Note From the Founder: Unknown Unknowns

Photo Credit: Steve Chen
It’s been a very eventful few months across the country; we’ve had hurricanes, flooding, mass shootings and wildfires – every time I think that the pace of major events can’t go faster it seems to pick up even more.

The one bright spot is that the stock market seems to climb higher despite it all – although like many people I think that the financial markets might be getting a little frothy…..

Even though we’re in the retirement planning business, these disasters have highlighted that you can’t plan for everything – there will always be unknown unknowns.  We have relatives in Rockport, Texas where Harvey came ashore.  These family members are small business owners, near retirement age. And they are working hard to rebuild homes and businesses — not exactly what they had planned.

In our neck of the woods it was wildfires burning in the Napa and Sonoma wine country that really brought home the risk of losing it all.  We were checking Cal Fire maps intra day while these fires raged and preparing our local high school and local Seminary to be evacuation centers for some of the 20,000 displaced people from 6,000 structures burned in the worst wildfires in California history.

I took the beach photo above when we went to try to get away from the smoke in our area – the photo looks great, but the reality is that it was full of smoke from many families losing everything overnight.  Below are some photos from a friend of ours that illustrate the destruction.

Photo Credit: Jay Tamang

Like many families around here we have planned for earthquakes but I hadn’t really considered what it would mean if we had minutes to leave our home due to wildfire and had to get everyone out safely.  We live in a house on Mt. Tam that is in a Wildland – Urban interface – so if a fire swept through our area – we might only have minutes to leave.   This story of a 14 year old boy who died trying to escape with his family brought home how bad it can get and how quickly you have to move.

We’ve updated our family evacuation plan, updated our go bags, improved our data backup and now thought about what we’d try to take if we had minutes to leave:

  1. Our family with the clothes on our back
  2. Phones, passports photos on portable hard drives- if we have time
  3. Go bags – if we have time
  4. Take a car if the roads are passable – otherwise bikes or foot

It’s a pretty short list and it is likely we would only escape with #1.

If you think there’s a real chance you could lose everything, you get clear on your priorities in a hurry.

On the plus side – if we lost everything – we’d probably try living abroad and working remotely for 1-2 years while our home was rebuilt.

Evolving the NewRetirement Business Model

At NewRetirement we also got to thinking about our business.  We feel like we’ve been doing some pretty good work around helping people prepare for retirement based on some of the positive user feedback, user engagement rates and testimonials we’ve been getting.  So far we’ve been working hard on building what we hope is the best retirement planning tool platform available.  We’ve been focused on improving the tool and delivering great content first and less focused on how we’ll build a great business model to help power our growth.

We realize we need a great business model and think it needs to have the following characteristics:

  1. A great free option so that anyone can try it and get significant value.  Part of our mission is to help as many people as we can.
  2. A low cost option that enables people who want even more sophisticated modeling but wish to do their planning DIY.
  3. Ability to connect users to expert help from approved providers for people who do want help.
  4. Getting paid by our users, so that we are completely aligned with them.
  5. Offer exceptional value.

We’ve taken a first pass at this on our Pricing page.  (Note if you are interested in our services please don’t be shy about clicking to register your interest.)

We’re also considering some other ideas and would love your input via this survey on potential planning services.

Awesome Updates Coming Soon

We’ve got some awesome new functionality and design coming out shortly and we’re getting ready to roll out our PlannerPlus solution which a lot of you have been asking for.


Thanks for reading this – we appreciate your time – we believe that the work we’re doing can help many people get to a more secure future and hopefully contribute towards people achieving their dreams.  Any suggestions or comments on our tools or writing are welcome.


Steve, Founder, NewRetirement


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