Each year, tens of thousands of people of all ages and from different countries around the world converge on a network of hiking trails in France, Spain, and Portugal. Though they are coming from lots of different places and traveling different paths, they are all headed for the same destination: the Cathedral of St. James (“Santiago” in Spanish), located in Santiago de Compostela, near the Atlantic coast in northwestern Spain.
This hike—or, perhaps more properly, pilgrimage—is known as the Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James: one of the oldest long-distance pedestrian journeys in the world. The various trails, which originate in Paris, in Portugal, and in various locales in southern France and northern Spain, encompass more than 1,700 miles. The longest, called the Camino del Norte (“the Northern Way”) is 514 miles. The most popular, the Camino Francés (“the French Way”) is 480 miles.
You may also know someone who has hiked one of the great American trails, like the Appalachian Trail, stretching more than 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine, or the Pacific Crest Trail, which covers some 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada. Have you ever wondered what would motivate someone to voluntarily cover these kinds of distances on foot, while carrying everything they need for rest and sustenance on their backs? Or maybe you’re an outdoor enthusiast who eagerly embraces such challenges.
Here’s another question: Have you ever considered how a long-distance, back-country hike is like preparing for retirement? There are more similarities than you might imagine. Here are just three.
1. It’s vital to know the route and the destination
It is doubtful that many of us would take off on a long-distance hike without a pretty good idea of where we’re headed and how we’re going to get there. But you’d be surprised how many people take a “wing-it” approach to preparing for retirement. That’s a problem, because just like a back-country hike, retirement is something that requires preparation, careful thought, and above all, a solid plan for the journey and arrival at the finish line.
2. You need the right stuff
Would you take off on a long-distance hike wearing flip-flops? Probably not. Would you give some thought to what you needed along the way, especially how much weight you’d need to carry? Probably. In the same way, it’s important to know how much income you’ll need after you stop working, as well as what sort of resources will be available to you, including Social Security, pension benefits, income from retirement and regular investment accounts, medical coverage, and other important factors. By estimating your future needs, you can make the necessary preparations now—before you’re out in the middle of nowhere and unable to acquire something you forgot.
3. It helps to have a knowledgeable guide
Especially if you’re headed into unfamiliar territory, it can be essential to have a traveling companion who knows the terrain and can help you avoid some of the scary places. In the same way, preparing for retirement is made much easier and less stressful by having guidance from a trustworthy, fiduciary professional who is committed to helping you reach your goals.
At Mathis Wealth Management, we are committed to serving as your reliable, knowledgeable traveling companion on the trail toward retirement or any other important financial goal. Not only that, we have the professional skills, training, and research to be your “outfitter,” helping you make sure that you’ve got the right equipment and knowledge to make the trek successfully. To learn more about our retirement planning services, click here.