Retirement 101….

First step, Plan less.  Second step, slow down.  So I am into the third step but not yet sure what to call it.  I would always tell my clients that the first phase of retirement should be thought of as a vacation.  The primary reason for this was the fact that vacations accomplish two things.  First, they disconnect us from work.  We need to stop reading the emails for a while and stop worrying about the day to day connection we feel at the work place. Second, they come to an end.  As much as we want them to not do that, the reality is they do.  While we are working we are controlled by the time clock, the requirements of the job and the need for the paycheck.  In retirement those elements are gone.  If we just retired to retire, there would be this tendency to never do anything again.  The permanent vacation.  Desirable image but not the reality anyone would truly live or thrive in.  The need to move on dictates the need for the vacation to end.

So I am nearing the end of the first phase of my vacation.  It has been incredibly relaxing and stress reducing.  But here is the key.  I have no intention of replacing one stress with another.  I simply need to move into the next phase.  I have always been about helping people meet their goals.  I have spent a lifetime learning my trade and perfecting its processes.  The next phase in my retirement will now involve me finding outlets through which I can continue to practice my trade, my purpose.  The difference, no time clock, no job definition, no employer….no obligation.

So I am ready to name it.  Retirement tip number three… wait for it… be picky.  Once it is clear that your obligations have been removed and as your vacation phase is coming to an end, it is time to explore your outlets.  But be picky.  This is now your time and your choice.  You have spent a career, actually a lifetime developing your purpose.  Do not waste it …. nurture it.  Stress free, passion driven, purposeful life.  A zillion opportunities await from volunteering to entrepreneurship.  Look for those that serve your need.  Avoid obligation.  Be picky.   The future IS really yours.

Apparently Height Matters

Recently I was at my retirement party when one of my clients came over.  She was holding her granddaughter who was playing quite shy in the company of all these strangers at the party.  To break the ice, I leaned down and asked her how old she was.  Getting no response, I said “you look to be about four.”  Her immediate response was “no, I’m three.”  Knowing that my daughter would soon be arriving and was bringing my three year old grandson with her, I mentioned that he would be here soon and he too was three.  Her response was immediate, “how tall is he?”  Apparently, if I was going to set her up with my grandson, height mattered to her.  She was clearly not going to be seen with someone who couldn’t measure up.

I am sure this little girl was not being judgmental, but rather was just looking for a point of reference that was more appropriate to her take on life at three.  The retelling of this story to my daughter triggered a thought that I needed to explore.  This little girl was astute enough to remind me that age had nothing to do with my grandson’s playability, yes I just made up that term, but rather his size was the compatibility statistic for her.

This got me to thinking in broader terms.  Am I tall enough?  Tall enough for my clients, my wife, my family or even the stranger I will meet on the street?  In other words, do I hold to my beliefs and ethics everyday and in every way.  Do I walk tall and can those around me sense that.  I can only hope so and then make it a priority to put forth the effort to make it happen as often as I can.

Since height mattered to her, and by the way, they got along famously later, are you always striving to be tall enough?  If not, try putting a little lift in your attitude.  People might just notice that you seem a little “taller”.

And Suddenly I’m the Client

For twenty years I served my clients as their financial planner.  I tried to encourage them to stay patient with the market, not to over react to news stories, try to resist constantly checking the market and take everything you read with a grain of salt.  I felt I was reasonably successful in getting my clients to adhere to these principals.

That was up to three weeks ago.  Then I completed my retirement process and packed up my office and went home.  Since my investments were placed and came with the luxury of a financial planner / guide, my accounts, like my clients’ accounts, were assigned to my replacement rep in my now former employer’s firm.  And just like that, I was no longer the planner.  I had suddenly become the client.

Now the question is, how will I behave?  Will I heed my own advice or I will fall prey to the human nature that drives all of us?  The first week turned out fine.  I was able to just sit back and savor my new role.  However, by the second week the background noise began to nag at the back of my mind.  After all, there was hurricane Harvey and then Hurricane Irma, and as an added little teaser, North Korea.  There were just so many things to worry about.  In no time flat, I was asking for report access to my accounts so that I could look at them when ever I needed.  Oh hell, admit it, whenever I couldn’t resist.  I was one step away from becoming irrational.  I was just one more bad headline, one more strategically placed piece of advice, and I would be calling my financial planner with the old “do you think we should be doing anything?’.

Here is the good news.  I did heed my own advice.  At least so far.  I didn’t call my planner.  I didn’t move things around.  I didn’t even stop my auto investment from going through.  I simply reminded myself that my long money was truly my long money and needed the patience and time it needed to reward me.  Likewise, I knew that I had kept an appropriate amount out of the market and that despite a terribly low rate of return, reminded myself that safety and availability were the key goals for that money.

It is hard to be the client.  It is certainly your right to use the copilot you brought along on your  flight to financial freedom and to call on them every time there is a perceived crisis.  It is their job to expect it and to be prepared to do what is necessary to calm your fears and keep you on track.  When necessary, they need to be there to make the adjustments that will keep you on track.

I am glad to say that my planner knows how to do that.  After all, I taught him everything he knows.  Well maybe some of what he knows.  Being the planner or being the client, what is important is to appreciate the dual responsibility that makes it work.  No investor should have to go it alone and no planner can be responsible for all aspects of the process. The role of a great planner is to deliver service that feels like the best experience possible and the knowledge and communication necessary to keep the investor disciplined.  The role of the client, is to exercise patience and to realize their responsibility to stay engaged in the process.

Trust is a critical emotion, but when the planner understands the client and the client understands their role, it is the one key ingredient in the relationship that makes the recipe successful.  I loved being the planner and I am going to do my best to be a great client, but I would be less than truthful if I didn’t tell you it is an interesting transition.

I’m now your client Taylor.  Keep me calm and I promise to behave.

 

Retirement 101….the three “tions”

I have been telling my clients for years, I should say had been telling my clients (I will need to get used to that), that there were three “tions” (shuns) that make for a successful retirement.

The first tion is “vacation”.  Every retirement should start with a vacation.  Vacations are designed to let us disconnect from work.  While we are enjoying our vacation we generally stop thinking about work.  Some will be able to resist that temptation to look at their emails and voice mails and others will actually stop thinking about work altogether.  The key to taking this first period as a vacation, is that vacations are always going to come to an end.  This is not to say that the retiree can’t think of everyday from here on in as vacation, but its just not a reality.  Life will pull us back in and that is where the next tion comes in.

While on vacation, I asked my clients to realize the next tion and that is “obligation”.  For the retiree that obligation they felt each workday morning is now gone.  There is no obligation any more.  The retiree has the right to say yes to those things they wish to do and no to those they don’t.  They can do things for money if they want, but they are not obligated to needing to be paid.  Volunteering becomes something that now replaces punching the clock.  And remember, volunteering means if and when I want to.

The third tion is “passion”.  The biggest fear in retirement is wasting away.  This is why the vacation can’t last forever and the only true obligation, is to oneself to find and exercise their passion.  I have often asked people to tell me what they do that they are passionate about.  The answer is often a description of the job they did in their career.  But this is only what they did and not why they did what they did the way the did.  I would have them think of a recent day at work where they came home with that smile nothing could wipe off.  I then would ask them to visualize what they were doing that day.  It is in that action that they will find their passion.  Now it is their goal to exercise that passion in the things they do with their retirement.  The beauty is that they have no obligations in their way and all the time they want to dedicate to their passion.  They only need the outlet in which to express it.

So where am I in all of this?  Have I heeded my own words.  I have had the vacation or should say I am in week three of it and electing to stay on it for a little longer.  I have definitely started enjoying the lack of obligation.  I have even said no a couple of times already and for anyone truly familiar with me, they know I never really was good at that.  So I am exploring my passion.  I know what my passion is, see my earlier blog “Life as a Labyrinth”.  I am now working on its expression.  I know I have some opportunities to mentor, and maybe even some consulting, but I am ordained to being selective even picky about for whom and how that might happen.  I am trying to balance my need to fulfill my passion with not becoming obligated into making it another career.  For now I am content to talk with anyone who would listen to anything they want to talk about.  Maybe I should just offer some retirement seminars.  The art of successful retirement made easy.  Stay tuned as even I am not sure where this is going.  I only know I intend to savor the ride.

Retirement 101

I guess my first lesson in retirement 101 was to plan less, see my earlier blog “Ah…Retirement, the sweet smell of Success” as well as “Retirement…What’s a guy going to do”.  Everyone will want to know what you are going to do in retirement.  Some will want to know out of worry that you may waste away while others I suspect are jealous and would like to scare you into staying on.  If you oblige everyone with a plan list, you soon find out that the list gets too long and starts to include things even you don’t want to do.  The less you plan the better you will be.

My second lesson now comes with the seasoning of almost two weeks of official retirement under my belt.  And here it is, there’s just no need to rush.  Remember that list,20170828_172740 even though I advised against, I did have one and admit it so do you.  Realize that you have a lifetime remaining to knock it out.  Don’t hurry.  Not only will there be plenty of time to tackle it, you never got to them before and you continued to operate just fine.  That messy closet; it always was.  Those little projects; still didn’t change your life.  All those books you needed to read; you still carried on just fine without their content.  Not only were you able to survive previously having not yet done them, you will need to lean on these little projects to get out of the big ones you don’t want to do later.  Every gambler knows, never play your hold cards before you have to.

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I personally lucked out on my first day.  I was hundreds of miles from home watching a total eclipse of the sun.  Not only was I unavailable to start any of the items on the forbidden list, I was too engrossed in the day to even worry about them.  No one was going to speed up the moon so that I could get back to the list.  In fact, watching it unfold was an epiphany of sorts.  The beauty was in the gradualness of it all and that became my symbol of just how retirement ought to unfold.  I left the day come to me and I took in what it had to offer.  No rush, no deadlines, just an opportunity to relax into the moment.

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There is no telling if there will be  a series here so take advantage of these two pieces of advice as soon as you can.  For those still awaiting retirement, know this, it is in fact scary going into it, don’t pretend you either didn’t or won’t harbor a few concerns, but the stress falloff is a treat.  I suspect these first two weeks have extended my life by a year each.  So plan less and don’t rush anything.  Take your time.  The more you follow this treatise, the more time you just might have to do all those things you never had time to do before.

Aaron Rodgers said it best “R.E.L.A.X”.  He did and then so did we.