomorrow. Hold yourself accountable but don’t beat yourself up. In a few weeks time, even with occasional setbacks, you’ll lose your cravings for what you used to eat, and yearn instead for the healthier foods you now consume.

Develop contingency plans for each of your financial and other goals. “If A happens, I will do B.” When things veer off course, as they often do, focus on why the goal was important to you in the first place.

Focus on the process

Break large goals into smaller, more manageable ones, lest you feel overwhelmed. For example, look at retirement income planning in terms of smaller steps within each area of concern. These areas may include revising your spending plan, mulling over downsizing, building cognitive reserve, improving your health, planning for longevity, and dealing with a forced retirement or various other risk factors. The end goal is often a connection of pieces that eventually result in your desired outcome.

Design attainable goals for yourself. I like to refer to this as setting yourself up to play a winnable game. Goals should be measurable and specific, with associated deadlines. Instead of centering your attention on the end result, make one small choice at a time. Make choices consistent with the larger retirement income goal you have set for yourself.

Retirement income planning, and monitoring those plans, for people in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s is even more important than comprehensive financial planning for younger people. There are many more risks to manage, your time horizon is shorter, and you may experience a reduction in your faculties and physical capabilities.

Please contact me to schedule a meeting and get started today.




1. The Science of Setting Goals. Nadia Goodman. Dec. 22, 2014.

2. How many Americans make it to 100? Aimee Picchi. Apr. 10, 2014.

3. Overweight and Obesity Statistics. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

4. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Carol S. Dweck.

One thought on “Plan for More Gold in Your Golden Years: Goals Involving Asset Decumulation

  1. Nicely written. I especially liked the distinction between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. Possibly a criterion to consider in picking a candidate.

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