Retirement Planning and Mountain Biking

By Eric Hymer

May 21, 2020

Why Compare Retirement Planning and Mountain Biking?

Yes, you did read the title correctly. I’m sure you probably have a lot of questions like, why are we talking about mountain biking and retirement planning in the same sentence? Or why are we talking about mountain biking at all? We are financial planners located in Kansas, a state with a significant elevation deficit. We’re also working with folks nearing retirement, which doesn’t seem like the time people would be taking up what some consider an extreme sport. The main similarity between retirement planning and mountain biking are the things you need to be successful in both: clarity, confidence, and control. But before we get into those, here are some other reasons why we’re shining a light on mountain biking now:

Surprising Facts About Mountain Biking

  • May is National Bike Month, so the timing is right as more and more people are looking for new ways to get outdoors during physical/social isolation. Amidst the economic downturn, bike sales are booming as bike shops across the country have wait-lists for any bikes under $1,000. These include fitness bikes, commuter bikes, at-home trainers, and lower-priced entry-level mountain bikes.
  • Mountain biking is being taken up by more and more folks near retirement age. According to mountain biking website, 26% of mountain bikers are 45-64 years old, an over-representation compared to the general population. You can see examples of more and more folks discovering mountain biking in retirement. Retired NBA Star, Reggie Miller, is now an avid mountain biker competing in mountain bike races.
  • We have access to more mountain bike trails than you think. While we may not have mountains, we have lots of trails systems designed specifically for mountain bikes. Kansas City boasts over 270 miles of single-track within an hour of the city, according to “Single-track” refers to trails that are intended for mountain biking and only wide enough for one bike. We have over 10 miles of those trails within 10 minutes of our Lenexa office at Shawnee Mission Park.
  • Admittedly, we’re biased. Both Myself, and one of our financial advisors, Wayne Robinson, love to mountain bike. I have only been riding trails for a little over a year, but Wayne is a seasoned expert. He has taken some epic pictures from his rides all over the country and the world.

1. Clarity is Crucial in Mountain Biking and Retirement Planning.

In a previous role working for a medical software company, I attended many continuing education conferences for radiologists. At one of these conferences, I listened to a presentation about physician burnout within the radiology discipline. The speaker shared how the long hours of intense focus while reading images were contributing factor to burnout. He went on to talk about the importance of being able to disconnect on days off to recharge mentally. Much to my surprise, he next shared a video of a mountain biker riding on single-track cut through a dense forrest. His point was this, to disconnect and recharge from a high-intensity job, where focus could literally be a matter of life or death, you needed to replace that with something that required the same level of singular focus to clear your mind. For him, that was mountain biking.

Here is a video on some of the additional stress-relieving and other health-related benefits of mountain biking:

How to Balance Your Focus

Now, odds are, lack of focus won’t be deadly on most mountain bike trails in our area. However, lacking focus and clear mind on any mountain bike ride can cause personal injury or damage to your bike. If you become distracted and take your eyes off the trail, you can quickly land yourself off the path or even off your bike. But merely having your eyes on the trail is not enough on technically challenging rides. Your vision needs to balance its focus on the immediate obstacles you’re traversing while maintaining awareness of what lies ahead.

This is a core principle of both mountain biking and retirement planning because your plan will lack clarity if you don’t focus on the most vital parts of retirement planning. Without clarity, your “plan” may not be much of a plan at all. It’s easy to lose focus due to market volatility, changing regulations, 24-hour news channels, and other distractions. If you allow those things to dictate your plan for retirement, you’ll quickly find yourself off the path leading to your ideal retirement. But how do you find that focus and discipline when starting to plan for retirement? You seek guidance.

Where to Look for Clarity

Even if you aren’t working with a financial planner, there are resources to help you focus when heading into retirement. Our team put together a Retirement Plan Checklist that lists what you need to be thinking about before retirement. You don’t have to worry about trying to come up with the list yourself but can solely focus on completing it. It includes a timeline leading up to retirement and with critical age-based milestones. This allows for balancing your focus on the immediate retirement planning needs and provides you with an awareness of what’s needed later on. With a clear vision to cover the components of a quality financial plan, it’s easier to avoid any financial planning blind spots. Speaking of components:

2. Confidence in the Components of Mountain Biking and Retirement Planning

There are a lot of factors that affect the confidence of a mountain biker. These can include experience, skill level, trail difficulty, weather conditions, and protective equipment. However, one thing that can shake the confidence of the most skilled riders is not trusting what they’re riding. As any serious cyclist will tell you, the bike is only as good as the sum of its parts or components. These components consist of everything that makes up the bike. There are larger, more identifiable items like the frame, wheels, tires, handlebars, saddle, pedals, and seat post.

And there are smaller items that are still crucial like, de-railer hangers, through axels, shifters, all the way down to wire caps for break wire. When any one of these components fails or is lower quality than what you need for your riding style, you’ll notice it quickly.

Even a pro racer is nervous riding a $150 Walmart mountain bike down a double-black diamond trail in the video below. Spoiler Alert: He eats it on the first jump.


Again, this principle applies to retirement planning. The components of the plan are crucial. You need to account for all the proper elements, and if one is missing or not correctly configured, the whole strategy suffers. We’ve seen countless horror stories occur when people are missing something crucial in their plan.

Here is a clip of some of the horror stories discussed in season 1 of The Guided Retirement Show:

What Do You Need for Retirement Planning?

Many people focus heavily on saving and investing for retirement in their working years. This is a critical piece, but only part of a real retirement plan.

It’s impossible to have the best investment and saving strategy if you haven’t thought about the crucial components that affect it. Until you’ve thoroughly evaluated how taxes, Social Security claiming, life/long term care insurance, and estate planning jeopardize your retirement goals, you’ll always be missing something. And missing something in your retirement plan could come at a steep cost once you retire. Another thing that is just as important as the components of a plan is who is building it.

Have Confidence in Who is Building Your Retirement Plan

A significant issue with bikes purchased from stores or websites not dedicated to cycling is the quality of assembly. This is directly related to who is building the bike. Most bikes bought from retailers like Walmart, Target, or even sporting goods stores like Dick’s or Academy, are shipped disassembled. That means store associates with little to no previous experience or training get the task of assembly. For this reason, most bikes bought from these sources require many adjustments before you should consider them trail-worthy. Would you feel confident riding down rough terrain at high speeds on a bike built by the target lady?

Who Is On Your Team?

Unfortunately, this common mountain biking issue is also present in retirement planning. Even if you incorporate all the right components of a retirement plan, how do you know its put together correctly? Are you an expert on taxes, retirement investing, Social Security, estate planning, and insurance? The odds are slim that you are, or you know someone who is. It’s extremely rare to find a CPA/CFP®/JD, who is also an expert on health, life, and long-term care insurance as well as a Social Security expert. That’s why we take the team approach to retirement planning. We have financial advisors, Social Security experts, CPAs, estate planning attorneys, and insurance experts all involved in building retirement plans. They’re experts in close communication with your financial advisor and you as they create the plan with you. This approach allows for a strategy that has a higher likelihood of meeting your goals.

Retirement Plan that Fits You and Your Goals:

Before we move on, here is a final note on the components of your mountain bike and retirement plan: they’re worthless unless they are fit your needs. Earlier I mentioned how Reggie Miller has taken up mountain biking. At the height of 6’7″, Reggie had to have a lot of custom modifications to his bike. Even if he had all of the best components money could buy on his bike, they wouldn’t do him any good if he couldn’t fit on the bike. In mountain biking and retirement planning, there is no “one size fits all” approach.

Even if retirement plans check all the boxes, they can miss the mark if they aren’t custom-built to your goals. Sometimes it’s a process to uncover what those goals are for you and/or your spouse. Proper bike shops have the expertise to measure and fit you to the right-sized frame, seat-post height, and handlebar angle. You can’t build the right retirement plan until your prioritize what is most important to you. One way you can start to do that is with the  MoneyMind® quiz. This short quiz will show how much of your MoneyMind® you base on commitment, happiness, or fear.

Many of our clients found this exercise incredibly enlightening when followed by our Honest Conversation® process. When both spouses align their financial priorities for life in retirement, that’s when you can start to build a plan. Otherwise, you’re setting off down a problematic trail on a bike that doesn’t fit.

3. Control in Retirement Planning and Mountain Biking

Control is vital in both mountain biking and retirement planning. You can’t have it without first establishing clarity in your retirement plan and confidence in its build. In mountain biking, nothing is better than feeling in control as you traverse a challenging section of the trail. However, the ride can turn from stress-relieving to stress-enduing once you don’t feel in control of the bike. This can be a make-or-break point in the ride, to decide to press on or not. Often, this can result in the emotional reaction to call it quits early in the journey or press on in stubbornness despite clear warning signs. But how do you regain control to find balance on your bike and in your retirement plan after a fall?

Controlling Your Risk in Retirement Planning and Mountain Biking

There are always going to be risks you can’t control in both retirement planning and mountain biking. Many risks relate to the timing of when you ride or enter into retirement.

However, you can do many things within your retirement plan to limit your exposure to risk. Through stress-testing your plan, you can also have a good idea of how it will perform in adverse circumstances. The key is finding the sweet spot in the right amount of exposure to risk both in mountain biking and in retirement planning.

In mountain biking, hiking, and climbing “exposure” describes the level of injury risk in the event of a fall. A low-exposure trail might look like the image below from the Wyandotte County Lake in Kansas City, Kansas. It has no drop-off on either side of the trail, no large rocks, roots, or other features on the path.

Compare that to the Portal Trail, in Moab Utah, considered to be one of the most exposed trails in the United States.

Mountain Biking and Retirement Planning

This trail features a 200 ft drop on the left side for the entire route. It’s rated as a pro-line and recommended for experts only. There are several signs on the trail strongly encouraging riders to dismount to traverse certain sections to avoid falling.

Mountain Biking and Retirement Planning

Here is what it looks like from the rider’s point of view:

Mountain Biking and Retirement Planning

You can do a great deal to reduce your risk by only riding trails with a comfortable level of exposure. Many trails are well marked at the trailhead to indicate difficulty and have reviews online describing the threat. The key is identifying risks on certain sections of specific trails to determine the best route. But not all reviews are trustworthy, and not all risks are identifiable from the trailhead. You could be safe in the flat smooth section and expose yourself to a cliff at the next turn. So how do you know what to ride and what to avoid?

Seeking Guidance to Avoid Risk on Difficult Trails

It’s crucial in mountain biking and retirement planning to seek guidance from two areas: People and Technology. You’ll need to leverage online trail maps before you embark on a new trail, and use GPS systems to track your location during the ride. Mobile Apps like Strava can track your speed, moving time, and location to help you know how you’re performing. However, mobile apps, websites, and technology can only take you so far. You’ll need a guide for the technical trails that are poorly marked or not on maps. This is an experienced rider who knows the area well and knows how to coach riders of all skill levels.

Guided Navigation to Control Your Retirement Plan.

This rings true in retirement planning as well. Building your retirement plan for the first time, you’ll want the guidance of someone who’s done it before. Not only because they know where to look for hidden risks, but because they know how to coach you through it. They also know how to tailor a plan to fit your needs, meet your goals, and accommodate your risk tolerance. When you couple expert guidance with accurate financial tracking technology, that’s when you start to feel in control. It’s not just one person or platform that will help navigate you successfully through retirement, but an entire team and a guided retirement system.

For example, utilizing our free online self-assessment is one step to assess risk in your portfolio. However, to truly understand where the risk lies, you need to leverage that technology with qualified fiduciary guidance. Your self-assessment score won’t be valuable until you have analyzed your portfolio positions in different scenarios to identify the risk. To do that accurately, you need extensive knowledge of both retirement planning and portfolio modeling software. Even in the financial industry, trusted guidance on both is hard to find.

Find Comfort to Enjoy the Ride

Once you have clarity in your plan, confidence in its build, and control having analyzed the risks, then you can start to enjoy the ride. I appreciate you indulging in this stretched metaphor as I rambled about something I’m passionate about. If you follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or YouTube, you probably noticed we share a lot about our passions. Everything from beer-brewing, boating, basement refinishing, and now biking. Whether you’re a client or not, we’d love to hear more about the passions you want to pursue in retirement. We believe that the best retirement plans aren’t focused on money but built around people and their passions.

Give us a call at 913-393-1000 or schedule a complimentary consultation below if you would like to meet with our team for a free retirement plan review.

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The views expressed represent the opinion of Modern Wealth Management an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Information provided is for illustrative purposes only and does not constitute investment, tax, or legal advice. Modern Wealth Management does not accept any liability for the use of the information discussed. Consult with a qualified financial, legal, or tax professional prior to taking any action.