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The Difficulty of Predicting Your Retirement Number


Yours is in there somewhere.

“It is likely that unlikely things should happen.”

Imagine that you’re sitting in an airplane, and suddenly there’s some bumpiness. The plane shakes a little and dips and rises. The pilot comes over the intercom and tells you to buckle up because you’re undergoing a little bit of turbulence.

Gripping the seat a little tighter? Sweaty palms? Reconsidering asking the flight attendant for a couple of stiff drinks?

This is the reaction that a lot of people have when they’re flying, even while they try to put on a brave face about the whole affair. Because we’re not in control, we’re scared to death of dropping out of the sky like a shot bird.

The reality is that the chances of being involved in a plane crash are extremely remote, to the tune of one in ten million. Yet, while we’re up in the air, Monkey Brain doesn’t believe that statistic one iota. Suddenly, at the first wave of turbulence, you’re that one. Forget the other 9,999,999 planes which went up and came back down without incident. You’re the one.

Why can’t Monkey Brain rationally deal with the true probabilities?

The problem is that, according to the University of Rochester’s Dr. Ben Hayden, we’re terrible at dealing with probabilities which are either zero (the chances of me making the U.S. men’s soccer team) or 100% (the chances of the sun rising tomorrow morning). Anything in between, and we tend to drag the number towards the average. What’s worse is that we underestimate higher chances – anything above 40%, and overestimate lower chances – lower than 40%, and we get worse as that probability approaches zero.

Chances of a plane crashing? 1 in 8 million. Monkey Brain’s interpretation? One in a hundred.

Not only does Monkey Brain think that every plane that you are on is going to fall out of the sky, he’s terrible at trying to figure out what’s going to happen to the future you, and this can really impact your retirement planning.

I’m sure somewhere along the way, you’ve heard about the retirement “number.” It’s the target that you’re supposed to be aiming for when doing your retirement savings. Hit that number in your retirement savings, and voila! Done. You can retire. (For further reading, find out what else you need to do BEFORE you retire!)

Allow me to walk you through the process of how I work on telling you what I think your target is going to be. Remember, it’s never a hard and fast number, even though, once you hear it, you’re going to be subjected to the anchoring bias, which means that once you hear a number, you’re going to focus your attention on that number, even if other information should cause you to change your mind.


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Jason Hull is a Fort Worth fee only, hourly financial planner who serves clients in Fort Worth, TX and Dallas, TX as well as serving clients nationwide.

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Hull Financial Planning is a Fort Worth, fee-only hourly financial advisor. The cities we serve in the Dallas-Fort Worth area include: 

Tarrant County: 
Arlington, Azle, Bedford, Benbrook, Blue Mound, Burleson, Colleyville, Crowley, Dalworthington Gardens, Edgecliff Village, Euless, Everman, Flower Mound, Forest Hill, Fort Worth, Grapevine, Grand Prairie, Haltom City, Haslet, Hurst, Keller, Kennedale, Lake Worth, Lakeside, Mansfield, Newark, North Richland Hills, Pantego, Pelican Bay, Rendon, Richland Hills, River Oaks, Saginaw, Sansom Park, Southlake, Trophy Club, Watauga, Westlake, Westover Hills, Westworth Village, and, White Settlement 

Dallas County: 
Addison, Balch Springs, Cedar Hill, Carrollton, Cockrell Hill, Combine, Coppell, Dallas, DeSoto, Duncanville, Farmers Branch, Ferris, Garland, Glenn Heights, Grand Prairie, Grapevine, Highland Park, Hutchins, Irving, Lancaster, Lewisville, Mesquite, Ovilla, Richardson, Rowlett, Sachse, Sand Branch, Seagoville, Sunnyvale, University Park, Wilmer, and, Wylie 

We also serve clients nationwide and can leverage technology to maintain our client contact and communication.


Hull Financial Planning, 2939 Crockett St. #315, Fort Worth TX 76107, (817)476-0584

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