Navigating the Rapids of Retirement Investing — A Kayaker’s Guide


(Photo courtesy of Rosell Wealth Management)

As the warm rays of the morning sun kissed the lush forests of Oregon, I found myself standing at the banks of the majestic McKenzie River, my heart pounding with a mix of excitement and nervous anticipation. Nestled between towering Douglas firs, the river beckoned me with its crystal-clear waters, promising an adventure I would never forget. This would be only my second experience ever in a river kayak and my first time navigating the rapids armed with my recent purchase — an NRS Star Viper Inflatable Kayak (IK for short). I thought to myself; What am I thinking? Should I be doing this? My heart raced as I was about to experience the results of snowmelt transforming the river into a dynamic force of thrilling and bone-chilling class 3 rapids.

With guidance from my good friends and experienced river rats, Roger and Dave, I carefully learned how to inflate my kayak, double-checking each valve and ensuring its stability. I strapped on my PFD over my wet suit, tightened my helmet, and climbed into the kayak, ready to take on the mighty McKenzie.

Launching into the river, I paddled gently at first, relishing the tranquil brief stretch of calmer water but my anticipation grew as the river began to narrow, and the rhythmic babbling turned into a chorus of roaring rapids ahead. “Always keep your paddle in the water and make sure you’re always pointing the bow straight into the rapids”, bellowed Roger. With a mix of determination and respect for the river’s power, the Star Viper responded to my every stroke, its sturdy construction providing stability and agility. I could feel the exhilaration building within me as I rode the surges, my body attuned to the ebb and flow of the rapids. I paddled with the expected wild abandon of a beginner, however, my senses attuned to the nuances of the river and I made it to the end of our 2 hour journey without capsizing! I can’t say this about one of my friends. (smile, smile). I have spent much time over the past two decades enjoying the Mckenzie River from the shores yet now I felt truly connected to the river, as if we were co-conspirators in this adventure. The mesmerizing scenery and adrenaline-fueled rush merged into an experience that transcended words. The rapids demanded my complete focus, but in return, they gifted me a sense of freedom, an escape from the worries of everyday life.

As I deflated my kayak, carefully packing it away, I couldn’t help but reflect on the incredible adventure I had just experienced. The rapids had challenged me and I thought about the similarities between kayaking and retirement planning.

Retirement planning can often feel like navigating treacherous waters. As we approach our golden years, we find ourselves confronted with a plethora of investment options, financial jargon, and an unpredictable economic landscape. It’s no wonder that many people feel overwhelmed and unsure about how to steer their retirement boats/portfolios toward a secure future. But fear not, intrepid investors! As it turns out, there are surprising similarities between kayaking the rapids in a river and investing one’s retirement portfolio. So, grab your paddle, buckle up your life vest, and let’s dive into this wild adventure of financial insight.

The Rush of Uncertainty:

Just like tackling a rapid for the first time, investing in retirement can stir up a mix of excitement and anxiety. The stock market’s ups and downs can be as thrilling as navigating the twists and turns of a fast-flowing river. But, as any seasoned kayaker will tell you, it’s essential to maintain a calm mindset. Panic and overreaction can lead to poor decision-making. Remember, staying the course and having a well-thought-out strategy is key both in kayaking and investing. It’s not an easy task as the investment climate in the U.S. is often exacerbated by our 24/7 financial commentators whose primary objective often may be to increase their ratings. However, it is imperative to stay the course as it’s not timing the market but time in the market!

Choosing the Right Equipment:

When it comes to kayaking, selecting the right gear is vital. I did my research and received guidance before purchasing my NRS Star Viper. Similarly, choosing the right mix of investments is crucial for your retirement portfolio. Just as a kayak needs to suit your body type and the type of water you’ll be paddling, your investment choices should align with your risk tolerance, financial goals, and time horizon. Paddling through rapids with a tiny, fragile kayak or investing in overly risky assets might both leave you feeling a bit, well, wet. As we approach and enter retirement, I feel the return of your investment should take precedence over the return on your investment.

Expert Guidance Matters:

Paddling through turbulent rapids without proper training or guidance is like investing blindly. Seeking the expertise of a knowledgeable kayaking guides (such as Roger and Dave) ensures your safety and enhances your enjoyment. Similarly, consulting with a financial advisor can help you make informed decisions about your retirement portfolio. They can provide valuable insights, help you diversify your investments, and keep you on track toward your financial goals. Plus, both a kayak guide and a financial advisor can entertain you with entertaining anecdotes along the way! It is important to keep in mind there is a significant difference in working with a true financial advisor and someone who takes care of the investing.

Mastering the Art of Adaptability:

In kayaking, you must quickly adapt to changing river conditions to stay afloat. Similarly, successful retirement investing requires adaptability. The market’s currents can change rapidly, and economic conditions may shift unexpectedly. Being open to adjusting your portfolio and embracing diversification can help you weather the inevitable rapids that lie ahead. Remember, it’s all about finding balance and staying afloat. This is pertinent to the interest rate risk most investors face today as when interest rates increase, as they have been doing, the value of bonds decreases. This can have a damaging impact on one’s retirement portfolio.

Embracing the Thrill of Growth:

One of the most exhilarating aspects of kayaking the rapids is the sense of accomplishment when you conquer a challenging section such as Brown’s Hole. Likewise, investing in your retirement portfolio offers the excitement of watching your savings grow over time. But just as you don’t reach the end of the river in a single stroke, long-term investing requires patience. Be prepared for some rough waters, but keep your sights set on the distant horizon of a comfortable retirement.

Expecting the Unexpected:

In both kayaking and retirement investing, surprises are bound to occur. Unforeseen obstacles, like rocks or fallen branches and snags, can suddenly appear in your path. Similarly, economic recessions, policy changes, or market fluctuations can disrupt your investment strategy. Doesn’t this sound like our current times? Building an emergency fund and diversifying your investments can help you weather unexpected challenges, just as quick thinking and a steady paddle can get you through an unexpected river obstacle.


As we’ve discovered, the adventure of kayaking the rapids bears remarkable similarities to investing in one’s retirement portfolio. Both endeavors require a balance of careful planning, adaptability and staying the course. If you would like a complimentary copy of my book, Failure Is Not an Option — Creating Certainty in the Uncertainty of Retirement, please reach out to my office at or give us a call at 541 385-8831.

David Rosell is president of Rosell Wealth Management in Bend. He is the host of Recession-Proof Your Retirement Podcast and author of three books: Failure is Not an Option- Creating Certainty in the Uncertainty of Retirement, Keep Climbing- A Millennial’s Guide to Financial Planning and In The Know- Thurning Your Unneeded Life Insurance Policy Into Serious Cash. Find David’s books at local bookstores, Amazon, Audible as well as the Redmond Airport. Investment advisory services offered through Valmark Advisers, Inc. an SEC Registered Investment Advisor Securities offered through Valmark Securities, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC 130 Springside Drive, Ste. 300 Akron, Ohio 44333-2431. 800-765-5201. Rosell Wealth Management is a separate entity from Valmark Securities, Inc. and Valmark Advisers, Inc.


About Author

David Rosell is president of Rosell Wealth Management in Bend. He is the author of three books. Find David’s books at local bookstores, Amazon, Audible as well as Redmond Airport. Investment advisory services offered through Valmark Advisers, Inc. an SEC Registered Investment Advisor Securities offered through Valmark Securities, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC 130 Springside Drive, Ste. 300 Akron, Ohio 44333-2431. 800-765-5201. Rosell Wealth Management is a separate entity from Valmark Securities, Inc. and Valmark Advisers, Inc. Valmark Securities supervises all life settlements like a security transaction and its’ registered representatives act as brokers on the transaction and may receive a fee from the purchaser. Once a policy is transferred, the policy owner has no control over subsequent transfers and may be required to disclosure additional information later. If a continued need for coverage exists, the policy owner should consider the availability, adequacy and cost of the comparable coverage. A life settlement transaction may require an extended period to complete and result in higher costs and fees due to their complexity. Policy owners considering the need for cash should consider other less costly alternatives. A life settlement may affect the insured’s ability to obtain insurance in the future and the seller’s eligibility for certain public assistance programs. When an individual decides to sell their policy, they must provide complete access to their medical history, and other personal information. Client name has been changed to protect confidentiality. The gross offer will be reduced by commissions and expenses related to the sale. Each client’s experience varies, and there is no guarantee that a life settlement will generate an offer greater than the current cash surrender value.

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