There Is No Mulligan


Ray’s Take: I know a man who prides himself on managing his own investments and has done quite well. Years ago he consulted an actuarial table that estimated he would live 83.5 years. Now he is 87. Oops!

I use him as an example because many people make plans based on averages. At 87, there is no do-over, no mulligan.

Here are some common planning missteps:

  • Overestimating future home value or “savings” when you downsize.
  • Overestimating future investment value – returns may be less than hoped for after taxes and inflation.
  • Overestimating future earning potential – many people plan to work longer. But, will you mentally or physically be able to perform your job and will employment be available?
  • Overestimating years of good health and independent living – people are living longer, but the quality of health – mental and physical – is unknown.
  • Relying on income from Social Security – it is unlikely Social Security can continue in its current form.
  • Planning on an inheritance – you never know how much or when you’ll get it, so don’t bank on it.
  • Underestimating future cost of living – as the standard of living rises in developing countries that provide cheap labor, odds favor greater inflation for goods and services.
  • Underestimating health care costs – probably the variable with the widest possibilities.
  • Underestimating future property taxes – with unstable home values and fiscal woes in many municipalities, property taxes could increase dramatically.
  • Underestimating income taxes – with the national debt escalating and fewer employed workers to pay in, expect state and national taxes to increase or perhaps undergo a seismic change in the tax code.
  • Underestimating life expectancy – people are living longer; women are outliving men.

While financial planners do not have crystal balls, their data and methodologies allow them to better estimate future expenses, income and probabilities.

When I play the “bad guy” and urge clients to reduce spending, they sometimes accuse me of trying to make their heirs rich. I counter that I’m just trying to prevent them from being old and broke.

Dana’s Take: Being married to a financial planner has its pros and cons. One definite pro is that as long as I follow our plan, I am confident the financial bases are covered when we’re older. I know the plan, and I know what I have to do to make it work.

If your partner is doing the financial planning, remember it’s your future, too. There is no room for, “Whoops, honey, I didn’t think about that.”

For the sake of your relationship and future, consult a financial expert together. And, be sure to tell him or her everything. Not telling your financial planner the truth is like lying to your doctor: it’s bad for your health.

Ray Brandon, CFP®, CFA, is CEO of Brandon Financial Planning ( His wife, Dana, has a bachelor’s in finance and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Contact Ray Brandon at