Do a Web search for “retirement savings crisis” and you’ll get millions of hits, sounding alarms about historically low U.S. savings rates. “People just aren’t saving any money, which is a real shame,” says Henry “Bud” Hebeler.
Hebeler has a vivid personal perspective on the problem. After more than three decades at Boeing, where he rose from engineer to president of the Boeing Aerospace unit, he’s become a prominent retirement planning advocate and advisor. He writes regular columns for the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch, has authored several well-reviewed investment books, makes frequent media appearances, and provides informal personal advice.
“I get maybe three questions a day from people who’ve been on my website (www.analyzenow.com) or read my articles,” explains Hebeler. “Most can be answered in an hour or so, though some take longer: some people are in real trouble. I get a lot of thank-you notes—that’s my pay.”
Hebeler notes that people in almost all age groups prioritize immediate consumption over retirement planning. His goal is to “relay some of the knowledge” gained during his time at Boeing, especially his six years as chief forecaster and planner in an environment that cultivated long-term thinking.
A turning point came when he was in his 50s and Boeing started providing twice-yearly financial planning assistance. “I starting thinking about the planning tools the consultants had, which were quite primitive compared to Boeing’s,” recalls Hebeler, who had earned a master’s in management after two aero-astro degrees. “I thought, people deserve better tools, ones that bring in a broader perspective, and started working on some little programs for my own amusement.” That set the stage for his retirement work, which has also involved corporate and public-sector consulting from his Seattle-area home, teaching at the California Institute of Technology, and service on the Sloan Board of Governors and the boards of visitors for the Defense Systems Management College and the University of Washington.
Hebeler and his wife, Mirriam, are avid skiers, despite having “injured every limb we have.” They’ve applied long-range planning by ensuring that their descendants (four daughters, 13 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren) also take up skiing around age four. “That way, they visit for ski vacations,” he explains.
“And when you ride a lift with no cell phones in front of their eyes, you really get to talk.”