“You only have control over three things in your life – the thoughts you think, the images you visualize, and the actions your take.”

-Jack Canfield

Are you a worrier? Or worse yet, do you live with one?  Do you worry about things you cannot influence or control?

If so, what a waste of time.

Why clog your head with things you can’t control?

If you are planning to retire one day or are already enjoying retirement, there are 6 factors that you need to be aware.

But you should only spend energy on 4 of them.

Factor #1: Market Returns (No Control)

What is the one thing that most people at or near retirement agonize over, spend time on, read about, watch the news for and chat to their friends about? 

You guessed it…the market. 

You can control the market about as much as you can control when it will rain. We all understand that we have no control over the market, so why do we obsess over it? 

Because watching those tickers move up and down creates a strong emotional reaction—positive when markets go up, and terrifying when they go down.

The only solution is to let it go.

Stay away from the daily propaganda on TV and talk radio if you can’t do anything about it. 

There is nothing wrong with staying informed, but keep a long-term perspective. If you’re a worrier, this might even mean you need to keep the news streams turned off.

Factor #2: Government Policy (No Control)

Do you know what drives me crazy?  Hearing about a possible bill or law that is working its way through Congress that may one day be official, only for it to arrive months later looking completely different.

I would rather choose to ignore a rumor and then learn about the facts once things are real.  That’s what I did when the new tax bill passed in 2018—if you haven’t already, check out my talk with CPA Dawn Milne on how the new law could impact you.

So should you worry about things like Social Security, the tax code, and other government initiated policy? The answer is—can you control it? No? Then don’t worry about it. 

We can, however, be prudent and plan for things to change.

For example, it may make sense to not plan on receiving Social Security benefits if you are a Gen Xer. It may be good to assume that tax rates may be higher for you in retirement than they are now.

Stress testing your financial plan based on many possible scenarios is vital to a successful retirement. But you can’t control the future; you can only control how you respond to it.

Factor #3: Life Expectancy (Some Control)

The current average life expectancy for people in the U.S. is around 78 years. How long you live can have a direct impact on your financial success.

A short life span can hurt your family and living too long, well, it can hurt your family too! I guess you can’t win on this one.

Should you worry about it? I say no. 

Focus on your mental and physical well-being, and strive for balance in your life.  Then use tools like life insurance and estate planning to make sure that your family is taken care of no matter what happens to you.

If you’re looking for help with either of these things, give me a call—I might even throw in some healthy eating tips, too!

Factor #4: Earnings from Employment (Some Control)

This can be a tough one.  If you are in a volatile industry like oil and gas, words like “downsizing and “layoff” always loom large. 

In a perfect world you could decide how many years you want to work and choose when you want to make a job change. But we don’t live in a perfect world.

Don’t worry. Put yourself in a position to weather unintended job changes and put the worry behind you. As you work toward retirement, adjusting how many years you work can make a big difference in your likelihood of success.

This could also mean working during retirement, even after your main career is behind you.

Use your control over how long you plan to work as a planning tool but always be prepared for someone else to force you to change your plans.

Factor #5: Spending and Saving (Total Control!)

Do you ever feel that your expenses are out of control? I say that is not true.

I do agree that things will happen that will cause your outflow to be higher than anticipated.  Things like car repair needs, medical emergencies and appliances going out can cause stress at times. 

However, choices that you and your family make in life can and will control your overall spending.

We each have it within our control to spend less than what we make.  It is such a simple concept but one that many people have a tough time with.

I have found that most of us can cut back expenses by 10% with no real pain. If you need to save more why not focus on cutting back? Do you know what you should be saving for your future?  If not, get help to figure it out and then save what you need to save.

Once you do, automate it! I preach on this all the time, because it really is one of the most the vital steps to building wealth and preparing for the future.

The amount you save is one of two factors that you can completely control.  No excuses!

Factor #6: Portfolio Risk (Total Control!)

I already discussed that you cannot control the market, and shouldn’t worry about what it does today. 

However; you can influence the way your portfolio moves based on the market by dialing up or down your risk.

If you find yourself worrying about the market and not liking things when your portfolio swings wildly, you may just need to adjust your portfolio risk downward. 

Or you may have the opposite problem; you might see the market moving up but not your investments following. It could be that you are positioned too conservatively for your taste. 

In any event, it is a good idea to know how your portfolio will react when the market moves up or down.  Dial in the appropriate risk and stop worrying!

“What consumes your mind is what controls your life.”

– Anonymous

So, for all you worriers out there, focus on things you can influence or control completely. 

Sometimes, taking control will help alleviate the worry and sleepless nights.  Realize that you will never be able to control everything and work on giving up that control.

Consider hiring a financial adviser to help you with the money stuff and then focus on controlling the enjoyment of your life!


CLICK HERE to become an Insider! Join my Email Insider Group to receive weekly tips and tricks on finance, education, home buying, insurance, Social Security and everything in between. Byron W. Ellis, CFP®, CLU®, ChFC®, CRPC®, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and Managing Director United Capital Financial Advisers, LLC, a Financial Life Management firm. The information contained in this article is intended for information only is not a recommendation, and should not be considered investment advice. Please contact your financial advisor with questions about your specific needs and circumstances.

© Byron Ellis