An Arms-Length Look at Retirement Planning

In the retirement planning world, Moshe Milevsky, author, professor at Toronto’s York University, and consultant, is known as someone who takes some stances that go against the grain, to put it mildly.

But it’s not just for the sake of being controversial. He thinks deeply about ways people can live their best lives when they retire. And he says the current system, not to mention conventional wisdom, actually makes it more difficult than it has to be to reach that goal… and he says the problem is getting worse.

We talk about…

  • Why the age on your birth certificate is just a number
  • The dangers of correlated investments
  • Social Security and why it shouldn’t start at 62
  • What should be the real determining factor in whether you buy an annuity
  • And much more

Listen now...

Episode Transcript:

John Curry: Hey, folks. John Curry here. Welcome to another episode of The Secure Retirement Podcast. I have the pleasure of sitting next to a gentleman that I have been reading his material forever. I have every book he's written except his newest one, and I will have it within a couple of days. I'm sitting here with Moshe Milevsky, PhD. This guy is a brilliant man when it comes to understanding longevity issues and how to plan for retirement. Moshe, it's a pleasure sitting here with you.

Moshe Milevsky: Thank you very much. It's a huge pleasure to be here.

John Curry: Today, you gave a presentation. We're sitting in Chicago and at The Park Avenue Securities Retirement and Masters Summit. Yesterday, we were over at the University of Chicago. The School of Business was awesome. I wanted you to share with our listeners, Moshe, some of what you were sharing with our group today. Full disclosure, folks, we're sitting here with a bourbon in our hands. We've had a couple of them already and I've grabbed this guy at eight o'clock in the evening and he is willing to share his time with us. So please, Moshe, tell us who you are and what you specialize in and share with my audience some things they can use to help improve their retirement.

Moshe Milevsky: Well, John, first of all, thank you for the opportunity to appear on your podcast. It's a great honor and I'm humbled by this request that you asked me to chat with you. My day job, as I explained to the audience today, is I am a professor. I am a teacher at a school at York University in Toronto, Canada. I teach undergraduates, graduates, and executives in the Business School courses on finance, insurance, investing, retirement planning, pensions, and our graduates go out and work in the financial services industry. Many of them end up being financial planners and advisors like yourself. Those are the people that I teach and that's my day job. The university allows me one day a week to go off-campus, and only one day a week, to speak to the broader world, to do consulting work, to give lectures, to write articles. Here we are today at Park Avenue and I've been spending some time with your audience here.

John Curry: You did a fantastic job. I want to share this. You were talking this afternoon. I was thinking you're teaching these folks. I've been doing this for 45 years. I'm 66. 45 years, I'm thinking, "Oh my god. He's teaching people that are 18, 19, 20 years old, and I've been doing this twice their age."

Moshe Milevsky: Yeah, and to be honest, I'm kind of jealous of you because my audience of 20 year olds and 25 year olds don't have the same amount of respect and the same amount of admiration for retirement planning as someone like yourself or I would have because it just seems so distant for them. When you talk to someone who's in their 40s or 50s or 60s and you talk about retirement and retirement planning and how much you need and how much you should spend, it's real for them. This is something meaningful. They see it in the horizon. But when you talk to a 20 year old about retirement planning, they don't know what they want to do with their life. They don't know what job they're going to have. So it's a much harder struggle to get them to take it seriously, which is why, to be honest, I enjoy speaking to older audiences because this is something that's a lot more realistic for them.

John Curry: No doubt. No doubt. What I love about what you do, Moshe, is you're not selling financial products. See, what I love about what you do and other people in the world of academia, you have no ax to grind. So if someone listening to this, "Okay, I know John. He's a good guy." Might even be a client of mine, but they still might have that doubt. Are the products he's recommending really what I need? That's human nature. We're all going to do that. But what I love about your books and your presentations, you do it in a manner that you're not promoting any particular product. It could be life insurance. It could be annuities. It could be mutual funds, whatever. And one of your best books ever, in my opinion, is Are You A Stock Or A Bond?

Moshe Milevsky: Well, thank you.

John Curry: I think that's the best book you've written so far.

Moshe Milevsky: I appreciate that. I'm proud of that work. So well, first to your first point, because of the fact that my day job, my employer is a university, I am not beholden to the financial industry. I really speak my mind, and sometimes the financial or the insurance industry agrees with what I have to say and sometimes they disagree with what I have to say, and that's life nowadays.

John Curry: Well, that is true. I can you tell you for a fact I've witnessed people saying, "I don't like what he has to say." I say, "Yeah, but is it true?" "Well, yes." "Okay. It's true."

Moshe Milevsky: For many years, the insurance industry did not like what I had to say about guaranteed death benefits on annuities. I felt that in certain circumstances, they didn't make a lot of sense, and the insurance industry disagreed with me. Now I think annuities are a great ideas, longevity insurance is a great idea, and the insurance industry likes the message. So I really don't wake up in the morning and say, "Okay. What can I say today that will antagonize a particular industry or could we favor with them?" I just go where the research seems to be pointing, and at this particular case, it's that longevity insurance is important.

So to get back to the issue at hand, I find that when you're talking to someone from an academic or scholarly background, they tend to have a perspective that's much more detached, arm's length, and they are going to tell the good with the bad. And I like that. To me that's refreshing. A lot of people criticize the idea that economists can't come to an opinion. On the one hand, and on the other hand. The joke is that when FDR was asked who he wanted to nominate to run the Federal Reserve, FDR's response was, "I want a one handed economist. I want an economist with one hand." When they asked him, "Why, President?" He said, "Well, because I don't want to hear this on the one hand and on the other hand."

John Curry: I remember reading that quote. I love that. But it's funny that you say that because in the world I live in, people are trained to present their best possible position. I come from a military background of being in the Air Force in the '70s. We were taught you do everything you can. You show the good and the bad of everything. So when someone asks me a question, I give them the good and the bad. I tell them the good, the bad, and the ugly because I think you as a consumer deserve to know all the facts so you can make an educated decision. What's your response to that?

Moshe Milevsky: Yeah. I agree with that. In fact, you say the good, the bad, and the ugly, and I would reverse that and say the ugly, the bad, and then the good.

John Curry: Oh, tell me why.

Moshe Milevsky: I think you really have to be very, very realistic about what can go wrong with any strategy that you're recommending.

John Curry: You did that today in your presentation.

Moshe Milevsky: I think it's very important to start with the negative. Look, here is what can go wrong. Here are the things that may not work out, and once people understand that, then say, "But, here's the good side. Here's the upside. Here are the things that might work out in your benefit." One of the things that concern me is the rosy pictures that are painted about financial products. The headline number. You may earn up to 12% on this thing.

John Curry: But, in fact, the odds are you may lose 20%.

Moshe Milevsky: Yeah, you may lose... Exactly. The odds of earning 12% are very, very slim, and more likely you're going to lose 20%. So I really like to set the ground work by saying all the things that could go wrong, and once I've calibrated that, then you talk about all the upside.

John Curry: You know it's funny you say that because when I'm sitting here listening to that, I always point out the negatives first. So I guess I am doing the ugly first, aren't I?

Moshe Milevsky: I think so. I think that by telling people the negative first, you're preparing them for the fact that this isn't a sales pitch. This is an awareness story. These are all the things that can happen, and once you've covered all the bases about the negatives, then you can talk about, "Well, we're hoping for better."

John Curry: You know that's interesting because I retired on paper January of this year. I'm 66. I was 66 December 9. So I retired, took my pension, an unqualified pension and social security. But I love what I do. I'm like I want to be like George Burns. I hope I am 100 years old, then I die, and they have to cancel the show because I couldn't make it because I died. I love what I do so much. But I do it on my terms.

Today, you were talking about, speaking of age, biological versus chronological. Would you talk about that some?

Moshe Milevsky: Yeah, I would. So in a nutshell, there's a growing awareness amongst people in the industry that we all have two ages, which is a weird thing to say. I mean, my age is my age.

John Curry: But it's true.

Moshe Milevsky: But the truth is-

John Curry: By the way, you don't know this. Let me jump in.

Moshe Milevsky: Yeah.

John Curry: I had open heart surgery, triple bypass in 2008. So I learned something about myself. I started changing things. I went from 284 pounds down to 220.

Moshe Milevsky: Oh wow. Okay.

John Curry: So I'm fairly fit now. Trim, doing exercise again. So I understand this concept of biological versus chronological age more than most people in that room.

Moshe Milevsky: You've lived it.

John Curry: I've lived it. I am living it now. So please, continue.

Moshe Milevsky: Yeah. So people's chronological age is the number of times that they've circled the sun. It's what's written on their birth certificate. It's what's on their driver’s license. Their biological age, which is a much more important number, is how old their body really is. The cellular age of your body, and if you're 55 years old chronologically, your cellular, your biological age could be as young as 40 or it could be as old as 70. Now this isn't some great revelation. It's no different than telling someone, "You look great for your age," or, "You don't look very good." But scientists have now reached a point where they can actually measure you're biological or cellular age and compare it to your chronological age. And a large part of the population's biological age is actually lower than the chronological age, which is great news. They're younger than their age. There's an equal fraction that's higher than their chronological age. By symmetry, if half our under, half have to be above that.

And my point or at least the point I was trying to make in the presentation is that retirement planning, your retirement plan should depend on your biological age more so than your chronological age. Your withdraw rates, the amount of money that you're allocating to your pension, how you're allocating your assets, your investments. Your insurance policy should be based more on your biological age than your chronological age. And in the future, there's going to be a growing awareness on the part of people on what their true biological age is, and I think the industry's going to have to adapt to the fact that we're going to start thinking in terms of two ages as opposed to one age.

John Curry: Don't you think it's already happen though in the sense that consumers... I'm thinking of a couple that I love dearly. I won't use names, but he's 80, soon to be 81. She's 78. Both had some hip replacement surgeries. They retired in their 50s. In their 50s. So here they are in their soon to be... She'll be in her 80s, and they're realizing they have to slow down some. They traveled and did so many things. But if you looked at this couple, there's no way you'd think that they were 80 and 78 respectfully. A guy today said to me, he said, "John, I've known you for 30 years, you look 20 years younger because of what you're doing." That was before you took the stage. So I think the people of today, we hear that 70 is the new 60, et cetera. I think we as consumers already feel that way. But I think that the financial services industry has not caught up yet.

Moshe Milevsky: No, no. And the attorneys and the compliance officers and the entire infrastructure of financial services hasn't picked up on that yet. I also think it's important to understand that our entire legal system, pension system, regulatory system is geared to chronological age when in fact it should be geared to biological age. So I envision a day, as controversial as this might be, where your retirement age for social security should be based on your biological age. If you're in perfectly good healthy and your parents lived to 100 and there isn't anything wrong with you, I don't think you should be entitled to walk into the social security office at the age of 62 and say, "I want my social security benefits." You're 50 biologically. Vice versa, if you are someone who is 50 chronologically but you're in poor health, you aren't doing very well, and your biological age is in the mid-60s, maybe you should be entitled to start your pension. I think that there's got to be a growing awareness of biological age, not just when it comes to your own investment portfolio but in terms of retirement policy as well. Let's be fair.

John Curry: You live in Canada.

Moshe Milevsky: I do.

John Curry: I love Toronto. Every time I'm in Toronto, I walk past your school there, university. Here's what I look at, I have always said all of my working career that social security never should've been allowed to be turned on at 62. Franklin Roosevelt said that social security was not perfect, but it was designed to make sure that the people didn't retire poor. You got to put it in context. This is Great Depression. Our system has changed to where people think, "I'm going to take it as soon as possible." I took my at 66. Didn't wait until 70 because time, value of money. I want the money now. But I don't think that social security should ever had been allowed at 62. 65, 66, maybe even 70, I don't know. But I'm not a policymaker. Thank god. I'm just a guy on the street helping my clients, and have had the pleasure of doing it for 45 years.

Moshe Milevsky: And I don't want to get too close to the third rail of politics. Should we modify it?

John Curry: I agree.

Moshe Milevsky: Is it sustainable? Should we change the current rule? I don't want to get too far into that. All I'm trying to say is your age isn't the thing on your driver’s license. That's the only point I'm trying to make. Your age is not the number of times you circle the sun. Your age isn't the current year minus the year that you were born. Your age is something much more important and deeper and fundamental in your biology, and that's the number that you've used for retirement planning.

John Curry: We've only got a couple minutes left. Would you please share your story personally about your birthday, when you turned 50, and you did the test that you did. Would you share that?

Moshe Milevsky: Yeah. Sure. I'd be delighted to. So as I had mentioned in the presentation today, when I turned 50, my wife's birthday present, god bless her, to me was a mail order kit that measures my biological age or cellular age.

John Curry: You know why she did that?

Moshe Milevsky: Why did she do that?

John Curry: She wanted to make sure that you're going to be around for a while.

Moshe Milevsky: Probably. Probably. Yeah.

John Curry: Go ahead. I'm sorry. I couldn't resist.

Moshe Milevsky: No, no. You're absolutely right, John. The way this thing works is that they ask you to puncture yourself and put a little blood in a vial and you mail it away. Six weeks later, they send you an email. And this email, I turned 50, and this email that they sent to me said that my chronological age was 50, obviously. That's written on my birth certificate. But that my biological age was about eight years younger. It was closer to 42, which intrigued me very much, and is what got me interested in this whole topic of biological age. So I spoke to the chief scientist at this company, and he said to me that there is something that we all have in our bodies called telemirrors, which is a fancy name for the end of your chromosomes. And if those telemirrors are getting shorter and shorter and shorter quickly, that's not good. You're aging fast. And if those telemirrors are relatively long, then you're aging slowly. And that's good. Based on the length of the telemirrors, they can determine how old your biology or your cellular age really is. And at the time, it struck me as, "Oh, that's interesting. That's a novelty."

But as time went on, I realized that this has enormous implications to financial planning, most importantly if you have a biological age that's much younger than your chronological age. You're probably a very good candidate for buying something called an annuity or an indexed annuity or single premium annuity because when you buy one of these annuities, you're betting that you're going to live a long time. If you're biological age happens to be five, 10, 15 years younger than your chronological age, that's probably a good bed to make. You're actually going to live longer than the averages. So that's sort of what got me interested in this whole thing.

John Curry: And if you live longer, then those type products are more important because it gives you a guarantee lifetime income. The purpose of this is not to promote a product, but let me ask you this, from the standpoint of what you've learned about the two ages, I took four pages of notes, by the way. What would you say is a takeaway for the person listening to this who is not a professor like you? I have a master's degree in financial services myself. They're not a financial advisor. What's the takeaway for the average American listening to this?

Moshe Milevsky: So here's the way I like to think about it, as I get older, I want to make sure that my financial portfolio doesn't require decisions from me. I want to minimize the decisions that I have to make as I get older. I want my money to be on autopilot.

John Curry: Me too, buddy.

Moshe Milevsky: I do not enjoy making financial decisions as I get older. So let me be very clear. I am currently in my 50s. I love asset allocation. Every month at the end of the month, I look at my portfolio and I wonder, "Should I have more investments in value or growth? Should I have more small cap or large cap? Should I have more international? Where's the U.S. dollar going? Maybe merging market." I enjoy it. I love it at the age of 55.

At the age of 65, will I still be doing asset allocation? I hope so. I think so. I'll still be working. I still will be managing my portfolio. I love making financial decisions. How about when I'm 75? When I'm 75, am I going to really want to be sitting there and figuring out whether I should be taking 3% or 4% or dividends or bonds at 75? I'm going to want to play with my grandkids. What about at 85? If I make it to 85, do I want to sit at the end of the month with a spreadsheet and try to figure out what I'm selling from or what account to us? 85, I don't think so. What about 95? If I get to 95, if god blesses me and I'm 95 years old, do you think I really want to sit at the end of every month and figure out what the right asset... I'll be glad with a decent bowel movement at 95.

John Curry: I'm 66. I would tell you I like the fact that every month, like a mushroom, it just pops up. Money just appears.

Moshe Milevsky: Automatic.

John Curry: Automatic.

Moshe Milevsky: I think that's the most important lesson in financial planning to put your investment portfolio on autopilot.

John Curry: Absolutely. Would you do this, we're over time, would you please take just a moment and share your concept in your book that I loved the best of all your stuff Are You A Stock Or A Bond. Would you please explain that concept?

Moshe Milevsky: Well, John, you're really taking me back now.

John Curry: That's a great book, though. I think it's your best book. I mean, I know you're writing new stuff and your world. If what your latest piece of work, but to me, that's the best one.

Moshe Milevsky: Thank you. That's very kind of you. So it's almost like we have to start a new podcast because a new show-

John Curry: Just keep it brief.

Moshe Milevsky: Yeah.

John Curry: We'll do another podcast later.

Moshe Milevsky: Yeah. So here's the story. So one of the things that I've realized is that people when their young, I'm not talking about retiree. You're 30 years old, and you're starting your career. You have a job. You're moving up the career chain, and what I've noticed is that people's biggest investment when they're in their 30s isn't their house, isn't their portfolio, isn't their 401K. Their biggest investment is their job.

John Curry: Absolutely. Their career.

Moshe Milevsky: Their career.

John Curry: Their career.

Moshe Milevsky: And some people have invested 10 or 15 years to become doctors and lawyers and surgeons and accountants. Their biggest investment is their career and their job. And the point that I try to make in that book is that your career has risk characteristics similar to a portfolio. And what I mean by that is some people by their nature are bonds. For example, if you're a teacher or a fireman or a police officer or a federal or state employee, it may sound like you have a pretty risky job. You're running into fires to put them out. But you got job security, unions. Very difficult to fire people in those positions. Your career is essentially a bond. Other people have careers that are more stock like. You're working in a financial services industry. You're an investment banker. You're a financial advisor. You sell insurance. Whatever it is, your career is more stock like.

The point that I try to make in that book is that your financial portfolio should balance out what your human capital or your job is like. So I'll give you an example. It sounds abstract. If what you do for a living is you sell real estate, you're a real estate agent, please make sure that your financial portfolio, your 401K, your IRA has no real estate in it. No REITs, not real estate investment. Why? Because you're human capital is a REITs. Human capital is real estate. Your human capital is a real estate portfolio. If you work in the financial industry, make sure that your financial capital does not have any financial stocks in it. If you work for Coca Cola, make sure your 401K doesn't have any discretionary consumer goods. If you work for oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico, make sure your 401K doesn't have any of that.

What I'm trying to say is that your financial capital and your human capital have to zig and zag at different times. And the message there is make sure that you diversify outside of what you do for a living.

John Curry: But here's the point you're making that's unusual. When I read that book, I said, "Oh, I love this guy." That was my first introduction to you years ago. I forget what year you published... Do you recall what year?

Moshe Milevsky: 10 years ago.

John Curry: 10 years ago. It was like an ah-ha moment because in my world, I tell people if you have a risky job, don't let your money be risky. Don't let your money be risky because your money has got to take care of your for the rest of your life, whatever that is. Whatever that is.

Moshe Milevsky: It's the hardest message I've had to sell. Usually when I get up and I talk, I don't get a lot of resistance. That message Are You A Stock Or A Bond was the most difficult one because it's very difficult to argue with success.

John Curry: Wait a minute. Whoa. Whoa. I'm shocked. I don't understand that. Why was that hard?

Moshe Milevsky: It was hard because it only works after it's too late, and then it doesn't help them anymore. I'll give you an example.

John Curry: So does that mean I'm weird because I got it before?

Moshe Milevsky: No, no. Not at all.

John Curry: I don't understand.

Moshe Milevsky: I'll give you an example. We had a very large company in Canada, the largest company in Canada on the Toronto stock exchange, was called NorTel, Northern Telecom. At one point, Northern Telecom was 30% of the Toronto stock exchange.

John Curry: Wow.

Moshe Milevsky: People that worked for Northern Telecom, it was a big successful company.

John Curry: They had a bunch of money there.

Moshe Milevsky: They had a bunch of money there because the stock was going up.

John Curry: Big time mistake.

Moshe Milevsky: They had money invested there. They lived in neighborhoods where all their neighbors worked for Northern Telecom. And for your U.S. audience, I'll tell you the end of the story. Northern Telecom, NorTel went bankrupt in 1999, 2000. Bankrupt. The stock went to zero. So think about what happened. You worked for NorTel, your job is gone. Your stock portfolio, your executive compensation plan, gone. The real estate where you live, declined because everybody's selling.

John Curry: 401K, gone.

Moshe Milevsky: Triple whammy, quadruple whammy. When you talk to them after the fact, they say, "Oh. Moshe, where were you 10 years ago? Why didn't you tell me this when the stock was high?" It's because you're not going to listen to me when everything's doing well.

John Curry: Well, all you had to say was read my damn book.

Moshe Milevsky: Yeah. I'll give you another example in the U.S. PG&E, Pacific Gas and Electric, a utility in California. The stock, they've declared bankruptcy. Stock price declined. Bond price declined. If you work for the company, your job is at risk. If you live in area where other employees work, for god sake, do not invest your money in the same industry where you work. There's a great money manager in the 1990s at Fidelity called Peter Lynch.

John Curry: Oh yes.

Moshe Milevsky: Most of your listeners... He used to say invest in what you know. Invest in what you know, and my reaction is I'm not sure that's the best advice because investing in what you know means you work there. You know the industry. You're involved in it. Maybe the advice is invest in things that you know very little about because you don't work there. For example, I work in the financial services industry. I work as a consultant. I'm a teacher. I give lectures. I like to invest in oil and gas. Why? Because my human capital has very, very little to do with oil and gas. I don't consult with the oil and gas industry. I don't work for the oil industry. I'm not in the petroleum industry. So it's a good investment for me because it's uncorrelated. It's not dependent on my human capital. I do not hold many insurance companies in mutual funds and asset managers. Why? Because I do consulting work for them. Why would I want to put the two of them together?

John Curry: Would you please explain that one word you just said? Uncorrelated asset, most people have never heard that. Would you please explain that?

Moshe Milevsky: Uncorrelated is just another way of saying when something zigs, the other thing zags.

John Curry: I love that.

Moshe Milevsky: Correlated is when they both go up and down together. Uncorrelated is one goes up, the other one might go down, might go up.

John Curry: I'm going to tell you what I say, and if you don't agree, just tell me because we believe in being fair and truthful here. I tell people it means that they're non-related. Is that a fair word?

Moshe Milevsky: That's a good way of saying it, or another way of saying it is just coin tosses. Just because you got head's once doesn't mean you're going to get head's a second time in a row. And I think it's like a roulette wheel. You spend the roulette wheel, the roulette wheel has no memory. Those are uncorrelated events. I like to invest in uncorrelated things, not things that are correlated, which is why I tell people we have in Toronto a large industry in the real estate business. A lot of real estate agents, a lot of real estate. I say do not invest your retirement money in real estate. But very few of them listen. They say, "No, no, no. It's worked out for me. I work in the... I know the industry." When you talk to a biotechnology analyst, "I know the industry. I'm going to invest in biotech." You talk to small guy... I just don't think it's prudent. I don't think it's prudent, and unfortunately the only way I'll be proven right is when things go wrong. And I hate to be proven right only when your situations going wrong. I like to be proven right in good scenarios.

John Curry: Let's be honest. In 2000, 2001, 2002, then we jump in 2008, people lost a lot of money.

Moshe Milevsky: Oh yeah.

John Curry: The people who stayed the course came back. But people made some bad decisions. Let's be honest. Every person listening to this podcast, you have a choice to make. Your decisions that you make today, you have to live with through the rest of your life.

Moshe Milevsky: Yup.

John Curry: And what you're saying is such great advice. We need to wind up here. I would simply say, folks, I would encourage you to search the name... I'm going to spell it for you. Moshe, M-O-S-H-E, Milevsky, M-I-L-E-V-S-K-Y. I rarely do this, as you know, but you need to read everything this man's written. It's unbelievable, good stuff. It's mostly something where you think, "Oh my god. That's over my head." Stick with it. Stick with it.

Moshe, thank you so much for taking time today.

Moshe Milevsky: My pleasure, John.

John Curry: Would you please join us again for another podcast?

Moshe Milevsky: I absolutely will. Next time I'm in Tallahassee, I'll definitely look you up.

John Curry: Oh my god. Thank you so much. Folks, I hope you've enjoyed this. We've gone over time. But we're doing great. Thank you so much and Moshe for joining us.

Moshe Milevsky: Thank you.

Speaker 3: If you would like to know more about John Curry services, you can request a complimentary information package by visiting Again, that is Or you can call his office at 850-562-3000. Again that is 850-562-3000. John H. Curry, Chartered life Underwriter, Charter Financial Consultant, accredited estate planner, masters in science and financial services, certified in long term care. Registered representative and financial advisor of Park Avenue Securities LLC. Securities products and services and advisory services are offered through Park Avenue Securities, a registered broker deal and investment advisor. Financial representative of the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America and New York, New York.

Park Avenue Securities is an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian. No Florida financial corporation is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Park Avenue Securities. Park Avenue Securities is a member of FINRA and SIPC. This material is intended for general public use. By providing this material we are not undertaking to provide investment advice for any special individual or situation, or to otherwise act in a fiduciary capacity. Please contact one of our financial professionals for guidance and information specific to your individual situation. All investments contain risk and may lose value. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

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Get Out and Do It

Robert and Sonia Koudelka have a philosophy that guided them in their careers, second careers (you read that right), and what they do in retirement: 

“Get off your butt and do it.”

Whether it’s playing golf five times a week, cruising through the Caribbean, making memories with the grandkids, or taking up a new hobby later in life, Robert and Sonia are enjoying their Golden Years to the fullest.

But it’s no surprise as that’s what they’ve done their entire lives. We talk about what got them to this point, as well as…

  • The three things you need when you retire – and money is just part of it

  • Why it’s never too late to pursue your passion in life

  • The danger of saying “I’ll wait until I retire”

  • A mentor you need to help you with financial matters

  • And more

Listen now…

Episode Transcript:

John Curry: Hey, folks. John Curry here for another episode of John Curry's Secure Retirement podcast. I'm sitting here with two friends that I've known for 28 years. Sonia and Bob Koudelka, and I am looking forward to this because these folks retired at a young age, have done some travel that'll blow your mind. Hope we get into that today. But first, Sonia, Bob, welcome. 

Robert Koudelka: Thank you.

Sonia Koudelka: Thank you.

Robert Koudelka: Our pleasure.

John Curry:  I've been looking forward to this. Sonia, let's talk with you, ladies first. Would you tell us a bit about your background, how you and Bob met because of the career he had, your involvement. Just tell us a bit about who you are.

Sonia Koudelka: Well, first of all, I grew up in New Jersey. I went to Montclair State College in New Jersey. It's a teacher's college. I met Bob, who was at Stevens Institute of Technology, at a fraternity party. One thing led to another, and we became engaged my senior year of high school.

Robert Koudelka: College.

Sonia Koudelka: Of college. And from there we were married. I graduated in August and we were married. Well, I graduated in June. We were married in August, and we then moved about every two to three years as he was working his way up the corporate ladder with Union Carbide.

John Curry:  Very good.

Sonia Koudelka: Let Bob continue on.

John Curry: I want to come back to that in a moment to talk about ... Because you started your career then at Union Carbide. Tell us a little about your background, Bob. Where did you grow up?

Robert Koudelka: I was born in New York City, spent the most of my childhood years in Queens, and went to Stevens Institute of Technology, as my wife says, and graduated with an engineering degree, and got a job with Union Carbide. It was in a development lab at Union Carbide. I was taking interviews for mostly marketing and sales positions, and someone said, "But if you start in marketing and sales, you'll be available to move back into something else that you might be good at and enjoy." So I started thinking about that and I said, "Okay, I'll go with Union Carbide and I'll be a development engineer." So I was working in areas of steel making, ore extraction, liquid nitrogen and freezing of foods. I have two patents, a very exciting time. Stayed there for about five years and moved to Hibbing, Minnesota where we had a process to a mine iron ore.

From Hibbing, Minnesota, we went to Birmingham, Alabama. Then we went from Birmingham, Alabama to Chicago, from Chicago to Hibbing, from Hibbing to Belgium, from Belgium to Connecticut, from Connecticut to Houston, from Houston to Connecticut. I'm probably skipping one or two places.

Sonia Koudelka: New Jersey.

Robert Koudelka: Huh?

Sonia Koudelka: And then back to New Jersey.

Robert Koudelka:  Back to New Jersey where it all started. It's a weird way to go, isn't it? And basically decided that I wanted to do something else other than climb the corporate ladder through marketing and general management jobs and that kind of thing. And then decided that I wanted to teach college history. We had a condo in Destin, Florida and I wanted to find a university that was a convenient accessibility to Destin, Florida because we liked Destin. And so we chose Florida State and moved to Tallahassee in 1991 where we met this guy over here. And I went in and I had to get a master of arts degree in history because all I had was a mechanical engineering degree and a master's in physical metallurgy from Stevens. So, I did that, took all my classes to get the doctorate. Florida State wanted me to teach there, so I did for about almost five years, and then decided that we should do a little more traveling. We wanted to see the world.

Sonia Koudelka: Well, now, wait a minute. While he was in school.

John Curry:  Right. I was going to say, let's back up because I want to hear more before you get to the FSU story. Go ahead, Sonia.

Sonia Koudelka: Well, while he was in school, I thought, "Hmm. Wouldn't it be nice if I decided to go back to school." I had been teaching after we got married, and of course, had to leave teaching because we were traveling, as you heard, every two years.

John Curry: What were you teaching?

Sonia Koudelka: Business education courses. So I decided to go back to school because I've always been interested in working with the poor. And so I decided to get a master's degree in social work. So we had a good time. While he was at Florida State and I was at Florida State, we would meet in the quad and have lunch together, and he would carry my books to my next class.

John Curry: That's amazing. And you're in your 50s here, right?

Sonia Koudelka: Yes, that's right.

John Curry: This is happening.

Robert Koudelka:  We were in our 50s.

John Curry:  So think about what you're hearing, folks. You got people who had a career, and then you retire. So instead of just retiring and doing nothing, you retired and went back to school, both of you.

Sonia Koudelka:  Yes, we did.

John Curry:  Interesting.

Sonia Koudelka:  And we had such a good time with the young people.

John Curry:  I bet you did.

Sonia Koudelka: They were so accepting of us. We attended a lot of parties then.

John Curry: So this is like …

Robert Koudelka: 27 again.

John Curry:  ... going back in time.

Sonia Koudelka: Yes, it was.

John Curry:  That had to be fascinating.

Sonia Koudelka: Yeah, we had a good time. We really did.

Robert Koudelka: It was very interesting competing against the 26 to 28 year olds who were making their living and wanting to make a living in teaching, and teaching history at the college level. I just was there to learn how to do it because it's always been a passion of mine. Since I was a teenager, I've read history books and not having any problems at all with wanting to ... I wanted to actually be a history professor when I graduated from high school, but circumstances intervened and I got an engineering degree. So I had a chance to do what I wanted to do back then.

John Curry: Let's back up, and we'll come back in a moment. Sonia, talk to us a little bit about ... How difficult was it raising a family, moving as much as you had to because of Bob's career? Talk about that for a minute. Or was it difficult?

Sonia Koudelka: At times, it was. I think the most difficult time was to leave New Jersey and moved to Minnesota, and leave my family behind. I think that was probably the hardest. Then after that, it just got easy.

John Curry:  Did you have Bob and Steve at that point?

Sonia Koudelka:  We only had one child. We had our oldest son at that time. It was interesting. It was fun. You had to make it fun. It got to a point where houses were just houses.

John Curry: So, it wasn't a home. You're just there temporarily.

Sonia Koudelka: No, it was a house, and it was a temporary place. We tried to make it a home per se. If things weren't done in the house in the first six months, they were never going to get done because we were going to be leaving. And then when we moved from Minnesota to Birmingham, Alabama, I thought I'd died and went to heaven because of the weather. The weather was absolutely glorious there. The azaleas were in bloom, where in Minnesota, it was still snowing, that kind of thing. I think I looked at it as a fun time, an exciting time, and we grew as a family. There was no question about that. Being away from our extended family, we had to learn to depend on one another. I think that was really important. It made us very close.

Robert Koudelka: And our second son was born in Birmingham.

Sonia Koudelka:  Yes, and our second son was born in Birmingham.

John Curry: Very good. Very good. All right. Bob, back to what you were saying, let's talk about what led up to you retiring at such a young age. I think you told me 52, right?

Robert Koudelka:  Yeah.

John Curry: Why did you retire at such a young age? What was the motivation?

Robert Koudelka: Corporate politics, frankly. We had two guys who were senior vice presidents. I worked for one of them and the other guy got the president's job, and I realized, at the time, that I was not going to be looked upon with promotional favor. And I said, "I've had enough of this." I could do what I wanted to do, and I was a youngster. And so what I did was enroll at Florida State. Kind of interesting, at Florida State, they quiz me when I applied. They said, "You've never taken a history course or college." I said, "That's correct." "And you had no experience in your humanities classes with history?" And I said, "Very small." So they said, "Well, we're going to have to accept you on a provisional basis." And I said, "What does that mean?" "Well, you're going to have to get a B in all your courses when you take ... "

I said, "That's okay. I think I can handle that." But then I took the GREs and got significant grades in the GREs. I got a nice call from the dean's secretary saying, "You're no longer provisional entry. Your grades were high enough on those two tests to say you're welcome to our program." So I got a master's of arts in history, and then studied for the PhD, and started teaching at Florida State, and loved the experience until I got to the point where they gave me 129 students in a very large classroom all by myself my second year. And I said, "Well, this is ... " Well, you had to work like crazy. You had to get certain things done. And then the next year, they gave me 129 again, and I said, "Why do I get the big coliseum here? And I have 129 ... " The secretary of the dean said, "If you had 130, we'd have to give you a teaching assistant." I said, "Okay, you can cross that out if you want."

John Curry:  That's funny.

Robert Koudelka:  So I taught there for, as I said, almost five years, and then decided to really retire. Maybe you want to comment about that? Oh, you just did. You did say that we went to school together, didn't you?

Sonia Koudelka: Well, after I got my MSW, I really wanted to go into private practice, but I didn't know what he was going to do, and you needed to spend two years under a tutelage of someone. I didn't know how long we were going to be in Tallahassee because I didn't know how long he was going to teach. I never knew what he was going to do. After a year and said, "I've had enough of this."

John Curry:  You were so used to being a vagabond, huh?

Sonia Koudelka: There you go. So I wound up working for the guardian ad litem program, and really enjoyed that.

Robert Koudelka: For about nine years.

Sonia Koudelka:  Yeah, almost nine years.

John Curry:  I remember you doing that.

Sonia Koudelka:  Yeah. And wound up being volunteer of the year one year. So that was quite an honor, and found it to be very, very rewarding. We came down here to The Villages on a lark. We just had heard about this place, and decided that we would just get away for a few days from Tallahassee. They had a special program here where you could stay in one of the nice homes, and they would give you money, per se, fun money, and you could rent a golf cart and go to the movies. You could play golf. You could do whatever you wanted to do, go out to eat. So we rented a golf cart and we were riding around the facility, and this man over here says, "This is really nice here. It's very well maintained." And he said, "If we don't do this now, we'll probably do it in a couple of years." I said, "What? What?"

John Curry:  I remember that conversation. When he came back and we had our review, we were talking about that. I was shocked.

Sonia Koudelka:  I went, "You got to be kidding me." I said, "Well, why would we wait? If this is what you really want to do, well then, let's do it." Well, we started looking at houses and wound up buying a house.

Robert Koudelka:   That same week.

John Curry:  That was 14 years ago. Right?

Sonia Koudelka:  14 years ago.

Robert Koudelka:  That's correct.

John Curry:  That's cool. Let's hit the pause button here for a second, and analyze what we've heard so far. You got this couple. They meet they get married very young. Traditional family from the standpoint, the husband goes off and has his career. You weren't working then.

Sonia Koudelka:  No.

John Curry:   You were just building a family.

Sonia Koudelka: Right.

John Curry: So then you end up retiring. You move to Tallahassee. You both go to college. So you're like high school or college sweethearts walking around on campus. This is so cool. And then you decide you want to teach. So you teach and do something that you'd always wanted to do, but got on the back burner. So you retire.

Robert Koudelka: That's correct.

John Curry:  And you say, "I'm going to go back and you fire up this passion again, and go to work at learning the history and teaching."

Robert Koudelka: And I did it.

John Curry:  Then you decide to retire. What'd you call it? Really retire, I think you said a moment ago, fully  retire. So talk to us a little bit about your passion for travel. Then I want to come back to your art in a minute. But Sonia, over the years, every time we get together for dinners or something, you're always talking about the traveling you do. So let's talk about that some. What are some of those memorable trips you remember being on? Because it seems like you were going on a cruise almost every month to me.

Sonia Koudelka:  Yeah. Well, it is kind of interesting because I thought I'd never want to cruise. Being on a ship with all those people out in the water, oh my gosh.

Well, when Bob retired, he said, "What do you want to do? You want to do something different?" And he said, "How about if we take a cruise to Bermuda?" Now, we went there on our honeymoon and I thought, "I could buy that. Leaving New York Harbor, going to Bermuda, yeah, okay." Well, we did and we really enjoyed it. We were bitten by the cruise bug. There was no question about that. But in addition to that, we also wanted to go places where we would learn something about the culture of the area that we were visiting. Not only have we done a lot of cruising, but we also have done a lot of touring in China, in Turkey, in Egypt. Help me out here.

Robert Koudelka:  Australia, New Zealand.

Sonia Koudelka: Yeah, Australia, New Zealand, Tibet.

Robert Koudelka:  Well, when we went to China, she said, "If we're here in China, I want to go to Tibet." So what did I say? "Yes, dear."

Sonia Koudelka:  So we did that. And yes, we have really enjoyed the chance to go all over the world.

Robert Koudelka:  Well, it's interesting, though. We were stationed in Belgium for almost three years, doing things with the Benelux. The company gave a 30% addition to your basic salary because you were in a different situation with different exposures, and maybe needed some additional money. So Sonia and I sat down and we said, "We could save this money and buy better housing when we get back home, or we can use it for travel." Well, this friendly little girl says, "Oh, I want to travel with the money." Well, we traveled all over Europe. We traveled ... You name it in Europe, we were probably there except Scandinavia. We had a really good time in Greece and places like that, and all over England and places like that. It was well done. But then when we got back home from being away for three years, we had already sold our house in Houston at the time. We came back, and we were going to buy a house in Connecticut. Well, then we said, "Ooh, we should have saved some of our money, because look at the price of these houses in Connecticut." So we splurged and did the best we could, and played at tight for a while, but somehow we survived.

John Curry:  Thinking back on that, do you think that was the right decision, to go spend the money and do the travel while you had the opportunity, while you're healthy? Any regrets of doing that?

Sonia Koudelka: Not at all.

Robert Koudelka: None at all.

John Curry:  I think it's the opposite that's the problem. I've been doing my business ... I'm in my 45th year now on the retirement planning side.

Robert Koudelka:  Time to retire.

John Curry:  Well, I don't want to retire. I could never retire. I'll be like George Burns, still working at a hundred, but on my terms. But I see people who keep saying, "Well, I won't do this. I'll wait till I retire. I'll wait until I retire." And then one of them get sick or there's an injury or something, and they can't enjoy it. But you did the opposite, at a young age, traveled, did a lot of stuff.

Sonia Koudelka:  Yeah. We were fortunate to be able to do that. But then again, we moved a lot too. Oh my gosh, we moved.

Robert Koudelka: I think we have 14 different homes in the process of going from 1960, when I started, to 1991, when I retired the first time.

John Curry:  Wow. 14.

Robert Koudelka:  And that was moving around. In some places, we'd spend 11 months. And other places, we'd stay three or four years, so it averaged out.

John Curry:  I can hear some people now, saying, "Wait a minute. If I had to move that much, I don't think I'd ever travel again."

Robert Koudelka:  Really, I don't equate moving with traveling.

Sonia Koudelka: That's different.

Robert Koudelka: Traveling was a pleasure. Moving was a general pain in the butt.

John Curry:  It was just a condition of your employment.

Robert Koudelka:  Yes. In a lot of ways, if you're climbing the corporate ladder, you got to move around. You couldn't stay in one place. That's what I was attempting to do, and I'm semi successful in it.

John Curry:  All right. Let's talk about The Villages. You decided to move to The Villages, and you got interested in golf, and you play golf on a regular basis. Tell us about that.

Sonia Koudelka:  Yes.

John Curry:  You didn't play golf until you moved here, right?

Sonia Koudelka:  Well, that's not true. Actually, in Birmingham.

Robert Koudelka: But it's more true than it's not.

Sonia Koudelka:  Yes. In Birmingham, I had some friends in our neighborhood that played a lot of golf. We belonged to a country club there and the club pro lived on our street. And so through some urging, they said, "Why don't you come out and take some lessons, and see if you like it?" Which I did, but I found out with young children, you can't go out and play 18 holes of golf and have lunch. It just wasn't working out. And so I did play for a while there, and actually learned to play there. Then when we got here in The Villages, and  all the golf courses that we have, then I picked it up again, and I love it. I actually love it. At one point, I was playing five days a week. 

John Curry:  Wow. I remember one time I got to play with you and your friends.

Sonia Koudelka: Yeah, you did.

John Curry:  It was a fun day. It was fun.

Sonia Koudelka: We had a good time.

John Curry:  Bob, were you playing much golf when you first moved here?

Robert Koudelka:  Well, being raised in New York City and playing stoop ball and American handball, and that kind of thing, you get a different slant on things. Golf wasn't at the head of the agenda. In fact, for me, it's never been really at the head of the agenda because when you start having kids ... I used to like to coach them. Baseball, soccer ... I played three sports in college, soccer, squash and baseball. So when the kids were playing anything close to those two things, I was happy to become the manager of the team and do that with them because I could spend more time with them. And so we enjoyed that.

One thing I'd like to add, though, is that our two sons had six grandkids, and each of these grandkids, at 10 years old, we invited them on a cruise with us. We love to cruise, and we assumed that they would love to cruise. We did have let them choose where they wanted to go. One chose Alaska. One chose the Eastern Caribbean. One chose the Western Caribbean. One wanted to go to Paris. We said, "Oh no, not yet." So she took a Disney cruise, but every time one of the six grandkids hit 10 years old, we had a week with them away from their parents, away from their siblings, and really had a chance to get to know them. They still talk about it. So traveling with your grandkids on a cruise is a very positive experience for us.

Sonia Koudelka: And we've been very fortunate that their parents would allow them to go with us.

Robert Koudelka: That's true.

Sonia Koudelka:  That was big.

Robert Koudelka: That was very pleasurable.

John Curry: That's building memories.

Robert Koudelka:  Oh, boy.

Sonia Koudelka:  Yes. It is.

John Curry:  Long after we're dead and gone, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren will remember the things that they did with us, and the feeling they have long, long ... More than they'll remember anything we leave, physically.

Sonia Koudelka: Exactly.

John Curry:  And it's more important to them. Heck, probably most of the stuff we leave behind, they don't want. But they want those memories and they'll always have that.

Robert Koudelka: Interesting. We were on a cruise with a fifth grandchild, and I collect things. I have history books. I have a coin collection, stamp collections, things. I collect things. I even collect sand from around the world. I have 200 samples of sand from around the world. So I asked this 10 year old boy, I said to him, "Grandpa's got a lot of collections. Is there any one of my collections that you want?" He thought a little bit and he said, "No, Grandpa. I don't want any of your collections." And he stopped, and I said, "Okay. Well, what am I going to do with all this stuff?" Five, 10 minutes later, he says, "Grandpa, there is something you have that I want." And I said, "What's that?" "Your money."

John Curry:  Your money.

Robert Koudelka: Those are beautiful memories.

John Curry:  That's funny. Your money. "You've been collecting money. I want that."

Robert Koudelka: Yeah, "I want that."

John Curry: That's funny.

Sonia Koudelka: Lord.

John Curry:  All right. Let's talk about something for just a second here. If you had the ability ... Well, you do because people listen to this, what advice would you offer the person who is in their 50s, maybe even their 60s, and they're trying to decide what to do, "Do I keep working longer? Do I retire? What do I do in retirement?" Just what would you say to someone, if you were sitting here face to face with them, that was posing that question.

Robert Koudelka:  There are three things you need when you retire, in my opinion. You've got to have your health. You need good health. You got to be financially okay. You don't have to be financially independent, independent, independent, but you just to be financially okay, and you have to have something to do. You got to have something you love to do. When I retired for the last time, I became somewhat of an artist. I had something to do. I had a group of people who were willing to help me, a group of people that I liked, a group of people we socialize with. Art became one of my passions in my now years.

John Curry:  And you're good at it too, so before we leave that. Also, you told me earlier over lunch ... Tell us about your display, what's happening at one of the rec centers.

Robert Koudelka: You really want that?

John Curry:  I do.

Robert Koudelka: I've been designated spotlight artist for our club, which has over 200 members. It's a colored pencil club, and I favor colored pencil as an art medium. They came to me and asked me, "Could I have 12 of your paintings? We want to put you up as the spotlight artist for the summer in one of the rec centers here in The Villages." So I said, "Of course." I gave them 12 of my paintings and now my walls are bare.

John Curry:  I see several of them right there.

Robert Koudelka:  Yeah, but they're barer than they were.

John Curry:  And I saw the one of my grandson on your-

Robert Koudelka:  Ah, that was a pleasure.

John Curry:  That you did ... I forget how many years ago now. He's 13 now.

Robert Koudelka:  Well, he's 13 now and he was probably six, five.

John Curry:  I'm thinking five or six, so long time ago.

Robert Koudelka: It's a cute picture, and I enjoyed doing it.

John Curry: Sonia, what about you? Bob hit something. I call it time freedom and money freedom. You got to have time freedom and money freedom, but you also have to be healthy to enjoy it. What would you add to that? What are your thoughts?

Sonia Koudelka:  Well, you have to find something that really sparks your interest. I love to read, so I belong to two book clubs here in The Villages. I do play golf, which takes up a lot of time. There's no question about that.

Robert Koudelka: How many times a week did you play golf?

Sonia Koudelka: Five times a week. Now mind you, two of those times, I played on the championship courses, which is 18 holes. And the other times, were only nine hole golf courses.

Robert Koudelka: Oh yeah, executive courses.

Sonia Koudelka: Executive courses. I substitute in bridge clubs here in The Villages. I am very active in my church. I'm on the parish council of my church. There are things that I think you can find to occupy your time, and I think it's really important that you do.

Robert Koudelka:  The thing that people talk to me about ... When I don't come to art for a while, and I'm trying to do something else, my mentor, a woman named Anne Klein here in The Villages says, "Bob, you haven't been doing much art lately." I said, "Yeah, because I've been doing this." She says, "Pick up the pencil. And I say, "Yes, ma'am." And that's what I really want to do, so that's what I do.

Sonia Koudelka: Well, he's got me involved in doing that now also.

Robert Koudelka:  What I'm trying to say to people who are in the process of trying to get something focused for them to do, get off your butt and do it.

John Curry:  Good advice. Let's talk a little bit about the financial side for a minute. You mentioned that. You have been very disciplined over the years I've known you. I've known you almost 30 years. You made a comment earlier about spending the money to do travel, but at the same time, you've been good stewards of your assets. You haven't wasted money. Talk a little bit about the importance and what advice you would offer someone to get on a path of where they have that money for think, you mentioned a minute ago.

Robert Koudelka: Well, one of the first things I would say is you need a good financial advisor. I found one, and I think he's right across the table from me.

John Curry:  Thank you, Bob.

Robert Koudelka:  When we started to do things ... I met him because I had a life insurance policy, and he was the  representative of the company. I bought the life insurance policy when we moved to Tallahassee. And then from that, that sprung  a very nice relationship and friendship. It's been a very knowledgeable experience for me to utilize John as my mentor in financial matters. His advice is usually good and what I do is-

John Curry:  Usually good, huh?

Robert Koudelka: Usually good. Anyhow, the whole concept of being financially ... You don't need a lot of money, but you need enough money to be able to do the things you'd like to do. Retiring at 52 was a gamble, but I haven't had a full time paying job other than teaching at a college, and that wasn't the very lucrative. Since that moment in time, I'm retired. So we were going to take what we had and utilize that in a very frugal manner and survive. And apparently, we did.

John Curry:  You've done a good job of that. I think the key is being frugal. You didn't go spend everything. You could've had much bigger houses than you had. You manage your money well, and the money you spent was, from an outside looking in, was family. You talked about having the place in Destin. You got the family together.

Robert Koudelka: Every year.

John Curry:  Sonia, I'd like you to talk about that for a moment. You're nodding your head there about that. How important has that been in your lives at this point, looking back, and having all these family vacations around Christmas every year?

Sonia Koudelka: Well, also it started before that. In the summertime, we always had the family coming during the summer because of the kids being in school. They could always come to Destin and they would spend a week with us. But then we started having Christmas, and we always spent Christmas in Destin. I don't know. It's just tradition. Everybody wants to do it, and they want to know when they should come. We just have a wonderful time.

Robert Koudelka: And the grandkids know nothing else. That's been their tradition.

Sonia Koudelka: Exactly.

Robert Koudelka: For the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, they spend with the other half of their family. And on the 26th of December to New Year's and New Year's Eve, they're in Destin every year. Getting together both families from the two boys, three kids, each, very nice wives, very fortunate wives ... We're very fortunate to have daughters-in-law like that. It's became a …

Sonia Koudelka:  Tradition.

Robert Koudelka: ... tradition, and it's a tradition that I've loved.

John Curry:  It's fun watching you guys because I've had the pleasure of being there a few times with you, at least one day of those. It's just fascinating, all those activities going on. You're watching some ball games together. You've always got some game you guys are playing.

Robert Koudelka: Well, I put together pools for football, how much money is in the jar, what's in the box, those kinds of games. But the grandkids win money if they are the winner of the various games we play.

John Curry:  Now, we know the real reason.

Sonia Koudelka:  That's the reason, yeah.

John Curry: They get money.

Robert Koudelka:  It's not that much, but it's something that they remember.

John Curry:  That's funny. So what's next for you folks? You're not slowing down. You're still going. You're doing things. Still going to do travel?

Sonia Koudelka: We hope to.

Robert Koudelka: Yeah.

Sonia Koudelka: Why not?

Robert Koudelka:  In fact, we're talking about a couple of places that we want to go to. We have not been to Iceland. We'd like to go to Iceland, and we'd like to take a river boat on the Columbia River out in the Oregon territories. And Sonia wants to do a river boat somewhere in Europe. We haven't done that yet.

Sonia Koudelka:  We've never done that yet.

John Curry:  I thought you had.

Robert Koudelka:  No.

Sonia Koudelka: No, not a riverboat.

Robert Koudelka: We like to take transatlantic voyages back to the US so when we leave a Barcelona or a London, the boat is going with the time so that you can correct the clock for one hour on your five days going back and you don't feel it like a bang when you get here, and have to make the adjustment if from a plane.

John Curry:  I never thought of that. That's a great idea.

Robert Koudelka: Oh, it is. It works out.

John Curry:  So you don't get yourself a worn out.

Robert Koudelka: We've had a good life.

Sonia Koudelka: We've been very fortunate. We really have, and our health is pretty good.

Robert Koudelka: My doctor says I'm in better health than he is, and he's only 50.

Sonia Koudelka: We've had some bumps in the road, but we've managed, as everybody has.

Robert Koudelka: Well, you beat cancer, girl.

Sonia Koudelka: That's true, I have.

Robert Koudelka:  Breast cancer survivor right here and that's part of the people you meet with here too.

Sonia Koudelka: That's right.

Robert Koudelka: I'm surprised you didn't mention that because you like those of people.

Sonia Koudelka:  Yes. Oh, that's right. There is a wonderful support group here. There's so many things here in The Villages that you can become involved in it, and it's up to you. It's your decision, whatever you want to do.

Robert Koudelka:  Get off your butt.

John Curry:  That's great. I think that's good advice, just determine what you want to do, and then go do it, and quit making excuses. Do it or don't do it, but take the time. I call it stepping back, thinking about what you want, reflect on it, talk about it as a couple, and then have a game plan and go do it. Just go do it. I want, before we get off here, some more travel. Talk a little bit about your experience of going to China. Weren't you there like a month?

Sonia Koudelka:  Oh, no. We weren't there that long.

Robert Koudelka: About three weeks.

Sonia Koudelka:  Yeah, we were three weeks.

John Curry:  Three weeks.

Sonia Koudelka: It was incredible. We flew into Beijing and we were with a wonderful tour company. It was Overseas Adventure Travel and they were absolutely incredible. They were, what, 15 of us on that tour?

Robert Koudelka: Yep.

Sonia Koudelka: And from there, we took a train down to-

Robert Koudelka: From Beijing.

Sonia Koudelka: From Beijing to Xian. And then from Xian, we were down on the Yangtze, and took a boat through the Three Gorges Dam. And then from there, we went to Chengdu. From Chengdu, we flew to Tibet.

Robert Koudelka: Lhasa.

Sonia Koudelka:  To Lhasa. This was all during that three week period. So we saw a lot. We did a lot. We intermingled with the Chinese people.

Robert Koudelka: Stayed in their houses.

Sonia Koudelka: Yes, we did in a farmhouse. We stayed in a farmhouse with a Chinese family. It was terrific. It was really wonderful. The other fantastic trip that we took was the Turkey trip where we flew into Istanbul, and went from Istanbul to down to Ephesus, and went through that historical area, and then further down to the Turquoise Coast where we got on a gullet and spent four days on a gullet, sailing the boat.

John Curry:  What's a gullet?

Sonia Koudelka:  It's a boat.

Robert Koudelka: A yacht.

Sonia Koudelka: A yacht.

Robert Koudelka:  A big yacht.

Sonia Koudelka:  Now again, I think there were only 14 of us on that. And so we sailed along the coast, and at night, anchored. Our captain was Barbarossa, we called him. And our chef that caught the food off the boat-

John Curry:  Wow.

Robert Koudelka:  Seafood.

Sonia Koudelka: And cooked it. It was amazing. And then from there, we went up to a place called Cappadocia with these ... What were they made out of?

Robert Koudelka: Sandstone.

Sonia Koudelka: It's kind of sandstone houses and, we took a balloon ride over that topography, which was absolutely incredible. That was also almost a three week trip. Another outstanding trip was our trip to Egypt where we were…

Robert Koudelka: Another balloon ride across the Nile.

Sonia Koudelka: Another balloon ride over the Nile. Yes.

John Curry: So I'm just listening to you. You've got me motivated, wanting to go do some more travel.

Sonia Koudelka: Oh, it's really ... We've been very fortunate. We've gone to some very interesting places and done some very interesting things.

John Curry: Well, I know we got some plans here coming, so let's wrap up. Any closing thoughts you'd like to share before we wrap up here?

Robert Koudelka: Well, enjoy what you're going to do because if you don't enjoy it, it's not going to be worth it. We seem to hit things that ... We started a couple of things we didn't enjoy, so we stopped it and we did the other things. But the traveling, we enjoyed. I've enjoyed my original profession, my secondary profession, and I really liked doing art now. Just enjoy what you're going to do.

Sonia Koudelka: I agree. You have to enjoy what you're doing. There's no question about that. There are times that I don't feel like getting up at six o'clock in the morning to go out and play golf. But once I get motivated and I'm out there, and it's beautiful and it's quiet and serene, and you're with a group of people that you enjoy, there's nothing better than that. So, get out and do.

John Curry:  I love it. That's awesome. Thank you so much for taking time to do this. Folks, I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I am. By the way, I forgot to say this. Normally, these are done in my office. I'm actually sitting in their kitchen, sitting here with my recorder, sitting with a coffee cup, doing this.

Robert Koudelka: Can we have a martini now?

John Curry:  Yeah, I'm ready for the martini now. So, we're going to say goodbye now and go have a Martini.

Speaker 4:  If you would like to know more about John Curry Services, you can request a complimentary information package by visiting Again, that is or you can call his office at (850) 562-3000. Again, that is (850) 562-3000. John H. Curry, chartered life underwriter, chartered financial consultant, accredited estate planner, master's in science and financial services, certified in long term care, registered representative and financial advisor of Park Avenue Securities, LLC. Securities products and services and advisory services are offered through Park Avenue Securities, a registered broker dealer and investment advisor, financial representative of the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, New York. Park Avenue Securities is an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian. North Florida Financial Corporation is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Park Avenue Securities. Park Avenue securities is a member of FINRA and SIPC. This material's intended for general public use. By providing this material, we are not undertaking to provide investment advice for any specific individual or situation or to otherwise act in a fiduciary capacity.

Please contact one of our financial professionals for guidance and information specific to your individual situation. All investments contain risk and may lose value. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents, or employees do not provide legal tax or accounting advice. Please consult with your attorney, accountant and/or tax advisor for advice concerning your particular circumstances. Not affiliated with the Florida retirement system, but Living Balance Sheet and the Living Balance Sheet logo are registered service marks of the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, New York, copyright 2005 to 2018. This podcast is for informational purposes only. Guest speakers and their firms are not affiliated with or endorsed by Park Avenue Securities or Guardian, and opinions stated are their own.

2019-82152 Exp 07/21

Who Will Care for Your Special Needs Child When You’re Gone?

If you have a special needs child or even a relative, this is a can’t-miss episode. Lou and Cal Ogburn share the story of their daughter and how she has been able to live a fulfilling and independent life.

It’s thanks to their love and determination to secure her the federal and state benefits she qualified for – not to mention her great attitude and friendly personality.

They’ve also made a plan to pay for her care when they’re gone, which will be especially important as she gets older.

Listen in to find out…

  • The state and federal programs you might not know about

  • Details on special needs trusts

  • A free source of information on special needs benefits

  • The type of financial planning you must do if you have a special needs child

  • And more

Listen now…

Episode Transcript:

John Curry: Hey, folks. John Curry here for another episode of The Secure Retirement Podcast. Today, I'm sitting here with Lou and Cal Ogburn and April Schoen. I'm looking forward to today because there is a wealth of information sitting across the table from me regarding special needs planning. But, before we get into that, Lou and Cal, I would like for you to share with our listeners both a little bit of your background. During lunch, I was fascinated by the fact that Cal, you served in three branches of the military, Army, Air Force and in Coast Guard. Will you tell us a little bit about that Cal?

Cal Ogburn: Yes, back in 19 ... in the '50s, I was drafted into the Army. I did my two-year required hitch in the Army. Unfortunately, a lot of my Army duty was working at Air Force bases in air traffic control. So, when I got out of the Army, I then joined the Air Force Reserve, which I was very happy and thought I was going to make my 20 years doing that. I began to hear about the Coast Guard had started an aviation section, and one of those units was in Savannah, very close to my hometown at that time, Waycross. 

John Curry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Cal Ogburn: So, I went down there and talked to the recruiter, and he hired me and about five of my other Reserve people to join to Coast Guard as well. So, that's how I ended up in the Coast Guard and I'm very pleased that I did that. 

John Curry: I was in the Air Force, so I resent the fact that you left the Air Force to go to the Coast Guard. What's wrong with you?

Cal Ogburn: It was called, I think, commission. 

John Curry: I understand that. That's funny, that's funny. Now, while he was doing all of this military stuff, what were you doing, Lou?

Lou Ogburn: Finished college and went to work for what was then Integon, which is a life insurance company. Worked there for several years, or maybe a year or two, moved over to Wachovia, which is now Wells Fargo. And then we moved to Daytona Beach, Florida. So, after that, it was just any job I could find doing anything. Ended up in Waycross, Georgia, and was a social worker. I had a degree in business administration, they didn't ask what the degree was in. They said, “Do you have a degree?” I said, “I do.” And they hired me.

So, it was a great job in a little town where you kind of knew everybody, and you had to make your own fun, and you learned a lot about the people, the culture, and how to help them. But, while we were in Waycross, we also adopted two children and it turns out one of those had special needs. So, about the time that she was needing to be tested and to go into the school system, we moved to Tallahassee, which offered a lot of opportunities for her and I'm happy we made that move. 

So, that starts the career with our daughter Ruth. She started out at Gretchen Everhart School, which is a special needs school here, and finished when she was 22. She's now 53 and she worked in the interim for 24 years at one job, and has now left that job because of a health problem. But, is doing volunteer work at one of the nursing homes in Tallahassee, so she's very happy. She likes the gym, she goes to an aerobics pool, and she has a trainer who helps her several times a week. And, she loves dancing, so she's taking a dance class. 

She’s very happy, she lives on her own with supports at night. 

John Curry: I want to back up for a second, I just learned something new that I did not know, and I've known you for a long time. 25-30 years? I'm not sure how long it is.

Lou Ogburn: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: I did not know that you worked at Integon. I worked at Integon for 17 months.

Lou Ogburn: Oh really?

John Curry: As an agent, I sure did.

Lou Ogburn: And the head office was then in Winston-Salem?

John Curry: That's correct. 

Lou Ogburn: And I worked for the Vice President. I could forge his name and I wrote all of his correspondence. He did not like to do that. 

John Curry: When did you work there? What years?

Lou Ogburn: I finished college in '61, so I went to work within two weeks. So, I probably worked there from '61 to '62, maybe. It was probably a year. 

John Curry: Mine was a little later, '76 to '77.

Lou Ogburn: Too bad.

John Curry: That's funny.

April Schoen: That's funny. 

John Curry: It is. April, if you have questions that pop in mind, jump in, too.

April Schoen: Sure.

John Curry: I want to ask you a quick question before we move on. Would you take a moment and just share with our listeners how you got so passionate about learning everything you could about special needs? Because over the years I've learned so much from you and I'm convinced you know more about this topic than most attorneys who consider themselves special needs attorneys. So, would you just address that, then I'm going to go back to April for a minute?

Lou Ogburn: Sure. When Ruth was about ... She didn't walk, that was the first little clue we had when she was a year old. She didn't walk until she was maybe 18 months, and she didn't talk. So, we had a doctor who lived next door, he was about our age, and I went over there one day and I said to him, “What do you think is wrong with Ruth?” It was sort of a flip-up question and he said, “I think she's retarded.”

Well, when I finished crying-

John Curry: I well remember that.

Lou Ogburn: ... I thought, "That ain't going to do you any good. You might as well try and learn everything you can.” So, at that point my mission became: how do we help her? And Waycross didn't offer too much, but as I said, we had her tested at both the University of Georgia twice. We were in Georgia, we had access to the medical school there, and the first diagnosis said she will never develop at all, so put her in an institution.

April Schoen: About what year is this?

Lou Ogburn: She was about ... I guess it was about 18 months when they told us that. She was born in '65, so this was in '67 sometime.

April Schoen: Yeah.

Lou Ogburn: And so that ... I just didn't accept it. That was just not the answer I wanted. And so, we took her back, and I can't remember ... it was probably about a two or three year period in time, and in addition at that point we'd adopted another child, who was exactly the opposite of Ruth. He was well on his way to being an adult when he was about 2 years old. He could walk at 7 months.

April Schoen: Oh wow.

Lou Ogburn: And he could talk, and he could do anything. He was very well coordinated, and here you had two children 18 months apart in age, and one was more advance than the other, but he was the younger one. So, it was sort of a dilemma. We took her back to University of Georgia and took him with us this time and they said, "Oh no, that first diagnosis was all wrong. There's nothing wrong with her, she's just a little bit slow." 

Well, I didn't think that diagnosis was right either. You kind of know when somethings wrong. So, the third evaluation was made here in Tallahassee by a neurologist who's no longer living, and his was the most correct. He said, "I'm suspecting there was brain damage at birth," he said, "probably forceps damage when she was delivered." We had no way to know that, of course. And he said, "And I think there is some paralysis in her throat that keeps her from speaking clearly." He said, "But, my best guess at this point ..." and she was older, "is that she will attain the chronological age of about 13." And he said, "I think she's doing okay."

So, he gave me hope. So, I put her in a regular kindergarten and they took her, but they always knew that one of the teachers had to have her hand when they went on field trips and things like that. And actually, she started in a regular school, but that ... In the first grade, but that didn't last long before they decided to staff her into Gretchen Everhart. So, we essentially got the best of the special needs school. It was new, it had everything. It had the best of the teachers, and they did the best they could with her. She doesn't read, she cannot write, and she cannot tell time. But, she can think. And she can accept several commands at one time, and she had common sense.

So, I don't know. No psychologist or no doctor is ever been able to explain why. It doesn't follow any pattern. She's not downs. When the Mayo clinic, maybe ten years ago, did an MRI on her they said that the brain was normal looking with the exception it was a little bit smaller than perhaps yours or mine, and two little places at the back were a little bit wider than yours and mine would show up on an MRI. But, they said there's just nothing that shows any abnormalities in the brain. So, we don't know the answers to what happened. I even got her reading teacher several ... maybe 15 years ago to work with her again just to make sure we hadn't missed anything, and she said no. She cannot ... do the reading. But, if you gave her a pictorial book that had emblems in it she's used to seeing on television, she could tell you what all of those are. And she can read trucks going down the highway if it's a Walmart truck or if it's a Best Buy truck, or if it's Walgreens. She knows those, but she can't read the words.

So, your guess is good, and I've had a psychologist, which she's been to many psychologists over the years, tell me that if they had to put a label on her they don't know what they'd put. That she doesn't fall into any pattern at all. She has tendencies of autism, but she's too friendly. She's very social. And that is the mark of an autistic child is that they have no social skills at all, and she has a lot of social skills.

John Curry: Yes she does. Every time you see her in public she's just ... people like her and she likes people.

Lou Ogburn: I've been going to the gym here for maybe 4 years. I know maybe 4 people who work there, I mean, I'll say hello, I don't know their names. Ruth's been going for a year, everyone knows her name and she knows their name. So, she just has a different personality, so.

John Curry: Right. 

Lou Ogburn: So, does that help answer your question?

April Schoen: Yes!

Lou Ogburn: That's how I got started and that's why I decided I had no choice. We had to have the best for her.

April Schoen: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lou Ogburn: And fortunately, there were a lot of people around me and a lot of good help in Tallahassee. And we were just here at the right time, where the services were available, and we were able to get in on the ground floor. 

John Curry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

April Schoen: Do you feel like your experience in social work helped with this ... or transferred?

Lou Ogburn: Well, I had seen all kinds of people, but maybe. I hadn't ever thought about that. Perhaps it did.

Cal Ogburn: Yes. 

April Schoen: And knowing that there are services available and you just have to know where-

Lou Ogburn: Maybe that did help, yes.

April Schoen: ... to go and find them.

Cal Ogburn: I agree with that. 

John Curry: You spoke up on that, Cal. So, from your perspective, talk about that for a second. From ... Let me make a comment, first of all. I have told you many times that you've been a role model for me in how to deal with tough situations in a family. After our son had the accident, had the head injury, and some brain damage, you became even more important to me from our conversations. Remember those other the past seven years? How ... How would you describe how things were in the Ogburn household as you were dealing with this? It had to be stressful at times.

Lou Ogburn: Well, it's always stressful when you've got somebody who can't cooperate with the rest of the family some of the time. And it's not her fault. Our son ... He made it, sometimes, more difficult because he always was active and could do everything and she could not. But, Cal and I have always been united. That's the good news, is that it never split us apart.

John Curry: Good.

Lou Ogburn: And we worked hard at keeping them ... trying to keep them both happy and occupied. 

Cal Ogburn: I'm doing it more formally. Lou and I, not once, but several times, many times, would say, "All right, are we together on this?" Before we would ever walk out of a room or out of our bedroom. We presented a united front for you to see, for the world to see. And I think that's what got us through it. 

John Curry: Great. 

April Schoen: Yeah. 

John Curry: That's for sharing that. 

Lou Ogburn: Now, when she finished Everhart ... And Everhart is a very protected society, it's a special school and has special teachers, and you pretty much know your child is going to be safe when they're there. Even though they ride the bus back and forth, these teachers are very careful. All of a sudden she was 22, or going to be 22, and Everhart was going to go away. And I had no clue as to what to do, absolutely no clue. Unfortunately, I started thinking that I was dumber than I thought I was right before she got to be 22. So, I started asking questions and I thought, "What can she possibly do? I can't have her come home. It's not that I don't want her at home, but she's going to be watching television and we can't have that." 

So, I just started ... I went to Goodwill to find out what they did, and I went to, I guess, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities and talked to them, talked to everybody I could think of. What do you do? And I talked to vocational rehab, and they said, "Well, we can find her a job, something she could do." So, we decided on that route. We decided that she would be at home and she would have a job. Summer started dragging through and vocational rehab and not done anything. I kept calling and they kept giving me an excuse, and finally they said, "Well, the trust is our secretary is out, and that form about Ruth is still sitting on the desk back there. It just needs to be typed and then we can move along." And I said, "I'll tell you what, this is Tuesday, if you don't have it typed by Friday, I'll be there. I'm a very good typist. I will get it typed for you." 

Cal Ogburn: This was a shock to me, too.

Lou Ogburn: Parents will do that. But, I could type. And a piece of type paper wasn't going to stand between Ruth and getting a job. So, it worked.

John Curry: Wait a minute, did you go type it or they did?

Lou Ogburn: No, they typed it. 

April Schoen: They managed to get it done.

John Curry: Well, let's don't leave people hanging on that one. 

Lou Ogburn: And vocational, in all fairness, they probably shouldn't have told me that, but they did make that mistake, and I did have a solution for that one. They found her a job at ... it was at McDonald's. And it was okay, it was a good starting job. McDonald's is kind of run by children, but it was good for Ruth. I can't remember quite what she did, I think she made salads or cleaned the lobby, it may be both. And she had a job coach, and one job coach ... That was such a new field or hiring the handicap, that her first job coach drove from Valdosta over here just to be a job coach in Tallahassee. 

April Schoen: Wow. 

Lou Ogburn: I think we went through three or four job coaches, and she worked there six years. The only bad part was there was no transportation, so I took her to work and I picked her up four hours later, every day that she went to work. Which is five days a week for those six years, or Cal had to take her, or somebody had to. So, it was very restrictive. You couldn't do anything. Fortunately, I worked at home, my job was an at home job out of our house, and I could do that. But, that also tired. I mean, even I was getting tired. The pay was very low, even though she was loyal, we weren't getting anywhere. She was obviously not going to be a management part of that, so we decided to change jobs.

We left McDonald's and went to a restaurant here that agreed to hire her. Again, we were working with job coaches through vocational rehab, and within the first six months she took a tumble and had broken out her two front teeth and they let her go. They said that she was still in the transition period and that they didn't have to keep her. And so, vocational backed them up and said we couldn't do anything, so we scrambled and found another job. Again, with the help of ... I think her brother, by this time, who was working for one of the Walmart stores in Jacksonville where he then lived. I think he was helpful in this, but we got her a job at the Walmart here, again with a job coach. And through a series of very good fortune she was able to work there 24 years. 

John Curry: That's a long time.

April Schoen: Long time.

Lou Ogburn: Long time. 

Cal Ogburn: Yep.

Lou Ogburn: And she didn't work full time, but she rode the bus to there, she rode the bus home. We went through probably 15 managers, we had some good ones, we had some great ones, we had a couple just really bad managers, but she made it through all of them.

John Curry: Talk a little bit about the transition as she's aging. I remember us talking about special needs trust, the legal issues. 

Lou Ogburn: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: Talk a little bit about where this journey took you in learning about those type things, because it's not just about the care, it's about providing for her in the event that one of you or both of you should die. Talk about some of the things that you started learning because I just think it's fascinating, and other people would learn from this. 

Lou Ogburn: Okay. When we first realized that we would need to have some special money left for Ruth to take care of her for the rest of her life, I began to listen to people, talk to people, read about things, and realize there was something called a special needs trust. Set up under the federal tax code, I think, it's totally legal, it's administered by Social Security and it may be under their laws, I believe. And you can save money for a person who qualifies, who is considered intellectually or physically disabled, if they become disable before they're 26 years old, and you can save it in a special needs trust for anything but housing or food. It can be used for anything but housing or food, and the reason it can't be used for that is by this time the person who's disabled, is probably going to be getting SSI, which is Social Security ... Or SSDI, disability, or SSI ... There's two or three kinds of help that Social Security ... Depending on whether their parents worked, and they can get it off the parents work experience when they reach the age, I believe, of 22. 

So, we didn't apply for it when she was 22, I think we waited several years but then we did apply and she began to get a small check every month that she could use for whatever she needed to use it for. And then, when she went to work on her own, Social Security actually called me one day out of the blue and they said, "We are working on Ruth getting her own Social Security check based off her own work experience." So, I was amazed. That part I didn't know about. But, it turns out that because she had worked since she was 22 or 23, I believe, that she was eligible to draw a Social Security check as long as her work money didn't exceed a certain amount, and they realized she was disabled but she was working. 

So, she got what was called SSDI, and it was around 800 dollars. So, that is what supposedly would pay for her rent and her food, and then special needs could pick up everything but rent and food. 

April Schoen: Right, so if you have this special needs trust then the money that's inside the trust does not affect her federal benefits, then correct?

Lou Ogburn: That is correct, didn't affect the SSDI, that's the way it was set up. And so, that was helpful. At that point something came along called the Med Waiver Program, here we are again right at the right time in the right place in Tallahassee ... Or, Florida decided to use this program. Med Waiver stands for you're waiving their Medicaid benefits to let them live in the community, because a person who is very disabled ... I know the late state laws of Florida, anyway, can be put in an institution, and the state of Florida with pay for that. And it's very expensive, back then it was probably 90 thousand dollars a year, now it's probably 250 thousand dollars a year to institutionalize somebody. But, it's how the state handles the people who are disabled who can't take care of themselves.

Then the government said, "No, there's probably a better way. What if we waive that right? What if we have them wave that right and we give them money to live in the community? We help them live through a program called Medical Waiver, called Med Waiver for short? And we will pay for a supported living counselor, a supported living coach, maybe an employment counselor, and let them go live in the least restricting environment they can find and we will support them? That's how we keep them out of an institution, it's by supporting them this way."

Now, your SSDI will pay for your rent and your food and then if they're working they can pay the rest up. If they have a special needs trust, if their parents have been able to set that up or perhaps they have a special needs trust because they've been in an accident, and that's where they put the money. Then, you can have money from that to pay for your cable and maybe a television set, a nice little sofa or chair or something. I mean, or your bed, your furniture, whatever. That's what special needs trust can pay for. So, that is what I began to work at learning and Ruth was able to go under the Med Waiver program, so she got a roommate and an apartment and it was good. She lived away from us, but with supports. 

John Curry: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, she had some more freedom and some independence? 

Lou Ogburn: She had freedom, independence, she was working, she rode the bus dollar ride back and forth to work. They picked her up at the door, they brought her home, and she had a roommate, and she had a very nice apartment. And that lasted maybe ten years, and the roommates' family was not terribly happy ... I mean, it didn't have anything to do with Ruth, they just moved so they moved her, too. And Ruth had decided at that time she didn't want a roommate, she wanted to live alone, which made it a little bit more difficult, but she had a job at Walmart so she could pay her rent and she could buy her food. And with her SSDI she could pay the rest of it, so without our help at all she was living on her own. 

John Curry: That's great. That's great. What advice would you offer people who find themselves in a situation similar? They have a young child, and they know it's going to be tough going forward, but they're not sure what to do? 

Lou Ogburn: Well, there are a lot of organizations that can help them, and depending on the child's disability. I would say you start with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, they have a wealth of knowledge there, it's a state agency you just have to make an appointment. And you have to make sure your child is tested and qualifies for their services, that can be done as early as age three. Unfortunately, in Florida, the waiting list for full services through the agency is now at 20 thousand people.

John Curry: That's the waiting list?

Lou Ogburn: That's the waiting list. 

John Curry: Wow.

April Schoen: Wow.

John Curry: That's terrible.

Lou Ogburn: When Ruth got in they were begging for people to get in. That was 30 years ago, so you can see what's happened. So many people have moved to Florida, and there are a lot of disabled people who qualify for this program. So, we're very fortunate. Now, they have some partial ... ways to help, but not like Ruth. She has the full array of services and that's very unusual. But, in her age group, all of those in that age group, because they were right in on the ground floor of the Med Waiver program, did get the services they needed. In fact, I remember the first person saying, "Are you sure that's all the services you want?" 

Well, today you wouldn't do that because there are so many people needing and so little money to go around. But, last year ... The last about four or five years they've taken two or three thousand people off the wait list each year. The problem with doing that ... it started during the Bush administration, is he dumped in a bunch of money but the next year when they said, "Governor, how much money for APD? Agency for Persons with Disabilities?" He said, "We gave them money last year." 

That doesn't work. Once you put them on the rolls it's a reoccurring cost, year after year, after year. You have to factor that in. So, when they take someone off the wait list, it's just not for a year, it's for a lifetime.

April Schoen: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lou Ogburn: And Florida does not have the tax base or the money to do that, but we're trying. Every year we lobby to get some people off the wait list. Now, I tell you 20 thousand, that's 20 thousand people who are between the ages of 3 and however old they are. When they're in the public school system, before they age out at 22, that's probably the bottom of the list. In other words, they know they're having some care in the school system, so there's not the push to put them on the Med Waiver. It's when they reach age 22 and above that they really need to get on there.

And some parents are having a really hard time. They're aging out, and they're aging, and they can no longer care for their children. And they are one of the first groups. There's a priority list that the legislature has set and I think it's those people who are institutionalized coming out of institutions like Chattahoochee. They will get priority, or people who have absolutely no place to go. The parents have died, they're homeless.

April Schoen: Right.

Lou Ogburn: Those two categories get the top priority. And I think there's a third category, I'm not sure what that is, but the fourth category is with parents over 70 years of age. So, when they take them, they try to take into that fourth. 

John Curry: Which makes sense.

Lou Ogburn: It does make sense. 

John Curry: Because you've got to take care of them. 

Lou Ogburn: That's the right thing to do, is to take care of them.

John Curry: Yes.

April Schoen: Right. 

John Curry: Let's talk a little bit about the ... We've talked about the legal side, understanding what's available, understanding the rules and regulations, let's talk about the financial planning slash retirement planning side. Because for some people, if they don't ... most people have a hard enough time saving money when things are perfect, much less when they have a special needs situation like you're describing today. Talk about that. Along the way how did you deal with that? How did you come up with a plan to do all of the things that you have done, the two of you? To take care of her, but yet you still have your own security and freedom and you're not hurting financially because of taking care of her. 

So, walk us through that, what should people do?

Lou Ogburn: Well, because she had been under the program, the Med Waiver, and she has pretty much paid her own way up until now. Our fear is that as she gets older there will be more required of her care. In other words, she may have to go into an assisted living or something, and Med Waiver does not cover that. So, that would be a private pay type thing. I'm working on a state-wide committee right now to see what options are available for the aging ED population. Right now the options are to put them in what's called an ICF, which is money that comes out of general revenue. ICF is an intermediate care facility, and it's usually reserved for those people who are the most profoundly disabled. They're non-verbal, wheelchair, tube fed sometimes. Really cannot care for themselves, can't do any things.

And then the step down from that would be a group home, usually about six people in a facility with round the clock care, but there's always an awake person, there's no one that sleeps in the house, there's three shifts a day of eight hours. Or sometimes the shifts differ, but there's always an awake person in the house who takes care of six people. 

And then, from there it's the independent living like Ruth does in an apartment with a caregiver who comes in at night and is with her in case of an emergency, but during the day she depends on me. And she can, hopefully, take care of herself most of the time. 

And so those are your options right now. But, there are people looking everywhere to try to come up with more options.

John Curry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lou Ogburn: There's a project underway now to be looked at, and it's well underway, called Independence Landing, which is sort of an assisted living concept, I believe. Maybe more independent than assisted, maybe it's an independent living type facility where there will not be an assistant, and I don't know about the food, how the food is going to be done. But, this is going to be built in Tallahassee, there's a woman, Allison Tant, who's been instrumental in getting this done. And what we need are some options for the aging ED population. When they're younger they're more independent, as they age they become less independent. 

April Schoen: And Independence Landing, is that just going to be for persons with disabilities? Right, okay.

Lou Ogburn: It's my understanding, I don't know a lot about it.

April Schoen: Okay. 

John Curry: That's going to be an actual facility built here in Tallahassee?

Lou Ogburn: I think so, yes. 

John Curry: Nice.

Lou Ogburn: I'll let you know more as I know more. 

John Curry: I know you will because I learn so much every time we talk about this. 

Lou Ogburn: And before we move on, you asked about financial. And what you have to do, John, is just make yourself. You buy a life insurance policy, or you have to save a certain amount. And if you set up a special needs trust then you just save to that trust for your child. It's just a matter of saving, you have to be disciplined in order to save, just like you do for retirement. That's just a part of the retirement. 

About four or five years ago the state legislature ... Well, fortunately, there was a woman who was a housewife in Washington who had two children, and she said to her friend one day at the kitchen table, "I can save for one of my children who's totally normal. And the disabled one, I can't save for that one without ruining his benefits." And it just made her mad, so she went to the IRS to chat with them, and none of this was as simple as I'm making it, but they changed the IRS, the federal regulations, to say that you can save for a disabled child. If that child has become disabled before they're 26 and meets the criteria that APD, Agency for Persons with Disabilities, requires to be one of their clients.

So, then ABLE came along and Florida was the second or third state to adopt this program, that you can save up to 100 thousand dollars. It is tax free, and it can be used for almost anything including rent and food.

John Curry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lou Ogburn: Bunch of regulations now because it is a trust fund. Up until just a few weeks ago it was invadable by Medicaid upon the persons' death. That has changed. Medicaid can now no longer invade this, it's always that persons, and it can be left in their will for a beneficiary. 

John Curry: That's news for me.

Lou Ogburn: That's new, that's new.

John Curry: So, that's just happened?

Lou Ogburn: I just heard that yesterday. Now, I have not verified, and I haven't read the law, but this is Florida law. 

John Curry: I knew it was being worked on, I didn't know that it passed.

Lou Ogburn: They got a one year reprieve and then this year the law passed.

John Curry: Okay. Wow, a lot of stuff here.

April Schoen: Yes.

John Curry: Any other questions pop up in your head as we're winding down here?

April Schoen: No. I mean, I was kind of glad that we covered the able accounts.

John Curry: Me too. Let's talk a little bit more about that. You're very active in educating people about these topics, so talk a little bit about what's out there if somebody who's listening what's to get involved. Tell them how they can get involved.

Lou Ogburn: Okay, I chair the family care counsel, which is the bridge between the Agency for Persons with Disabilities and those persons or their families that have the disabilities. And we are charged by the Governor, and each of my council members were appointed by the Governor, to be the educational tool that gives the people they education they need to know where to get these resources. We meet once a month, it's an open meeting, it's always published. I mean, if you want to come you just have to ask and you certainly can come. Nothing closed about it.

We run workshops, we've done workshops on special needs trust, on guardianship issues, on diet, and on the able trust. If you need a workshop we'd be happy to try to put one together for you. We always have the director of the regional ... Regional director for area two, which we are, of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities at our meetings. She's there, she can answer questions. And it's a good organization. We're all trained to try to find your answers, we may not be able to answer them as you ask them, but we know where to get the answers for you.

John Curry: Yes you do. 

April Schoen: How do they get more information about the family care council, is there a website?

Lou Ogburn: There is a website, yes.

April Schoen: Okay.

Lou Ogburn: Family care council, go to the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, and it's on that website. Or, you can just put in family care council

April Schoen: Perfect. Good. 

John Curry: You know, we had a small part to play in doing a seminar here in our training center. We should do that again because that is something where we can get more information out there and help you with that. 

Lou Ogburn: Great.

April Schoen: Mm-hmm (affirmative). We should.

John Curry: We should do that again.

Lou Ogburn: I think that people will do what they need to do if they know about it.

John Curry: Correct.

Lou Ogburn: They want help, and people were afraid of ABLE at first. ABLE stands for achieving a better lifestyle, I believe is what that stands for. People are afraid. They don't want to put their money somewhere that the state can take it. 

John Curry: Right.

Lou Ogburn: Because they do an invade trust and they can invade a special needs trust too, if it's a certain kind of special needs trust I think. But, because of this law, I don't believe you have to be afraid of that anymore. I think that they could put ... A woman yesterday at my meeting said, "I only put two thousand in my daughters because I was afraid she would lose it, we would lose it, if something happened to her." And now she said she would want to put more. 

John Curry: That's good.

Lou Ogburn: 100 thousand dollars will go a long way if you have other sources of income toward paying rent for someone. 

John Curry: Yes. Do you think a day will come where that increases the cap more than 100 thousand? Surely you will with cost of living and expenses?

Lou Ogburn: Probably. You never know what they are going to do. You can do it now, it's just that every increase you have in that you do lose some of your other benefits. 

John Curry: Right, right. Well, I've been looking forward to this. I thank you for taking the time to share with us, and our listeners because there're people out there who will benefit tremendously knowing ... Just hearing your words of encouragement, number one, but also knowing where to go. And what I've always been impressed with is you learn but then you go teach. You don't just keep the information to yourself, you help a lot of other people. You've probably indirectly helped tens of thousands of people because of your dedication to this. 

Lou Ogburn: Well, thank you. That was very kind. And that's kind of what people are here to ... excuse me, to help other people. So, I'm happy to do it and thank you for talking to me today.

John Curry: You're very welcome. You just reminded me of something I'm reading in a book, it's called The Art of Aging, and in chapter three the author talks about Dr. Michael Debakey, who did the first heart transplant, successful one. And it came down at age 96 they were asking him questions like, "What is it that's made you different in your career?" And his wife stepped up and said, "I can answer that, it's one word, it's love. He loves his patients and his patients love him." And I thought about that and over my career, once I got to the point where it wasn't just about work and making money, it was that, "Okay, you're like a shepherd protecting your flock, and you can learn but you have an obligation that once you learn you teach others," that I really understood that. 

And that book reminded me of that in the sense that you love what you do, you've got a big heart, and you're out there helping a lot of people. Both of you are. 

Lou Ogburn: Well, thank you. 

John Curry: Thank you for being with us today. 

Folks, I hope you've enjoyed this. Any questions about special needs or anything let us know and we'll guide you as best we can, too. Thank you very much. 

April Schoen: Thank you!

Voice Over: If you would like to know more about John Curry Services you can request a complementary information package by visiting Again, that is, or you can call his office at 850-562-300. Again, that is 850-562-3000. John H Curry, Charted Life Underwriter, Charter Financial Consultant, accredited estate planner, Masters in Science and Financial services, certified in long-term care, registered representative and financial advisor of Park Avenue Securities LLC. Securities products and services and advisory services are offered through Park Avenue Securities, a registered broker dealer and investment advisor. Financial representative of the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, New York.

Park Avenue Securities is an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian. No Florida financial corporation is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Park Avenue Securities. Park Avenue Securities is a member of FINRA and SIPC. This material is intended for general public use. By providing this material we are not undertaking to provide investment advice for any special individual or situation, or to otherwise act in a fiduciary capacity. Please contact one of our financial professionals for guidance and information specific to your individual situation. All investments contain risk and may lose value. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents, or employees do not provide legal, tax, or accounting advice. Please consult with your attorney, accountant, and or tax advisor for advice concerning your particular circumstances. Not affiliated with the Florida retirement system. The Living Balance Sheet and the Living Balance Sheet logo are registered service marks of the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, New York. Copyright 2005-2018. This podcast is for informational purposes only. Guest speakers and their firms are not affiliated with, or endorsed by Park Avenue Securities or Guardian, and opinions stated are their own. 

2019-81862 Exp 6/21

Retire to Something, Not From Something

We put John Curry in the hot seat and have business consultant - and longtime friend - Steve Gordon grill him on how attitudes towards retirement are changing and how it could impact your plans.

Most people don’t have a real vision of their retirement, says John. And that can be very dangerous to their physical and mental health.

We unpack what “vision” really means and how you can find fulfillment in your Golden Years – and it’s definitely not just about financial security.

Listen in to find out…

  • The surprising things your retirement planner should be asking you

  • How car insurance affects your retirement planning

  • Why retirement doesn’t have to mean you stop working – and why you’ll love it

  • The difference between money and income

  • How much you can expect to pay for healthcare in retirement – it’s more than you think

  • And more

Listen now…

Episode Transcript:

Steve Gordon: Hey, everyone. This is Steve Gordon, and as you can probably tell, I am not John Curry, but I am here today hosting John Curry's Secure Retirement podcast, and I get the great pleasure of turning the tables on our good friend Mr. Curry and interviewing him. So strap in and hang on, keep your arms and feet inside the vehicle at all times. We're going to have a good time and we're going to learn a lot hopefully along the way. 

Mr. Curry, welcome to your podcast. 

John Curry: Well, thank you. I'm curious as to where this might be going, because I'm noticing that you have a blank sheet of paper in front of you and there's no questions prepared, so I'm a little worried about this actually. 

Steve Gordon: Yeah. Maybe as you should be. I have to tell you that, I've heard rumors around town about you retiring, and you're not retired yet. 

John Curry: No. 

Steve Gordon: And I know you well enough to know that retirement's probably not even across the horizon for you. So what in the world is going on with you and retirement? 

John Curry: Well, I said many years ago that I was going to be like George Burns. George Burns lived to be 100 years old. He turned 100 in January of 1996. He died in March of '96. And he actually was scheduled to do a show in London, and of course they had to cancel it because you can't show up and do a show if you're dead. So I've been saying for years that I wanted to be like George Burns.

Nowadays, I think in terms of Kirk Douglas. Kirk Douglas and I have the same birthday, December 9th. I was 66 last December, he was 102. He has suffered a stroke, but he's still a productive member of society. He wrote another book, published it, and he's just a wonderful role model. So Steve, for me, as long as I'm healthy and can show up and work, I want to do so. 

Recently, I was reading a story about Dr. Michael Debakey. He died at 99. In case you don't know who he is, he's a gentleman who had the first successful heart transplant, and his technology he created at age 22 has saved tens of thousands of lives. It's said that he did over 60,000 surgeries during his lifetime. So these are the type of people I look at as role models that as long as I am a productive member of society, I'm creating value for my clients. And like Debakey said about his patients, he loved his patients, his patients loved him. 

Last night at our seminar and at lunch yesterday people come in, it's a big hug and a kiss, "Hey, how you doing? Good to see you." To me, that's not work, so why would I leave that? 

Steve Gordon: That's a great question. I think so many people work, work, work, work, work with this goal that at some point there's a finish line, and there's nothing wrong with that, I don't think. But I think we're beginning to see more and more that people are looking at their life and looking particularly at the time from when they might normally retire until whenever the end is, and looking at that as a time to be really productive, and whether that's really productive in their vocation or really productive in some other way, I really think that that things are changing and attitudes are changing. 

You and I have talked about this at length, and I'm kind of the same mindset. The goal for me is figure out how to craft my days so that I love what I'm doing every day, or to the extent I can control it, I love what I do every day and then do it. And I see you doing that in the work that you're doing with clients and all the seminars and the publishing and all this stuff that you do that a lot of people in your business don't do because it's a lot of work, you do it because you're just so passionate about it and it's fun to watch.

John Curry: Well I thank you for that, but it's also because I have had good enough sense to hire people much smarter than I in certain areas and built a heck of a team. They help me do things that on my own, I would never be able to do. And unfortunately, a lot of people in my profession, financial planning, retirement planning, whatever you want to call it, they don't get that, and it's all about them, them, them, and they forget to put the spotlight on their teammates and understand that they wouldn't be quite as great as they think they are without people around them. 

Steve Gordon: John, I've interviewed you a number of times. I've interviewed you on my podcast, I've interviewed you on your podcast before. One of the things I always like to do in any interview is take things, take ideas, and kind of make them practical for people. So we've opened up with this idea of finding what it is that really drives you. I don't know if I want to use the word passion. Sometimes I think that word's overused.

John Curry: I agree. 

Steve Gordon: But finding what drives you and the thing that you love to do, and then filling your life with that. And that might be your vocation, your paid work, or it might be something else. So for the folks who are listening who are maybe approaching this time where they're going to go through a transition, maybe they're going to move out of a career, a vocation, and either into a second one, they get a new start, which I think is a really great possibility in life, or they may have other non-vocational pursuits. You've thought about this lot. What advice do you have for people who might be listening and hitting that point where they're having to make some decisions?

John Curry: First, I'm going to make a comment about a book I'm reading. As you know, I read a lot. This book is called Purpose and a Paycheck by a guy named Chris Farrell, F-A-R-R-E-L-L, Chris Farrell, Finding Meaning Money and Happiness in the Second Half of Life. I'm looking for stuff like this all the time because I'm on that quest myself. 

So for me, the word I'm using now is not passion, but it's purpose. What is your purpose? What is your vision? I ask people that all the time for retirement planning, as you know. What's your vision of retirement? Most people don't have one. They don't have one. It's, "Well, I'm going to quit working."

Let's say it's one of my clients who works for the Florida retirement system. "I'm going to take my pension, take my social security, take my income from my investments, then I'm going to sit at home, watch television, or I'm going to go travel." Whatever they say. 

I say great. But when I dig deeper, well travel where? They have no plans. I said, "So what you're doing is you're retiring from something but not to something. So is that really retirement?" 

And what Chris Farrell talks about that I think is phenomenal is people who retire from a job, they have their pension and social security, but they're not done. They're 65, 67, 70 years old, and they go, "I want something bigger."

And the saddest thing I've seen in my 45 years of working with helping people plan for retirement are people who retire, they have nothing to look forward to, and they expire. They fall apart, physically fall apart, and sometimes mentally, because they're not active. And some of the people that I see and I get to interview for the podcast are people ... I'm thinking of this couple that retired now living in Virginia, what they do though is they get in their motor home, and they will travel to state and national parks, and they will work. Sometimes they volunteer, don't get paid, sometimes they get paid to work. They'll stay that park, maybe three weeks. They'll enjoy the time off and do things there, and then they'll pack up and go to another one. 

Then I think about people that I know that have retired from a job, or in some cases got fired, downsized, and they start a business. Would you be surprised to know that the fastest age group that's starting businesses in the United States of America now are people in their sixties and seventies? 

Steve Gordon: Absolutely, absolutely. 

John Curry: It's amazing. They're becoming solopreneurs, doing stuff out of their homes, doing consulting work. 

Steve Gordon: It's funny, I was just having a conversation with one of our new clients. As you know, we produce podcasts, and he is just all fired up. He's about to turn 50, and he's starting the Over-50 Entrepreneur podcast for that very reason, because so many people are doing it. So yeah, it's a huge trend. 

I think more and more, we're seeing with medical advances that the idea that we're going to live beyond 100, and I think before too long, well into our 110s, 120s, a lot of people will, I think the question is now at 60 or 65, you might only be about halfway done. The perspective now has to be really different, I think.

John Curry: I've been preaching about longevity for the past 30 years, and finally people are listening. And I was a maverick when I started doing it. People said, "Why are you talking about that?" Well, because it's a real issue. But I've been a student of this stuff for 30, 35 years. 

But there's another reason that people are doing this. Healthcare. Yesterday, we did two workshops on Medicare. It's going to cost the average person in retirement well over a quarter of a million dollars per person to take care of their healthcare, meaning what they paid for Medicare, part B premiums, Medicare supplements, etc. So if you live a long life, the longer that life is, you're going to pay $200,000, $300,000, $400,000, $500,000 just for your medical insurance premiums. That's not even talking about what you might have to pay out of pocket. 

So a lot of people are retiring, and they go, "Wait a minute, my social security check is actually going down, not up, because my Medicare part B premiums were increased because I took money out of my retirement accounts, because the government forced me to liquidate it with something called a required minimum distribution, RMD, and that pushed me into a higher income level, which caused me to have to pay a much higher Medicare part B premium. 

These are things that people don't know about. I didn't know about it until about three years ago, because of a client having a problem, and that's been the story all my career. I hear about a problem here for this client, help the client deal with it. Guess what? I'm more valuable to the rest of my class now because I have that experience. 

Steve Gordon: Absolutely. 

I want to go back to something that you mentioned a few minutes ago. You mentioned a word, and the word was vision.

John Curry: Yes. 

Steve Gordon: I know from my reading of the Bible ... for those of you listening, it doesn't matter what religion you are ... but it was said in the Old Testament that without vision the people perish. 

John Curry: So true. 

Steve Gordon: Yeah. And I think that applied then on a-

John Curry: Well they get lost.

Steve Gordon: They get lost. Yeah. 

That applied then in that community of people as a whole, but I think it applies equally to us individually. If you don't have that vision, you will die, because your body recognizes the fact that you're not going anywhere. 

John Curry: Think about it for a minute. Why should your brain and your body do anything if you don't give it direction? First of all, your brain can't. It can't. I've been studying it since 1975 when I came in business. I picked up a book about how the brain works and the subconscious. I can't remember the name of the book. That's 45 years ago. Okay. Is that right? 44 years ago. So I started reading and studying this stuff at age 22, and all of my clients over the years that were psychologists and counselors were, "How do you know this damn stuff? You're a freak."

I said, "Well, I just love it. I read it and I study it."

By the way, while we're sitting here eyeball to eyeball, I want to thank you for something. I've done this before, but never had a chance to publicly like this, like 5,000 people probably hearing this with our podcast. You're the reason I'm doing the podcast. We've done interviews before where I've done CDs and cassette tapes years ago. But one day at breakfast, Steve was telling me, he said, "John, you really should do a podcast," and he produces our podcasts. I want to thank you for ... I'm not going to say encouraging me, you were pretty damn pushy. 

Steve Gordon: Yeah, I twisted your arm, didn't I?

John Curry: But I appreciate you doing it, my friend.

Steve Gordon: Well, I'm a big believer in this as a medium because people get to sit down and instead of reading a book where you wrote the words or trying to read an email or something like that, they actually get to learn something. I think you learn more by listening, particularly when two people have a conversation, things come out of that that wouldn't have come out otherwise. There's a dynamic there, and I think it's really powerful. 

John Curry: It's very powerful, but also people that I'm interviewing are getting an opportunity to share their story, and through their stories, other people are benefiting. And your words were, you will have a way of impacting tens of thousands of people that you'll never meet. Every time we do a seminar, every time, people will make a comment, it happened last night, at least half a dozen people may come and say, "Hey, I love your podcast on this," and I'd never met them until last night. We had 43 last night, and at the luncheon we had 32 people come. And every one of them in there, when April asked the question about podcasts, not everyone, the majority of them raised their hand, yes, we're listening to the podcast. We love them. 

Steve Gordon: That's great. Well, for everybody listening, we're glad you're listening. 

So when someone comes in and begins to talk to you about planning their retirement, and you hit them with this question about vision to try and understand what their vision is, because you can't possibly come up with a plan until you know what the vision is, the plan should fulfill the vision, right?

John Curry: Correct. I need at least to get some idea of where they want to go. Now, I've done this for so long that I usually am the one who has to be the coach to pull it out of them. 

Steve Gordon: And that's really where I wanted to go with this. If someone comes in and they're not really clear, how do you help them get clear? 

John Curry: Ask a lot of questions. And the first question is, "Tell me why you're here."

And they go, "Well, we need your help."

"With what? You want me to mow your grass? You want me to work on your car? What do you need help with?"

And they laugh. They say, "No, no. We need help with our money because we're worried."

"What are you worried about?"

"Worried about running out of money."

"Are you worried about running out of money or running out of income? There's a difference. I have a lot of clients who have no money to speak of, but they have great income."

I hear, "What?"

"Yeah, they don't have any money. They have $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 in the bank, but yet they have a check that comes in every month, just like that, every month. They spend it, and next thing it's like a mushroom just popped out of the ground next month. That's what you really want is guaranteed streams of income that never ever go away.

"Now the big question is if I can help you get that, you got money freedom. What about your time freedom? If you have the money, what will you do with the time? And that's where we we're going to spend our time today, is to find out exactly why you even want to stop working and, quote, retire, and if you do, what would you be doing with your time? Has anyone ever asked you those questions?"

And the answer every time is, "No. Why do you care?"

"Well, because if you don't know what you're going to do with the money, why bother having the money?"

Steve Gordon: Do you find when you're having these conversations that people have made assumptions about the money resources that they have or they might have in retirement, and it might be less than what would really be possible, and then they back their vision down in to fit what they think they can afford?

John Curry: I do see that, Steve, but more often what I see, I'm able to show the people they're better off than they think. 

So here's what I do. My style is we do what we call the retirement rehearsal. So I show them what they have and say, "How do you feel about it?" 

I'll just give you a quick example. This just happened Wednesday morning. Lady's making $80,000 a year. I said, "Your plan you have today will produce $41,000 of income, using your numbers you've given me, your pension, social security, etc." She works at a TMH. 

And she says, "That's good, but it's not good enough."

I said, "Well that's what you have. This is what your assets will do for you." And I said, "And you want to retire soon, literally end of this year." 

She said, "I may have to rethink retirement."

I said, "Well, maybe. But let's go back to what you said retirement meant for you. It meant leaving this job, but doing other things that you really want to do that can also make you money. So let's plug that in and then let's see how to improve what you have as far as being income-producing."

So long story short, we're taking assets she's got now, redeploying those, and that alone will increase her income on that part by at least 25% to 30%. If she does do the other work she thinks she's going to do, then she'll have no drop in income. She'll be able to work part-time and still have the same income she's making now, but able to have free time to do the things she chooses to do. 

Now before she came and sat and worked with my team and me, she had no clue how to do that. And I said, "You love your work." She doesn't hate her job at all. She just wants to move on and do other things. But she can't do both because her job is very, very demanding. And I said, "I understand that. So how about we give you both."

Then I'll see some people who I have to give them bad news and ask them, When do you want the bad news? At the last minute or when you have several years in advance to plan for it?" 

And the bad news, sometimes you can't do what you say you want to do, and then they have to adjust. But I don't get a lot of that. Most people that I work with, they need some tweaking, some fine tuning, but it's not like a total overall. I get some of that, but it's not a lot. 

Steve Gordon: One of the things that I've always admired about the way that you work is that you've got a process, and you're pretty strict about following that process. 

John Curry: I'm not pretty strict. I am very strict. 

Steve Gordon: You're right. I understated that. 

John Curry: And sometimes-

Steve Gordon: You're a pain in the backside about it is what I should've said.

John Curry: And the truth is sometimes I'm not right for people who are looking for an advisor, because I am not going to compromise the process, and here's why. Let me tell you the story. 

When I was a young kid in the Air Force, I was an assistant crew chief on the B-52 bomber. Every time that plane took off, every time that plane took off, eight crew members' lives were in our hands. And back in those days, we had the 8.5 x 11 worksheet, laminated, and we used a grease pencil to check everything off. 

I got chill bumps just remembering that. Look at that. You see that?

So I learned at a young age, you got to get it right. And you're human. If you don't have a way of following step-by-step procedures, you will forget it. Eventually, you will forget it. Now in that world, eight people die when the plane hits the ground. Luckily, what I do now, I'm not going to kill anybody, but I may not make them better. So we follow a process and we're strict about it. 

Steve Gordon: Talk us through a little bit of what your process looks like now, because I know you're constantly improving it and refining it as you go. As you're working with people, and I know you start with the vision, where does it go from there? 

John Curry: Well the first thing I ask people is, "Let's just have a conversation. Come see me. Let's have a conversation. I have no pressure, you have no pressure. We'll visit, whatever happens at the end of that, great. If you don't like me, you don't like the fact that I smoke a cigar, have a bourbon occasionally, don't like the way I comb my hair, whatever, just say goodbye. Be nice, be polite, but just say goodbye. And I get to do the same. I have no pressure to sell you anything, you have zero pressure to buy anything. We have a conversation. If we like each other, we move forward. If we don't like each other, we say goodbye. That's number one. 

"Number two, if during that conversation we hit it off and I like you, I want to work with you and you want to work with me, then and only then will we roll up our sleeves and go to work. There is zero sales pressure. I do not want anyone in my world who does not want to be in my world, period. So that's number two. 

"Number three, once we have agreed to move forward, then I need to see everything again. Something as mundane as your car insurance. Now why in the world would I care about your car insurance? That has nothing to do with retirement planning, right? Yes it does. You drive down the road, you have an accident, you hurt or kill someone, you will be sued, and that sucking sound you hear is called a cashectomy that these lawyers are going to give you that have these big billboards out there, personal injury attorneys, and they're going to come after you with a vengeance. 

"So I want to make sure that everything you have, everything, we look at."

Also, we had a situation last year, two of our clients died. One was murdered, one died of heart trouble in her late 80s. In both cases, all of the stuff that those people had with us was taken care of literally in a matter of two to three weeks. Some of that stuff is still ongoing a year later and even six months later, in some cases. I had one of a daughters today, of a client.

So I have a passion, a drive that if you won't let me look at everything and get it done correctly, I don't want to work with you. Because you're not going to be under my care and we have something happen that we could have prevented. Now, I can't fix everything, and I know that, I'm not that naive, but if you won't even let me at least look at it and discuss it with you, I don't want you as a client. 

I'll take you as a customer, and let's define the difference. A client comes in, most cases pays a fee for the planning, and then we do implementation later. Sometimes people come in, they're adamant, ... happened this week ... "I want to buy X, Y, Z product. I don't want any planning, I don't want to discuss it. Will you do it for me?"

"I will do it for you if the product is not going to hurt you. Tell me what it is you're trying to accomplish." I'm not stupid. I have a business to make money. That's why I'm in business. So in that case, I sold a product, and it worked for the guy. Now he says he'll come back and do the planning. Will he? I don't know. I hope he will, because if not, he went through a cafeteria where there was steak and lobster, and he took a hamburger when he could have had steak and lobster for the same price. 

Steve Gordon: I'm going to bring this all back around to where we started. 

John Curry: You have a puzzled look on your face right now. What is it? 

Steve Gordon: No, it's actually not. Because we started this whole conversation off with a question. Why aren't you planning to retire? 

John Curry: I hope I never retire. 

Steve Gordon: I know that. 

John Curry: I hope I'm retired when they put my butt in a coffin. 

Steve Gordon: I get that. But every-

John Curry: But let me be clear. Let me be clear. I need to say this, because some people think this guy's a workaholic. I take more time off than most people that I know, and I go do things I want to do. I'm catching a plane tomorrow, going to Phoenix, Arizona, I'm going to have a weekend with my cousin there, I'm going to attend a two-day workshop and just learn a whole lot of stuff I can come back and use to help my clients. 

Then I'm going to have a day, a free day where I'm going to go to the spa there at this resort, and I'm just going to be pampered like crazy for a day.

Steve Gordon: Where I was going with that ... 

John Curry: Okay. 

Steve Gordon: Where I was going with that, if you'll permit me, sir ...

John Curry: I'm sorry.

Steve Gordon: ... Was that if you listen ... for those listening, if you heard it, and I did as  I'm sitting here across from John, there are things that he's doing, and you can apply these in your own retirement, you can adapt them to that, no matter what you're doing. He's got rules of engagement for the way he operates now, which makes, for you John, that makes working a pleasure, because you're working on your terms with the people you want to work with, which oftentimes people are retiring to escape from the people they work with and the work that they do because it drives them crazy. 

So you've, over the years, been able to corral that into something. And I think that's a lesson to learn here for those who are thinking about what do I do in the next stage of life, there's a clue in how to do it well. 

The other thing that I heard from that whole description was not just that you've got a process, but that you take great care in delivering a really good result and delivering clarity for people. And that's really the thing that drives you, you care about the people that you're working with, and as a result it gives you a reason to jump out of bed in the morning, put your feet on the floor, and on the days you're working, you go into work. 

John Curry: Totally agree with that. And also the client is better served, because instead of me trying to be all things to all people, I have a clear focus on retirement planning. And I used to tell people I'm a specialist in retirement income planning, but it's gotten bigger than that because of my passion and desire to learn more and more. I'm able to actually coach people on how to have a better retirement life, not just the money side. And that's what has been coming out from me over the past five years that I never would have predicted. I never would have predicted that. 

The truth is I could stop doing what I'm doing today on the financial side and go become a retirement planning coach and probably do just as well, if not better. The beauty is I get to do both. I don't charge a fee for that part of what I do because I don't want to go through all the hassles dealing with the financial regulatory folks and all that stuff.

But I got the best job in the world. I got good people around me that I love to work with. I love them, they love me. I love my clients. Like I said last night, it's like homecoming. The clients over there come in, big old hug, peck on the cheek. 

Lady there last night is 89 years old, she says, "I don't know why I'm here. I'm 89 years old. I know everything about Medicare. I don't know why I'm here." At the end of it, she came over and gave me a big hug. Her name's Ruth. She said, "John, I love you. Every time I'm around you, I learn something new. Thank you so much."

That's gratifying. It's not just a job. 

Steve Gordon: And there we have it, friends, the answer to the question why John Curry is not retiring. So that was it.

Mr. Curry, I know we're about out of time.

John Curry: Yes we are.

Steve Gordon: Thanks for taking the time to do this. I always have a good time when we get to sit down and talk. I hope everybody else got some valuable lessons out of this as you're thinking about your own retirement vision, because I tried here to extract from John how he developed his version of retirement, which is still a working retirement, but take those lessons and apply them in your own world. And so John, I'll give you the last word. Anything you want to share with folks before we wrap up?

John Curry: Just one thing. If you're finding you're in a position where you're questioning where you are financially or anything regarding retirement, I would encourage you to call my office and at least engage in a conversation. You can do that with me over the telephone, you can do it with the April, Ed, Jay, anybody on my team. You just have a conversation, and if it makes sense we'll sit down face to face. And if not, it's okay, there's no pressure. 

I hope you've benefited from the interview today, and thank you for turning the tables on me. Is that what you call it? Turning the tables?

Steve Gordon: That's it.

John Curry: Well thank you my friend. 

Speaker 3: If you would like to know more about John Curry's services, you can request a complimentary information package by visiting Again, that is, or you can call his office at (850) 562-3000. Again, that is (850) 562-3000. 

John H. Curry, chartered life underwriter, charter financial consultant, accredited estate planner, masters in science and financial services, certified in long-term care, registered representative and financial advisor of Park Avenue Securities, LLC. Securities products and services and advisory services are offered through Park Avenue Securities, a registered broker dealer and investment advisor. Financial representative of the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, New York. Park Avenue Securities is an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian. North Florida Financial Corporation is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Park Avenue Securities. Park Avenue Securities is a member of FINRA and SIPC.

This material is intended for general public use. By providing this material, we are not undertaking to provide investment advice for any specific individual or situation or to otherwise act in a fiduciary capacity. Please contact one of our financial professionals for guidance and information specific to your individual situation. All investments contain risk and may lose value. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents or employees do not provide legal tax or accounting advice. Please consult with your attorney, accountant and/or tax advisor for advice concerning your particular circumstances. 

Not affiliated with the Florida Retirement System. The Living Balance Sheet and the Living Balance Sheet logo are registered service marks of the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, New York, copyright 2005 to 2018. This podcast is for informational purposes only. Guest speakers and their firms are not affiliated with or endorsed by Park Avenue Securities or Guardian, and opinions stated are their own.

2019-81231 Exp 6/21

Avoiding the Post-Retirement Blues

Lynda Dickens had worked 43 years for the State of Florida. But she wasn’t ready to retire until a fateful trip changed her mind. And a new hobby she picked up soon after her retirement convinced her to never go back to work. In fact, she says it’s become an addiction.

Now she’s more active than ever with lunches out with friends, card games, and all sorts of hobbies. We talk about her secrets to a happy retirement, as well as… 

  • A unexpected place to make new friends after you retire

  • How her parent’s unexpected passing impacted her retirement plans

  • The little-known sport that’s perfect for senior citizens

  • The #1 strategy that will prepare you financially for retirement

  • And more

Listen now…

Episode Transcript:

John Curry: Hey folks, John Curry here with another episode of The Secure Retirement Podcast. I'm sitting here with my friend Lynda Dickens and Jay Wolfe over here. We had a nice visit during lunch leading up to this podcast. And Lynda, first of all, thank you for being here. Welcome. 

Lynda Dickens: You're welcome. 

John Curry: Glad to have you. All of us are going to face something in all likely, that is the passing of our parents, and hopefully retirement someday, and then activities in retirement. And today, Lynda's going to share with us some things that I've been impressed with over the years that I've known her. And then we're going to talk a little bit about post retirement years. But Lynda, would you take a moment and just tell our listeners who you are? I know you work with DOT until you retired, but would you just kind of share your background about who you are just so they kind of get a feeling of who the real Lynda Dickens is? 

Lynda Dickens: Well, I was a programmer analyst with the state for 43 years. I didn't really want to retire, but after I did, I took a trip with one of my sons abroad and decided there was more to retirement. More to ... Yeah, more in retirement than ... Or better things than work. So I decided to stay retired. 

John Curry: What does retirement mean to you? 

Lynda Dickens: Being able to do what I want, when I want. Don't have to get up if I don't want to. 

John Curry: Very good. Very good. In my work, 44 plus years now, I find that people who are happiest in this thing called retirement are busy doing something. They have activities. The people that just sit in front of a television all day, they don't seem to be as happy. Would you tend to agree with that or would you disagree? 

Lynda Dickens: Oh, 100%. 

John Curry: Okay, because when we circle back around about some of the things you're doing in your retirement, I think that would come out loud and clear. You said 43 years in state government. When did you retire? 

Lynda Dickens: End of 2011.

John Curry: And you had told me before your parents died the same year. 

Lynda Dickens: Right. 

John Curry: Would you walk us through a little bit of that? That had to be stressful. You already got your own life changing event coming up called retirement and you lose your mom and your dad in the same year. 

Lynda Dickens: Yeah, it was really difficult and particularly because my mother was my best friend all my life and it was so totally unexpected. And I thought when I retired, which I knew was coming up six months later, that I was going to be spending a lot of time with them, especially as they got older, eventually taking care of them. But that didn't come about. I guess that's a good and bad thing you could look at, but I'd rather have him here and taking care of them if I have to. 

John Curry: Did their passing change your view about going into retirement? About the importance of doing the things you want to do now because of life being so short? 

Lynda Dickens: Well, I guess it gave me a different perspective because like I said, I expect to be spending a lot of time with my parents and I was going to have all kinds of time to do that. And after I retired I had nothing, so I didn't know what I was going to do. 

John Curry: Let's touch on that for a minute. So you told Jay and me earlier that for about the first three years of retirement you didn't do very much. 

Lynda Dickens: Right. 

John Curry: What did you do? What was your daily routine once you retired? 

Lynda Dickens: A couch potato, that was probably most of it. Going to lunch with friends whenever I could get anybody to go. But that was about it. 

John Curry: Okay. What changed? 

Lynda Dickens: A friend of mine asked me one day if I wanted to go see what pickleball was like, and I didn't have any idea of what it was. I said, "Sure." So we went to the senior center on Monroe Street and I learned about pickleball and I even got to learn how to play. And after falling flat on my face, I've got up and kept playing. And it's been over four years and it is my addiction. I play four times a week and I love it. 

John Curry: Tell us what pickleball is, because some of us, when you first told me I had no idea what pickleball was, so I promise you there are some people listening to this, they don't have a clue, so walk us through the basics. 

Lynda Dickens: Whenever I mentioned pickleball people go, "What?" I think it's the name that really throws it. 

John Curry: We're going to throw a pickle at each other, right? 

Lynda Dickens: That's right. Supposedly it came about in 1965. It was created by a man for elderly people and he named it pickleball after his dog pickles. Now it's supposed to be a cross between tennis, badminton, and ping pong, but I usually tell people it's like 99% tennis only on a smaller court, and the best part to me is that we play indoors. They are creating more and more places where we can play outdoors, but I have no desire to do that. It's just like a tennis court. Only smaller. I happened to read one day that is actually the size of a badminton court. It's got a net across and a line down the middle and we play two people on each side. You play with a paddle rather than a racket, but it's bigger than a ping pong paddle and a whiffle ball, the plastic ball with holes in it.

A lot of tennis players who come and learn pickleball usually have two complaints. One, the ball doesn't bounce as much as a tennis ball, and two, the paddle isn't as long as the racket. And a lot of them still call the paddle a racket, which I keep correcting them. But it's loads of fun and you can go to the Talgov website and get a schedule for indoor and outdoor pickleball. And any age person can play. I've heard that they're across the country, they are actually teaching it in grade schools. 

John Curry: What are the benefits of playing pickleball?

Lynda Dickens: Exercise for one, which I was desperately needing. And my goodness, I have met so many wonderful people and gain new friends that I do things with other than pickleball. 

John Curry: So there's the social aspect of it also. 

Lynda Dickens: Absolutely. The first year I was playing pickleball, it actually lowered my blood pressure and blood sugar, which thrilled my doctor of course. 

John Curry: How long is a match? 

Lynda Dickens: Nobody's ever really timed it. I would guess maybe 10 to 15 minutes. Normally a game is 11 points, but if we have six or more people waiting to play, we only played to nine so that we have faster turnaround. 

John Curry: So is the concept the same as in tennis or badminton from the standpoint of scoring? Same idea?

Lynda Dickens: Actually, I've never really played tennis, so that's hard for me to say. Well, you have to be, your team has to be serving in order to win a point and both players on one side will get to serve during their turn while they have the control of the ball. You have to serve underhanded, but the rest of the game ... And when you serve it, it has to go diagonally across. It has to bounce in the quadrant over there before they return it. When it comes back to you, you have to let it bounce. So it has to bounce once on each side before the rest of the play. And you can hit it overhand, underhand, whatever, except on the serve.

John Curry: Interesting. So let's go back to a falling on your face. So you were telling us about this, so that was the very first time you went and you said you happened to be wearing tennis shoes and you were invited to come out and learn how to play. So tell us what happened and what motivated you to get the heck up and keep going?

Lynda Dickens: Well I was going to get the ball towards the net and I guess I reached out too far and lost my balance and just fell face first. I didn't actually hit my face and I landed probably most of my weight went on my left knee, but I was laying there face down for a minute, kind of startled. And when I realized I really wasn't hurt, I got back up and continued to play. And I've actually fallen three or four times in the past four years, but I've gotten back up every time. 

John Curry: I'm just visualizing the game. That's got to be good for your hand and eye coordination. So I'm just wondering what impact it has physically, not just on the exercise but also developing the brain from the standpoint has been proven over and over that people who are still active in retirement and they're using their brain, whether it be doing what you're doing with pickleball or dance lessons, which I do ballroom dancing and it's amazing how those things, the more you have to do it, you learn and it gets you out of your rut both mentally and physically. But I'm just visualizing, I used to play racquetball and I can imagine it's got to be something similar, not coming at you as fast I guess. Although it could be, but you have to work on the hand eye coordination. It's back to what you and I were talking about earlier, Jay, about kickboxing too, and they're the same thing. Same thing. 

Why do you continue doing it? Okay, so you got involved, you got hooked enough to where you play four times a week. What keeps you going? To take some time, you have to overcome it or get up and get off the couch, go to the senior center, join your friends. So when you talk about it, you're always passionate about it. It's always your eyes, like right now, you're beaming, laughing about it, thinking about it. So what keeps you going? 

Lynda Dickens: The camaraderie probably the most. And just the love of the game. Certainly not the exercise, but if you've got to exercise, there's nothing like being able to do it and have fun at the same time. 

John Curry: True. Very true. In fact, I heard, I forget the guy's name now, one of the speakers at a conference said if you could find something you enjoy doing, whether it be basketball, baseball, softball for a church league or something, anything that keeps you moving and you're enjoying it, now it's not exercise. 

Lynda Dickens: That's right. 

John Curry: But if you're dreading getting up, going to the gym every day, well maybe the gym's not where you should be. Maybe it should be something else that you enjoy doing. 

Lynda Dickens: That's right. 

John Curry: So let's talk a little bit about a pickleball and how that ties into having a more productive retirement. So think back, if you'd not gotten involved in pickleball for the past four years, what do you think retirement would have looked like if you had just continued being as you, what'd you call yourself? The couch potato?

Lynda Dickens: Yeah. 

John Curry: So compare what you think the difference would have been versus of what it is now. 

Lynda Dickens: Oh, I'd hate to think of how big I would be. 

John Curry: Well there's some honesty. Okay. 

Lynda Dickens: Oh, I don't know. It'd be an awfully boring life, that's for sure. I really don't know. 

John Curry: From a financial standpoint, you don't have to work. You're retired, ready to stay retired. Do you ever have any regrets about retiring? Do you ever wish you were still working some or even part-time, or are you happy you've got out? 

Lynda Dickens: I sure did in those few years before pickleball, but now absolutely not. Love pickleball. Everybody who learns it gets addicted right away. And the senior center is not the only place I play, by the way. 

John Curry: Tell us about the others. 

Lynda Dickens: Oh, well there's any number of places. I also play at Jack McLean over by the fairgrounds and sometimes it's Sue McCollum at Lafayette Park. You can play at Walker Ford and Dave Street. 

John Curry: Wow. A lot of places. 

Lynda Dickens: All kinds of places. Yeah. Not to mention the outside places, which I'm not sure where they are. But I heard that they are actually starting to build a couple of pickleball courts at Tom Brown Park, and I think that's why they have cleared the land at Southwood down by tram, but I'm not 100% sure about that. 

John Curry: Well, I keep saying I'm going to go with you and observe. 

Lynda Dickens: Yeah. Yeah. Sure.

John Curry: But it has to be on a Friday because of work schedule myself. So, unless Jay will let me retire. 

Jay Wolf: Nope. 

John Curry: No, thank you, buddy. I appreciate that. Let's talk a little bit more about getting involved and doing things. What advice would you have for people listening to this that are close to retirement or maybe they've been retired for a year or two? What advice would you offer them regarding finding something to do in retirement to keep them mentally and physically active? For you it was pickleball, but just walk through whatever's in your head. If you could just sit there and tell people, "Here's what I think you might want to consider," what would it be? 

Lynda Dickens: Well, unless you enjoy doing things by yourself, I would say find some friends who are active and join them and make sure you do social activities as well. Not just exercise, but the exercise part has to be fun or you probably won't do it. 

John Curry: You mentioned something earlier too. I know you used to get together with friends you worked with and have lunch occasionally. Talk about that a little bit, because so many people retire and they just sever all relationship. They just disappear. Talk about that. Why do you think you and your friends have maintained that contact and what does it mean to you to have that? 

Lynda Dickens: Oh, I think it's interesting because you can keep up with what's going on at work, even though I don't want to be there to work. And it's nice to see people and hear what's going on in their lives. A lot of people who retired before me never even came back to visit. I used to go back and visit all the time because I wanted to keep in touch with the people that I worked with. I enjoyed the people and I wanted to see how they were doing and what was going on. 

John Curry: What I've been impressed with you over the years, Lynda, you didn't retire to get away because you hated the job or the people, you retired because you truly anticipated doing other things. 

Lynda Dickens: Right. 

John Curry: Now that changed some when your parents died, but instead of just collapsing and doing nothing, you found other avenues of things to do. 

Lynda Dickens: Thank goodness. 

John Curry: How many of you get together from the standpoint of friends from work and have lunch? You told me one time. 

Lynda Dickens: Actually, I have two different groups. One are the ... Well was my supervisor and four guys that I worked with on my team. We are still getting together, although my supervisor passed away over a year ago, and one of the guys moved out of town, but he comes back periodically for our lunch. We get together quarterly. 

John Curry: Quarterly, nice. 

Lynda Dickens: The other is a couple of women that I used to work with and we try to get together. There's also a guy that I worked with in this little group, and we get together at least the month of somebody's birthday, if not extra times. Plus I'm good friends with both of those women and see them at other times as well. Like my husband and I will go play cards, have dinner and play cards with the two other couples. That's one of my passions too is cards. I've been playing cards since I was a kid. 

John Curry: What do you play? 

Lynda Dickens: Mainly Phase 10 with these other couples. It's a rummy game, but it's got its own deck of cards. In my family, we used to play a game called Liverpool Rummy, which turns out is like 99% the same as Phase 10, but you just used regular cards for that. My family also had a game called Pitch. Don't know how to describe it, but that was what we considered our family game. We also played like Crazy Eight. And there was another one, but I can't think of what it's called. Anyhow, I've been playing cards all my life. Never betting. I'm not a better, I'm not a gambler at all. 

John Curry: So we're not going to see you at Vegas playing blackjack?

Lynda Dickens: I actually did. Back in 1976, my mother and I did, stopped in Vegas for a night or two and she won $75 playing roulette. 

John Curry: I just, I didn't know about the cards. I knew you told me over the years about playing cards occasionally with people, but did not realize that playing cards was that much ingrained in you from a kid. 

Lynda Dickens: Oh yeah. I played since I was a kid. 

John Curry: What are the other things on the horizon for Lynda Dickens to consider doing? 

Lynda Dickens: That's a good question. More pickleball. 

John Curry: When you say more, do you see yourself becoming more competitive with it? Because you first started, you didn't have near the competitive drive that I see in you now. 

Lynda Dickens: Well I've been very competitive all my life, but pickleball is the first game I've ever played, sport, whatever, that I don't care whether I win or lose. And I really don't understand it. I'm thrilled because I'm ashamed to say I am a poor sport. So I don't have that problem with pickleball, thank goodness. 

John Curry: Are you saying that because you don't like losing you mean? 

Lynda Dickens: Right. 

John Curry: Okay.

Lynda Dickens: But pickleball, it doesn't seem to matter. 

John Curry: I think most of us don't like losing. 

Lynda Dickens: Sure. 

John Curry: Some of us are good sports about it. Some of us are not. So do you throw your paddle? 

Lynda Dickens: No, no, no, no.

John Curry: Are you like, what was the guy's, the tennis player? McEnroe?

Lynda Dickens: I have seen people do that though. Yeah, someone even threw theirs and broke it. That's pretty sad. 

John Curry: You lose your temper and it usually costs you money to ... You're breaking stuff. You break your stuff. 

Lynda Dickens: Yeah, paddles aren't cheap. 

John Curry: How many people would you say are playing pickleball at the senior center? Is it like real busy? You have to wait awhile. 

Lynda Dickens: Well, it's not even the same people every time. That's usually where new people go, because we have a lesson on Wednesdays from 11:30 to 12:00. We will have anywhere from probably 12 to 30 people, and we only have room for two courts. At all of the community centers, we have three courts. So it's more people are playing at one time. Let's see. 

John Curry: If someone said to you, "That sounds good. That sounds like it's for the old folks to be doing." How would you respond to that? 

Lynda Dickens: Well that's true, but it doesn't have to be, it's a fun game that anybody of any age can learn and enjoy. 

John Curry: You said that earlier. That's why I wanted to really emphasize that. 

Lynda Dickens: Yeah, there is ... I did find out that there's a minimum age at the senior center, but that kind of makes sense. It is for seniors after all, I think you have to be 17 or 18 or something. 

John Curry: That's not very senior, is it? 17 or 18.

Lynda Dickens: No, no, no, no. But somebody brought their little nephew one time because they happened to be out of school. But I was told that there are around 500 people in Tallahassee playing pickleball now, and I bet I haven't met a hundred of them. Well, maybe a hundred but not kept in contact with a hundred. 

John Curry: That's a lot of people. 

Lynda Dickens: Yes it is and I don't know where they all are, but I'm glad they all don't all come to wherever I am. They keep trying to encourage more and more people to play pickleball and I keep telling them, "Would you quit? We have enough. We've got too many now." 

John Curry: Be careful now. You're going to be guilty of, "I've got mine, but you can't have it." Okay? 

Lynda Dickens: Well, the more people you've got, the less frequent you get to play. 

John Curry: True. True. You made a comment about somebody bringing their nephew. Do you see this as being a sport that families can play? 

Lynda Dickens: Absolutely. 

John Curry: From the standpoint of like, I'm thinking about my grandson, he's 13. 

Lynda Dickens: Sure.

John Curry: Doing stuff like that. 

Lynda Dickens: Can't families play tennis?

John Curry: Absolutely. 

Lynda Dickens: It's just like tennis. 

John Curry: Badminton, volleyball. Interesting. I like that. Got to learn more and learn more about it. So tell us again, if somebody wants to learn more, where should they go, and if they want to go to the senior center to learn more, tell us about that, what days. Is it every day?

Lynda Dickens: We only play at the senior center on Wednesdays and Fridays. Wednesday from 11:30 to 4:00, and now on Fridays from 11:30 to 4:00. Fridays used to just be 1130 to 1:30 because there was a dance group that followed us, but that group disbanded, so we were given the extra time. So now we played to 4:30 ... I mean 4:00 on Fridays as well. But like I mentioned before, if you want to learn how to play, come on Wednesdays from 1130 to 12:00.

John Curry: Or find a good friend like Lynda Dickens to go teach you, right?

Lynda Dickens: I'm usually the teacher anyhow if Charles isn't there to do it for me. 

John Curry: That's good. Well, let's circle back for just a minute and talk about retirement. And so that anybody who's listened to this can maybe pick up a couple tidbits from you. What did you do leading up to retirement to get you mentally and financially prepared for retirement?

Lynda Dickens: Well, I made sure that I was going to be okay financially, which with my retirement, I wasn't really too worried. My husband and I don't really spend much money anyhow unless we go on a trip. I don't know. 

John Curry: I think you just said it. Basically what I got out of that is you've always been a good saver, you haven't spent money frivolously, you had more of a setting money aside for the future instead of instant gratification. Because the thing that we see with people is they don't save enough money. Most people have too much credit card debt. They have too big of a mortgage on homes because they frankly just over committed their financial resources. 

And a lot of people in 2008 when the recession hit, they were in trouble. But the people who build up cash reserves, did a good job of saving money, they weathered that fine. And if you have good savings, you can let your investments come back when the market's down. So I think what you just said was it was big because you've never been big spenders. You plan those purchases if you want to go on trips or something. It's not, "Hey, let's just go put $10 thousand on a credit card." So I think comes back down to the discipline, because the time I've been around you, I feel like you've always had a lot of that. I think that you and your husband done a good job of managing the resources you have, but you also seek advice. You don't just say, "I'm going to do this because of something I heard from television." 

Lynda Dickens: Right. Yep. 

John Curry: All right, before we wrap up here, because I always like to end with is there anything that you would like to share with our listeners that we haven't talked about, whether it be about retirement, exercise, we talked about nutrition earlier. Anything at all, anything related to this thing called retirement. 

Lynda Dickens: Well, you definitely ought to plan ahead for it, pretty much. Main thing being make sure you can afford it because there's no such thing as having too much money when you retire. Gain as many friends as you can so that you can do things and be around people because it does you a world of good to be around people, have more fun that way. You learn a lot. And do something active, whether it's pickleball or tennis or ping pong or whatever. And mainly have fun and keep smiling all the time. 

John Curry: Well you're good at that. I'm just sitting here looking at your face. You've been smiling a whole lot during this interview and I just appreciate you taking the time to do this today. I know at one point you told me you weren't quite sure you wanted to do it. So thank you for sharing, because I think in just a brief 30 minutes here, we try to keep these around 30 minutes. So because people are busy, but you've shared I think some good thoughts from the standpoint of getting ready for retirement, how do you deal with life's uncertain events, unplanned events. But also you said something a moment ago that I've never heard anybody say in one of these and that is to have plenty of friends in retirement. I think too many people cut the cord. They retire, especially men because men are guilty more so than women, I think, of being so involved in work that their mindset is that's who they are, that's their self-worth. They have a harder time retiring because of that. 

Lynda Dickens: But if you spend all your time by yourself, you're going to tend to be more sedentary and that is not good. 

John Curry: And lonely. 

Lynda Dickens: And lonely. And that's definitely not good. 

John Curry: Yeah. A lot of things that I see in my study about longevity says that the more that you are around people doing things, playing cards, playing chess, playing pickleball, dancing, things like that, that those people, because they're involved with other people, they're happier, they're healthier, and they have better family relationships and friends. 

Lynda Dickens: Right. 

John Curry: Better than just being by yourself in front of a television, getting all the bad news all day.

Lynda Dickens: I don't watch news. I record everything I watch and scan through commercials. No commercials, no news for me. 

John Curry: Well, Lynda, anything else you'd like to end with before we say goodbye? 

Lynda Dickens: I don't think so, but I'm glad we finished. 

John Curry: Well, thank you so much for being here today. Thank you. 

Lynda Dickens: You're welcome. 

John Curry: I hope you've enjoyed this and I hope you go learn about pickleball because the next Friday that I have in town, I'm going to go observe and see what pickleball's all about. 

Lynda Dickens: I'll believe it when I see it. 

John Curry: I understand, but I'm going to surprise you. Thanks, Lynda. 

2019-80348 Exp 5/21

Your New Identity in Retirement

During their many years together, Bruce and Judi Irvin have always viewed their marriage as a partnership… and that extends to how they manage their money.

As a result, they set themselves up for a comfortable retirement that allows plenty of funds for adventurous travels around the world.

We talk about where they’ve been and the wonders they’ve seen but more importantly how accountability, cooperation, and teamwork when it comes to finances has allowed them to truly enjoy their golden years.

Listen in to discover…

  • Three pillars of a financially stable retirement

  • The habit many people never adopt that leads to a retirement shortfall

  • Why retirement isn’t about how much money you have

  • The “In the Event” folder you need to create now

  • And more

Listen now…

Episode Transcript:

John Curry: Hey folks. John Curry sitting here. I'm sitting with my friends Bruce and Judi Irvin and I want to thank you for listening in and welcome to another episode of the Secure Retirement podcast.

Folks, welcome and I'm glad you're here.

Judi Irvin: Good to be here.

Bruce Irvin: Good to be here. Yes.

John Curry: Judi I want to start with you. Tell us a little bit about your work at Florida State University, or even before that if you like, you were a Professor of Education. And then we'll come back to Bruce. Just give us a little bit of background, and I just thought of one question I'd like to know. I've never heard this from the two of you, how you met, where you met, and just kind of fill us in a little bit.

Judi Irvin: Okay.

John Curry: And Bruce is real quiet, so I'm going to bug him and ask him to jump in here occasionally. 

Judi Irvin: I was a Professor of Education at Florida State University and that's where I ended my career, and I spent 30 years there. I was a teacher before that. But one of the things that I'd like to share is a little earlier and that is that I grew up in the Watts area of Los Angeles. I never read a book or wrote a paper before I graduated from high school. Because it was during the time when the Watts riots were happening. People were coming and going. And when my parents moved into the neighborhood, it was a Leave It To Beaver, 1950 neighborhood, and it changed radically as I went to middle school and high school.

And so the education that I got, was horrible. I mean it was nonexistent. And we were basically just housed. We weren't taught. And that was in a time when writing was assigned, but it wasn't taught. So I was a cheerleader and very happy at school. I mean school wasn't bad because I was very social. So I just never paid attention to anything academic because my social life was more important to me. Plus, nobody else seemed to care.

And so I went to a small college, I went to California Lutheran University, which is in Thousand Oaks, California. And they took a special interest in everybody, not just me, but everybody. My first semester in college, I made all Cs and a D. And it wasn't because I didn't try, it was because I lacked study skills, I lacked prior knowledge, I was asked to read a western civilization book and I had no clue where anything was, let alone what happened there. 

So I really struggled as a student when I first went to college. And because there were people around who cared and got on the Dean's List, but not the good one. And so the Dean called me in and said so what's going on?

John Curry: Straighten up or get out?

Judi Irvin: I haven't been partying too much. Bottom line was I didn't know how to study and I had very little prior knowledge. I mean I really didn't have much of an education in high school.

John Curry: Do you realize knowing you as long as I've known you, I've never heard that story. But now I understand why you're so focused and you're a get it done person. I mean what'd you call it earlier?

Judi Irvin: A compulsive closure complex.

John Curry: Yeah. You come in, you want something done, you want it done now.

Judi Irvin: Yeah.

John Curry: And zipped up. You think some of that is because of the fact that you had to work so hard and struggled maybe in the early days in college?

Judi Irvin: Well yeah I'm sure. And I felt like I didn't know where to turn and I didn't know what to do to improve. I did know that education was important, and I didn't even have much of a self-concept about my own intelligence as well. Because we were just sort of housed. And I was very confident about my social ability. So I didn't have a negative experience in high school, I just didn't have much of an academic background. 

So when I went to college, I eventually made it to the good kind of Dean's List. Because I studied and there were people around that were checking up on me. And so I did graduate with a B average or so in college. But I say that because not everybody has a stellar high school experience. And it's really sort of up to you to make something of your education and to reach out.

And fortunately, I went to a small college and not a UCLA where I would of sort of probably been lost.

John Curry: Right.

Judi Irvin: So then eventually I became a teacher. I moved to Tallahassee, Florida and became a teacher. And ended up teaching, I taught one year of fourth grade in California. Then when I came to Florida, I taught middle school. 

John Curry: How did you get from California to Florida? What brought that on?

Judi Irvin: Well that would be an ex-husband.

John Curry: Okay.

Judi Irvin: And so he was working at Florida State and I ended up staying, he left. Then I met the love of my life Bruce, who's blushing now. 

Anyway, so I taught in middle school in Tallahassee, and then while I did that, I got my Master's degree. Then I went to Indiana University and started a doctoral program. And so when I came back to Tallahassee, I came back as a Professor. I taught at FAMU for a couple of years and now I ended up teaching at Florida State.

John Curry: So I'm just listening to this story and I'm hearing, okay I didn't really get a good high school education, never really read a book until I went to college. And now you're sitting here with a Bachelor's degree, Master's degree, and a Doctorate.

Judi Irvin: Right.

John Curry: And not only that, you're a Professor of Education of all things.

Judi Irvin: And I've written 20 books.

John Curry: 20? 

Judi Irvin: Yes. 

John Curry: I didn't know it was that many. Wow.

Judi Irvin: And that was another evolution because I had to learn to write. And I had to teach myself to learn to write because nobody taught me to write. 

John Curry: We're going to come back to that in a moment.

Judi Irvin: Okay.

John Curry: Because there is some learning opportunities and lessons here that anyone listening to this can apply, not only in their planning for their retirement, but in their day to day work lives. So we'll come back there in a moment.

Judi Irvin: Okay.

John Curry: Okay.

Bruce, tell us about your background.

Bruce Irvin: Grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida. Went to junior college there in St. Petersburg. And was lucky enough and a good enough baseball player to get a scholarship to go to Mississippi State to play baseball and get my final education there. I ended up with a Master's degree in Physical Education and Health and went directly from there then after my eligibility was done to Maclay School and worked there.

First year was coach of everything. Cleaned gymnasiums and everything else that didn't get done, I did it. So the second year after the Athletic Director that was there the first year left to take a state job, I took over the position and was there for 38 and a half more years.

John Curry: Wow.

Bruce Irvin: As the Athletic Director. Learned in my final year that I was chosen by my peers as the National Athletic Director Of The Year. So I was very pleased about that.

John Curry: Interesting.

Bruce Irvin: And humbled.

John Curry: You should be.

So how did the two of you meet? Tell us that.

Bruce Irvin: We were a romance. Judi and I both taught at Maclay for a period of time.

Judi Irvin: An eighth grade romance.

Bruce Irvin: The kids in the middle school were chuckling because we were having lunch together. 

John Curry: Okay.

Bruce Irvin: And then it got serious after that.

John Curry: I'd love to see a video of that. The kids laughing and having fun.

Judi Irvin: Especially middle school kids.

John Curry: Yes.

Judi Irvin: Yes.

And then we got married and I started my doctoral program and we got married shortly after that. 

And we've been married for 41 years.

Bruce Irvin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: Yep.

Bruce Irvin: Happily.

John Curry: Yes. Great relationship. It shows. All of our years of working together, just being around you has just been fun. It's fun. 

Let's make a transition to talk a little bit about how you got focused on being where you are today. Over time you had a job. Okay so you have a job, you're just trying to save some money and pay the bills. But the two of you are a little bit different. All the years I've known you, you've been pretty disciplined and you save money. You don't waste money. So talk a little bit about your mindset about money itself. Have you always been that way, the two of you in this relationship?

Bruce Irvin: Yeah. As far as I can remember. Yes. 

Judi Irvin: Well I don't know. When I first met Bruce he had a hutch. And in the hutch, it didn't even have shelves on it. In the hutch went all the bills. 

John Curry: You told me this one time. This will be fun. She's going to tell on you Bruce.

Judi Irvin: And then the way he kept his checkbook is that he would round up to the next dollar. And then if he felt poor, he'd round up to the next five dollars and that was to cover the checks he forgot to put in there.

Bruce Irvin: I always had money though.

Judi Irvin: Well that's true.

I would say, and so I happily took over taking care of the checks and things like that at that point. And he's never seemed to mind that. 

But I think one aspect of it is that Bruce and I have always worked as a team. So I was fortunate enough to be able to consult, my areas Adolescent Literacy. And so Adolescent Literacy happened to be big as I was in smack dab in my career. So I had consulting opportunities. But we also had two small children who went to Maclay school. And so Bruce did, I would say 60 to 70% of the childcare with lunches and uniforms and teams and coordinating all of that because they went to the same school where Bruce taught. Which left me free to be able to travel and do my consulting. 

So I did make money during those consulting years. And one of the things that I chose to do early on was I only took half of my consulting money and put it in one account that I could spend. And I took the other half of my consulting money and put it in a different account. And every quarter I paid my SEP account and I paid my taxes. 

John Curry: Very good.

Judi Irvin: So I never thought about being able to spend more than half of what I earned. And I think that helped because when we retired, I ended up with a pretty healthy SEP plan that I'm now able to draw upon.

John Curry: Very good. Well you ended up with your pensions, social security, and you saved money.

Judi Irvin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: Unfortunately, most people don't form the habit of saving money. And the biggest thing we do in our planning is encourage people to save money. We try to get people to save 15 to 20%, at least 10.

Judi Irvin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: But some people just, they never get it. And then when they retire, they are shocked to see they have a big shortfall. 

But part of that comes back to your mindset too. So the two of you were focused and you had a goal. Not spend all my money, save some money. 

Judi Irvin: Although we did have a couple boats along the way. 

John Curry: Well we're going to get to the boats here in a minute because I know Bruce likes to fish and I enjoy fishing too. And I haven't been in a while, so I've got to go fishing.

What would you say were the big turning points during your lives as a couple when it comes to any type of financial decision? Because you had two kids, had to take care of them, so you didn't get to save every dollar you could have saved because you had to pay for some children expenses, but what would you say were the keys? You said teamwork, what else?

Judi Irvin: Teamwork because we had two kids and we had to kind of work together on that. Getting the kids through college, so each kid got a car and a college education and a new suit. And I figured that's all we really owed them.

But they did, they both ended up with good school experiences and that was important to us. So that was a big expense for a while. I think one decision that we made sort of later on was to get some long-term health insurance.

John Curry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Judi Irvin: And while I didn't think too much about it at the time, so I'm 72, Bruce is 69, I see my friends now who need home healthcare and they have to pay for it out of their pockets.

John Curry: Right.

Judi Irvin: That is, even if we never use it, I mean your insurance is the kind of thing that is you never use it, it's great.

John Curry: Actually hope you never use it. I hope you've wasted the premiums right.

Judi Irvin: I mean if we never use it that's fine, but that gave us some piece of mind that everything we did save is protected because we have the long-term health insurance in case something happens. Because I've seen friends go through all of their savings and also friends who are taking care of parents who go through all savings because of health needs.

John Curry: That's also true of the life insurance that you've got over the years because life insurance is not just about covering debt, it's also about replacing assets. So the two of you've done a good job of planning, where if you wanted to, you could spend every dollar you have in your retirement accounts and still leave a legacy because of your life insurance in place. 

So it's like having a cost recovery vehicle. You spend everything and still leave money behind. So the long-term care insurance, your life insurance, all that works together to allow you to have an even better retirement than you thought you would.

Let's talk a little bit about you're retired.

Judi Irvin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: A few years leading up to retirement, let's talk about your mindset there. How were you feeling about it? Were you anxious about it? Were you excited about it? I'm looking at Bruce, smiling and nodding his head. So tell us what you're thinking.

Bruce Irvin: I was just anxious about it. I guess I've always listened to my parents and other peoples parents say that they never would have enough money to retire. And they'd have to work for their whole lives. And I'm thinking, how much money do you have to have to make this work? So we were always worried about that to some extent. But it seems to have worked out.

John Curry: Yes.

Bruce Irvin: We now have enough money that we can live comfortably. I can go fishing. 

Judi Irvin: Keep your boat.

Bruce Irvin: I can play darts or do whatever hobby I like to do at a time. And it seems to be a comfortable way of doing it. 

Judi Irvin: I think we've always lived somewhat modestly. Bruce has always had his boat need. And we both have the travel need. So we do spend money on travel. But I think we basically live pretty frugally.

John Curry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

We'll come back to the travel in a moment. What do you think was the mindset, you mentioned parents, maybe you said you listened to parents. Let's dig deeper in that. So from the standpoint, are you saying Bruce that you didn't think that you had the ability to do it, or you just doubted the ability to be able to retire?

Bruce Irvin: It wasn't the ability as much as it was how much do you need? Do I need $10 million? Do I need $300,000? I just didn't have a figure that was my goal. So I never knew and I was always apprehensive, I didn't know if I had enough money to quit. And when it came time, and we came to you and asked for your opinion and was it something that we could do, and you said yeah we can do that now. It helped me make my decision of how much longer I was going to work for sure. 

John Curry: I think people are being hurt when they're being taught to have a number. I don't think the number works. Because when you have this number, what happens if 2008 hits, or 2000, 2001, 2002 and your number gets diminished?

Bruce Irvin: Correct.

John Curry: I think it's more important to have strings of income that you can never outlive. Because you have several sources of income streams coming in right now.

Bruce Irvin: Yeah.

John Curry: Or you can turn them on whenever you want to. So we try to get people to understand that it's not just about how much money you've got because that money can be taken away from me in the stock market. It could be stolen. You could lose it, you could go squander it. But if you have guaranteed streams of income coming in, and most Americans today will not have a guaranteed pension plan. It's up to them to save the money, either in a 401K or a SEP account, Supplemental Employee Pension plan like you had Judi, or a 4013B like you both have had. But the tendency is to say, you know retirement is way out there, I want that new car, I want that new boat, how am I going to spend it? I'm going to get all the debt to finance all that.

So we find this lack of spending and too much debt. And the two biggest things it too big a house, too big of a mortgage. And also brand new cars, because people are paying so much money for car payments, they don't have any room for saving.

Bruce Irvin: Right.

Judi Irvin: I think one thing we've done along the way is pay things off. The only thing we owe on right now is the home that we're going to make our main home in Virginia. Everything else has always been paid for, including cars. 

Bruce Irvin: Right.

Judi Irvin: And so we haven't had a lot of debt, which I think is good.

John Curry: That goes back to the discipline again.

Judi Irvin: Yeah.

John Curry: Like you said, only one half was available to spend of your consulting because you saved, paid the taxes and saved.

Let's talk a little bit about, Judi from your perspective, leading up closer to retirement. Did you share the same concerns and anxiety that Bruce had?

Judi Irvin: Oh yeah. My parents never thought about retirement much. And my mother was fortunate enough, she lived a nice long life at 98, but she also worked for the Los Angeles County and so she did have a pension. So she was good. I mean that was all good, but Bruce did not have a pension.

John Curry: Right.

Judi Irvin: And so we had to be disciplined there because the school only had VALIC accounts available to us. But yeah, I was nervous about how much is enough. And how much do we need. I've never been a really good budgeter, although I'm a compulsive planner, I've never been a very good budgeter. And so every once and a while I'd sit down and try and come up with a budget but ... It's not that we couldn't stick to it, it's I don't know.

John Curry: Budgets don't work for most people.

Judi Irvin: Oh, don't they? Oh, that's good to know.

John Curry: No it's too constricting.

Judi Irvin: Yeah.

John Curry: Try this out for size. Cashflow analysis.

Judi Irvin: That's better.

John Curry: Doesn't that sound better?

Judi Irvin: Yeah right. 

John Curry: A cashflow spending. That sounds much nicer than budget. Budget is oh you can't do this, you can't do that.

Judi Irvin: Right.

John Curry: But so you overcame that by saving so much.

Judi Irvin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: That's how you overcome it, save money.

Judi Irvin: I would say five years before retirement, I was pretty apprehensive about having enough.

John Curry: What changed that?

Judi Irvin: I think our visits one or two times a year to check on things. And to see yeah, yeah that's on track. And that the Florida retirement money is going to be there. And how do deal with the drop money. And things like that. I think checking in on a regular basis was very helpful and made us feel a little bit more at peace.

John Curry: Well I will tell you, you guys were always very disciplined about making sure we had this appointments and you always came in prepared. And I think that's key, you don't just sit down and say okay, tell me what I've got. You know what you have. And you paid attention and you're involved in it. 

Judi Irvin: I visit my money almost every day.

John Curry: That's good.

Judi Irvin: I love the living balance sheet because we can connect all of the accounts that we have, even ones that are not done through this office. So I can look at everything in one place and then we're to the point now where I can print that out for my children and give them the password and they can look at it if they want. 

John Curry: Yes.

Judi Irvin: If need be, they could have access to that money and know who to call and it's all there. I even have a little folder in there that's called In The Event.

John Curry: In The Event? Nice.

Judi Irvin: In The Event. 

John Curry: That's good.

Judi Irvin: I mean with contact numbers and things like that.

John Curry: Well you mentioned earlier about long-term care situations, we're trying to get people, and you're doing it next week in fact with your children. We're trying to get people to open up and let their adult children know what they've got. Maybe not every little thing. Because the day is going to come when either we die or we're incapacitated and somebody needs to have access to that. We're working on a situation right now, it's tragic, where a lady died. Everything that she had with us, because of the living balance sheet being organized, everything's done. It was all taken care of in two to three weeks. And now, we're being told, April just told me this morning, that in her case, that the legal side and the trust side, they're saying another 10 to 12 months. And this lady died back in November.

Judi Irvin: Wow.

John Curry: It's just ridiculous that it's being dragged out and it costs so much for that. 

So we're trying to teach people, let's get you organized first, do the planning first, then worry about products. And you mentioned, you don't have everything with us. There are things elsewhere. You don't have to have everything with us. And if we can help, we will.

I remember when we started doing the retirement discussions, what we call a retirement rehearsal. I could sense then and you actually vocalized it, once you knew that the pieces of the puzzle were there Bruce, it gave you somewhat of a more confident feeling I guess I would describe it. And I went back to when you were coaching, and you have to have a game plan. If you have a game plan, now granted once you got out on the field- 

Bruce Irvin: Yeah.

John Curry: The game plan changes. Okay, once contacts made. But talk a little bit about the comparison of a coach, because I love coaches because we have to do with people. But from the coaching side and how you think that relates to the financial planning side and retirement planning, or is there a similarity?

Bruce Irvin: I never thought of it until just now, but it probably does. In a game situation especially, you have only a certain amount of time that you can actually do your coaching. The kids have to know what they're doing on the field or on the court. And you have timeouts, which coincide with meetings with you and things like that. So there is a situation there where it parallels really well actually with coaching. 

John Curry: I see myself as a coach in a sense that I can't do the job for you. I can coach you, I can guide you, be a mentor, but if somebody will not take the action necessary or change their behavior, and it used to really tear me up. Something happened in 1982, two things happened. In May of that year, my wife's brother committed suicide. August of that year, my brother committed suicide. 

Judi Irvin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: It's a tough year. And I realized finally one day, I can't make you do anything. And I had to let that stuff go. Because if you didn't follow through on something that I knew you needed to do, I'd worry about it. And I'd even get angry. What did I do wrong? Why can't I make them do it?

Bruce Irvin: Well I know we didn't do somethings that you asked us to do, but I think that we did probably 60% of those things. And now we're in a situation where we have gained in knowledge ourselves and we can just call you, you can explain something to us and we can make changes from there. But we feel comfortable with where we are.

John Curry: So you took ownership, first of all thank you for that, but you took ownership in your planning. That's the key. And that's why we're doing the podcast because we're having an impact. There's over 5,000 people who have access to this. Now I don't know how many people listen to it. I can't control that, but all we can do in life, and your world is coaching, your world is teaching. All you can do is share what you know and hope that people take it and use it. 

Bruce Irvin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: Some will, some won't. Some will do it now and some will do it later. And it doesn't matter, all we want to do, our mission is to just get it out there, teach. And that's what you did in your careers.

I want to fast forward to something that you said earlier. I'm going to read this and then I want you to explain who shared this. You said earlier that someone told you that retirement is a big equalizer. Will you share that?

Judi Irvin: Yes. We're moving to a community Clarksville, Virginia, which is only 1,500 people. And they're lovely, inclusive people, but we're all new to Clarksville. I mean some people have grown up there. And so all the people we're meeting there, we're meeting new. We haven't known them for 20 years. So as we meet people, we're meeting them as retired people. So what you used to do isn't as important as when you were working. Because there's no sort of hierarchy of job status. We play darts on Wednesday night with a group of people that are just lovely people to interact with. And half of the people, I don't even know what they did during their working lives, and it doesn't matter.

John Curry: Right.

Judi Irvin: If they ask, we tell them. 

John Curry: So there you're not Dr. Judi?

Judi Irvin: No. And nor do I need to be.

John Curry: Right.

Judi Irvin: That's not important. So yes. So retirement can be the big equalizer when you are retired, especially if you're meeting people new.

If you're in the same community of people you used to work with, it might be a little different because people know about your history.

John Curry: Right. Well when you said that earlier I was struck back because I'd never heard that or thought of it that way. I just know that I know a lot of people, men especially, still struggle because they thought they've lost their identity.

Judi Irvin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: Because they no longer have the job to go to. I was fortunate back in the early 80s to do a series of workshops for General Electric's employees in Dayton. And they had a panel, first time I went in they had a panel discussion during lunch. They'd brought couples in that had retired. And some of the stories that were being told would blow your mind in the sense that back then, you talked about the Leave It To Beaver days-

Judi Irvin: Yeah.

John Curry: The TV show, most of the women had never had a job. They'd never worked outside of the home. And one person after another, the woman were like I wish he'd go back to work. He's in my way. He's under foot. Because these guys had no hobbies. They were mostly engineers of some kind. And they would go home and they would just interrupt the wife's life. You know get out of here. So it's funny.

Judi Irvin: But you know our new identity is being grandparents. And that's why we're moving to Clarksville is to be near our four little grandchildren. And that's more important to our identity I think right now, than being a professor or being an athletic director.

John Curry: And what you've done is see your careers is nothing more than a way to fund the things you want to do in life. We get too caught up in what we're doing, and I'm guilty of it some too because I love what I do. I hope I never quote, fully retire. As long as I'm able to bring value and healthy and can work, but I don't want to be work, work, work all the time. I want to carve out time to go do things I want to do now. I don't want to wait until some magic date or age, to quote, be retired.

Judi Irvin: Right.

John Curry: So what's wrong with working hard and playing hard along the way?

Judi Irvin: Right.

John Curry: And this thing called retirement, I think it causes a lot of stress that's unnecessary.

Bruce Irvin: It's not necessary. It's a time in your life.

John Curry: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yep. 

Talk a little bit about your travels, because you've done a lot of traveling. Share some of the trips that you've been on that were most memorable for you.

Judi Irvin: We generally travel with a company called Overseas Adventure Travel. We like them because they specialize in small groups and local guides. And they also encourage discussion of controversial issues. So we've probably been to about 40 countries right now, I think is about where we are.

John Curry: 4-0? 40?

Judi Irvin: 4-0, yeah. 

John Curry: Wow.

Judi Irvin: 40. 

We just got back from the Middle East. So we went to Egypt and Jordan and Israel. And we spent five days in Palestine, which was very interesting. It took 28 days, we were gone 28 days, and it took 28 days to sort of figure out why people were interacting the way they were. Not only did we enjoy the beautiful sites like Petra and the Egyptian Tombs, but we're more interested in some of the cultural aspects of traveling. 

John Curry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Judi Irvin: And how people interact with each other and why. So that was a really interesting trip, but I think one of our favorites was Africa.

John Curry: Before you go there-

Judi Irvin: Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: I want you to go back and expand on something. You made the comment about because you told me this last time we met too, something about no discussion about politics or whatever. Expand on that because we've become such a divisive of nation arguing about politics, so share that.

Judi Irvin: When we travel, the only rule that Overseas Adventure Travel has, and you're on a bus with 15 people. So I mean you're pretty together for 2, 3, or 4 weeks. And you can discuss any controversial issue, the only thing you may not discuss is American politics.

John Curry: Really?

Judi Irvin: And that is because, I mean you're with people for 15 and 16 days. And like nobody wants to go there when you're trying to understand another culture and another whole set of interesting interactions between people.

John Curry: I wouldn't want to hear about politics from Europe either. I don't want to hear any country's politics if I'm on vacation. Just enjoy the time.

Judi Irvin: Well when you're in the country, for example-

John Curry: That's different.

Judi Irvin: I mean when we were in Palestine and trying to understand the whole Palestinian/Israeli conflict, and you sort of had to be there to see people interact and go to the refugee camps. And sort of see how people reacted. And we were making those decisions on our own. Nobody was lecturing and saying this is the way it is. We were seeing things for ourselves, and then being able to ask questions.

John Curry: That's good. Tell us about Africa.

Judi Irvin: I'll let Bruce do that.

John Curry: Oh, yes. Bruce, jump in.

Bruce Irvin: It's a wonderful experience. We saw so many beautiful animals and wonderful encounters with the large groups of animals. The herds of buffaloes that we saw, and the zebras and giraffes in the Savannas, it was really life altering, I guess to say the least. Enjoying nature in their part of the world.

John Curry: What do you say to those who are listening to this and they are somewhat either fearful or uncomfortable with travel, what would you say to them?

Judi Irvin: Travel takes you out of your comfort zone. And if you're a control freak and you have to have everything controlled, then you wouldn't enjoy travel. Because you get lost, you're misunderstood because you can't speak the language.

John Curry: I've been there.

Judi Irvin: You hold out your hand with a pocket of money and have somebody grab it out of there because you can't count the change because you just got there that day and you don't know what those little coins mean.

I mean there's so many things that happen that are beyond your control.

John Curry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Judi Irvin: The people that we know that don't like to travel, like to control their environment. And when you travel, especially when you travel to some of, like we've been to Peru and Machu Picchu and the Galapagos, especially when you're traveling to places, and we've been to the Amazon, a little dicey, you don't have control over all of that. And that's another reason we travel with a group, because they have local guides. So you're not there trying to negotiate all of that by yourself, but things happen. 

John Curry: Yep.

Judi Irvin: It's been important part of our life to travel around the world and experience how other people live. It expands your life view and it expands your perspective of ...

Bruce Irvin: And it makes you appreciate what you have here in the United States.

Judi Irvin: Yeah.

John Curry: Absolutely. My first adventure to traveling was at 17 when I was in the Air Force. Spending time in Okinawa, Philippians, Thailand. It was amazing. Learned about other people’s culture, so I'd get that. And then when I had the opportunity because of business travel to go to Europe, it was an eye opening experience. 

Because similar to your experience Judi, I grew up in a very small town. We only had 300 people in the entire community. Probably only that's there now, over in Holmes County in fact. I went to school in Bonifay. I think my high school senior class, I think there were only 53 of us in the class. It was amazing. So I just grew up in this itty-bitty hick town and I had to get out of there.

Judi Irvin: Yeah.

John Curry: So my dad signed to go into the Air Force at 17, and that was my first adventure into travel.

Judi Irvin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: But you're right, it stretches you, it makes you think differently. Sometimes, you're right I had not thought of it this way, but if you don't enjoy travel, or if you're a control freak, you're not going to enjoy travel.

Judi Irvin: No. 

John Curry: Because I've been lost so many times, it's like can you help me?

Judi Irvin: Yeah. And the other thing is everybody wants the same thing. They want a safe place to be able to raise their children and live out their lives.

John Curry: Yep.

Judi Irvin: Everybody all over the world wants that.

John Curry: That's so true.

Judi Irvin: And so when you travel, I mean that's what you experience with other people. I mean you sort of get blinded by all of the politics and conflict and all of that. But basically, people are people. And that's what they want for their lives and their children's lives. 

And every single trip that we've been on, somebody has remarked how lucky we are to be born in the time and place that we were.

John Curry: I think luck is important and lucky is a good word, but you also have to do something with that luck.

Do you remember the very first country you went to? You said 40 countries. Do you remember the first one?

Judi Irvin: Oh, we went to Germany and Belgium and Holland. And we took a group of high school boys.

Bruce Irvin: Soccer players actually.

And it was, yeah we remembered that. We were on a group tour with that group of kids. And the people that we went with were not as organized as we had thought they were. So when we got there, we were kind of on our own. And we were thrown into a situation where we were lost a lot of the times. Didn't know when we were going to get picked up to go from one place to another. 

So we learned that it was important to be able to control a little bit better, what you do and where you go, by going with a group that's already been there before. So that's why we use that group and it's worked out for us. We enjoy traveling with them.

John Curry: It's just fun sitting with you and just having conversations. Every time we get together, I feel like I learn something new every time we're together because of your travels. 

Our conversation last time, you were in about your trip to the Middle East was really interesting. I wish we had like an hour just to talk about that.

Let's talk about the future. You've already shared your ages. Some people say wow I'm too old to do these things. To you, you have a different mindset about age also. I've never heard either of you once talk about age being a limiting factor. Now we know with age we're going to have, maybe physical issues where we can't travel as much. You don't seem to be slowed down by anything. If anything, you're more like, I got more I want to do. Am I reading that right?

Judi Irvin: Well, yeah I guess. As my brother said, it's all about the next 15 years. And so my mother died at 98, but that's rare. And so we're moving to Virginia and we want to be around our grandkids and our kids. And because they're ...

John Curry: Next 15 years meaning that maybe that's all the time you have left, as far as life expectancy?

Judi Irvin: Well life expectancy or being able to get around the way we do. Or being able to travel like the way we like to travel, which is active. We have to be able to walk three to five miles a day when you travel with OAT. 

And so I think it's not a frantic kind of, I have to get these things done before I die, but it's I want to be in a position to do the things that I want to do. And not look back and say gee, I wish I would of. I wish I would of moved to Virginia to be with my grandkids for their next 15 years. Because in 15 years, they're all going to be grown.

John Curry: You want to live a life of no regrets.

Judi Irvin: Yeah. Well that would be nice. I have a few regrets, but.

John Curry: Well sure, we're human. We're human.

Judi Irvin: But I don't know.

Bruce Irvin: Get up off the couch. 

Judi Irvin: Yeah.

Bruce Irvin: Keep moving.

John Curry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bruce Irvin: And I don't think the time or the age is as limiting as the health. Keep your health. That's more important as you get older, to me it is.

John Curry: Any thoughts on that, of how to do that?

Bruce Irvin: Oh yeah. I've seen what happens and works for me. You just try to do nothing in overt. You don't go drinking too much or eating too much or those kind of things. Exercise is very important, but I don't think you need to go and do marathons every day either.

John Curry: Right.

Bruce Irvin: So it's mediocre, doing things that are healthy for you. What you eat is more important than how much you eat of course. There's a lot of things that way, but I get exercise three to four times a week and that helps me.

John Curry: Helps you mentally too, doesn't it?

Bruce Irvin: Yes. It keeps you clear.

John Curry: Yeah I have to have my exercise, if nothing else, just for a rest from the mental side. 

Bruce Irvin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: And yeah, the weight loss or I call it weight raw releasing over the years has been good for me. 

Talk about your grandkids. You are moving because you want to be with your grandchildren and hang out with them, so talk about the future there. What are some of the things that you have planned to do with them? Or want to do?

Judi Irvin: We have a 10 year old boy, a 6 year old girl, and a 4 year old girl, and a 3 year old boy. Two and two with our two kids. And one of them is one hour away from our new place, and one is three hours away. 

John Curry: So far enough away so that you're not under foot?

Judi Irvin: Right. But we also live on a lake and have a boat and a dock and every imaginable toy, so we have paddle board and mats and slip and slides.

John Curry: Will you adopt me please?

Judi Irvin: Yes. 

So the kids like to come to the lake.

John Curry: I can see why.

Judi Irvin: And fun is a high priority. I mean we're not there to work or weed the garden or anything. I mean that gets done when they're not there. 

John Curry: Right.

Judi Irvin: But we really enjoy when we go and pick up a kid and have them by ourselves. And so last summer we had Aiden who's 10 by himself for a couple of weeks. Then we went and got Hailey who's 6 and we had her for four or five days by ourselves. And that's just fun to have kids around where you can really interact and play cards and go fishing. I mean it's just fun to be with them.

John Curry: It is. I had a special weekend last weekend with my grandson, he's 13. And I had to get him back over to his mom at noon on Saturday. So we went out to our property, I have 36 acres over in Jefferson County. And we set up a little target range where we could shoot .22 rifles, just a little plinking. And that's what he wanted to do. So we did that, then got up the next day and did the same thing. And he wanted to play chess, so we'd just sit there at the kitchen table and play a game of chess. It's just cool. Just the two of us.

Judi Irvin: I have to say that when my kids were little, I didn't have the time or the patients to play Old Maid on Saturday morning. But now I do. Because I was busy working, and there were always things to be done and they were in sports, but now we do have time to sit and play cards with kids for three hours on Saturday morning if we want to.

John Curry: Do you ever feel like Judi that some of the things that you didn't get to do with your kids, that you're doing with the children now? Do you ever look back and have any regrets of that? Because of working?

Judi Irvin: Well we really enjoyed being with our kids. I mean we enjoyed raising our kids. I don't know if we have any real regrets. 

Bruce Irvin: No.

Judi Irvin: We were just busy. 

John Curry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bruce Irvin: Yes we were all busy and they were involved in quite a few different kinds of sports. Both were very good in their academic programs.

Judi Irvin: But we were busy with our jobs. You were at games every single night. And I was at FSU and traveling.

Bruce Irvin: Yeah.

John Curry: Right.

Judi Irvin: It was always a negotiation.

Bruce Irvin: But we always felt like we were doing things together.

John Curry: Right.

Bruce Irvin: It wasn't like we were not doing things.

Because we didn't want to get lost up in it, so I think it worked out very well.

John Curry: Very good. As we begin to wrap up here, give some thoughts as to your last ideas or advice that you would offer anyone that's listening in saying, wow these people have had a good life. They've had good careers. Sounds like they had fun, traveled, 40 countries? I knew travel, I had no idea it was 40 countries. Thanks for sharing that. 

But talk a little bit about what advice you would offer people and what they may want to consider as they're getting close to retirement, or maybe in retirement.

Judi Irvin: Have fun along the way because I see a lot of people that don't take a trip until they retire.

John Curry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Judi Irvin: There's a lot of the world to see. You can't see the world in 10 years. There's a lot of the world to see. I think we've always had a really good support group around us. The Maclay people and the people that I worked with at FSU, we've always had a wide, supportive group of friends. Neither one of us lived near family, so we didn't have instant babysitters or things, we went and visited family, but we've always had a really good support group of friends. All of our kids parents and we always did things with them, soccer games and weekends away here and there. And I think we've had fun along the way.

Bruce Irvin: Yeah. And take care of your health. That's pretty important. If you get sick and you can't do things, then that's no fun. 

John Curry: Right. 

Bruce Irvin: But as long as you're staying healthy, no matter how old you are, you might slow down a little bit, but you can still go. 

John Curry: Right.

Bruce Irvin: Go, go, go as long as you can.

John Curry: I'm thinking of some friends that life at the Villages, he's now 80 and I think she's 78 maybe. They go on cruises and travel all the time.

Bruce Irvin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: They slowed down some, where you just said, they've taken care of themselves so they slow down some, but they're still traveling, still having fun. 

Bruce Irvin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: And they do like you've done. They're grandchildren now are adults. They would take each of the grandchildren, one at a time, on a cruise.

Judi Irvin: Hmm.

John Curry: And hang out with them. I've had the pleasure many of times of being invited to their time when they get together at Christmas over at Destin, and I feel like I'm part of the family. 

Judi Irvin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: And I go over, and I only stay for a day, I just go over for the day because I don't want to intrude. But I look at what they've done, the memories that they've shared together and the tight, tight, tight relationships as a family. 

Bruce Irvin: Yeah.

John Curry: And they might be apart, but they talk. And they're together for special occasions.

Bruce Irvin: Yeah.

Judi Irvin: The dynamics of families change.

John Curry: Yes.

Judi Irvin: So as your children get married, you're adopting a whole other family, which is a whole different dynamic. And then they choose to raise their kids the way they negotiated. Nobody comes to you and says what do you want to do for Christmas mom. I mean, they have their own lives and their own things that they want to do around holidays and things like that. And I think at this age, you just have to be really flexible so that they can live the lives that they want. We got to, we got to determine how we wanted to raise our kids, so they need that same level of choice.

John Curry: But that's another area of talking about being a control freak. Some people can't let go of that. So people need to ... But if we can, let other people live their lives-

Judi Irvin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: We're better off. We're better off.

Any closing thoughts? Anything else you want to share?

Bruce Irvin: We've talked about a lot of different things.

John Curry: Yes you have.

For someone who's this quiet, I'm so thankful that you joined us today and spoke up. 

Bruce Irvin: I've enjoyed doing this.

John Curry: Yeah. Thank you for doing it.

Judi Irvin: No, thank you.

John Curry: Judi, anything?

Judi Irvin: No. I mean it's been a ... As we leave Tallahassee, this is sort of a closure type of activity-

John Curry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Judi Irvin: To kind of think about our lives here in Tallahassee as we sort of embark on a new one in Clarksville, Virginia.

John Curry: Well I will tell you that I've enjoyed this. And I'm selfish that I get to spend time with the two of you when you're in town as friends, not just an advisor, that's always good. But thank you so much for doing this and sharing.

Judi Irvin: Thank you.

John Curry: Bruce, thank you so much.

Bruce Irvin: Thank you.

2019-78686 Exp 4/2021

Splitting Finances in a Relationship the Right Way

There are no ideal retirement plans that work for everybody. Every couple has different needs and desires. That goes for how they split day-to-day financial responsibilities as well.

That was certainly the case for Carlton Ingram and his late wife, Nancy.

Carlton explains the arrangement they had and how it led to their happy marriage. He also goes over what he’s doing now to keep going in the face of tragedy.

We also talk about…

  • What you must do now with your financial accounts

  • The impact of lifelong learning

  • When you can’t take “no” for an answer from your doctor

  • How to reduce stress around money in relationships

  • And more…

Listen now…

Episode Transcript:

John Curry: Hi, folks. This is John Curry for another episode of John Curry's Secure Retirement Podcast. Jay Wolfe and I are sitting here today with the pleasure of having a conversation over lunch with Carlton Ingram. I think you're going to enjoy getting to know Carlton. Carlton, say hello.

Carlton Ingram: Hello, folks out there in the wide world of podcasting.

John Curry: Today we're going to talk about a couple things. Carlton served in the military, specifically in the Coast Guard, and he's had an interesting career in state government. We're going to talk about it a little bit. Married to a beautiful lady named Nancy. Sadly, she passed away. So we're going to talk a little bit of, how do you pick up the pieces after you lose someone that you dearly love?

I think, from a man's perspective, that's going to be interesting, Carlton, because people think about, okay, somebody lost their husband. So someone's a widow. But what about the widower? So thank you for being with us.

Carlton Ingram: Sure.

John Curry: Let's start off by you just sharing a little bit about your background. You went to Florida State. Just tell us a little bit about the early years, a little bit about your Coast Guard, and then we'll get into more about how you met Nancy because that's an interesting story.

Carlton Ingram: I'm one of the few Tallahassee natives that you'll run into. I was born here in Tallahassee, graduated from Leon High School, went to Florida State. After I graduated in biology, which doesn't have a whole bunch of future if you don't have advanced degrees, I decided I didn't really want to go to Vietnam, so I joined the Coast Guard. Ended up doing mostly oceanographic work while I was in the Coast Guard in the North Pacific, about halfway between Honolulu and Japan. It was quite deep. It was 3,200 fathoms, and at 6 feet of fathom-

John Curry: Wow.

Carlton Ingram: ... I was in pretty deep water. Enjoyed it while I was. Hawaii was pretty. North Pacific was interesting. When I got out of the service, the job market had kind of fallen through as I'd had fairly decent job offers graduating from college. But Uncle Sam came first.

As a group of people in that day and age, if you were in a land-grant university, you were subject to draft and you were also subject to having to take two years of ROTC. I wish I'd stayed and gone on and done the full four years instead of just doing the minimal two. But got out of the service. Like I said, the job market had dried up quite a bit, so I just kind of-

John Curry: What year was that?

Carlton Ingram: Got out in April of 1971.

John Curry: I'd been in a year at that point because I went ... Not quite a year, because I went in the Air Force October of 1970 and got out October '74. So, somewhere along the way, you were getting out as I was getting indoctrinated.

Carlton Ingram: Yeah. Well, once you're in, you're in. There's not a whole bunch you can do about it. There were a lot of really ironic happenings to me while I was a senior and almost graduating. I took a Peace Corps exam. At that time in this country, the Peace Corps was an alternative to military service. They kept dragging their feet on telling me what ... I was already in the Coast Guard. I was already halfway through boot camp, and I got this little notice from the Peace Corps: "You have been accepted as a fishery biologist to Micronesia."

The Coast Guard said, "Oh no you haven't. You're in the Coast Guard now. You will never go be in the Peace Corps." So, anyway, that was a little bit of a disappointment because I would have loved to have been able to do that. It may have furthered my career in biology, which ended up being an advocation rather than a vocation. After that, in the education system, they're always needing male teachers. They were wanting specifically science teachers. So I got a temporary certificate, and I taught biology at Leon High School, where I had graduated.

A lot of the teachers that were in there were teaching me and my contemporaries when I was in school. Believe it or not, my mother was actually still teaching at Leon when I was teaching there. But that didn't interfere with anything. She let me be who I was, and that was nice.

John Curry: Well, you were telling us earlier during lunch that pretty much everybody in your family were teachers, right? 

Carlton Ingram: At one time or another, they had teaching certificates. Whether they actually taught ... My mother and father actually met while teaching in a little teeny town in Columbia County called Fort White. That was interesting. They were there when Pearl Harbor got bombed, and then my father joined the Navy. He was an air traffic controller in the South Pacific, a little teeny island called Palmyra Island.

But, anyway, I got to see a little bit of the Pacific that he ... I landed on a flight. I landed on Wake Island. My ship going out to sea, every patrol, we stopped at Midway Island to refuel. So I got to tour Midway and see all the bomb craters that were still there and dodging all the gooney birds that were albatrosses that were laying eggs that were as big as a foot-long ruler.

But that part of it I enjoyed. I enjoyed the natural beauty and the natural interest that I had, and I always had a fishing rod with me. I even trawled off the back of our ship and had an executive officer that liked to fish. So he was accommodating and had some interesting stuff. I worked with the University of Hawaii and developed a ... We needed to study radioactive carbon-14 in the Pacific waters from all the nuclear tests that the United States had performed at Bikini Atoll and some of the other facilities out there. Designed a device to capture water at a certain depth and bring it up through without it changing, and being able to study carbon.

Did some interesting things, but I wasn't meant to be career military, even though they tried to get me to be. I was lucky that I was able to do some oceanographic work. The Coast Guard has such a small total number of members. It was only 35,000 in the whole service, and so everybody had to learn multiple tasks. But, predominantly, I did oceanographic work. I got on my ship. There was a two-year tour of duty. I got on my ship one week after my ship came back from Vietnam and my 2 years was up 10 days before I went back on a second tour of Vietnam. I got to squeeze right in between the two.

John Curry: Wow.

Carlton Ingram: Because I was in oceanography and not a complete combat role, I could've opted out.

John Curry: So, in your case, it was only two years of service in the Coast Guard?

Carlton Ingram: No. Two years on that ship.

John Curry: On the ship. Okay. So four years.

Carlton Ingram: Right. I was anywhere from Key West to Miami Beach to Honolulu to Tallahassee, believe it or not.

John Curry: How old were you when you went in the Coast Guard?

Carlton Ingram: 21.

John Curry: 21. I went in at 17 in the Air Force. I was just 3 months shy of 18. I can tell you that going in the military was the best thing I did. Instead of going to college and goofing off, Air Force was my first taste of getting away, traveling, traveling around the world. Went to college every station I was on. Every base, they had college courses. Started that.

So I'm sitting here having fond memories of some of the things that I was doing when I was in Okinawa, Thailand, just listening to what you're talking about because the military helps you grow up. You get the heck out of town. You grow up. You do some stupid stuff too, folks, but at least you grow up and you get to know other people. And you have different life experiences.

Let's fast-forward a little bit here. You get out of the Coast Guard. You come back to Tallahassee. Somewhere along the way there, you had a first marriage that lasted 10 years. You guys got divorced. Then you and Nancy met, and you dated for a number of years. But tell us what happened once you got back out of the Coast Guard. Just give us kind of a thumbnail sketch there.

Carlton Ingram: Well, I taught school at Leon High School, taught biology for a short period of time. I had no education courses per se at FSU, but they needed male teachers and they needed science teachers back in the early '70s. So I got a temporary certificate and taught seven and a half to eight months. I couldn't make it the whole year. Went to work with the state at Division of Retirement. I got offered a decent job with the state and stayed there from '72 to almost '77, mid/late '76. And moved to Missouri to help my first wife. We had some medical problems.

Came back to town, got a divorce, worked with my mother and stepfather in the business that they had in some malls around here and some other places in Florida and the Southeast. Then met Nancy while I was in between state jobs. How we met was very interesting. A contemporary of my mother who went to college same time at Florida State College for Women with my mother, worked out at Lively, and Nancy was one of the faculty at Lively. She had a master's in speech pathology. She started out as a speech therapist and then evolved into some other stuff.

So this lady knew my situation, knew Nancy's situation, gave each one of us the other's telephone number, and left it up to us to make the contact. After about three weeks of getting up enough nerve, I called her. The rest, I guess you'd say, is history. We dated about eight and a half years. My mother is the one that put the most pressure on me. She said, "You'd better watch what you're doing because you're fixing to lose a wonderful person." This is funny and silly and sentimental, but I took my mother and Nancy ... My mother was still a widow at the time. I took my mother and Nancy to the Silver Slipper restaurant and a private room and proposed.

John Curry: Nice. Nice.

Carlton Ingram: Not too many people will propose in front of their parent.

John Curry: That's right.

Carlton Ingram: But ...

John Curry: Well, it was fitting because she was the reason you guys got together.

Carlton Ingram: Sure. Exactly.

John Curry: I love it. Well, for the people who knew Nancy, you know that she was a great lady. For those who didn't, you missed out on knowing a wonderful person, a wonderful human being. Let's talk a little bit more about ... You shared with Jay and me earlier about how you had a blind date with Nancy. Would you share that, how you met?

Carlton Ingram: Yes. It was kind of funny. When I called her, we were ... At some point, she had tickets to, believe it or not, a Barry Manilow concert at the Civic Center, and I decided to tell her, "I haven't been to a concert."

John Curry: I was at that concert.

Carlton Ingram: Were you?

John Curry: Yes, sir.

Carlton Ingram: The Civic Center wasn't that old at the time, and I hadn't been, except for a couple times while we were dating. So I called her and said, "Well, how can we meet?" We decided we would meet downtown at a restaurant at a specific time. She described a little bit about her, and I tried to describe a little bit about me.

Sure enough, we met, and it just was ... I wouldn't say it was love at first sight, but I was freshly out of a divorce, and she had been divorced for quite a while. She had her own house out in Killearn Acres. I was ready to get remarried. I mean, I wanted it. But she saw how vulnerable I was and how graspy I was, and she thought better of that. The longer we dated, the more the roles reversed. She wanted to get married, and I was just finding my oats. But with strong encouragement from my family, we got married.

John Curry: What year did you get married?

Carlton Ingram: 1989.

John Curry: '89. Very good. Very good. During this time, what was Nancy's career, and where were you working? Was that when you went to community affairs, along that time?

Carlton Ingram: Yeah. I was actually working ... Yeah, I think I was unemployed at the time. I was actually living with an old-maid aunt. I did all the yard work, she did all the inside work, and we split all the costs 50/50. But I didn't have any money, so I had a little ledger and I kept a list of every penny I owed her. When I started working in the Department of Community Affairs in 1980, I paid her back every penny that was on my little list that I owed her.

John Curry: Now, you just told us the real reason Nancy didn't want to get married. You didn't have a job and you had no money.

Carlton Ingram: That's probably what it ...

John Curry: That's the real reason now.

Carlton Ingram: And she had her own house. That was one of the reasons why I always attracted ... I'm just kidding. She was a wonderful person.

John Curry: Yes. Lovely person. What was she doing career-wise? You said she had training in speaking?

Carlton Ingram: Yeah. She was a smart cookie. She had a full four-year academic scholarship to Vanderbilt. Well, it was the Peabody College of Education, which is a part of Vanderbilt now. I think back then it was separate. Her parents were educators. Her father was superintendent of schools in the town in Alabama where she grew up, in Bessemer, Alabama.

So she was destined to be an educator no matter what. She had gotten married, was living in Tampa, came back to Tallahassee. She had gone to FSU. After she graduated from Vanderbilt, she went to FSU. She was in the first speech therapy master's program at FSU. So she was actually in graduate school at FSU, and I was still in undergraduate school at FSU. But I didn't know her.

She was a little over a year and a half older than me, but she was a lot more than a year and a half wiser than me. But, anyway, it turned out to be a wonderful, wonderful marriage. She did her things, I did my things, and we did our things. She respected my likes. I respected her likes.

John Curry: Well, knowing over the years as I did from the financial advising side, you guys had a remarkable relationship, and the way you handled your money and respected each other was awesome. There's a valuable lesson there that, if people could see that as a model, there'd be less stress regarding money in relationships, and not just money but overall relationship.

Since we're into the personal side here, talk a little bit about ... You enjoy fishing. You mentioned that earlier, fishing off the ship. But the two of you enjoyed going to the beach and doing things. Would you talk a little bit about that?

Carlton Ingram: Right. We were lucky enough to obtain a house at Alligator Point. We owned it with another couple because, at the time, it was the only way we could possibly have afforded it. But I spent more time there than anybody else. I did more of the maintenance. I did more of the upkeep. But I got more of the enjoyment, too. I would go down there three or four days a week sometimes by myself fishing.

After we had owned it about five years, we had a dock built. We were on the bay side. We had daily beach access, but once the dock was built, I didn't go on the beach again. I just fished off my dock and catch red fish, flounder, trout, right in the little tidal creek, and really enjoyed it. Had a boat but didn't use my boat too much because my neighbor down there had a bigger boat, and he wouldn't dare set foot in my little boat. So we always went in his boat.

But, yeah, I've always loved the outdoors. I've been outdoor all my life. I grew up on Lake Ella. I used to tell people that Lake Ella was my babysitter. My parents would just turn me loose on the lake, and I'd learn how to catch fish and net things and turtles and tadpoles and what have you. I think that spurred my interest into biology, period, is just having that at my beck and call. Whenever I wanted to go fishing, I'd just fish.

At one time, that was actually on my grandparents' property, half of Lake Ella. It was called Bull Pond way back when. I have cousins that are trying to get me to write chronicle of growing up on Lake Ella. I got 28 chapters, but I don’t have anything written in any one of the chapters. But I got the titles.

John Curry: Well, that's a start. I think you should do that. There's a lot of history in that head about our community that I think people would enjoy. As a matter of fact, maybe we'll sit down and have another podcast on that sometime.

Carlton Ingram: Well ...

John Curry: And then you can take the recording of it and use that as a transcript to get started.

Carlton Ingram: That sounds like an idea.

John Curry: That'd be fun. The benefit for me and for Jay over here, we'll get some history and we'll hear about it first. Maybe we can get a book out of you.

Carlton Ingram: Well, you touched on just a real great thing about how we decided on our financial responsibilities when Nancy and I got married. We looked at both of our individual incomes and decided what percentage of the total income was one and which was the other. We looked at our fixed recurring costs and said, "All right. Based on our two respective incomes, you'll take this, this, and this, and I'll take this, this, and this."

We tried to start a joint checking account because we thought that was what we were supposed to do. But after two or three years, the little bit of money we put in there was still there. We had never touched it. So we said ... She was independent enough and I was independent enough, so we kind of did it on our own. That way, if she wanted to go buy a pair of shoes, she could, and I didn't have to tell her about my fishing tackle or stuff that I bought.

When she died, she had a real small foot. So I had a hard time finding somebody that could wear her shoe size. I finally found a friend that I used to work with who also knew Nancy, and she came out to the house and tried on 47 pairs of shoes and took 45 of them. I'm still finding shoes. I'll look in a closet and there'll be some more shoes.

John Curry: So if that had been a joint account, you might have gone nuts.

Carlton Ingram: That's right. That's exactly right.

John Curry: Yeah. We're laughing at something here, folks. You'd have to know Nancy and the relationship that she and Carlton had. But great people. But what you did, what you described about the money side, worked for the two of you. Other people, it would not work. They have to have that joint account. In 44 years of doing what I've been doing, I've seen all kind of plans. To me, there is no ideal plan. It's whatever works for the couple. And it worked very well for the two of you.

I know we'd have review meetings and come in, and she would know all the numbers right to the penny. I think, for quite some time, you pretty much relied on her to take care of a lot of the planning.

Carlton Ingram: Yeah. It slowly evolved that way because she retired earlier than I did. Part of the reason I retired when I did was leaving the house at 6:30, and she's still in the bed asleep. I couldn't take it too much longer. So I decided I better go ahead and retire, too. But she evolved in taking on a lot of accounts, especially online stuff.

One of the significant difficulties that I had after she died was, her being as independent as she was, she had her own passwords and accounts and contacts, and I did not know. I couldn't get into even income tax stuff. I had a hard time getting in online because I didn't know passwords. When she died and I tried to access some of her accounts that I knew I was the beneficiary of, I had some difficulty.

John Curry: Let me just pause you for a second there. Folks, what Carlton is sharing is so important because, whether you're working with us or someone like us, make sure that you have all these passwords put somewhere secure, and make sure that everybody that's involved in your world knows about it.

Carlton, something we're doing now, we're encouraging people to have their adult children be part of our review sessions so that at least the adult children know who we are. We know them. It makes life much easier if somebody gets sick or hurt or in the event of death. And it makes life easy.

Are you comfortable sharing what happened regarding leading up to Nancy's accident and ultimate death? Would you share?

Carlton Ingram: Well, I'll try.

John Curry: If it's too difficult, I understand.

Carlton Ingram: Well, first of all, it was the second marriage for both of us. Nancy did not have children by her first marriage. I didn't have children by my first marriage. We didn't have children together. So that was difficult. When she developed breast cancer and had a bilateral mastectomy and went through reconstruction ... And she had gone through five years since the cancer and had regular checkups all the time. Not going to point fingers at who doctors were or anything like that. But they were in Thomasville. She loved Thomasville.

So we never had any indication that she had recurring cancer. She fell one night. She was in the Tallahassee Civic Chorale. They rehearsed out at TCC. One night coming back to the car, she tripped over one of the stops in the parking lot for the wheels to hit to stop. She tripped over it. I can almost tell you which Tuesday night it was because I had another meeting that was always on a Tuesday night. She called me and said she'd fallen, and she was bleeding bad, but she could drive home.

And she hurt her back. They found a slight stress fracture in one of her vertebrae. She got to where she couldn't do a lot of things. She couldn't go to football games with me anymore because she couldn't climb the steps. She fell in October. The chorale had a concert in December. She didn't think she could do it. They told her, "We'll let you sit in a chair or a wheelchair if you need." That wasn't Nancy. She stood up the whole time.

But, anyway, the pain got worse and worse, and they kept blaming it on this fracture. She got to the point where she couldn't get into bed to sleep. She stayed 24/7 in a chair because she couldn't move. I had to assist her. And going to doctors' appointments in Thomasville was, in and of itself, a rough ordeal just to get her in the car, getting her up there. We went up there for ... She was going to have a bone ... something where they inject a dye in the bone so they can get a better view of this fracture.

The whole time, her stomach started descending. Nancy was a small lady. From her profile, it almost looked like she was pregnant at 70-something years old. Every time we went in the last six months, I asked the doctor. I said, "Isn't this something that needs to be concerned?" "Oh, no. That's just lack of muscle control because she hasn't been mobile. She's been confined to a chair for this long. But we'll take care of her. We'll inject some superglue-type stuff on that bone, and everything will be just fine."

She was going to have just one more scan, and her regular doctor, her family practitioner up there, said, "Stop by my office first before you go over to Archbold to have this thing done." She was in so much pain ... They drew some blood, but she was in so much pain that they called an ambulance to take her one and a half blocks to the hospital. So she was in the emergency room at Archbold Hospital. Real nice people, but it seemed forever before a diagnosis came.

Finally, a doctor came out that I didn't know that told me that cancer had gotten all over her.

John Curry: So that's what was causing the stomach to descend?

Carlton Ingram: Basically, it was her liver. But the breast cancer had metastasized into her body. At that point, they told us ... I said, "How much time are we talking about?" "Short" is all that she would say. Well, I get back home. It was on a Monday. Tried to get hospice involved on Tuesday. They brought a hospital bed out to the house, oxygen tank out to the house. And it just didn't work out.

So I got her into Hospice House on a Wednesday. They immediately put her into a morphine-induced coma. I couldn't talk to her. I mean, I talked to her, but I couldn't converse with her. That was on a Wednesday, and the following Tuesday, she was dead.

John Curry: It was fast. Yeah, I remember I was shocked how fast it was. Thank you for sharing that. There are people listening to this who are going through something similar or will in the future, and sharing your story is helpful. Thank you for doing that.

Carlton Ingram: Okay.

John Curry: Let's talk-

Carlton Ingram: It isn’t easy.

John Curry: No, it's not easy. Let's talk about where you are now. I've had some private personal conversations about how difficult that's been losing her. She was your partner in life/friend. But life goes on. You've been doing other things. Share about what you're ... The funny part for me is you're now taking ballroom dancing lessons. Let's talk about that a little bit. I know there's a knucklehead that got you involved in that.

Carlton Ingram: Should that knucklehead's name be mentioned?

John Curry: Yeah, go ahead. It was me.

Carlton Ingram: John Curry, the one and only, convinced me to meet him out at this ballroom dancing place one evening. They were just going to have a little party, and they may have wine or something. I'd get to meet some people and maybe ... So I went, and they had this special. Man, I can't turn down a special. So they-

John Curry: You're funny.

Carlton Ingram: I had a three-lesson special, and then once you just dip your toe into the water, you want to maybe go a little bit further. So another five lessons, and then another five lessons. I keep thinking there's no hope. But my instructor said, "Oh yes there is." She has very much encouraged me, and it's one-on-one, so it's not like a group dancing thing at the senior center. But I understand that that does well for people, too.

John Curry: Absolutely.

Carlton Ingram: But, anyway, yes, I am ... Whether I'll ever use it or not ... Nancy and I were members of the Tallahassee Town Club, which is nothing but a social club. We had four dinner-dances a year. We joined at the request of some mutual friends of ours, Cal and Lou Augburn. This was a couples-only club. I think Nancy and I were the youngest couple there when we joined. There were people there that I knew, who were contemporaries of my parents that I knew growing up. They were part of it.

But age catches up with you, and people slowly die off, unfortunately. But the only way you can stay as a single member of the Town Club is if you are a widow or widower having been a member as a couple. So I tried to continue, but it didn't work.

John Curry: Yeah. I can understand why. Let's talk about what the dancing is doing for you, because I'm convinced that as we age, we have to keep the brain active. Taking the dancing lessons makes you think. You can't just jump out there and do anything. So talk a little bit about that because I think it's important.

Carlton Ingram: Well, it's ... I've always wanted to dance. It's always been on our collective bucket list, and we just never got around to it. Nancy and I would dance. We didn't know what we were doing when we got out there, but none of the other people knew whether we were doing it right or wrong or not, so it didn't matter.

It's fun. It's frustrating at times because I made a wrong turn the other day in something we were doing, and my ... started to hit me across the nose with her elbow and about broke my nose. She felt really bad about it, but it was my fault because I took a step in the wrong direction because I couldn't remember what I was supposed to do. But I think it'll turn out just fine. Whether I'll ever use it or not will be another story.

I have got to get a lot of confidence built up before I'll be feeling ready to see some lady standing or sitting and going over and asking her to dance that I don't know.

John Curry: The reason I did it is because I wanted ... And I told the instructors I want the ability that, no matter where I am, whatever function, that if I want to dance, I can and feel comfortable. I don't care about being in competitions. I don't care about being on Dancing with the Stars. I just want the ability to go out and be able to dance and not make a fool of myself. That's what I said.

Carlton Ingram: I don't know whether I'll ever get to that point or not, but I'm trying.

John Curry: Well, I saw you dancing the night at that social. You were doing pretty darn good, and you were dancing with a lot of different people.

Carlton Ingram: Well, I'm real comfortable with my instructor because she's got a lot of patience. Of course, she says the same about me, that I have patience with her, and that's one thing that my wife said I didn't have. She couldn't ever figure out how I could sit and wait four hours for a fish to bite, because I didn't have patience at anything else. How come I did for that?

John Curry: I'm going to throw a little plug in here for the ... We're talking about Monarch Ballroom Dancing Studio. Michael's the owner there, and they've done a fantastic job. You feel welcome, and they have socials, obviously. If anybody's interested in learning more about that, just contact them at their website, Monarch Dancing.

Carlton, I can't believe how much time has already gone by. But let's do a little wrap-up here.

Carlton Ingram: In addition, I just want to say that people 50 and older in Tallahassee should take advantage of the OLLI, which is Ocean Lifelong Learning Institute at FSU. Take advantage of the classes. It's learning for the fun of learning. No tests. No homework. Nothing like that. I've been taking classes out there now for about two and a half years and really, really enjoy. That's another option for people.

John Curry: I was going to ask you if there's anything you wanted to share with people to check into. So let's do that. You've already hit one thing that I believe strongly in, as you know. That's lifetime learning. Constantly be learning.

I'm 66 years old. People ask me when I'm going to retire. I hope I'm like George Burns, still going at age 100. So I'm constantly reading and studying, traveling, going to conferences. I was at one last week in Dallas. I looked around the room. I'm like, "There should be more people here.

But from the standpoint of just an overall wrap-up, what are the things that you would want to leave people thinking about?

Carlton Ingram: Well, I think in any kind of partnership, whether it's business or marriage or whatever, that the partners need to know everything that the other partner is doing. I'm not saying you can't have a few secrets when you're married, when it involves-

John Curry: Like how many shoes or fishing poles you bought.

Carlton Ingram: Right, right. Exactly. Or especially financial, how it affects your life, that you need to really understand everything, all the aspects of it, and not get stuck because you're in a bad enough mindset when you lose a spouse. And then trying to deal with all the other stuff is very difficult. If you got more obstacles thrown at you than you were ever anticipating, it just makes it that much more of a struggle.

John Curry: Which makes planning important.

Carlton Ingram: Yes. Very much.

John Curry: Some people think it's ... It's not just planning. It's planning and organization, making sure that you know where everything is, each of you know the passwords, you know where the accounts are held, you know who the beneficiaries are. One of the things that we look at, even with accounts that people don't have with us, they say, "Well, my beneficiary is so-and-so." Let's double-check that. Invariably, we'll find accounts where there's either no beneficiary or a former spouse.

Carlton Ingram: Well, your organization provides a very valuable tool in that living balance sheet where all your financial stuff is kind of in one place: life insurance, investments, everything. And you can get and see where the interaction where the totality is, instead of just piece-mealing it. That is a very important tool.

John Curry: Thank you. We think it's the foundation of what we're doing in the sense of identifying what people have, helping them identify it, what's working, what's not working. It's a tool where they can see it on their own 24/7 without having us be in the room all the time.

Carlton, we're out of time. Thank you so much for joining us, and thank you for your friendship.

Carlton Ingram: Well, I'm sorry that I'm so verbose and just continue talking and talking and talking.

John Curry: Don't apologize, my friend. I think it was fantastic. I'm looking forward to hearing this again myself.

Carlton Ingram: Well ...

John Curry: Thanks again for joining us. And, folks-

Carlton Ingram: Thank you for inviting me.

John Curry: Our pleasure. And Jay and I enjoy having lunch with you anytime.

Carlton Ingram: Thank you.

John Curry: Folks, thank you for listening, and we'll talk to you in the next episode of the Secure Retirement Podcast.

Speaker: If you would like to know more about John Curry's services, you can request a complementary information package by visiting Again, that is Or you can call his office at 850-562-3000. Again, that is 850-562-3000. John H. Curry: chartered life underwriter, chartered financial consultant, accredited estate planner, master's in science and financial services, certified in long-term care, registered representative and financial advisor of Park Avenue Securities, LLC.

Securities' products and services and advisory services are offered through Park Avenue Securities, a registered broker-dealer and investment advisor. Financial representative of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America in New York, New York. Park Avenue Securities is an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian. North Florida Financial Corporation is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Park Avenue Securities. Park Avenue Securities is a member of FINRA and SIPC.

This material is intended for general public use. By providing this material, we are not undertaking to provide investment advice for any specific individual or situation or to otherwise act in a fiduciary capacity. Please contact one of our financial professionals for guidance and information specific to your individual situation. All investments contain risk and may lose value. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents, or employees do not provide legal, tax, or accounting advice. Please consult with your attorney, accountant, and/or tax advisor for advice concerning your particular circumstances. Not affiliated with the Florida Retirement System. The living balance sheet and the living balance sheet logo are registered service marks of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, New York, copyright 2005 through 2018.

This podcast is for informational purposes only. Guest speakers and their firms are not affiliated with or endorsed by Park Avenue Securities or Guardian, and opinions stated are their own.

2019-78200 Exp 4/16/21

The Unexpected Impact of Dementia on Your Life

Alzheimer’s and dementia has to be part of your retirement planning, whether it affects you, your spouse, or a relative. It could take away your secure retirement if you don’t plan for it… and everyone who listens to this episode will be impacted in some way by this issue.

As a caregiver, John Beck’s passion has become to educate people about how, as a community, we can be caring and accommodating to people with this common condition.

Lisa Bretz, executive director of the nonprofit Area Agency on Aging for North Florida, has been instrumental in creating public awareness for this and many other issues, as well as connecting older adults in need with a variety of assistance programs.

As Lisa says, there is help out there and she tells you where to get it.

Listen in to find out…

  • Why now is the time to account for dementia (or other long-term care needs) in your retirement plan

  • The statewide hotline that can connect you to services you may not be aware of

  • How to make sure you – or a relative – is not a victim

  • The many ways you can get involved in helping older adults in the community

  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in This Episode:

Episode Transcript:

John Curry: Hey folks, welcome to another episode of the Secure Retirement podcast. I'm John Curry. I'm sitting here with two folks today, John Beck and Lisa Bretz. Today we're going to talk about something called dementia. The broad scope using that word dementia. And it's something that every one of us is going to deal with either personally or someone that we know, someone we love and we care about.

During our conversation leading up to this, I learned something from John that was amazing. So John, I'm going to ask you to tell us a little bit about your background, but get into what you're doing now as far as educating our community about the subject of dementia, and share what you talked about regarding the restaurants and your uncle. So John Beck, please.

John Beck: Well, thank you very much John for allowing me to be here today. As you said, John Beck, I've been living in Atlanta for ... Atlanta. Tallahassee for almost 20 years. Used to work for SE Johnson, A Family Company. And my story is that two years ago, I brought in an uncle from Louisiana to Tallahassee who has the mid-stage dementia. And I started and what I loved to do with them and the only truly joy that he has in life, he does live at assisted living facility, he loves to go out to eat. And I take him out to lunch twice a week. And when all of a sudden I start taking him out to lunch and dementia is progressing with him, all of a sudden my world was shrinking.

I could not go to a restaurant without worrying about him, either his dignity, because as a person with dementia, when you take them out to eat, they get agitated very easily in a new environment that they are not familiar with. It may be the lighting in a restaurant. It may be no pictures on the menu. It may be the sound of the restaurant is very loud. And when they do this, they get agitated and they see things that they or they do things that they normally would not have done a year or two years ago.

And because of that, I was embarrassed at some of the things that he would say. And I got embarrassed and all of a sudden one day, I said "Do not get mad at my Uncle Andy, get mad at the disease." And when I used to have a card that said, "Please excuse me, I'm with a person with Alzheimer's." I would give it to the wait staff. And most of the time the wait staff does a phenomenal job. But there are those people that look with him and they roll their eyes. And I said, "This is not right." They need training. The wait staff needs to be trained on how to deal with somebody with dementia.

And for a year I googled everything. What type, is there a dementia-friendly restaurant. And there is none. And three months ago, I ran into Dementia Care and Cure Initiative, which was established in 2015 by the Florida Department of Elder Affairs. And they developed a training program for restaurants. And I said, "Thank God. I am relieved of this." I said, "Then this training program, we will go into a restaurant, we will do a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation for management and their wait staff." And this training includes looking at the sign, the symptoms of dementia, how to properly ... what is the word I'm looking for? Properly communicate effectively with our senior citizens, and the resources available for them.

John Curry: Time out for a second. Wouldn't that apply to every business or every organization, not just restaurants?

John Beck: Yes. It will apply. Now hopefully years down the road, we will get to the banks and we will get to the drug stores and we will get to the public grocery stores. But we are not there yet because we do a lot for the caregivers for the training and relief of them, but very little education is done in the business community. They sit there and say, "How does it affect me? My waitresses or staff or my employees are trained." It doesn't apply to them, but it does apply to them. Because about 25% of the people with a form of dementia will not even go to an establishment anymore. Because they give up. Why should I do that?

And those are the people that we should be tracking, and these are the people that, what you and I take for granted, going to a restaurant, or going to a bank, they cannot enjoy.

John Curry: Key point you just made, we take it for granted because we're not aware of it. So you don't know what you don't know.

John Beck: Correct.

John Curry: And that's the problem we have, in 44 years of doing what I do in retirement planning. See there are people who are listening to this, I promise you they're thinking, "Okay, why is Curry interviewing somebody on dementia. That's got nothing to do with my retirement." Yes, it does. It does because if you're the one who gets dementia, and it becomes full-scale Alzheimer's, your life is going to change. Or if it's your spouse. Or if it's the loved one and all of a sudden, you're having to give up your time and your money to take care of them, what just happened to your retirement? It's not so secure anymore.

So what you're talking about, John, impacts everyone. The question is, when do we become aware of this impact? Because that 22-year-old waitperson, who's taking care of your uncle that might lose their cool or roll their eyes, as you said, they don't understand because they're not aware.

John Beck: Correct. They're not aware.

John Curry: So your passion has become to educate people on this topic. That's obvious.

John Beck: Oh yeah, well if you would've told me two years that a form of dementia, a person with it come into my life, I would've said, "No way. No way would I ever be affected by this disease." And all of a sudden, 30 days later, my God, my uncle Andy came into my life. Which is both a gift and it is also a burden. And because of that, as they said, "What's the different between a recession and a depression? A recession is when you're out of the job, a depression is when I'm out of the job." So and it then starts to impact you, my God, your life changes dramatically. And it is how the public respond.

Most people with dementia, they respond to emotion, not logic. Because their brain is shrinking and their brain is dying. So it is that gentle smile. It is that contact. It is talk slowly, talk clearly. Those are the things that impact them. And they say they're not stupid. They may be losing their logic, but they're not stupid. And they realize when that customer, or that wait staff looks at them as, "Oh my God," it changes, it's like a light bulb. It goes on and off and then all of a sudden it even gets worse. So it does have an impact on each and every one of us.

John Curry: It does. You just made me think of something, I was smiling, I was thinking of a lady, she's 91 years old. We were at a meeting one day at lunch, and my colleague is talking real loud to her. And she leans over. Put your hand over here, Lisa. she goes, "Honey, it's okay. I'm old, but I can hear you." And all of a sudden, just because she was old didn't mean she couldn't hear. She said, "My hearing is just fine. I can't see worth a flip. But I can hear just fine." And I laughed so hard I was crying.

John Beck: I think my number one goal is, you just mentioned, is awareness. They come in and they say, "Oh my God, this lady forgets everything. Why is she doing that?" They're not aware that this person has a form of dementia, "They're just forgetful." And no, they're not forgetful. So awareness is number one. And then education and training is number two.

John Curry: Let's address that before we switch over to Lisa here. So you're in this position, or at least your organization is, where you can come in and do training. What does it cost the restaurant to bring you in?

John Beck: Nothing.

John Curry: Very good.

John Beck: The only thing they need to pay for is to have their staff to attend.

John Curry: And that's only a half hour?

John Beck: Which is a bargain.

John Curry: So let's just say that the time to get everybody organized-

John Beck: An hour at the most.

John Curry: An hour.

John Beck: Correct.

John Curry: All right. I would like to speak with folks here at our firm, if I can arrange it, would you come in and do a presentation at one of our meetings?

John Beck: Yes, I would. Be very happy to.

John Curry: We have, when we have a full-scale regional meeting, we'll have maybe, what do you think, Jay, 70 people around? That'd be a great opportunity to spread the word. And we'll do that. Maybe the two of you could do something together sometime.

John Beck: Fantastic.

John Curry: All right. So we're sitting here with Lisa. I'm going to just tell them who you are and I'm going to ask John to do a little bit, because he's invited you to come in. Because originally John and I talked at the economic club and he was sharing his story, and I said, "Oh, that'd be a great topic for a podcast." And he followed up. But Lisa is the executive director for the Area Agency for Aging for north Florida. And I'm going to ask you to tell us more about that in a moment. But John, is there anything you want to say about Lisa before we turn it over to her?

John Beck: One thing, briefly. When I started calling on these 40 to 50 restaurants, I realized that was going to be a one-stop call. After I did the 40, 50, I could go to a thousand more restaurants and I said no, now what we need to do is now we need to make the public aware. How do I, instead of a one-man calling on restaurants, how do we get the word out? How do I sow the seeds? All of a sudden then I started visiting all of the different agencies, the Alzheimer's Project, the Alzheimer's Association, the Area Agency. I wanted to spread the word. And this is where I met Lisa. And I think the first time I met her, we had a very personal conversation. And I said, "My God, Lisa, this is bigger than just dementia. We need to get the word out what you're doing to all the senior citizens. We are the fastest growing population in Leon County, and the state of Florida."

John Curry: And the world, actually.

John Beck: Yes, I believe there's eight people per day coming moving to Florida and half of them are 65 years and older. So Lisa Bretz with the Area Agency, my very good friend, turn it over to you.

John Curry: Please tell us who you are, what you do, a lot of people will not even know who your organization is, so please just tell us what you do and who you are.

Lisa Bretz: Thank you John, and you're absolutely right. Over 40 years of business and people still don't know what an Area Agency on Aging is. We are really a valuable resource to the community in helping connect individuals to information and resources to help people age in place. To help older adults understand how they can get their issues addressed, whether it be they feel they're victims of fraud or scams, or they know that they need some help to take care of themselves at home. What's available that can help them do that? We have personal care services, homemaker services, a whole variety of home and community-based services that can help people remain independent in their homes. Sometimes you just need a little bit of help to be able to do that.

John Curry: How long have you been with the agency?

Lisa Bretz: So April will be 24 years at the agency.

John Curry: 24 years. Walk us through what you have seen, because I got introduced 30-something years ago because my friend Jim Drake way back when, at least 30 years ago, back in the '80s. So just walk us through what you've seen during your time of service there.

Lisa Bretz: Well, our planning and service area covers 14 counties. We're all the way over west to Bay County, and to the east Madison and Taylor. We have a large geographic area, but a very small population of elders when you consider the other parts of the state. When I started with the agency, the majority of elders were really young, they were in the 60 to 64 age group.

John Curry: Excuse a second, how would you define today the age, when someone says elders, what is that? What age? Am I an elder? I'm 66. Am I an elder now?

Lisa Bretz: For our programs and services, you would be potentially eligible to receive the care, yes. So 60 years of age and older is the average age for our programs. Now one program with the Alzheimer's Disease Initiative that ties very well into the Dementia Care and Cure Initiative, we serve individuals as young as 18 years of age and older. So there are individuals who are living with memory impairments even younger than 18, but that's the design of our program.

John Curry: What would you say is the majority of the work that you provide, let's say locally right here in Tallahassee, Leon county, what's the biggest service?

Lisa Bretz: So the largest service that we provide is access to the state-wide Medicaid managed long-term care program. Individuals who are seeking long-term care services through the Medicaid program will contact our agency, we'll conduct a telephone screening, we'll help make sure they understand what documents they're going to need to have in place to complete the eligibility process. And once they're added to our list, each month we'll get notification that we can add additional people to the Medicaid program. We'll contact those individuals and help connect them to an enrollment broker. They can then make a choice of what Medicaid managed care program they want to be enrolled in.

John Curry: Great. So walk us through that process. Either I myself want the care, or somebody I love and care about. Most people don't even ... It goes back to awareness. They don't think about this until it hits them. In our planning, when we're doing retirement planning and the legal document, whatever, sometimes we'll have elder law attorneys get involved and help us with that. But most people don't want to think about it. They don't want to take the time to do it until it's too late. So what advice would you offer people who are listening to this, going, "Wow, that's me. I don't want to talk about it, I'm reluctant to even think about it." What advice would you offer them?

Lisa Bretz: I'd offer them that we have a very valuable resource called the Elder Helpline. It operates state-wide. It's a toll-free number. You'll be connected to the nearest Area Agency on Aging. And you'll talk to an information referral specialist that will listen to what your concerns are, what your questions are. They might provide some of the counseling of available services or help ease your mind to understand there are programs that are designed to help people. Let's talk a little bit more about your situation. We'll figure out does that fit into the mission of the services that we provide. And if so, then they get connected and most likely they'll be connected to a Medicaid benefit counselor on our staff who will help conduct a telephone screening and assessment, help make sure they understand what they're going through this process for. It's not a false hope to put somebody on a wait list. There are prioritization procedures that we follow. So it's a very structured system. And I know hearing wait list can sometimes intimidate people. But when we're talking wait lists, these individuals, if they have high priority, that wait list time could be about 30 days.

John Curry: That's fast.

Lisa Bretz: It's fast. And we're very fortunate to have the structured system in our state. I'm very proud of what Florida's able to accomplish to help people access long-term care.

John Curry: Our purpose with this podcast is to help people, so feel free to give out 800 numbers, websites, anything that you feel people can get. Let's help, give them all the data we can.

Lisa Bretz: I think the best number that people can have in their toolbox when you're talking about aging-related issues is 1-800-96E-LDER. Or 1-800-963-5337.

John Curry: Repeat that one more time.

Lisa Bretz: 1-800-963-5337.

John Curry: Very good. Locally, what would you say is your biggest challenge from the stand point of helping the people in this community? Who needs your services? Or should use your services?

Lisa Bretz: Well the greatest challenge when you're talking about publicly funded services is funding availability.

John Curry: Money.

Lisa Bretz: Money. But honestly, I think one of our greater challenges is that people, it comes back to Dementia Care and Cure Initiative, the same challenge, is awareness. People need to be aware that these are not charity programs. These programs were designed by the Florida legislature and the federal government to address healthy aging. And sometimes to have healthy aging, you need a little bit of help. And that's okay to ask for help. We're here to help those individuals. So a lot of it is that we need to let people know these services exist. And, more importantly, how to access them.

John Curry: So you're a non-profit organization, that you're providing services in conjunction with government services?

Lisa Bretz: Yes, our major funder is the Florida Department of Elder Affairs. They are also the ones who founded the Dementia Care and Cure Initiative. Most of our resources are in conjunction with what the Department of Elder Affairs provides. So we'll have home and community-based services. We also have the Older Americans Act, that's the federal government that funds that program, that the Department of Elder Affairs also oversees the administration of services through that program.

John Curry: Since we're talking about funding and money, some people listen to this and say, "Well, any time you get the feds involved, or state government, legislature and congress involved, they waste a lot of our money." So give us some reassurance from the standpoint from okay, if I wanted to contribute and make a donation, how do I be assured that my money's going to be used wisely and not waisted by these knuckleheads in Tallahassee and Washington?

Lisa Bretz: As a non-profit, I think that's one of the benefits. I can assure you that the money's going back into programs and services. I have 14 wonderful agencies that I can refer you to to invest your donations into that will help individuals have healthy, nutritious meals on a daily basis. Be able to get to the doctor when they need to. Be able to run other essential errands. Transportation, lack of transportation is the major challenge for older adults when they give up the privilege of driving. But just that assurance that those donations help continue to expand our programs.

John Curry: So if somebody were to write you a check for $500 or $1,000, that money stays locally? Or does that go to all 14 counties?

Lisa Bretz: I would encourage them to designate it for which county.

John Curry: They can do that?

Lisa Bretz: Yes, sir.

John Curry: That's great. See, I like that because if someone is thinking, "Okay, I want to help out, but I want to make sure it stays in my community," they can do that.

Lisa Bretz: Yep.

John Curry: And those that are listening, because we have people all across the country listen to this, so that's good to know. All right, what other items would you, since you've got the floor, want to tell our listeners about what you guys do?

Lisa Bretz: We have a whole variety of other educational programs that we can offer the community. One of the larger challenges that we see these days is people being taken advantage of. There are Florida laws that help protect vulnerable elders from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. I think people need to be aware of elder rights. Just because a person, and we can tie this back to individuals with dementia, they are prime targets.

John Curry: Yes, they are.

Lisa Bretz: And we need to make sure that their family and caregivers and the individual themselves understand what their rights are. What does elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation look like and what can you do about it? Who can you report this to? How can your concerns be listened to and your problems resolved?

John Curry: In our world, the financial services world, as management planners, retirement planners, we have to take training so that we can be aware that if somebody, okay, is that person really understanding? Is there any sign of dementia? And there's protocol as to how to handle it. Because if you don't do it properly, you could really upset some people.

Lisa Bretz: Absolutely.

John Curry: Not only the person, but also family. It's not an easy task.

Lisa Bretz: And caregivers, we want to make sure they understand. You're going to get stressed. There's going to be good days, there's going to be bad days with the loved one you're caring for. And you need to keep your emotions in check. And you need to be aware. It's okay if you have a bad day, but how do you handle that bad day so it doesn't cross the line of abuse.

John Curry: I went through that with my mother on Sunday to the point of where I felt like I was 10 years old again being told what to do. Go do this, tell the nurse this, go down and do this, go get my coat. I'm sitting there going, okay, what I really want to say is, "Mom, I'll get it when I'm ready." I didn't. Just went and did it and came back, and then lunch time, helped feed her. So there's a lot there. And I've benefited from the standpoint to help her because my dad had cancer, and as I saw him die, August it'll be four years, he was in hospice and I just saw him deteriorate. And there's just so many needs and there's not enough time or money to go around. And there's no way you can get to everybody. So you just have to be aware and hopefully the people who need it can get to you and find you.

Lisa Bretz: If we're fortunate enough to find wonderful volunteers like Mr. Beck, we can make those dollars go so much further. There's always a need for volunteers in any non-profit, but especially in the elder industry. We are the fastest growing population. And there's a lot of opportunity there. Elders are going to surpass the younger generations. We need people to come in and have an opportunity to see what it's like in the day in life of one of the agencies that administers our programs. Meals on Wheels, for example, great volunteer program. The program operates on volunteers. Elder Care Services here in Leon County has one of the best operations around. There are opportunities to plug in somewhere.

John Curry: My rotary club helps with that. I haven't done it in quite a while myself. It's time to do it again. Talk a little bit about the time, the volunteers, think about it in terms of the folks listening to this. It's time and money. It's not just your money, so people can write a check for a large amount of money. Some say, "I don't have money to give." But talk about how they can donate their time and help out. Where do you need help?

Lisa Bretz: Each of our lead agencies, when I talked about the 14 counties, we have a lead agency in each of those counties. They all have needs.

John Curry: Pardon me one second, explain what you mean by lead agency?

Lisa Bretz: So lead agency, that's a term that's highlighted in the Community Care for the Elderly Act, that is one of the programs that we administer. And a lead agency is the designated agency in that community to coordinate services for older adults. And those are the agencies that we contract with. They have a great deal of need for volunteers. Activities, at meal sites, we have congregate meal sites. So you've heard of Meals on Wheels, we also have places where older adults can come and congregate to enjoy fellowship in a nutritious meal. So volunteers at those meal sites to help with activities.

We have, certain programs have volunteer drivers. Now that's a liability issue, so each agency may handle that differently. We have the need to help with telephone reassurance. Having volunteers just make a friendly phone call every day. Not all of our agencies are fortunate enough to have a rich volunteer base like elder care services does here for their Meals on Wheels programs. So some of them only receive their meals frozen once a week. So they see a volunteer once a week, versus Elder Care who sees them five days a week.

So that telephone reassurance program is a valuable resource to, "Hey, how you doing today? Is everything going okay? Is there anything that you need?" They can report back to their case managers. "I called Ms. Smith and today she said she's not feeling well, and she has a prescription waiting for her and has no way to get it." So being able to connect those individuals with daily needs. But that's something anybody can do from their home. They don't have to come into the agency to make those phone calls.

John Curry: Nice. What do you do locally for your Area Agency to raise money?

Lisa Bretz: Our agency actually has chosen, and this is 40 years back, our agency decided not to be a fundraising entity. Particularly because we'd be competing against our own providers. So each of our lead agencies is required to raise 10% match for Community Care for the Elderly and Older Americans Act, so they all have their own fundraising campaigns. I know here in Leon County, since we're here, Oktoberfest is one the Elder Care Services' largest fundraising efforts. They also will have occasional drives, like I know we've all heard ... We're in winter so they've done blanket drives. Probably nearing summer we'll be doing a fan drive if they haven't started that already. So it can come in goods and services and financial support. But those are all designed at the local level.

John Curry: So if somebody wanted to make a donation, do you accept that or not? You just don't go do fundraising.

Lisa Bretz: On one occasion, we'll get a random check in the mail. And they just may have talked to somebody or heard about us somehow and wanted to make sure those dollars go towards somebody's care. But for the most part, if somebody were to call me and ask me, "Where can I donate?" I'd ask them, let them know about the communities that we serve, as them if there's a particular community they wanted that money to go to, and give them the contact information.

John Curry: That's nice. So instead of just saying, “give me your money”, you're identifying where that money's best useful.

Lisa Bretz: I mean I will tell you, when we had Hurricane Michael come through, our agency was desperate to try to help these communities. As were many other individuals in the community. What can I do? And one thing that we ... We knew there were drop shipments of water and basic supplies going to these communities. We wanted to be elder-specific. People that were receiving weekly drop shipments of adult disposable diapers and nutritional supplements, such as Ensure and Boost, didn't have a way to get that drop shipped. Addresses were literally blown away.

John Curry: Hey, they were gone. We saw last week, they're in a position where their mail was going to Orlando instead of to Panama City.

Lisa Bretz: So we did a local drive and were able to get those supplies out to those communities. The community here was very responsive and supportive, and we were able to help for that temporary period of time while UPS and all the other delivery sources got their GPS systems up and operating to help them through the community.

John Curry: It sounds like, just listing to you there, really your biggest issue is making sure people know what services are available. And then you serve as kind of like a guide, go here, go here, go here.

Lisa Bretz: Yep, that's exactly what we do. And that is the greatest challenge. Among a lot of non-profits, I think our challenge is getting awareness, getting our messaging out there. But most important, I'm not here to highlight just the Area Agency on Aging. If it weren't for the providers we contract with, we would not have a very strong system. But we do have a very strong system of care. Caring individuals, caring communities, caring organizations.

John Curry: Talk a little bit about specific things that your agency does. Forget about the other agencies for a minute. Let's be selfish and talk about Lisa and her team. So tell us more about that.

Lisa Bretz: You know, when we reflect back on the Dementia Care and Cure Initiative, you have people that are receiving a diagnosis, if they've gone through the proper channels, and that's one thing that we're trying to educate them is the memory disorder clinics in Florida are a great resource to help a person understand, yes I think I have a memory impairment. I'd like to have a diagnosis, what's going on. Just because we're aging doesn't mean we're going to get dementia. Sometimes we're just naturally forgetful. I've recently heard that's a sign of intelligence.

John Curry: Some of us have selected memories, too.

Lisa Bretz: Yes, they do. But you get a diagnosis, and just like any other disease, okay, I've gotten the diagnosis, now what do I do? So if you're diabetic, you're going to need medication and you're going to change your diet. If you have a certain type of cancer, there's certain treatments that you're going to be following. With dementia, you're going to eventually need supportive assistance to remain in your home.

If you get a diagnosis of dementia, that does not equate to an immediate death sentence nor does it equate to an immediate nursing home placement. So our organization is here to provide, I do really like to call it we provide the hope. The connection to resources that can help a person navigate their long-term care. We're not going to dictate that long-term care path. We're going to let people know what those options are, help them understand what kinds of questions they need to be asking people who are involved in planning their care. So we refer people to financial planners. We refer people to elder law attorneys. Because we don't have all the answers and we're not the experts in everything aging. But we have partnerships throughout the community and valuable resources in the community that we help link people to.

John Curry: It's difficult to be an expert in everything, isn't it?

Lisa Bretz: Yes, sir.

John Curry: We kind of water down the word expert. John, I see the wheels turning over there. Based on what Lisa's been sharing, you think you want to jump in and join us with?

John Beck: Well, I agree with Lisa. 70% of a person affected with dementia lives at home with a spouse. 14% will live by themselves. There's 84% of the people with dementia be living within our community not in an assisted living facility, I think is very important. So that's how come they shop and they should be inclusive in what we take for granted we talked about before.

John Curry: Right. And it makes the point that very few people, as a percentage, will ever go to assisted living or a nursing home.

John Beck: Correct. They cannot afford it. Most of them cannot.

Lisa Bretz: And that's when we're seeing these individuals. They're tapped out in the resources and now they have no financial resources to provide for that long-term care. So they're coming to us to look into applying for Medicaid.

John Curry: All right. Well one of the things that I learned when I was getting my Master's degree in financial services, I was amazed. There were two courses I learned it clearly. In one was on income taxes. The history of income taxes. Another was on dealing with long-term care issues. They didn't say it's because of Parkinson's or dementia or whatever, they said long-term care could actually occur for a person 30 years old. You dive off a diving board, you hit the pool and you're paralyzed. Guess what? You now need care. Your world is changed. Car accident, you're paralyzed, your world has changed.

So it's not just about old people. It's about all people. And the standpoint of you could lose your ability to take care of yourself. That's why we like to get people like the two of you sitting in front of this microphone, because you could tell your story better than we can and we are educating people topics that, unless they are directly involved or some dear friend happens to tell them something or a family member, they're not going to know about this. They don't know about it.

All right, so as we wrap up here, what would be the things that you would like to share with our listeners that they should do or really just any thoughts you've got that you want to end with?

Lisa Bretz: There's so much. I think I'm going to say that I would like you all to pocket the elder help line phone number. 1-800-963-5337. You can call us about anything. If it's not something that we're experts in or knowledgeable about, we're going to find out who it is you need to talk to. I think that's the greatest resource that I can offer the community. And my colleagues around the state, we're answer calls all day five days a week.

John Curry: We talked earlier before we got on the call, on the podcast here. So I want you to come to some of our seminars. Because I think if all we did was give you five or ten minutes just to stand up there and tell people what you do and what your organization could help with, it'd be a help to a lot of people.

Lisa Bretz: Well I sold John in that first five minutes of meeting him. I'd love that opportunity.

John Curry: John, how about you, anything you want to end with?

John Beck: I don't think most people are aware how many people live in Leon County with dementia. Over 4,300 people living with a form of dementia. You are talking 2.5 caregivers for every person. So you're talking 12,000 people there. So you're talking almost a community of 20,000 people. And I don't think our business community understands the need. That there's so many people out there. And I do believe that unfortunately there is a little stigma attached to that. I don't want to have a restaurant, I don't want to invite one of the cast of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest into my establishment. There is a little stigma attached to that. But if these organizations do not respond to the needs of these people, they will pay a price down the road. And I truly believe, in years down the road, four or five years, there will be a law that every business will go through a training program just like they do ADA now. There will be a training program in years, so if you're a community leader in this community, step up to the plate now. Receive the training and start welcoming these people, is my goal.

John Curry: That's a good segue into something regarding the training. You made a comment about going into restaurants. Is there a place where people go get the training? Like in the evening or like a seminar like we do for people? Is there a place for that?

Lisa Bretz: There are a variety of resources. I know in town the Alzheimer's Project offers a great training curriculum to help caregivers understand what the signs, symptoms of dementia look like. The Memory Disorder Clinic, Vicky Rose, the coordinator of the clinic, travels all over. She has the same counties that I do. So she's getting out doing a lot of these trainings. And through our local task force, we have members that can provide the education. So we have done evening, we've done morning, we've done midday. I think you even have coordinated a couple weekend presentations.

John Beck: Yes.

John Curry: Would you be open to us trying to build a seminar? I've never done this. It's always been about retirement planning. But would you be open to us talking about doing a seminar where we invite people in, instead of doing it through a microphone, you're in front of a group?

Lisa Bretz: I think we would have no problem coordinating that through our Dementia Care and Cure Initiative taskforce.

John Curry: I think we could help a lot of people. Because if we have 80 people in the room, and they're going out and telling people about it, that's helping you, that's helping them, but it's also helping us spread the word we want to get out. We'll talk about that. I think it'll be good. Because especially what you're trying to do. You see, when you were talking about the restaurants, the first thing to pop in my head is everybody, everyone needs that training. Whether you work there or not. I mean we need it just when you're encountering someone.

I was walking through the nursing home ... not nursing home, it's a rehab center, in Geneva, Alabama, Sunday. I went to see my mom. And then before that was in Dothan, Alabama before they moved her. And it's amazing to see the number of elderly at different stages. Some who, they're totally out of it. They're just sitting there. They're almost like in a trance. Others that are very bright. Others that are in their wheelchairs coming down the hallway. "Hello sir, how you doing?" I stop and chat with them. It's delightful. But also, you're right about the stigma, John.

John Beck: Yes, there is.

John Curry: There is that stigma and there's also the person that my mom was with before, sharing a room, who would lose her cool and scream and carry on and be on the phone cussing at her son and daughter. So we have to understand that the brain's different at that point.

Lisa Bretz: And we want individuals to feel comfortable, individuals who are going through this journey to feel comfortable calling the elder help line or calling a trusted friend and letting them know what they're going through so that we can help get them through the system of a proper diagnosis. It doesn't mean it's Alzheimer's. It could be a reversible type of dementia. There’re medications. There’re diet changes. There's a whole variety of things that could help reverse certain dementias. So don't be afraid.

John Curry: So also, what you're saying is don't assume.

Lisa Bretz: Don't assume just because you're forgetful that you have Alzheimer's because that, as John said, that's one form of dementia.

John Curry: I'm going to end my part on this with a thing that happened to me. I won't use a name because somebody listening to this will know him. But I had a very dear friend that would, you were talking about lunch with your uncle. We would have lunch once a month. And he liked fried catfish. So I would take him to Crystal River Seafood, we'd eat fried catfish. Always on a Friday. So we're sitting there on North Monroe, Crystal River, and I could tell a few times, you could tell he had forgotten who the heck I was. So at one point, my friend, he says, "John, you know what's really good about having Alzheimer's?" "I can't imagine there's anything good about it." He said, "Oh man, I meet new people all the time. He said hell, I met you five times today." And I started laughing. He started laughing. And he said, "Now that's what we should be doing. Instead of walking around sad and gloomy, you need to understand my brain's the way it is, I can't change it. Now I can get angry at times," and he did, but he had moments like that, John, of where it made it real. And you understood that it was okay. It was okay to crack a joke and laugh about it.

But I was sitting there, I was stunned, I'm like what could possibly be good about having Alzheimer's?

John Beck: Well there is one more benefit. You can hide your own Easter eggs as well. But I think my last point, we need to also have the public. We need to have them go to their restaurants, go to their store and say look, there is a need for this. Because that business is not going to, may see a need until people start going to them saying yes, would you go through this training? For me, for my mother, for my uncle. We need to make that awareness, put the pressure on the business community as well, and then they will start to see more of a need and it will grow from there.

John Curry: Yep. I agree. Thank you so much for being here. Lisa. Pleasure.

Lisa Bretz: Thank you.

John Curry: Good seeing you again, John.

John Beck: I thank you, John.

John Curry: Great seeing you. Thank you so much. Folks, I hope that you will take the information you've learned today, use it, and spread the word. Help us get the word out there and let people get training. And thank you so much.

John Beck: Thank you.

Lisa Bretz: Thank you.

Speaker 4: If you would like to know more about John Curry's services, you can request a complimentary information package by visiting Again, that is Or you can call his office at 850-562-3000, again, that is 850-562-3000. John H. Curry, Chartered Life Underwriter, Chartered Financial Consultant, Accredited Estate Planner, Masters of Science in Financial Services, Certified in Long Term Care, registered representative and financial advisor, Park Avenue Securities, LLC. Securities products and services and advisory services are offered through Park Avenue Securities, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor. Financial representative of the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America in New York, New York. Park Avenue Securities is an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Guardian. North Florida Financial Corporation is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Park Avenue Securities. Park Avenue Securities is a member of FINRA and SIPC. This material is intended for general public use. By providing this material, we are not undertaking to provide investment advice for any specific individual or situation or to otherwise act in a fiduciary capacity.

Speaker 4: Please contact one of our financial professionals for guidance and information specific to your individual situation. All investments contain risk and may lose value. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents, or employees, do not provide legal tax or accounting advice. Please consult with your attorney, accountant, and/or tax advisor for advice concerning your particular circumstances. Not affiliated with the Florida Retirement System. The Living Balance Sheet and the Living Balance Sheet logo are registered service marks of the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, New York, Copyright 2005 through 2018. This podcast is for informational purposes only. Guest speakers and their firms are not affiliated with or endorsed by Park Avenue Securities or Guardian and opinions stated are their own.

2019-77893 Exp 4/15/21