To get squared-away for retirement, make a budget.

I will be the first to admit this. Budgeting is no fun. Although not as unpleasant as being keel hauled or flogged, budgeting is still a chore. However, it is an important chore in order to properly prepare for your retirement voyage. The most critical outcome from budgeting is knowing where your money goes and assessing what spending is important to you and your family. Humans are creatures of habit, so your natural tendency will be to continue your existing pre-retirement spending patterns into retirement. By examining your spending patterns before then, you will have time to make habit changes if necessary. This is foundational. How can you provision your retirement ship if you don’t know what you truly need?

Making this chore palatable is the key to success. Many cheap or even free budgeting apps are available online that can help with this chore. Find one that is easy to use and intuitive. Once, I started tracking my spending, I was quite surprised to discover where my money goes. Let’s unpack that.

Personal Reveal: My Two Things

First, I had leaks in the hull of my financial ship. Little expenses that didn’t add to my life, but cumulatively leaked out a good bit of money. Now, I continually monitor my spending and discard expenses from my ship that does not enhance my voyage. My goal is to leave a trail of jetsam (unnecessary expenses) in my wake. In the past, sailors would use hot pitch to seal up leaky ships. A particularly troublesome area on wooden ships was called the “devil’s seam” So our mantra should be “discard unnecessariness and then pitch the devil’s seam.

Second thing I discovered was that it was “I” with the spending problem, not my spouse. I am a terrible compulsive spender. A trip to the grocery store for a $3 quart of milk could easily turn into $100 in snacks. We won’t even talk about fishing gear or trips to the guitar shop. Monitoring my spending on a monthly basis keeps me aware of how these little things add up. Also, by keeping my compulsive spending in check, I am creating good habits for the future. Remember, how you live your life now is most likely how you will continue in retirement. So, track your expenses, discard the unnecessariness and then pitch the devil’s seam.


The goal here is not to deprive yourself, but instead to focus on what spending makes you happy and discard spending that does not. Once you know your ideal spending budget, only then can you make a realistic plan and provision your retirement ship.

In the old days, it was the purser’s job to keep the books on the ship. So, to keep your retirement ship squared away, be a good purser and track your expenses. Heave off the unnecessariness and pitch the devil’s seam. Bon Voyage!

Any opinions of those of Don Clements are not necessarily those of Raymond James.


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