When someone says “Machiavellian,” you might think of a lying schemer, a power-hungry politician, or ruthless individual who believes the ends justify the means. But this characterization isn’t quite fair to the political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli. He gave practical advice to the prince of Florence about how to rule, and was concerned with him being successful, not evil. Possibly his most important piece of advice was to focus on what you can control, not on matters of chance.
We can spend too much time worrying about factors out of our control, like how much money we have to work with, and not enough on figuring out how to best use what we have. When it comes to retirement planning, Americans spend time worrying about the future of Social Security, tax rates, and the market. These are things that would fall under Machiavelli’s category of “fortune,” which people cannot control. The way to win he says, is to focus on “prowess,” and using foresight to protect against bad fortune.
For example, there’s panic about the state of Social Security as its trust funds are expected to be depleted by the year 2034. Learning how to maximize your Social Security benefit, rather than worry about the program’s solvency, can help you in retirement. Deciding when is the best time to take benefits, calculating a spousal benefit, and minimizing taxes are all important parts of a retirement strategy.
The markets are even more unpredictable than Congress, and market downturns can have a particularly devastating effect on those nearing or in retirement. Rather than leave your investments to chance, you can shift to a lower-risk portfolio before you retire. An advisor can help you decide on an appropriate level of risk to help protect and grow your nest egg, whether you decide to invest in stocks, ETFs, Real Estate, or alternative investments.
Part of mastering the Machiavellian method is realizing that you have more control than you might think you do: While you can’t control the future, sometimes you can predict it. We know that right now taxes are relatively low, meaning that they will go up in the future. While you can’t do much to stop this, you can create a retirement plan that takes advantage of this knowledge, by using income planning strategies, Roth conversions, and estate planning to minimize your tax burden in retirement.
Here at Epstein & White, we want you to have a solid plan for retirement that leaves nothing up to chance. We can help you create a comprehensive retirement plan that takes Social Security maximization, tax minimization, and asset protection into account. Click here to schedule your no cost, no obligation financial review today.