Hurricanes and Retirement : What Do They Share?


The devastation of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma is very fresh in our minds. The rebuilding of lives and property will continue well into the future; some people and places will never be the same. I feel for these losses and the massive toll on the countries hit and the people fighting to come back. At the same time, floods in Italy, Malaysia, India, just to name a few other locations, have wreaked absolute havoc.

Preparation before disaster strikes is essential in a world where nature seems to be running wild. A "what will be will be" attitude may work when it is time to choose a restaurant for dinner, but not when confronting Mother Nature in all her power.

Since my mind is a little odd, it occurred to me that preparing for an event like a hurricane or typhoon is somewhat akin to we should do before retirement strikes. Of course, a storm usually passes in a few hours though rebuilding may take weeks or months, even years, to repair.  There may be injuries, even deaths. 

Certainly, I don't mean to minimize the seriousness of a major storm. I have lived through a few hurricanes and they are terrifying. But, if you will allow me to extend the metaphor, when retirement hits us we have another 20 or 30 years to adjust to. So, being fully prepared makes tremendous sense.

*Loss of power. In a major storm, we are likely to lose electricity for awhile. Cell phone service, Internet access, all are at risk. During retirement we are threatened with a different type of power loss: loss of energy, drive, and goals that we strive for. No power for a few hours or even days can be quite uncomfortable. No energy or drive during retirement can has longer lasting effects.

*Loss of belongings and stability. Pictures from the hurricanes' aftermaths show the heartbreaking devastation of houses, businesses, property, even the landscapes. Harvey left tens of thousands of cars underwater. Irma flattened some Caribbean islands beyond recognition and forever altered parts of Florida. Puerto Rico may be without dependable utilities well into next year.

Retirement is not that dramatic, but there is a type of loss, a loss of belonging to a group of coworkers or an organization. The stability of a regular paycheck is replaced with the hope your financial walls are strong enough to withstand the wind. 


*Forced change in routine. Think of the pictures of the thousands of people housed in shelters. Think of all the lives that will be on hold for weeks or months. Everyday routines will be upended for the foreseeable future.

Retirement suddenly puts you in charge of 24 hours a day. Almost like a storm survivor, a newly retired person is really starting over in how his day is managed. You must develop new routines and a daily schedule.


*Storm warnings ignored. I guess it is part of human nature, but I always wonder what possesses someone to ride out a hurricane believing it won't be that bad. If you can evacuate but choose not to that is risking your life as well as those who must rescue you.

In retirement, a storm warning can come in various forms: a report from your doctor of health problems, a statement from your financial institution that your withdrawal rate is dangerously high, an argument with a spouse or partner that is more severe than normal. Like a serious hurricane warning, you are putting a lot at risk if you ignore the warnings you receive during retirement.


Hurricanes can change someone's life completely, and rarely in a good way. You have very little control. Retirement will change your life. Whether it is a positive or negative experience is much more in your control. Make the most of it.



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