As long as I can remember, my parents took our family on an annual Ocean City, MD beach trip each summer. Directions were typed up, reservations were double-checked, the car was miraculously packed before the sun was up, and a breakfast stop at McDonalds just before the Bay Bridge was eagerly anticipated.

My wife, Megan, and I now take our family on an annual beach trip. Thankfully many of the roads have been widened. Even with many traffic delays, bathroom breaks, Bay Bridge tolls, and other issues, we make it to the beach. There is a wonderful sense of relief when our eyes catch that first shimmery glimpse of the ocean. It makes the effort worth it.

There are a lot of similarities between retirement planning and beach planning.

Both types of planning require strategy, careful planning, have various costs and benefits, and require a lot of flexibility and patience with unexpected variables.

One big item I’ve been working on with a number of clients within a few years of retirement, is ensuring their existing 401k plans are allocated so that any type of market drop will not prevent them from retiring on their own terms. The fear of impending “doom” is common among pre-retirees depending what is going on the world. I don’t pretend to know when the next market drop will occur. No one does.

In spite of geo-political events heating up recently, the United States economy remains on solid footing. One undercurrent that could lead to renewed negotiations is the movement of some manufacturers from China to other nearby, non-tariffed nations. History teaches that trade wars are not usually a good long-term policy and also the difficulty in bringing businesses back. Economists are generally optimistic that much of the current tariff noise will be addressed.

But, optimism isn’t an investment strategy. So for those pending retirees, we are working hard to reallocate what has often become a sizeable nest egg, built from long-term dollar cost averaging from each paycheck.

The strategy of a pre-retiree’s portfolio is often more important than it is in the post retirement years. If the pre-retiree strategy isn’t correct, the post-retirement options are fewer and may lead to delays in retirement timing.

You pay a lot more to get beach housing at the last minute than you do if planned months in advance. The same holds true with retirement planning. A lot can be done quickly but with so much to consider both financially and emotionally, time is a great benefit to enacting a plan of action. Time in the markets far surpasses attempts to time the markets. Again, time is an incredible benefit.

When traveling, patience is important. Patient is crucial as well with investing into retirement.

Markets have risen this year and over the past 12 months. But stock markets do not rise in a straight line. As of early June, 2019, we have experienced six straight weeks of gently market declines. Volatility and market declines can test anyone’s patience. But volatility can also be an investor’s friend. Rebalancing into market declines helps to flatten out risk and boost returns in most portfolios. Rebalancing as markets rise helps keep asset allocation in line with risk tolerance.

Coupled with patience is the need for flexibility. On the way to the beach, there isn’t much you can do about delays or detours. With investing, a delay or detour might come when markets fall for a year or two. It happens. But, one thing our firm is planning for is how to slowly transition portfolio holdings as markets present opportunities.

Mutual funds may be core holdings, but the next evolution of investments, called exchange traded funds (ETFs), are becoming much more mainstream. Adapting and evolving is crucial, no matter what the circumstances.

When clients successfully transitions into retirement, you can literally see the shimmering ocean in their eyes. In nearly every case, patience, flexibility, pre-planning, and following a plan has smoothed the speedbumps during the trip to their financial goals.

Ryan Fox, Huston-Fox Financial Advisory partner, in Gettysburg and Hanover, can be reached at 717-398-2040 or

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