I recently finished reading a book called ‘The Checklist Manifesto.’
It’s a fascinating book that was written by a surgeon who was struck by the idea that something as simple as a checklist can be the linchpin of a successful outcome, versus complete disaster in some of the most critical of situations.
The author spoke about how problems in almost any area of life can be broken down into simple, complicated, and complex. A simple problem would fall under the category of figuring out a cake recipe – just follow the instructions on the back of the box, and the result should look like the picture of the pastry on the front of the box. Simple! A complicated problem would be one building a rocket and sending it to the moon. Once the complexities are worked out, it can be duplicated over and over again.
A complex problem would be like building a new hospital. Every new structure will bring different environments and designs that need to be taken into consideration. According to the author, “for most of modern history, going back to medieval times, the dominant way people put up buildings was by going out and hiring Master Builders who designed them, engineered them, and oversaw construction from start to finish. Master Builders built Notre Dame, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the United States Capitol building. But by the middle of the twentieth century, the Master Builders were dead and gone. The variety and sophistication of advancements in every stage of the construction process had overwhelmed the abilities of any individual to master them.”
The author was making the point that advancements in construction — along with medicine, engineering, aviation, and even finance — has gotten to the point that you cannot have one person making all of the decisions anymore. There’s too much to know. You need a specialist in every area, just like in medicine. Typically, there is a General Contractor that oversees other experts in their fields. And that General Contractor has a working knowledge of those fields, but he is more the organizer to make sure certain things get done, at a specific time, in a certain way. In other words, the most modern buildings that are being constructed in our age, some guy is walking around with a checklist! And the next item on the list isn’t allowed to be started until the last item has been verified and checked off. The author was astounded at how something so complex can be broken down into such a simple thing as a checklist. And he was even more astounded how most professionals reject such a simple idea to help prevent critical errors because of ego. They want to be the Master Builder. They want to be the person with all of the answers. Unfortunately, our world is too complex for that.
It struck me while I was reading this that the majority of people getting ready to retire or already retired are relying on a Master Builder. Typically, these Master Builders wear fancy suits and work in elegant office buildings and have all kinds of initials behind their names. What occurred to me is that the person who is nearing, or in retirement, needs to be the General Contractor and have several specialists working for them to construct their retirements.
Those specialists should be broken up into 4 categories:
1. Safe-Money with guaranteed income
2. Risk-Money that you can afford to speculate (gamble) with
4. Legal issues
These are four very complex areas that all require a specialist. Too many things change in these areas too often that one person could never be an expert in all of them. I’m a Safe-Money specialist, so don’t take my advice on the other 3 categories, even though I have a working knowledge of them. Don’t take Safe-Money advice from someone who is a specialist in one of the other areas.
If you’re looking to building a retirement structure that can never be knocked down, regardless of the current environment, the most critical part is going to be your foundation.
Here is your General Contractor’s checklist to make sure the foundation is built correctly:
• Complete safety from loss in a market downturn
• Gains are locked in forever in the growth years
• Guaranteed Income that you and your spouse cannot outlive
• Protects your money from predators and creditors
• Directly passes any remaining assets to your beneficiaries without probate
• Has a dedicated office in your state of residence to protect you from false claims
• Has a proven track record of success going back to the days of Ben Franklin
If your retirement foundation is missing any of these items from the checklist, it means it will be an unstable structure, and no amount of planning in the other 3 areas can guarantee your retirement will stand the test of time.
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