Retirement Success Depends on Answers to Hypothetical Questions

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The following on why it is important to be comfortable with the unknown comes to us from Mr. Henry K. “Bud” Hebeler.  Get more from Bud at Analyze Now.

In a recent presidential press conference, Anthony Scaramucci, President Trump’s short-lived Communications Director, refused to answer some questions on the basis that the questions were hypothetical.  He said lawyers were always trained not to answer hypothetical questions.

That’s really strange to engineers and financial planners who base their living on trying to answer hypothetical questions.

Here are some engineering hypothetical questions I faced during my career as a missile engineer:  Will fins be able to withstand aerodynamic loads in a gust?  Will a reentry vehicle burn up before it gets through the atmosphere?  Will an enemy bomb destroy an underground command center?  Will an accident or an inadvertent combination of commands launch a nuclear weapon and start a war?

After I retired from Boeing, I got intrigued by financial planning — which is practically nothing but answering hypothetical questions:  Am I saving enough for retirement?  Will my annual spending rate exhaust savings before death?  Will my investment allocation withstand a serious market plunge?  Will I do better by taking social security later?

Hypothetical questions are key to any profession that has to answer “What If questions.” Importantly, success is built on those answers.  They often require lots of judgement, particularly the probability of occurrence.  The legal profession is built on judgement too, but on an after-the-fact way.  Did he do it?

Life’s success depends on both a lawyer’s view and that of an engineer, financial planner, or many other professions — often those related to health.  Woe to those who do not benefit from all. I am at a stage in life where health hypotheses are key.  Will this or that drug or treatment extend my life?  When my life is over, a lawyer will help execute my will and a court will decide the probate of my estate. I need both those who answer hypothetical questions and those who refuse to do so.

Meanwhile I urge all to try and look ahead and take actions now that are known to affect our future lives.  Health practices including lifestyle and insurance are always important whether it be dental or medical — two of the largest money-consumers of retirement.  So are financial interests where it is so important to spend some time using an internet planning program or a professional retirement planner — or both.  Future generations will see the consequences of generations living beyond their means, savings shortfalls, and possibly much longer lives.

Think about your own circumstances.

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