29,035 feet: That is the height of Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain. Many people make it a life mission to summit the mountain of epic proportions. By the end of the 2010 climbing season, more than 5,000 brave and somewhat crazy individuals had successfully climbed to the top of this historic peak. The climbers who embark on Mount Everest are some of the most skilled, educated and qualified climbers in the world. They practice and prepare for years before a climb.
Here’s the morbid part. According to leading resources on Mount Everest mountaineering, more than 200 deaths have occurred as a result of climbing expeditions. But the part you and your clients perhaps don’t know is only 15 percent of those deaths occur while reaching the mountain summit. The vast majority prepare vigilantly to ascend Mount Everest but fail to focus on the impending journey down the treacherous peak. During the 1996 climbing season, 15 climbers lost their lives and eight of those were on the same day. How many of those deaths could have been prevented if dissension would have been as important as ascension?
Famous climber Ed Viesturs once said, “Getting to the summit is optional; getting down is mandatory.” When climbing Mount Everest, the summit is merely a halfway point. When you reach it, you’ve accomplished something amazing, but you’ve also grown fatigued, cold and are at maximum risk.
The same holds true in your client’s financial lives. How many of them have reached a financial “summit” and can successfully retire? They made it, are in or close to retirement, and tentatively feel safe and secure. But can they make it through retirement? Remember, getting down is mandatory.
Ninety percent of the financial industry focuses on reaching a summit. There are hundreds of vehicles, thousands of products and millions of advisors who focus on getting clients to retirement. But now what? Getting down is mandatory. Running out of money, living longer than expected, increased taxes and inflation, long-term care and an overall subjection in their financial lives to layers of volatility is no way to descend. This is where you enter the picture. You are your clients’ hero, their descent coach, their “financial Sherpa.”
We’ve all heard and used the story about the three phases to a client’s financial life: accumulation, protection and distribution. But going forward, quit using those words and a story your clients soon forget. Talk to them about Mount Everest and how that relates to their retirement. I guarantee they’ll remember your story and your visual long after they leave your office.