Nuclear explosion The potentialenergy of the atomic nucleus is roughly 10,000 times greater thanthat of the outer shell. Such is the magnitude of differencebetween attacking an objective by only going skin deep versusstriking directly into the heart.(Photo: Shutterstock)

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If you had the choice, which would you rather have explode 50miles away from you: a stick of dynamite or an atomic bomb?

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You don't have to be a nuclear physicist to know it's a farbetter thing to be an hour's drive away from exploding dynamitethan an hour's drive away from an exploding atomic bomb. And I'mnot just talking about the radiation; I'm talking about the actualphysical force.

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Chris Carosa ChristopherCarosa, CTFA, is chief contributing editor for FiduciaryNews.com, aleading provider of essential news and information, bluntcommentary and practical examples for ERISA/401(k) fiduciaries,individual trustees and professional fiduciaries.

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What explains this? Dynamite, like all conventional weapons,relies on a chemical reaction to get its bang. Atomic bombs rely onnuclear reactions. That represents a huge difference in the amountof power packed into each respective detonation.

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How big is that difference? About the same as the differencebetween getting paid $1,000 for that baseball card you discoveredin the neighborhood garage and getting paid $100,000,000 for thatJean-Michel Basquiat painting that's been collecting dust in yourbasement for the last 35 years.

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Here's what this difference means to retirees: A Delphic “knowthyself” gap between a happy and productive retirement and avacuous “what do we do now?” retirement.

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Related: 10 obstacles to retirementreadiness

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You see, a chemical reaction is a superficial event. It involvesjust the outer shell of the participating atoms—that would be whereelectrons reside. Sure, it's powerful enough to blow you tosmithereens, but only at close distances.

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A nuclear reaction, on the other hand, involves the very core ofthe atom—that would be the part containing protons and neutrons.The potential energy of the atomic nucleus is roughly 10,000 timesgreater than that of the outer shell. This is enough power to blowyou and the next county to smithereens.

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Such is the magnitude of difference between attacking anobjective by only going skin deep versus striking directly into theheart of the matter.

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Preparing for retirement ought to be undertaken with the kind ofseriousness that has folks diving deep into their core. They canjust dust off the edges of their planning and say they're done, butthey need to dig deeper than they've probably ever dug before.

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And it's sure a lot easier to do this when someone is holdingtheir hand.

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Thus, we have the following three-step introspective “knowthyself” process professionals can use as a template to help guidefuture retirees to a happy retirement:

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1. Take a stern self-assessment. Don't fall for one of thosesuperficial Cosmo-like psychological profile tests. You've got toask the hard questions to determine your real baseline;

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2. Discover your innermost objectives, including thoseheart-felt desires you might be too afraid to admit to; and, 3.Define your most-potent wants, dreams and aspirations, includingthings that have always been inside you but you never knewabout.

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This process may reveal things you've always known. It also maysurprise you in ways that will both delight you and better prepareyou for retirement.

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It may not be easy, but neither is it as difficult asthermonuclear physics.

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Christopher Carosa

Chris Carosa has been writing a weekly article and monthly column for BenefitsPRO online and BenefitsPRO Magazine since 2011 and is a nationally recognized award-winning writer, researcher and speaker. He’s written seven books, including From Cradle to Retire: The Child IRA; Hey! What’s My Number? – How to Increase the Odds You Will Retire in Comfort; A Pizza The Action: Everything I Ever Learned About Business I Learned By Working in a Pizza Stand at the Erie County Fair; and the widely acclaimed 401(k) Fiduciary Solutions. Carosa is also Chief Contributing Editor of the authoritative trade journal FiduciaryNews.com and publisher of the Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, a weekly community newspaper he founded in 1989. Currently serving as President of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and with more than 1,000 articles published in various publications, he appears regularly in the national media. A “parallel” entrepreneur, he actively runs a handful of businesses, including a small boutique investment adviser, providing hands-on experience for his writing. A trained astrophysicist, he also holds an MBA and has been designated a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor. Share your thoughts and story ideas with him through Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/christophercarosa/)and Twitter (https://twitter.com/ChrisCarosa).