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Why is the Descent from Everest’s Peak More Dangerous than the Climb up?


Danger of Descending

Reaching the highest peak in the world, the top of Mount Everest, is obviously one of the most difficult things that a person can do on Earth. It’s a goal that can define an entire life, for some people. An accomplishment that only 6,098 people in all of human history have ever achieved. While thinking about Everest and even watching documentaries on climbing it, most attention is paid to the climb or the ascent up to the peak. However, what may surprise you is that it’s the descent down the mountain which is most dangerous. In fact, of the 192 deaths that occurred above base camp between 1921 and 2006, 56% of them were on the descent down the mountain. Elevation levels above 8,000 m or 26,247 ft is often referred to as the death zone.  At these levels, the air is so thin that even with oxygen tanks, the climate is just so inhospitable that your body starts to break down and you can only remain at these elevations for a short period of time. Standing at approximately 29,029 ft, Everest has a lot of mountain in this zone which anyone who aspires to reach the top will have to deal with. So, given all of the challenges of getting to the top, why is the descent most dangerous?

Well there are a number of factors that have played a role including:

-         Falling

-         Exhaustion

-         Exposure/Frostbite

-         Altitude Sickness

-         Avalanches

-         And other illnesses

Sometimes, a person will quite literally give everything they have to reach the peak, but have not left enough in the tank for the descent home, or they make mistakes due to exhaustion. Today, you would like to think that with a proper guide there isn’t a lack of planning going on related to the descent, but you can easily see how that could have happened earlier in the last century. And so, you can start to see parallels between mountain climbing and financial planning for retirement. So much planning, training and even content production is focused on building assets towards retirement or financial freedom, but very little time and effort is dedicated to planning properly for living after you stop working regularly. This even goes to the extent that I have heard of advisors in the industry losing happy clients simply because they felt they now needed a “retirement advisor” and nota asset building advisor.

An Advisors Perspective

From an advisors perspective, this speaks to a lack of communication around their service offering and really it comes back to clearly communicated financial planning with clients. It’s not simply that you failed to communicate to your clients that you are capable of managing their financial needs still in retirement, but clearly the planning work around what that looks like is likely not being done either, otherwise your clients would have an idea that you can do that work for them.  But beyond just a communication issue, I believe there is a real lack of planning work being done to properly manage a family’s wealth and assets in retirement. As the entire industry should have determined at this point, simply producing a retirement projection in software is not sufficient enough to ensure someone’s protection and markets like we have experienced in 2022 are great for exposing that.

Just like the descent from Everest’s peak, even more careful planning work needs to be done for people after they are no longer actively earning an income, for the simple reason alone that you no longer get many more opportunities to add to the asset portfolio in the event that mistakes are made, and I’m not referring to difficult markets here. Challenging markets like we are experiencing will come and go and although we may not know when they will occur exactly, they can be planned for because we know they eventually happen. This is critically important planning work for people who are now living off of their assets. The strategic dismantling of your assets in order to live on is some of the most important financial planning advice that you will ever receive and there are many factors that come into play including:

-         Tax Efficiency

-         Volatility management

-         Longevity

-         Flexibility and liquidity

-         Succession planning

-         And more

All of these items must be considered long ahead of your retirement because by the time you get to that point, your options may become more limited and failing to plan accordingly could put you at risk of running out of money or certainly leaving opportunities on the table. Additionally, there is no one size fits all when it comes to this advice. Your plans for the future are your own and likewise your planning must be designed specifically to meet your needs as well.

Freedom for the rest of your life.

I would hate to call the planning workaround retirement and financial freedom, the descent phase because it seems negative, especially during what could be one of the most exciting periods in a lifetime. After reaching Everest’s peak, many climbers have said that they experienced this overwhelming feeling of joy, thankfulness and freedom. They often say that this feeling isn’t fleeting either, that they carry it with them for the rest of their lives. When you reach the point in your life when work becomes optional, I would hope that you would have some similar feelings to that and as financial planners and Investment Advisors, it is our duty to help ensure that you can continue to feel that freedom for the rest of your life! This responsibility is something that we will never take for granted.

Grant White, CIM®,CFP®

Grant White is a Portfolio Manager/Investment Advisor at Endeavour Wealth Management with iA Private Wealth Inc, an award-winning office as recognized by the Carson Group. Together with his partners he provides comprehensive wealth management planning for business owners, professionals and individual families. This information has been prepared by Grant White who is a Portfolio Manager for iA Private Wealth Inc. and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of iA Private Wealth.

The information contained in this newsletter comes from sources we believe reliable, but we cannot guarantee its accuracy or reliability. The opinions expressed are based on an analysis and interpretation dating from the date of publication and are subject to change without notice. Furthermore, they do not constitute an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any of the securities mentioned. The information contained here in may not apply to all types of investors. The Portfolio Manager can open accounts only in the provinces in which they are registered.



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