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Senior Correspondent

Blindsided: I like this word. But I never want it to happen to me.

That’s why I sat for hours today, on the deck with my bare feet up on the rail… thinking.

The day was a little grey, not your typical Florida winter day. Birds sat side-by-side on the power lines that skirt our little lake, making a heck of a racket. If I closed my eyes, I could pretend for a moment that I was Tippi Hedron in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” (Do you remember that movie? A real classic. Gruesome ending. But at least she got to hang out in Bodega Bay, California, with then-gorgeous Rod Taylor. These days he plays roles like Churchill in Tarantino’s movie.)

As the birds cackled, I tried to remember if their presence meant a cold front was coming. Or a cold front was going. Grackles, sparrows, starlings and crows. Noisy buggers.

I went back to thinking about my life, your life and how to be prepared for an uncertain future.

My first thought: what are the beliefs that we’re absorbing from others around us? Are we reacting … or over-reacting? With statistics as “cooked” as they are, and a media that has forgotten its role as journalistic truth-seeker, who knows how good (or bad) the economy really is.

For most, it boils down to a variation on the old saw: “If your neighbor is without work, it’s an economic downturn. If you are without work, it’s a recession. If you and your spouse are without work, it’s a depression.” So it’s at least still an economic downturn.

But a bad economy has never been a reason to not make money. In fact, many a fortune has been made during economic turmoil. What’s needed is to be astute enough to find the unique opportunities. And they may not be where we think they are. So where are they?

What revolutions are going on under our noses? Real revolutions happen without most anyone noticing until they are already over. So can a likely opportunity be spotted by someone over 40? 50? 60? For example, using the power of imagination, what knowledge and expertise do I have that can be reshuffled in new ways to build a solid, comfortable future?

And what does that comfortable future look like? Let’s see, let me imagine a better world that I’d want to live in. Not the big world out there, but “my world.” Not crazy stuff. Just what makes sense to me in my mind’s eye. What feeds my soul? What drives me? What’s fun for me? Reaching financial certainty doesn’t have to be a drag… or a forced march. But it does have to be laced with enough emotion to capture my attention… and hold my focus.

So what else has changed? Well, time used to be our friend. Over time, our houses were worth more, our equity was greater and we could count on that for part of our retirement. Money that we put away… grew. Mutual funds grew. Now time is no longer our friend. The interest paid by institutions is ridiculously low and inflation is being artificially capped. Virtually every market is manipulated in a way that makes it unpredictable. Nothing is sacred. So much information, yet no one knows for sure what to do with their money.

All in all, to not be truly future-conscious today is a form of dangerous denial. And a guarantee that you’ll be blindsided.

Just as I was wrapping up my thoughts, I noticed all the birds had left. It was eerily still.

Here’s what I came up with as a plan for me, that I think would also be good for you.

My goal:

To have a brutally honest, judgment-free view of what I have and where I stand today;

To have a precise, vibrant picture of what I want my life to look like 5-10-20 years out—one that engenders the emotions I want to feel—and to know what that life will cost; and

To have a clear plan (including the necessary financial and life tools) to start on the path towards that life, with its focus weighted towards the early steps.

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