As the research into behavioral finance has shown, the words we use and how concepts are framed can have a powerful impact on how we see the world and consider the opportunities that may lie before us. A strategy can go from being appealing to terrifying (or vice versa!) based solely on how it’s explained. And in the context of retirement, there are a lot of words and phrases that may unintentionally be hampering our efforts to have a productive planning conversation.
For instance, with the rise of Monte Carlo analysis, it’s become increasingly popular to talk about the probability of success, leading retirees to naturally want to minimize the probability of failure as much as possible, given the catastrophe that implies. Yet the reality is that for most retirees, a “failure” doesn’t just mean running off the retirement spending cliff, but instead a gradual spenddown of assets that necessitates adjustments along the way to get back on track. So what happens if “probability of failure” is reimagined as a “probability of adjustment” instead, to reflect what actually happens in the real world? All the sudden it doesn’t seem so bad; it simply raises the question of how much of an adjustment will be necessary, and when or under what conditions.