At the end of day, all that matters is what retirement means to you. Forget what the commercials say. Forget what the brochures say. Forget much of what your advisor may say. You don’t have a “number;” you have a life that you get to define and live.
This week I’m starting a new series called Retirement to Me, where you, the listener, get to share the lessons you’ve learned along your journey and what retirement means to you.
Your Story is Important
Each of you have unique experiences, knowledge and perspective about money and retirement. By sharing your story, you can have a positive impact on others journeys and help them view retirement from a fresh perspective. My guess is by telling your story, you’ll learn more about yourself as well.
Here’s How it Works:
- I’ll interview willing listeners for approximately 20 minutes about their money and retirement story.
- Our conversation will be just that: an informal conversation (no fancy interview structure).
- I’ll ask the same 10 questions (see below).
- You’ll get the exact questions beforehand.
- Our talk will be prerecorded to allow for review and editing before publishing on the podcast.
- You can share as much or as little as you’re comfortable with. In order to protect your identity, you can change your name and/or elements of your story.
- As a thank you, any participant whose talk is aired will receive a 30 minute planning call with me to address any financial issue they’d like to discuss.
Enter your info here and I’ll e-mail you the details.
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I’ll Go First.
To start things off, here is my money and retirement story.
Okay, Mr. Whitney.
1. Who are you? Not your name, just tell me the basics about you.
My name is Roger Whitney. I guess I can say my name, right? I’ve been married almost 25 years to my college sweetheart. We have a 17 year old daughter and a 19 year old son so I’m just about to enter that empty nest phase of life … I’m getting nervous myself I’m being interviewed … that empty nest stage of life where we’re going to have a little bit more free time. They’re wonderful kids and they’re very self-sufficient. Both my wife and I are really coming into a renaissance in our career in that we’re fairly highly trained. I think we’re very competent and we know who we are and what we aren’t, and we’re really laser focused on serving. We’re comfortable with who we are as adults now and we’re excited about this empty-nester stage. We’re not excited about our kids leaving but we’re excited about the ability to see them grow and blossom as adults, and we’re excited about the two of us being able to basically go through that second romance of having more time that we can spend together and give each other attention, so that’s pretty cool.
That’s who I am. I’m Roger Whitney. I own a business. I serve lots of wonderful people in what I do. I have this amazing podcast with these amazing listeners. Got to kiss up a little bit. That’s who I am.
2. What does retirement mean to you?
That’s simple because, as the “Retirement Answer Man,” I think about this all day long. What retirement means to me is very different I think than how the industry thinks about it. Having seen people walk this journey towards retirement, following the path that they’ve been told to follow of saving up tons of money and then living well later on, seeing that and being trained in that, and seeing how that actually works out in application, and sometimes it works out great and sometimes it doesn’t, I decided that’s not for me. Some of that goes back to my mother’s experience. If you’ve watched some of the videos on my website you’ve seen that.
When I was in college my mother and I would always have these discussions. We grew up as mainly a single family household. My mother worked extremely hard because she was taking care of myself and my two sisters. My mom and I would always have these very intellectual arguments of man, I’m like … I was young … “Got to live for today. You got to enjoy yourself. You got to enjoy today.” She was always “No, you have a lot of responsibilities and you have to take care of those responsibilities. I’m going to work my butt off basically and I’ll enjoy my life later once I get there. I’m going to work hard. I’m going to save. I’m going to get you guys to college and I’m going to enjoy my life later.”
She constantly focused on work and enjoying her life later. Well, later never came for her. It never came for her. When she was 48 she passed away from cancer. That was right when I graduated college, so she never even met my wife. She met her very briefly when we were dating but not knowing that we were going to be married for so long. Her later never came, and at the age of 48. That strikes me a lot right now because I’m 48. Seeing that and having those discussions with her, I’ve always noodled on how do you balance living as well as you can today, because today is all you got, without sacrificing your tomorrow. When I look at it, when I was young I was way too far on the living well today, screw tomorrow side of the ledger. In hindsight, and I can understand, giving her history of being a single parent, she was too focused on living well tomorrow and, in a lot of ways, missing the only life that she had.
When I think about retirement that, as I’ve matured, has really resonated with me and has helped me form the process that I use with every client, because I don’t want to miss my only life, from my mother’s experience. My sister passed away at 51 last year. I’ve had clients pass away in such random ways. I don’t want to miss the only life I have, but being mister prudent steward that I am, I don’t want to miss tomorrow either. I don’t want to mess up tomorrow. I got to find that balance on the teeter totter between the two.
The way I think about retirement is it’s not this huge mountain that you need to sacrifice and suffer to get to in order to enjoy the summit. It’s much more of a journey that the more intentional you can be the more you can enjoy the entire journey, and find that proper balance between living well today without sacrificing tomorrow, and the more intentional you are, the greater your life can be and not just have it be good. That’s what retirement means to me. May be something different to you, and I’m excited about hearing about that.
3. What has you most excited about retirement?
That’s an interesting question, and especially because of how I define retirement. I think of it as a continuum. Hopefully I’m living as balanced as I can and I can just maintain this balance as I get older. I guess one of the things that really excites me most about retirement is that I’ll be able to work and play more and more on my own terms, in terms of the obligations that I have. I will have matured enough in my craft. I’ll have matured enough as an adult in terms of efficiencies and putting the ego aside and all that other stuff, that I’ll be able to really focus and engage intentionally on high impact activities and get rid of a lot of the clutter that comes up as you raise a family, build a business, and everything else. I’m looking at having the financial resources to be able to work as much on my own terms as I want.
I think of retirement that way. I don’t think I’ll ever stop working or being productive in some sense, but I think being able to do it more and more on your own terms and only in those areas where you can have the most impact, whether it’s with friends or with work engagements or anything else. That’s what I’m most excited about retirement.
4. What are you most worried about when you think about retirement?
What I’m worried about, I think it’s the same thing most people are, is I’m worried about health. I’m worried about being healthy enough to be productive and engaged in things, and I’m worried about the health of my wife and my children and how healthcare is going to work, because that’s all going to change. I’m worried about inflation. I’m worried about economic Armageddon just like everybody else is to an extent. I get worried about the future.
Now for me as a Christian, I have a lot of faith that it’s going to work out, that there is a plan and that the more intentional I am about making lots of little smart decisions, the better … It will meander and I’ll iterate enough that I’ll manage regardless of how all these health and economic and market conditions … However these plays out, if I can be the most intentional and have my house in order, I think I’ll be okay, but I worry about those things. I worry about what’s going to be there for my children. I’m worried about, bluntly, just screwing it all up. I don’t want to screw it up. I don’t want to look back and say man, I really messed up, and if I would have done those things I could have put our family in a better situation. I worry about the same thing. That’s why I try to be so intentional.
I’ll tell you, interesting because I’m in this business, it’s sort of like the cobbler issue. I have to be doubly intentional because I’m so busy worrying about everybody else’s financial life, all my clients that I walk life with, and making sure that I’m not missing any blind spots for them, it’s very easy to put myself last in thinking about those things because I’m thinking about everybody else so much. I guess I worry about that a little bit.
5. How do you think you’re doing up until now on this journey towards retirement?
That’s an interesting question. How do I think I’m doing? I think I’ve cleaned up a lot of my messes from my 20s and 30s, and I left a lot of messes. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way because of my arrogance and overconfidence and just thinking it always gets better and better from a financial perspective, and thinking I was all that. How am I doing? Relative to the entire journey, I think I’m in the best spot I’ve ever been in. I guess from a financial perspective I am not financially independent. I wouldn’t call myself that but I do think relative to my journey as a human I think I am in the best position not just from a numbers standpoint but from an attitude standpoint, from valuing experiences more than things, and I definitely think I’m the right path. I see the path ahead of me more clear than I’ve even seen it before, so I think I’m doing okay for where I’m at.
6. Do you use a financial planner?
For me that’s sort of a weird question because I am a financial planner. Do I use myself? I try to eat my own cookie. I try to have those little conversations with my spouse. Everything I preach to you about and talk to you guys about every week that I implement with my clients, I try to implement with myself and with my family. I’ll tell you, I struggle with the same things you guys struggle with. I struggle with it’s important but it’s not urgent. I’ve told the story of getting my estate plan done before and how it took me a year of not having it done because I’d get home and I wouldn’t want to have those little conversations. I want to just play with my kids and play with my dogs and love on my wife and all those things. I struggle with those types of things.
I guess I use a financial planner because I use myself. Now I will say when I’m dealing with bigger questions I really rely on my two business partners. I do two things. One is I rely on my two business partners, who are in the industry, to bounce ideas off of because they understand my situation better than anybody, as well as my wife from a financial perspective, and I spend a lot of time with them obviously. I bounce ideas off of them so I can get that unemotional input. I know that they will give me constructive criticism and tell me like it is. I know they’ll tell me like it is because they’ve told me like it is from time to time and in ways that I really deserved and I’m very thankful for. I do use outside counsel, my partners, when I’m really making bigger decisions to make sure I’m not missing a blind spot or I’m not getting too fearful or too greedy based on whatever the situation is, so yeah, I do. I use a financial planner. How’s that?
7. What is the worst financial decision you’ve ever made?
Wow, there’s so many of those. I have so many bad financial decisions. I think the really worst financial decisions are the huge ones. Little bad financial decisions, I’ve blown money on stupid stuff and regretted it but they were bullets. They didn’t blow up everything. Probably the worst financial decision I’ve ever made was building our second home. My wife and I, moved into a home right after our marriage. It was like a $90,000 home and we were just married. It was a starter home. We became fairly successful financially from an income perspective, not an asset perspective, from an income perspective. It was the early 90s. I was a stockbroker at that time. Stocks were pretty good in the 90s. As a result, I made a lot of money relative to my age. Well heck, income never goes down, does it? You just extrapolate a reasonable growth rate and I will always be better.
Totally on my own … I didn’t do it on my own but I drove this from a family perspective … we designed and built a custom home that was three-plus times the cost of our current more than adequate home. I got a nice 5 series BMW because I was making good money; I deserved it. Then of course we had to furnish the home. Then we had goods and we were in the big home and everything else. Then my income actually went down. I started to realize who I was as I matured and started to do things differently, trying to not just trade stocks but actually serve people and recreate myself and what I thought my core competence was, and my income went down, a lot.
Here I was with this huge house payment, this huge car payment, an ego even bigger than both at the time, and it took a long time to unwind all that and readjust the lifestyle. It wasn’t just getting rid of the things and rightsizing my cash flow situation. The hardest thing of readjusting was the attitude of wanting nice things, thinking you’re all that, feeling like a total loser for putting your family in that position. That’s probably the worst financial decision I ever made. In hindsight, only because it worked out, and because of the lessons I learned from it, it’s made me a lot better advisor and a lot better equipped to serve my clients. But I tell you man, those are painful lessons.
8. what’s been the hardest thing you’ve dealt with in managing your finances?
Personally, and this is just me, is controlling my curiosity and attraction to nice things. I like nice things. I like nice things. I like quality things. I’m very much a forward-looking person. I’m very optimistic. I’m a solution type of person but I tend to like to buy nice things. I like fountain pens. I like decent cars. I like good coffee. I like really good tea. I like good wine. I think I’ve gone overboard and I have a natural affection for quality things.
I’ve had to do some soul searching as to … I’m working on reframing that and I think I’ve come a long way there in I value experiences much more than things. Because what happened with things like the house and the car that I talked about is things create your cage, because things are inanimate. You don’t miss them when they’re gone in terms of they don’t give you any love back. You basically create your own cage because if you buy that nice house you have to buy the nice things. You got to hire maintenance. You got to hire utilities. That’s the problem with things. I see this a lot in my planning practice, is people that value things, they miss out and now they have to service all their things. They’re in this cage that requires all this cash flow to keep up and that’s just a never ending cycle.
That’s probably the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with, is untraining myself from being very materialistic. I’m not saying I was outrageously materialistic but I think from a planning and financial standpoint, the more you can experience people and experiences and the messiness of life and not having what is in a magazine, the better off I’m going to be financially. That’s probably the thing I struggle with and I’m constantly working on for myself.
9. What book, show, or resource has had the most impact on your life?
Wow, you can’t really just name one thing, can you? Obviously the Bible for me, which really I’m fairly new in that journey of really reading it and resonating with the lessons that the Gospel teaches me. I would say outside of that, when I became extremely intentional about the type and quality of people that I surround myself. I’m a member of a couple small groups where it’s men and men and women that really work to walk life together and serve each other and speak into each others life, and have that life experience together where they have the credibility to be able to speak in your life and tell you like it is. That’s probably had the most impact on my life outside of my family and things like that. I would encourage you to create that kind of group or find a group where you’re able to walk life with really quality people.
10. How would you like to be remembered? It’s obviously going to be very multifaceted, right? As a fantastic father. Mine wasn’t; he left when I was three. I want to be remembered as a fantastic father that was present and was there to allow my children to live their life but always be there to give them wise counsel and love on them when they needed it. Similar, I want to be remembered like that to how I serve my wife and how I love on her. From a professional perspective and friend perspective I’m just a guy trying to figure it out. I want to be remembered from a professional perspective, I truly want to change and help people look at retirement in fresh eyes. I want to help change the concept of retirement so we can capture more of our life and still take care of tomorrow, because tomorrow is promised to no one.
Those are the ten questions.
I got some softballs in there. Who are you? What does retirement mean to you? What has you most excited? I got a couple hard ones in there talking about your worst financial decision, and then what’s the hardest thing you have to deal with. I’m not going to make this a layup. You can change your identity. You can change a couple of facts. You can share as much as you want and if you happen to go a little bit overboard when we’re talking I can always edit that out and we can redo it. I will be very respectful of that, but I’m going to tell you, I think all of those questions, if we can share together I think there’s a lot to learn there from hearing each others stories. Then from that, I’ll be able to write blog posts and do other podcasts that address a lot of the issues that we all bring up.
Because, collectively, we’re going to figure this out together. There is no person that has the magic key to how to live an amazing, ideal retirement and an amazing life. I think we can do this together. If you would like to participate in the Retirement to Me series, shoot me an email at roger@wwkllc and let me know, and I’ll shoot you the details. Then you and I can communicate on that and you can decide whether it’s right for you. I think that this could be something special if we all work together.