There be Dragons

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Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten ― Neil Gaiman

In the 1400s it was common practice for cartographers (mapmakers) to include images of mythical demons as a means of marking dangerous or unexplored territories with a stern warning: the unknown can be a very scary place.

These figures were often depicted as sea creatures, serpents and giant squid, and, according to Emporia State University, were known to include images of the most universally feared of all demons — the fire-breathing dragon.

Dragons are creatures found in the myths and legends of cultures throughout the world. These fearsome monsters of the imagination are reviled for their want of imprisoning helpless maidens, wreaking havoc on small towns and villages, and hoarding over mountains of gold.

But, in the modern world of retirement, there exists paths through dangerous and unexplored regions we will all have to travel, and there are still some very real dragons we will all have to slay.

Retirement Is Now a Dragon-Filled Journey

The road to wellbeing and financial freedom in your golden years has in effect become a trek through dragon-filled territory, and a wide range of problems are to blame — budget deficits, monetary policy misses, unregulated banks, and financial markets, etc. — have all given rise to a growing number of dragons we must all be prepared to contend with.

But your journey needn’t be one filled with trepidation and fear, after all, many of the dragons lurking in the retirement world are well known to all by now.

For instance, there’s the corrupt dragon of the banking industry, the greedy dragon of Wall Street, and the inept, incompetent dragon that is the U.S. Government, just to name a few. Collectively, we have a good understanding of what motivates and drives these creatures, and we all recognize they can hurt us if we fail to be vigilant.

We also understand the golden rule of their domain — wealth begets power, which in turn begets more wealth. 

Consider that nearly all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are all members of the one percenter club, the top one percent of all wage earners in the country, when they arrive in Washington. The remaining few who aren’t yet members will say or do almost anything to gain admission.    

Career progression in D.C. largely depends on contributions from other one percenter club members to maintain and build on their elected position, and it’s well understood that if they serve the interests of their biggest donors while in office then they will continue to be rewarded by this same group of benefactors once they retire.

Meet Today’s Dragons

You probably also know many of the key executive-branch advisors on economic policy also come from the top one percent. So, when the banks and Wall Street received a trillion-dollar gift — through emergency legislation passed back during some of the darkest days of 2008 — it should come as a surprise to no one capable of connecting a few dots.

Given the power and influence of the financial industry and the army of lobbyists they command, that’s exactly how you’d expect the system to work.

Consequently, this makes government not only the most hideous and grotesque of all the financial dragons, but the most powerful as well. With little more than the stroke of a pen, the monstrousdragon beast of Washington D.C. can alter the fates and fortunes of millions of Americans, just as it did during the most recent economic crisis.

And while it’s true not all political measures end up as bureaucratic failures, I believe those who think government will one day come to its senses, wave a magic wand, and make everything right again are buying into a fantasy every bit as enormous as the mythical dragon itself — if they were going to save us, wouldn’t they have done it already?

Fortunately, the dragons lying in wait along the retirement path have already played their hand in the same way now on several occasions, giving you the distinct advantage of knowing just what it is they have in mind the next time crisis strikes.  

Stare Down the Beast

Conceptually and aesthetically, no two retirement paths are alike. The dragons you encounter may be different from those your neighbor or colleague is fighting against, but ultimately, you can apply the same tactics to set course on a successful journey in your golden years.

It begins with you having a plan — a plan based on economic reality rather than the monetary fantasy promoted by government and the media, and one deeply rooted in the certainty there’s no politician, saddled-up in shining armor with sword at the ready, riding in to save the day.

Today’s financial dragons, both large and small, may present themselves in a variety of forms with varying degrees of fiery breath, but one thing is for certain: They’re always out there, ever patient, and always lurking.

But we turn the tables on the beasts when we begin actively seeking them out instead of trying to hide, as it is always far better to keep them in your sights, straight-ahead and in clear view, as opposed to having to look over your shoulder for the rest of your days.

So, how many unknowns or unexplored territory have you identified? What kind of dangers do you anticipate encountering on your path? How many dragons will you need to vanquish?

The answers to these interrogations may be complex, but properly armed with a sharp sword of knowledge, together with a sturdy shield of wisdom and foresight, you’ll fear nothing of the dragons awaiting you along the path to your golden years.

You can defeat the dragons — in fact, we all can. It is absolutely possible.

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