Do you have a Plan B?

S.F. Ehrlich Associates |

Stephen Kreider Yoder and his wife, Karen Kreider Yoder, write a very enlightening column for the Wall Street Journal titled Retirement Rookies. Yoder, a former editor for the Journal, took on this assignment upon his retirement. Together, he and his wife share their often-contrasting perspectives on how they’re enjoying and occasionally coping with retirement.

One of their favorite activities is biking together on a tandem bike. We’re not referring to rides around the park; we’re referring to rides across large expanses of America measured in thousands of miles. A recent experience while biking, however, caused them to start to question some big ‘What-ifs.’1

While biking in Kansas, they noticed a semi-tractor trailer in their side-view mirror. As opposed to the thousands of motorists who give leeway when passing two bicyclists, this semi failed to do so. In fact, he drove so close to them, on a sparsely traveled road no less, that the trucker tore off the satchel bag on the left side of their bike. The driver missed killing them by mere inches.

This near-death experience led the Yoders to wonder if they needed, or had, a Plan B. Their Plan A was to retire and bike together. But what were they to do if one were to die before they lived their tandem-biking life together?

This brings to mind the old Yiddish expression: Man plans, and God laughs. After all, don’t we all have plans on how long we’re going to work? Or where we’re going to retire? Or the destination for our next move? But how many of us have a Plan B if Plan A doesn’t come to fruition?

The first step for the Yoders after their near-death experience was to consult with their financial planner. He reassured them they had sufficient assets should either predecease the other. He also suggested they make sure all critical documents were under joint control.

When examining what should be under joint control, the Yoders looked at titles on vehicles, phone plans, and credit cards. Their tasks included preparing a single, shared list of all passwords so either could easily access them.

A few hours after their terrifying experience, the Yoders arrived in Marienthal, Kansas, and stood in front of a statue of a bicyclist who had been killed on the same road. John Egbers died at age 64, “…leaving behind his wife of 44 years and their plans for retirement together.”

Though acknowledging the pain of thinking about it, Karen Yoder writes of her Plan B, should Stephen predecease her. She talks about the need to be “part of a caring community.” She writes about continuing with her life for a year or so with few changes before she would “simplify, downsize and reduce responsibilities.” Moving to a smaller place is in Karen’s Plan B, as is getting together with friends who have had similar losses. That’s as far as she can envision.

As part of writing their column on formulating a Plan B, the Yoders contacted Susan Egbers, the widow of the bicyclist whose statue they viewed in Marienthal. Susan shared “she faced horrible loneliness for three years after (John) died.” After three years, she said she woke up one morning and decided to move from Minnesota to a condo in Florida.

Thinking of a Plan B may be too painful to consider, especially if you have a partner. Should the unthinkable ever occur, however, it would at least give you a starting point.




1 Kreider Yoder, Stephen. “Two Retirees Consider Their Nightmare: What Will We Do If One of Us Dies First?” The Wall Street Journal, 1 Feb. 2024.



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