Your financial destination matters

3 MIN READ | #blog

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”

Those words, commonly attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, are as true today as they were 150 years ago: If you hope to lead a life full of purpose and meaning, you’d do well to take it slowly and focus on the present, experiencing your existence one step at a time.

Still, don’t be misled—Emerson wasn’t implying that destinations don’t matter. And he certainly would have agreed on the importance of good planning.

In fact, had Emerson been around in the 21st century, he might have become a financial representative. His likely financial advice for retirement: If you’re like most people and hope to retire one day, start planning now. Focus on the things you can do today to help ensure that you can have what you want for The Next Now®.


So what does it take to retire with financial confidence? The retirement savings strategy you develop should be comprehensive and holistic, taking into account all of your goals and needs. Imagine, for instance, how you will live: Will you continue to spend as you do today? Will regular vacations be a part of the picture? As you age, what resources will you need to support and to fund the life that you want?

You should also consider your present situation—and the events that may occur between now and the day you stop working. Did you get married? Have you bought a home? What about children and health care and savings? With life expectancies continuing to rise, you’ll likely live well into old age. Will Social Security keep up with your expenses? Will retirement income make up the difference? How will you make your money last?

You could, of course, just ignore all these questions and leave your financial future up to chance. Or you could take a more prudent approach to your retirement savings plan—and pull a page from the playbook of Sir Edmund Hillary.

In 1953, Hillary and a man named Tenzing Norgay became the first two climbers to reach the top of Mount Everest. Hillary and Norgay—a Sherpa working for Hillary’s expedition—tagged the summit together. They then successfully worked their way back down the mountain to the relative safety of the base camp. The reason for their success? Great planning. Norgay in particular was very familiar with the mountain. The two climbers, with Norgay providing guidance, knew exactly what path they’d take for their ascent, and exactly what path they’d take to get back home.

But here’s the thing: Almost 30 years before Hillary and Norgay reached the top of Mount Everest, another pair of climbers may have been there first. Those two—George Mallory and Andrew “Sandy” Irvine—climbed the peak in 1924 only to disappear just below the summit. No one knows if they ever made it up to the top of the mountain. What is known for sure is they never made it back down.

Perhaps Mallory and Irvine ran into bad weather (or just bad luck) that would have brought an end to any expedition. Whatever happened, their trip didn’t go as planned—if they even had a plan at all.


Ralph Waldo Emerson would have likely commended Hillary and Norgay not only for their historic ascent of Mount Everest, but also for the planning that made their journey successful. Their destination, he would have noted, did indeed matter. But it was the many steps they took along the way that ultimately made that destination possible.

As you prepare for your own life expedition, it might be helpful to keep that in mind. Sure, feel free to focus on that tantalizing summit; but also pay attention to what’s below, and on ensuring you have the support that you need to succeed. Arriving at that day when you finally stop working is one thing. But the journey there, and the trip to the finish? Now that’s another thing altogether.


Brought to you by The Guardian Network © 2016, 2019, 2021. The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America®, New York, NY

2021-124692 Exp. 8/2023

Not seeing what you’re looking for?

The Guardian Network®

Living Confidently is powered by The Guardian Network.


Material discussed is meant for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as tax, legal, or investment advice. Although the information has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, please note that individual situations can vary. Therefore, the information should be relied upon only when coordinated with individual professional advice.