You Are Here

Occasionally in client conversations I will dig into my memory banks and bring up one of my older blogs. This one in particular happened right after my total knee replacement in 2011. I was in Atlanta with my former firm for a few days of meetings, and during an evening gathering, I just felt the need to leave. Long day, new knee, my brain said GO.

It was raining that particular evening, so I decided to drive to one of the malls in Buckhead and just walk. No shopping or retail therapy, just walking as I needed to clear my mind and also keep my new knee from stiffening. In getting my bearings, I went to one of those information kiosks to see what was where. Did you know that these kiosks are psychic? Yes, they are! This one knew exactly where I was as it told me in big letters, “YOU ARE HERE.”

So where am I going with this, you ask? Today, circa 2024, YOU ARE HERE too! More than likely, at some point in your past, either someone or something told you that at this point in your life, be it age, occupation, or educational qualification, that as of right now, you should have a net worth of a certain amount or have a certain balance in your retirement accounts and other investments. Very possibly, if you’re divorced like I am, or still single like a bunch of my close friends, maybe you thought you would have had a great relationship with someone and had the national average of 2.3 kids. Maybe you thought you would be retired by now. Who knows where you fit in this, but I know you fit somewhere!

I’ve been blessed with a great group of clients and I enjoy just listening to them as they share their thoughts, dreams, fears, and other nuances of their lives. A couple in particular have almost begged me for financial strategies that will allow them to retire now. There’s a couple of problems with that. First, they don’t have near enough saved to allow them to do that and secondly, they are in their early 50’s with a good 10-15 years left to work, grow their wealth, and put themselves in a much better position to actually “retire.”

The sad reality of this is that all of these emotional benchmarks were created, and perpetuated either by the media, the financial entertainers, mathematical calculations, or perhaps someone like a parent or sibling that had all of the best intentions for you.

So do you have a set of numbers in your head that have become unreachable or unrealistic benchmarks? If you do, who are you sharing them with, if anyone? I’ve said it over and over that money is not math or financial products. Let me emphatically repeat that. Money is not a calculator, some mutual funds, or other types of investments.

Money is a series of economic strategies, each with their own capabilities. It must be “stress tested” to determine how much risk and emotional tolerance for volatility you can withstand. Money and the decisions surrounding it has to be nimble and be able to move like life presents itself. Life events such as job changes, relationship changes (both marriage and divorce), health changes, family dynamics, birth of your children, etc can easily divert your intended plans.

So many people that I meet absolutely love their 401(k)-retirement savings plan. “Oh, I save money on taxes.” “My company matches my contribution.” These are the two biggest statements I hear. In my book “Castles & Moats” I talk about “The drug of tax deferral” and other financial myths. These clients I just mentioned. Well even if they had enough investable assets to retire today, current IRS tax laws say that any dollars withdrawn from a 401(k) plan or IRA account not only will be taxable at current rates, but also subject to a premature withdrawal penalty of an additional 10%. It’s where they are.

If you’ve read this far down the page, maybe I’ve gotten your attention. Just like driving your car, the big picture is through the windshield in front of us, and the past is in that little rear view mirror. You can’t go back and do anything any differently, but you can sure do something going forward.

There are two things I need you to do. First make the decision to hit reply, and secondly get out of your own way so we can openly work together on everything you want and desire. If a Starbucks meeting is the first step towards accomplishing these, then the latte’ is on me!

As always, thanks for reading and for your kind words when we see each other.

Many thanks,


**Examples are intended for illustrative purposes only and may be not indicative of your situation. Individual results may vary.

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Brian E. Carden, Insurance & Financial Advisor
Phone: 615.506.0300

Securities and Advisory services offered through Madison Avenue Securities, LLC. Member FINRA/SIPC, a registered investment advisor. Past market performance is not indicative of future performance or success. It is not possible to invest directly in an index.