The Two Most Important Elements of Financial Planning

As a senior analyst with CNBC and pioneering financial journalist, Ron Insana has seen a lot of ups and downs in the markets and how that impacts the average investor. And over the years he’s identified some key factors that separates those who do well… and those who fall behind.

Ron shares the two most important things you must be doing right now to invest in your future. And he has some specific advice for what to do when you have a “winner” in your portfolio – it might not be what you think.

We also talk about…

  • How to overcome the Main Street versus Wall Street divide

  • The one thing that could most affect your investments in the coming year

  • Why “balance” is so important in your financial planning

  • The impact – good and bad – of today’s 24-hour news cycle 

  • And more

Listen now…

John Curry: Hello, this is John Curry. Welcome to the latest episode of the Secure Retirement Podcast. Today I have the pleasure of sitting with Mr. Ron Insana. Ron is senior analyst and commentator for CNBC. Hello Ron.

Ron Insana: Hey John, how are you?

John Curry: Good. Good to see you.

Ron Insana: You too. Thank you.

John Curry: We've had two great days here at a conference dealing with retirement planning. In fact it's called Retirement Income Summit. So, Ron, tell me a little bit about your background so our listeners can know who you are. Your background, and then folks you're gonna hear some background noise, because literally I grabbed Ron.

Ron Insana: We're in a hall.

John Curry: And he's sitting with me in a hallway.

Ron Insana: A hotel hallway.

John Curry: And doing this presentation. So Ron, tell us who you are and why you do what you do.

Ron Insana: Well it's an interesting question with respect to the why. The why was originally accidental. I got a job at Financial News Network back in the early days of business television.

John Curry: Good old FNN.

Ron Insana: FNN. And decided to say for the next 34 years. So between Financial News Network and CNBC, I've been a financial journalist for more than three decades. And the conversations that I heard around me at FNN in mid 1980's really sparked my interest and my desire to figure out a way to explain the language of Wal Street in the language of main street, so that we could really make financial market and economic events meaningful to people at home for the first time on television.

That's something now that's been going on for several decades in a row.

John Curry: That has to be fascinating, because really you were a pioneer in that, because that wasn't being done at the time.

Ron Insana: No, FNN started in 1981. I joined in 1984. So Bill Griffith, Sue Horera and myself were among some of the earliest players in that space. And we were to be honest making it up as we went along. Not necessarily the content, but certainly the approach that we took. We ad libbed a lot of it. It was an underresourced facility way back when. But part of that process is it was really sink or swim. So you either learned the content and then went on the air and delivered the news, or you didn't make it. So learning the content was the most challenging part of it having not studied any of this in college.

I was a film major in college and I ended up being a business journalist. That's one interesting thing too about jobs and opportunity that I try to impress upon my kids, is that you don't know where you're going to end up, ans so that you should embrace every opportunity that comes your way because it could take you places you'd never thought you'd go. And you might actually end up in a destination that was better than the one you intended.

John Curry: And just be curious about people and other things. That's what I love about my work. 43 years now building a clientelle. I have clients from all walks of life. I learn something new everyday.

Ron Insana: Absolutely.

John Curry: Every day. And it's fun.

Ron Insana: And that's one of the interesting things about the news business and it's even on an accelerated basis today given the way in which media and politics have changed, and economics. There is no deadline anymore. There is no day. There is all day. And there is all news all the time and so.

John Curry: Everything's a deadline.

Ron Insana: Everything's a deadline. Every minute is a deadline, a potential deadline. So you really have to learn not only how to maintain that curiosity, but maintain the pace, and then also take all that information that's coming so fast these days, put it into perspective, and determine what's noise and what's news. And what's really important to people. Particularly in our field where we're talking about people making decisions about how to allocate their money. Whether it's for pure savings. Whether it's for education. Whether it's for healthcare. 

Sometimes they really do have to listen and they really can't avoid the news and they may have to make changes as a consequence.

John Curry: And quickly.

Ron Insana: And quickly. Sometimes. Yeah, I mean, usually you have enough lead time. I think the market sends you enough signals. And it's a pure belief of mine that the markets are message sending mechanisms. And sometimes they give you enough of a heads up that you don't have to be the last one out the door if something big is coming.

John Curry: I think that's so important because people who are listening to this are probably asking, "Okay, how do I go about building an investment portfolio?" And to make it clear, you don't sell investments?

Ron Insana: Correct, no.

John Curry: You're not in the business of selling them.

Ron Insana: I may someday again, but right now I don't. Yeah.

John Curry: So if you would, take a moment and give our listeners your perspective on what to do with all the talking heads telling you do this, do this, do that. Just give some of your thoughts on what people should do when they're investing for the future.

Ron Insana: Well I think there are some people who are quite capable of doing it on their own because they've had some lifelong experience with it, or they come from a family that's very familiar with the investing process. And that's one way if you're lucky enough you can go about it. To me the thing that makes the most sense is having a trusted advisor, who is seasoned, who has experience. Who can first and most importantly, develop a plan. Everything that I've seen over the course of my career is that people with a plan tend to outperform people without a plan.

People who adhere to their plan with a great deal of discipline and patience again, tend to outperform people who just again, sometimes noise, and make moves that are inappropriate for the longer term goals. So I think that planning process is extraordinarily important. And it encompasses everything, from 401 K's to Roth IRA's, to insurance products, to everything else that you need to fully round out an investment profile that meets all your needs. Whether it's short term cash. Whether it's education for your kids. Whether it's retirement. Whether it's the end of life. All of those plans, if people are truly thinking about these things, they should take a holistic approach and make sure they're hitting all those marks so that they don't fall short of their goals when the time comes.

John Curry: I tell people that if you have a plan, a written plan of action, you're more likely to stick to that. And you're not going to be swayed so much by the news media, or your friend on the golf course saying, "Hey [crosstalk 00:05:29]."

Ron Insana: [crosstalk 00:05:28]. Yeah.

John Curry: Right? Or worried about the political arena. Because the truth of the matter is, I love how you talk about Wall Street and main street. The truth is people on main street do not have access to the information that's available on Wall Street. And by the time you take action, it's already been done.

Ron Insana: Yeah, although that space has shrunk a little bit over time as information's been a little bit more democratized. 

John Curry: No doubt. No doubt.

Ron Insana: But you're not gonna beat algorithms, you're not gonna be professional money managers who are advantaged in ways that are appropriate for their business. I mean their job is to sit there all day, interact with companies, interact with strategists and others to determine what's coming next and try to know a little bit ahead of time. And I don't mean that in a nefarious sense that some people use it. But their job is to be ahead of the curve. And most people who are working all day and raising kids and doing other things with times, coaching in the afternoon or what have you. You just don't have the time to dedicate to that process where you know everything you need to know all the time. That's what professionals do for a living.

And having done it myself on the news side, I realize there is still a gap between what most people know and what I hear. And that's true for investment professionals as well.

John Curry: I hear from clients, "I don't want to know that stuff. I might have the time to do it. I don't want to take the time to do it. Because I want to go with my wife. You help me find the right answers."

Ron Insana: Yeah, and your written plan comment is interesting because I'm a completely uptight list maker. That's how I live my life. And part of that is a function of my job. I started taking notes more so than I ever did in high school or college, about the news. And I used to go through pads and pads of paper every single day. We would take notes on everything that occurred. And I got into this process of not just taking notes, but then also making life lists. Still hand-written. It's a little bit archaic. I occasionally use my notes page on my cell phone. But I make lists and check things off. 

And I think that's made me more efficient in my work and even in my personal life, because I do feel accomplished when I'm taking those things off and I do know that they're getting done. And I think that's the same with a financial plan. The more that you can tick those things off and meet your goals, the more comfortable, the more relaxed your life is going to be.

John Curry: Amen. My team gave me a hard time, because you see I have a journal in front.

Ron Insana: I see that, yeah.

John Curry: I make notes all the time. And they'll laugh at me and say, "Why don't you just put it in the computer?"

I said, "Because I can't get my hands on it. I can't see it that way."

Ron Insana: Well I'll tell you, there's some interesting studies coming out about kids who are taking notes with their computers in school versus kids who take hand written notes. Retention levels are higher with handwritten note takers.

John Curry: Interesting.

Ron Insana: And there's some new studies coming out with that. I had this conversations with my kids. One of my kids actually had right, left confusion when he was young, so his handwriting was horrible. So he really requires a computer to take notes.

John Curry: Right.

Ron Insana: But absent that, literally writing things down is great for hard wiring your brain.

John Curry: Yes. I agree totally. I take a lot of notes at conferences like this conference I've got a book half full already. And then I'll have my thoughts also.

In the few minutes we have remaining, because we've got to get back to a tight schedule here.

Ron Insana: I think we're good. Yeah.

John Curry: Just talk a little bit about what you see as being the future from the standpoint of all the political unrest that's going on. The lack of civility if you will across the different industries, and political world especially.

Ron Insana: Well it does seem to be a unique time. I hate to use the word unprecedented, because you can go back into early American history and find things that are less civil than this in terms of the political distance.

John Curry: They shot each other back then.

Ron Insana: Yes. Aaron Burr was around, and Mr. Hamilton was cut short at what, 37 years old as a consequence. And even John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had some wild political arguments amongst their campaign teams that are probably more like today than we want to recognize. But I think civility coming back to political discourse is either going to take a statesman or a stateswoman who redefines the process back towards what we're accustomed to. Or we might just spin off the rails into having these food fights on a regular basis in politics.

Now having said that, the US economy is in fine shape. The tax reform bill is helping some folks. De-regulation is helping some industries. So absent the political or geo political upset, the economy still looks good. I think we are getting to a point in the cycle where we're at peak growth, where the Federal Reserve may very well accelerate its interest rate increases. And we might have something of a downturn later this year, early 2019 that'll feel challenging.

So I think those are the things people need to pay attention. Mostly really in a lot of ways absent some geo political catastrophe, the Federal Reserve is the thing to watch. If rates start to go up more quickly than people anticipate, even though earnings are good, even though growth is relatively good, we know that rising interest rates generally interfere with stock market performance.

John Curry: Right.

Ron Insana: So there are times that you have to make allocation decisions based on what the Fed's doing, and I think that might be central to the conversation we're going to have later in the year.

John Curry: So what advice would you offer to people listening to this, that hear you say these things? Is it still develop your plan, stay the course?

Ron Insana: Well absolutely. And there are times, and there will be a time again, where you ... And in fact it might even be now, that if you have enormous winners in the stock market that have run up well more than 300%, the index's alone have done that since the bottom of 2009, that you recalibrate your portfolio. You re-balance, you bring the allocation back into what is your planned targets for stocks, for bonds, for other alternatives that you may have, and make sure that those remain in balance and they don't get too far out of whack with respect to the program that you've put in place.

So we've had a huge run up in the market, we've had a little correction. 10% peak to trough, which is normal. And in fact, well overdue in a certain sense. And if you have stocks that have gone absolutely ballistic or hyperbolic, or however you want to describe it, again, it's a good time to pare those back and find some other opportunities in the financial markets that are under-owned, under- loved, and under-explored. And your advisor often times can help you do things like that.

John Curry: That's difficult for most people to do.

Ron Insana: Yeah.

John Curry: Because they see it going up. I don't want to get out of it. It's going great. And then they wait too long. All of a sudden the market comes down. Now they're hurting.

Ron Insana: Well you don't have to sell it. You never have to sell everything. You take some chips off the table. You take some profits. You re-deploy the profits into assess that might be underperforming for a period of time. You might want to put a little more ballast in the portfolio by buying bonds or munies, or something along those lines. Upping your contributions to a whole life insurance policy. However you can meet your goals. You never want to let your portfolio get too far out of balance where you're riding on the back of just a couple of assets, a couple of stocks even.

And then all of a sudden if they do in fact run into trouble, you're going to have to make up that ground later on. So sticking to a balanced plan, however that balance is defined by you and your advisor, is most often the best way to go. 

John Curry: And I think it's key not to have all your money in the market anyway.

Ron Insana: No, I mean you have to have a little cash, a little dry powder.

John Curry: Have some liquidity.

Ron Insana: Absolutely. Look, that's part of that plan which is, how much emergency cash do you need? How much is dedicated to tax deferred savings? How much is dedicated toward even some speculative investments you'd like to make? Do you have what we like to call Vegas Money on hand so that if you see something that's interesting that you want to trade, you can feel comfortable doing that without worrying about the overall plan that you've already put in place.

John Curry: Absolutely. Let's talk a little bit about this conference we're attending.

Ron Insana: Yeah.

John Curry: We've had the pleasure yesterday of going over to Yale University and hearing some professors in the finance and marketing department.

Ron Insana: I'm surprised the divinity school didn't burst into flames when I walked in. But that's another story for another day.

John Curry: [crosstalk 00:12:54].

Ron Insana: It really was.

John Curry: But why are you here? Tell us why you have such an interest in doing what you've done. You've served as our MC this week for Park [inaudible 00:13:03] Securities, conference on retirement masters. Why are you here? Why do you have such a passion for this?

Ron Insana: Well it's an interesting format for me. Having become a contributor to CNBC, and I did go off and manage some money for a period of time after my full time work at CNBC. And I went through that process during the crisis. So it wasn't quite as fruitful as I had anticipated. So I came back, got back in the media business. And then expanded my public speaking business, which in a lot of ways is as fulfilling as my television job used to be.

I get direct feedback from the audience. We do deeper dives without any commercial interruptions when we do interviews, when we do conversations. When I give a speech and then do Q and A with the audience, it's actually informative for me because I get to hear what people on the ground are thinking bout. Whether they're financial advisors. Whether they're an insurance business. Whether they're clients and we're doing client events in some cases. I get to go all around the country and hear what people have on their minds. And that's both in terms of what's happening in the economy and the markets. But it's also in terms of what they're thinking about politically and how they view the news media more broadly, which is always a challenging question I have to face when I'm in front of an audience.

So given the rapid changes in all those areas, it's great for me to hear the audience and hear their concerns or hear what they have going on in their businesses. If their businesses are running hot, how are they feeling about the economy. If they're feeling really hot are they telegraphing that to me in a way so I can use that as an economic indicator. It's really a boots on the ground experience for me that helps me inform some of the things that I still do for CNBC and MSNBC as well.

John Curry: Well, I've been fascinated watching you this week. You take the time to talk with people. You're a celebrity but you are down to earth. You talk with people. You're getting to know people. You're truly a people person. You enjoy getting to know people.

Ron Insana: Absolutely. And for a wide variety of reasons. One, I've kind of always been this way. And have never really shied away from conversations. I kind of like to hear what people are thinking. And it's funny. I used to watch president Clinton when he was in office and I interviewed him on numerous occasions. He had this, in addition to his insatiable curiosity about facts and figures and content, he also had an insatiable desire to talk to people.

John Curry: Right.

Ron Insana: And I always noticed that he drew energy from that. And it's not necessarily something that I added after I met him. But I always find it's informative to me. I make new friends and quite frankly and somewhat selfishly, sometimes you find new business opportunities in these conversations as well.

John Curry: Sure.

Ron Insana: I think shying away from the audience actually leaves you in a position where you get less out of the experience than you would otherwise. 

John Curry: Absolute.

Ron Insana: So some people like to hit and run. It's just never been my style.

John Curry: Same here. Keep on contributing, helping people. Let them grown. As we wrap up, anything you want to end with that you want to share with our listeners.

Ron Insana: I think the more informed they can become and the more aware they are of their circumstances around them locally, literally around them locally within their own companies or chosen professions, but then also more broadly with respect to the news and respect to what's going on with domestic and global events, then the less risk there is of getting blind sided or at least, the better chance you'll have of delivering informed questions to the people that you work with, your advisors. So that you feel comfortable that when you get a question answered, it's adequate to the situation.

So I think as much as people say information has been democratized, it's true up to a point. There's a lot of information but there's not a lot of wisdom. So I think people have to pay enough attention so they know which questions to ask, and also know that they're comfortable that they got their questions answered correctly.

John Curry: Very good. Before we go, tell people how they can tune in to catch your shows.

Ron Insana: Well see I'm on CNBC usually Thursday or Friday on Power Launch, which is one to three Eastern time. MSNBC is fairly random based on the news. They'll call me whenever they want me in. Very often times I'll appear on Stefanie Rules show which is at 9 AM Eastern time. And then we're coming out with a newsletter. Some colleagues of mine and I starting May 1st, called the FAQ, or Financial Advisor Quotient. That's gonna be FAQ, or That should be out may 1st I believe.

John Curry: Very good. Ron Insana. Thank you so much for taking the time.

Ron Insana: Thank you for having me.

John Curry: It's been a pleasure.

Ron Insana: Appreciate it.

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, CLU, ChFC, AEP, MSFS, CLTC, registered representative and financial advisor of Park Avenue Securities, LLC (PAS). Securities products and services and advisory services are offered through PAS, a registered broker dealer and investment advisor. Financial representative of the Guardian Life Insurance company of America, New York, New York. PAS is an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian. North Florida Financial Corporation is not an affiliate or subsidiary of PAS. PAS 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 nor any of its subsidiaries offer Long Term Care Insurance and 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® (LBS) and the LBS Logo are registered service marks of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. © Copyright 2005-2018 

This podcast is for informational purposes only. Guest speakers and their firms are not affiliated with or endorsed by PAS or Guardian and opinions stated are their own. 

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Don’t Forget Healthcare in Your Retirement Planning

When you’re talking about financial planning, you can’t leave out healthcare, says Peter Stahl, author of Top of the First: The Convergence of Healthcare and Financial Planning. It’s one of the most important parts of your retirement, after all. And it’s one of the biggest expenses, too.

Medicare is one element here that confuses a lot of people. Peter has some solid advice for navigating that program. He also highlights three things you can do to maximize your healthcare funds when you retire.

There’s a lot more on this vital topic, including… 

  • How to maximize your health savings account
  • Ways to plan effectively for long-term care
  • The right time to enroll in Medicare – it’s different for everybody
  • How the new tax law could impact your healthcare planning.
  • And more

Listen now…

John Curry and Peter Stahl Episode Transcript: 

John Curry: Hello this is John Curry, welcome to a new episode of our Secure Retirement podcast. I am in New Haven Connecticut for a conference this week, it's called Retirement Income Masters and I'm sitting here with my friend Peter Stahl. Peter, welcome.

Peter Stahl: Thank you, John.

John Curry: Peter Stahl is unusual fellow in the sense that he talks about the convergence of healthcare and financial planning. And Peter you've been to Tallahassee to do a couple of workshops for me, our clients loved it, our advisors loved it. So what in the world is this convergence of healthcare and financial planning, and a little bit of your background please.

Peter Stahl: Sure, well I've been in the financial services industry John my whole career, which is about 30 years. But back in 2012 I put together my business to really train and educate both consumers as well as financial advisors on some of the central financial planning components that surround retirement healthcare.

John Curry: Very good, and you make the difference to the way to emphasize that, retirement healthcare. So how does retirement healthcare differ from me going to work, and working, have a career and I'm not retired yet?

Peter Stahl: Right, good question. Healthcare, the primary way people get their healthcare during their working years is through their employer. Almost to the point where we just take that for granted.

John Curry: Yes, we do.

Peter Stahl: So that's just the way it's been for a number of years, and there's tax incentives at the company level that have kind of driven that, and that's grown. More recently we had the Obamacare exchanges for people that aren't getting their insurance through their employer, they're getting their insurance on an exchange and so that's the primary driver there within that marker. 

When you transition to retirement, it's all about Medicare. Medicare is mandatory, Medicare will either be in part or in whole your healthcare during retirement. And then you have other issues, both as you accumulate wealth for that retirement space, and then as you move into retirement, such as custodial care. So both the ins and outs of Medicare, and then the complexities of some of the issue surrounding custodial care really make up the core of the retirement healthcare discussion.

John Curry: I get questions literally every day that I work, because most of my work is in retirement planning. I get questions about Medicare, and I didn't pay much attention to it until we started getting you coming in doing workshops for us, and as I was getting closer to 65 as of December of last year, 2017, so I had to do a little homework myself. And I was surprised at how little I knew. I knew a lot about solutions security but now as I'm aging and my clients are aging, I'm getting more and more questions about Medicare, so we've got to bring you in to do another workshop. 

Let's talk a little bit about the different components of Medicare. Many people think I just call up Social Security or I go online and register for Medicare and it's not big deal. It's more complicated than that, isn't it?

Peter Stahl: It is in the sense that a lot of us have the mindset that we have to enroll in Medicare at age 65, for example, where the trend in our country has really been aligning your Medicare enrollment with your retirement because meany people have company insurance that carry them through all the way until they retire, and because those retirement ages are being pushed out to later in life, we have many people that are working until 68, or 70 or 75 and retiring and enrolling in Medicare at that point. 

Now, there is some complexity, there are some folks that will have to get enrolled at age 65 so nothing's quite as simple as it seems in the service, but the general trend is lining up that Medicare enrollment with your retirement, so yes there's a lot of nuances to this Medicare that people don't realize, that being one of them.

John Curry: There's a lot to learn, too. I know in my case I took part A, enrolled in part A but didn't take part B because I'm still working and have a group plan. So down the road that'll change, and Medicare will be the primary.

Let's talk about one of your big issues you always talk about. You touched on it today some, and that's health savings account. Talk about that and the role they play in helping cover in post-retirement years.

Peter Stahl: Sure, it's an exciting topic, the health savings accounts. The first thing you need to recognize is health savings accounts are not available to everyone. They're available if you have the right type of insurance. When I say the right type, there are certain stipulations that a health insurance plan has to meet. It's called a high deductible plan, so there's deductible stipulations and there's a few other, both federal and state stipulations that this insurance policy has to meet. If it does so, it qualifies as let's call it HSA insurance. So you'll have a health savings account along with this high-deductible health instance plan.

So this is, you know many employers are offering this, and people that are self-employed. It's about 30% of the working population, has a high-deductible health insurance plan that is HSA approved. The concept is, you put money into the health savings account, it goes in pre-taxed. So that's pre-federal, pre-state, pre-FICA. And when I say pre-state, that's 47 of the 50 states. And then, you can take the money out tax-free for qualified health expenditures. But what's happening John, in our country is people are recognizing that health care costs for most of us will be greatest during our retirement years. 

And so they're using the health savings account as a way to save for healthcare expenses in retirement. And so rather than having the money come in the front door and go out the back door in the same calendar year, they are paying this high-deductible with other disposable income and therefore freeing themselves up to invest the HSA and let it grow for retirement. 

John Curry: And really what they're doing is, in a way, pre-paying those costs, aren't they? So they're setting money aside today to take care of a problem that we know if we live long enough, we're going to be facing it.

Peter Stahl: Exactly and so they're recognizing that health care is probably my largest expense during retirement. It's a mandatory expensive and so I need this specifically planned, save and invest for it. And so they use the health savings account to that end.

John Curry: On the panel today you made that comment about mandatory expenses. Explain to our listeners what you mean about that, because some people out there are thinking "It's not mandatory, I don't have to have health insurance."

Peter Stahl: Well, mandatory in the sense that you want health insurance, you'll need to get enrolled in Medicare. And it doesn't matter if you're very affluent for example and say "Well couldn't I just elect for some sort of private health insurance, and not opt for this government Medicare system?" No, it doesn't exist. So if you want health insurance when you make that transition from employer based insurance, or from one of the state exchanges that you're on into retirement Medicare will be your insurance. Now there's federal benefits that can work in conjunction with Medicare, retiree insurance, becoming a little more rare, but there's certain retiree insurances out there once again can work in conjunction with Medicare. But either in part or in whole, you're going to be needed to enroll in Medicare, and there are costs.

You mentioned that part B, it carries a premium. Part B, your prescription drug plan, it has a premium. Most people go out and get a Medigap plan to fill in some of the holes, it has a premium. So there are costs and the costs actually vary for some of the pieces based on your income. So some of the people are going to be paying a lot more for this coverage than others.

John Curry: Absolutely. We just had a cost of living adjustment increase with Social Security that people I'm talking with said "I didn't see it." Because my Medicare premiums also went up. 

Peter Stahl: Right.

John Curry: And let's talk about what you're seeing at that end?

Peter Stahl: Yeah, it was interesting. In 2017 Social Security announced a two percent COLA, cost of living adjustment. 

John Curry: Finally, the year before was only .30.

Peter Stahl: And the year before that it was zero, so people were actually pretty excited about a two percent pay raise. And then as you just stated, they got their statements and they're looking at them and scratching their heads saying "I'm not seeing any increase." So there's really two things that went on unique to 2018. One of them was, most people saw a pretty substantial increase in their Medicare part B premium. They had been sheltered from increases in their premium over the last couple of years, due to complexities that we can't get into on a podcast, but they had been sheltered from previous increases of Medicare costs and that sheltering went away in 2018, and so they saw a pretty sub sizable bump in their Medicare costs.

Medicare comes out of Social Security, so that wiped out the 2% COLA. And then John, the other thing that happened is some of the income levels to determine what your Medicare premiums were going to be got changed, for the more affluent households in our country. And as a result of that, some of the more affluent households actually saw their Social Security Benefit decrease because their Medicare B increase and D increase was even more sizeable.

John Curry: And the ones I talked with were not very happy about that.

Peter Stahl: No, they weren't.

John Curry: They don't like that. When I do individual consultation or in seminars or in speeches, that comes up quite a bit. Talk a little bit about the impact Peter, that the new tax law has on the planning for healthcare.

Peter Stahl: Well, there's a lot of good news in the tax reform that was passed, but there wasn't a lot of direct change as it relates to Medicare and tax planning for retirement. Most of the changes were on the corporate side. Now there is one piece of that, one major exception to that in that there is a new bracket introduced for the most affluent households in our country that will drive up Medicare costs even further for them, so that the one footnote to all that is there will be for the affluent households in our country a pretty sizeable increase next year in their Medicare premiums.

John Curry: Right. Very good. What are some of the things that you think anyone getting close to retirement ... Let's say they're five years away, or they're stepping out of the workforce into retirement. What are the things that you would love to share with them to get them to think about these issues?

Peter Stahl: Yeah, I would say, I mean if we could back up five years as you just said to do some planning, terrific. If we can back up 10 or 15 years, even better.

John Curry: Much better.

Peter Stahl: So what I always tell folks is, as you accumulate money for retirement, and those peak earnings in accumulation years, let's call it from age 50, 55ish, all the way up until you retire, there's some changes to the traditional ways of saving money that you should consider. Number one is, if you have a 401K at work, 401K's are terrific, but there's two versions of a 401K. A traditional, and a Roth. I'm always encouraging people for their employee deferrals, the money they're putting in out of their paycheck, to start building a balance in the Roth, because the Roth will give them a tax-free cash flow in retirement, very important. So consider the Roth would be point number one.

Number two would be the health savings account that you brought up a minute ago. If you have the ability to chose a high deductible health insurance plan and you do your research and figure that's maybe a good option for you and your family, then fund that HSA and don't spend it. Get it invested and let that thing grow. You have to have enough disposable income and your emergency fund in place so that when life happens, you're not going to be forced to tap it during a market downturn.  But get that HSA working for you, fully-funded, and let it grown.

And then the other piece of it is, just consider tax efficient investing. A lot of folks are looking at big capital gain distributions this year. That's a nice problem to have, I mean the tax return with a lot of capital gains means you've got a nice investment portfolio generating those, and a good problem to have but considering tax efficient investing, tax deferred annuities.  There's ways to help control some of those taxes so that you can be in a position to manage some of them, medicare costs driven by those in retirement.

John Curry: My friend Ed [inaudible 00:13:38] likes to talk about forever taxed, retirement counsel IRA's and never taxed, Roth IRA's and life insurance.

Peter Stahl: I like that.

John Curry: And he's right about that, if they're used properly and also to help cover some of the costs in long-term care down the road. You talk about that quite a bit too, just from the standpoint of what's going to happen in retirement. So let's talk about now you're in retirement, what is your research and your teaching say about the different types of healthcare costs in retirement?

Peter Stahl: I like to break it down in terms of routine costs, what I call kind of your meat and potatoes, your day-in to day-out, month-in to month-out costs.

John Curry: I stubbed my toe, I've got to get to the doctor, right?

Peter Stahl: Right. And that's everything from your premiums on your Medicare, to the copays to the deductibles, to things that aren't covered, the dental work, the vision ... But then recognizing that an even larger potential cost lurks out there, even beyond the cost John of potential non-financial implications of your family, if and when you a custodial care event. And so I break it down, routine costs and custodial care. Custodial care meaning the non-medical events, so help getting out of bed, making your meals, getting around the house, using the facilities, taking a shower. We all know people and have had life experiences where people due to medical conditions need help with these activities and daily living. That can have enormous both financial, and non-financial implications on your retirement. 

John Curry: Absolutely, and many people are surprised to learn that's not covered by Medicare and their health insurance coverages. It's just, it's not adequate. 

Peter Stahl: It's not, and the other thing that people automatically think I'm talking about nursing homes. Well I might be, in about 30% of the situations a custodial care need gets the point where a formal nursing home environment is the best and sometimes the only solution. But the more common scenario is people who are getting their care at home by loved ones.

John Curry: Right.

Peter Stahl: Loved one's meaning your spouse or your daughters. The daughters are a lot better at this than the sons, that's just the reality and if we don't plan for this, it can be crushing on the people we love the most. 

John Curry: I've heard you say several times now, that the long-term care situation, or custodial care as you describe it, which I like better, it's not about you. It's about your family, it's about the people you love and care about who will have to change their lives to care for you. Would you expand on that?

Peter Stahl: Sure, as I consider this for myself, the question I need, as challenging as it would be in my life to need custodial care, and I'm a typical healthy guy who likes to exercise and eat right. Having a custodial care event is the furthest thing from my thought. But the reality is, if it were to happen, who would provide the care for me?

This is not about the challenges that I would face personally, this is about my spouse and my daughters because they realistically would be the ones that get involved with my care and they've got very full lives, and my spouse is not the same age as I am. So if I have a custodial care event at age 75, at age 80, is she going to be equipped physically from a health point of view to care for me? My daughters at that point will be hopefully having a family and managing a wonderful career. Are they going to have 20, 25, 30 hours a week to get involved in my custodial care? We need to think these through. It's not about me, it's about the impact caring for me would have on their life. 

John Curry: I've been doing this for 43 years now, and one of the saddest things I se is someone needing care, a mom or dad, and then you have the brother and the sister let's say that argue. And one is providing, in charge of the care and one is attempting to, or maybe not even attempting to. And then they fight over assets later, if there's anything left because "Well I gave all the care, I deserve something."  And the other one says "No, we split it 50/50." 

And it's very frustrating because with proper planning that could have been taken care of either by investing money to set aside for that purpose, purchasing a traditional long-term care insurance policy, or if appropriate, having a life insurance policy that has a long-term care rider on it, or other types of programs or even annuities you can purchase that have long-term care provisions.  And I get so frustrated because surely someone, some financial advisor told you about this before you got to me, and they always say no.

Peter Stahl: Yeah it's amazing how early on we are in this country with all these conversations. The first baby boomer hit age 65 a couple of years back now, summer of 2016, so now we've got 10,000 people a day turning 65. 10,000 people a day turning age 70. An age where they're really dealing with these issues, in fact that's why I called my book Top of the First, because despite these issues having been around for so long, we're just more recently as our country ages getting after them and dealing with them. And to your point, there's a lot of ways to equip your financial plan to be ready for custodial care need. It's not just long-term care insurance. That's a very viable and a good solution, but there are what they call asset-based products, and hybrid products and life insurance and annuity ... There's a lot of ways to create income to help out the daughter, the wife, the husband, whoever it is handling that care.

John Curry: Child or grandchild. You know Peter one of the things I tell people is I don't know that you need to purchase long-term care insurance, but you certainly need a plan in place to fund long-term care because if you live long enough, you're going to have a problem. Now that might mean that you allocate your Social Security payments so that maybe you don't need the money, and so invest it or just use it for the care. We have just a few minutes left, talk a little bit about your book. What prompted you to write this book?

Peter Stahl: Well I started speaking back in 2012 about these issues and I just realized the vast need for eduction on these topics. And there's a number of ways people like to get educated. Sometimes it's a live presentation, so I travel the country coast to coast-

John Curry: Yes you do. [crosstalk 00:20:41]

Peter Stahl: But, like myself, I like to read. I'm a prolific reader both for personal enjoyment as well as professionally, that's how my brain works, that's how I digest information, show it to me in writing. So I thought alright, I will put this out into print as well. And now we're getting into podcasts, and video and into other ways to get that information out there, so I put the book out there to really go through the central issues and to allow people to have a resource to understand how to think about them.

John Curry: Well the title of the book is Top of the First, the Convergence of Healthcare and Financial Planning, and the author is Peter Stahl, and that's S-T-A-H-L, Peter Stahl. Peter, anything you want to share in closing with our listeners?

Peter Stahl: Well I would say there are some encouraging trends when you look at the number of people that are recognizing they need to start to address these issues, and save and invest specifically for them.  That trend is a positive trendline when you look at it, so despite the enormity of these costs and some of the complexities around the alphabet soup of Medicare, people are recognizing "I need to get after this, and I need to do it well before I get to retirement." And so I'm encouraged by that.

John Curry: Talk a little bit about the importance of coaches to help you along the way. This is a very complicated subject for financial advisors, this is a complicated subject for me. The more I study it, the most I realize how much I need to study it. So let's talk about the importance of having someone that you can work with that understands your situation and help you.

Peter Stahl: Yeah, I close my book John, you just made me think of this, and I mention this in the forward as well in that there are a lot of pieces to this puzzle, and you do have the do-it-yourselfers out there, right? And if you like to delve into stocks and bonds and investments and annuities and mutual funds, and you want to put your own plan together and can figure out growth versus value and international domestic, great. I personally like to have a financial advisor even though I'm a CFP myself, I have an advisor to oversee all my assets. 

But when you add in the complexities of healthcare costs and custodial care, the alphabet soup of Medicare to try to do this on your own to me speaks volumes as to why people rank healthcare as their number one concern. It is very complex, and simple things such as proper use of an HSA, the Roth 401K versus the basic 401K, people tell me "You know, I've never heard that before." So finding an advisor such as yourself who takes a wholistic approach is critical.

John Curry: Well I think you're right about that, and one of the things that occurs to me as we're sitting here in New Haven, Connecticut, is we're talking about just one piece of the puzzle and we've gone for almost 25 minutes here just talking about Medicare and healthcare issues. When you start factoring in how do you plan for inflation? Because healthcare costs are much higher than the regular inflation rate. So there's so many parts to this thing and it's not just about the healthcare. How do I make sure I don't run out of income? How do I coordinate my pension if I have one, my 401K with my Social Security? All of this stuff is a bunch of moving parts. But I'm getting the same reaction from my clients who are telling me, my biggest concern is how do I pay for healthcare in retirement? Where will the money come from? And if I have a custodial need, custodial care need, how will I pay for that?

Peter Stahl: Right, and we want to enter retirement with peace of mind. And the way we do that is by properly planning ahead, and it can be achieved. You addressed the custodial care concern, you addressed the routine healthcare costs, and you build and invest and save appropriately for those. Then you get to retirement and you move through retirement knowing that you're going to have to worry about it.

John Curry: And it does take a little work, you have to take the time and be willing to take the actions necessary to make sure that you have that peace of mind down the road. 

Peter Stahl: Absolutely.

John Curry: Peter, tell people how to get a copy of your book.

Peter Stahl: Easiest way is right on Amazon, if you go onto the book sale section, the top of the first and with my name it would come up with a search.  I also have a website to my speaking business is Bedrock, Bedrock Business Results. So if you can go to my website, which is a google search will do that as well. But you can go to my website as well and find the book.

John Curry: Peter Stahl, thank you so much.  I've enjoyed being with you today. 

Peter Stahl: I've enjoyed it as well.



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.







#2018-61433 Exp 6/20

Achieving Simplicity in All Areas of Your Life

Financial and retirement planning – most important issues in our lives, in fact – are often made too complicated. The best plans… the best ideas… are actually the simplest, says Steve Harvill, founder of Creative Ventures.

You can also take an active role by using easy-to-use tools to work towards your most important goals one step at a time.

Steve shares some strategies for injecting simplicity in the key areas of your life. You’ll discover…

  • Having “more” of something doesn’t mean you have more value
  • The “old school” method for achieving key objectives
  • Why you should be thinking inside the box
  • The OCT method for focusing on tasks with the most impact
  • And more

Listen now…

Episode Transcript: 

John: Hi. This is John Kerry. Welcome to another episode of Secure Retirement Podcast. Today I'm sitting with a gentleman who's going to blow your mind. His name is Stephen Harvill. I've heard him speak before. Stephen is the creator of a company called Creative Ventures.

Steve, it's good to see you again. 

Steve Harville: Thanks so much for having me and a chance to do the Podcast. It was great to see you here in New Haven. 

John: Well, I learn something new every time I'm around you. 

Steve Harvill: That's quite an honor. 

John: Would you please take a moment and tell our listeners a little bit about your background. I think it's fascinating that at age 25 you were hired to do a big project with Disney and still do it. 

Steve Harvill: My company is 32 years old. It's a strategic consulting firm. Our offices are in Dallas, Texas, but I live in Austin. When I was very young I had an idea for a real estate company that I was working with. We were planning ski resorts. And they implemented the idea and it became really effective. And the CEO of the company came and said, "Steve, I want you to go to Houston and introduce this idea to the Urban Land Institute." 

And I said, "I'm not going to Houston and stand up and talk about something I made up. I'm a 25-year-old scientist right out of college." And he said, "I understand you thought I was asking you to go. I'm telling you to go." 

So I got on the plane and went to Houston. After I introduced the idea a number of people came up to me afterwards and asked me if I could come and help their company do it. One of those companies was Disney. I said, "I could absolutely do that. It's not that hard to do." And they said, "How much do you charge for that?" And I went, "You can charge for that? Are you kidding me?" 

And that started the company that 32 years later is still actively working on strategy with companies all over the world. 

John: Well, let me explain to our listeners where we are. We are in Hew Haven, Connecticut. We are at a Park Avenue Securities conference on retirement planning. And yesterday we had the pleasure of going over to Yale University and listening to some folks. And you told the group earlier that you're a scientist. You actually have a degree, I think you said in astrophysics. 

Steve Harvill: In physics, yes, and in marine biology. 

John: And marine biology. So tell me how in the world does a scientist, because I have a lot of friends that are scientists at Florida State University. So how do you go from being a scientist to become a very successful entrepreneur in your world? 

Steve Harvill: You know, I think to say that I'm a scientist is probably an exaggeration, because a scientist is a practicing person. I never practiced what I learned or what I got out of my college education. So, I was always driven at an early age by story. Stories fascinated me. I was a comic book kid. I'm a comic book adult. I've gone to the movies every Saturday since I was nine years old. 

That idea of story fascinated me, and I was always thinking that there would be a way to structure ideas around story to create some type of an impact around it. And that was really the idea that launched everything that we did, was this idea that we could present, in a really unique format, our ideas so that they would be dynamic, have an impact, people would remember them. They'd be simple. They'd never exceed three parts. 

And that's what we've kind of built the company around. And we have seven strategic platforms, seven different ideas that we work with companies on all the time. 

And so it was really more based on the idea that you look at things like a scientist does, right? In parts and pieces. You look at them as having a connected element to them so that they reach an outcome. And from that moment on it was just about using that stuff to implement our ideas, and our ideas just happened to hit home. 

John: Today in your workshop you talked about elegant simplicity. I find that in our world of financial advising, it's too complicated. It's too complex. And I know it's complex for me, and I have to work at it to find ways to present ideas in a simple way where clients feel comfortable with either the advice I'm giving or the products themselves. 

Would you take a little bit of time, please, and explain why it's so important to go from that complex down to the simple and why it's so dag gum difficult to do so? 

Steve Harvill: We live in a world that believes that complexity creates value. That more is better. So we're always thinking that if we can get more, we get more value, we have more impact. And that's wrong. 

Instead what we're looking for is the right thing, not moral something, but the right thing. And the right thing is almost always a much more simple product, a much more simple presentation, a much more simple story than we ever think it is. And so we have to fight against this prejudice we have thinking that more is always better. 

If your brain can overcome that, then you create this idea of restricting what you can do. You build ... Actually, people talk about thinking outside the box, simplicity is about building boxes, because what you do is you limit your input. You say to yourself, "I only have this much space. What can I do in that much space?" It's called creative restriction. 

And so what we look at is helping people say, "We'll create the box for you. You can do whatever you want within the box. You can't go outside the box." And it forces people to think differently about their content, Right? 

If I told you you only had three pieces to the story you could tell a client, you would figure out how to tell the most compelling and impactful story in three pieces. 

John: Absolutely. 

Steve Harvill: And that kind of restriction is what simplicity is really about. It's about training your brain to think that way. 

John: I love it. In my office we have a philosophy, my team and I, three full-time people that support me, April, Amanda and Jay. We want to keep everything as simple as we can, but we still battle this thing about making it too complicated. And our clients love it, because they'll say, "Look. I don't understand annuities. I don't understand investments. I don't understand the life insurance, but I do know that you understand me and what I'm trying to get." 

And that was my big take away today. I'm here. I'm glad that I come for these conferences. I learn. But the challenge, as you pointed out, when you get back home there is a whirlwind of activity, and narrow it down to the few things that you want to do. Maybe the one thing that you said. 

Steve Harville: The one critical thing. We call it the OCT. And it's really hard to do. It's a staggering amount of discipline. You're already doing that. You already recognize that really what the story about is your clients tomorrow, right? 

John: Right. 

Steve Harvill: You're in the tomorrow business. You're protecting their tomorrows. And that idea then creates the opportunity to weave stories around that one aspect, right? All stories have three parts, a beginning, a middle and an end. And so a good story is structured around those kinds of pieces. And so what you're really looking is, "What are the stories I tell my clients?" Right? "What are the stories that I can connect the value of my knowledge to the value of their output, of what they need at the end of their journey, at the end of the journey of doing work with me."

And you and I have met each other on a number of conferences before. This isn't the first one. And I think that the way your company positions that is the right way to look at simplicity. But you're right, it's always a battle. 

John: Yes. 

Steve Harville: You're always battling against, "Oh, it's this. It needs to be that. It needs to be this." When it really doesn't. And it takes this staggering amount of ... You know, Bob Dylan, the singer/songwriter, great singer/songwriter Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan said, "It's only about three chords and the truth." 

John: Yes. 

Steve Harville: And if you can build something around something as simple as that and you can do the stuff that he's done, that shows you the value of simplicity. 

John: I don't play guitar much anymore, but when I first started, the guy who was teaching me said, "All you need is three chords."

Steve Harvill: Yeah, that's it. And most rock and roll songs are based on that simple pattern, right? And they build things in between the chords, but it's just the three chords. It doesn't have to be that complicated. And you know what, people will flock to simplicity. 

John: Yes. 

Steve Harville: They'll see you as different. They'll understand the connection faster than anyone else will that's in a complicated situation. It's just trying to fit it properly, and that's the challenge. And I thank God for the challenge, because it keeps my company in business. 

John: Yes. Talk a little bit about how people listening to this can apply some of your concepts in their day to day lives? They're not running a big business necessarily. My clients are people who are members of the Florida retirement system. They could be a government employee. They could be a business owner. They could be a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant. A big, broad spectrum. 

So from a personal planning standpoint, whether it be their money, their time, their energy, their life, what advice would you offer them? 

Steve Harvill: Let me give them a couple of tools. 

John: Okay. 

Steve Harvill: One, and you may be surprised, but simplicity evolves around very simple tools, which is great for that. One of the tools that people overlook the use of is what is called, "The Checklist." We call it, "The checklist format." And that is creating a very simple form that allows you to make sure that every single time you do something you're doing the right pieces of it. 

Because what will happen is, you'll repeat it, repetition will create a little laziness in the outcome, and you'll miss important things. So the creation of these checklist ideas, surgeons use them in surgery. We talked about it a little today, about the five elements that stop an infection and that how every surgeon has to check off those five things to be sure that they're done every single time that they go into surgery. 

Those checklists are really important. So think about creating very simple checklists around your ideas. If it's a planning ideas what are the three most important parts about that idea to make it happen? What are the three most important things you have to get done in a day? Not the five things, not the ten things. What are the three most important things? 

Make sure they're visual, in front of you all the time. And if you can create just even the use of a checklist, you'll simplify a lot of the things that are going right in your head and they're not. 

John: Correct. When you were sharing that story about the physician, I'll tell you what I thought about. And I use this every day. I have on my wall a picture of a B52 bomber, because when I was in the Air Force I was a crew chief on the B52. And we had to use a laminated checklist pre-flight and post-flight that you had to check everything off with a grease pencil. And it was imperative you do that because you had eight crew member's lives in your hand every time that plane took off or landed. 

Steve Harvill: It's a great example of using that. And people think of it as being a silly, an old-fashioned, silly thing. It is one of the most important simple tools you can use. And we have checklists in my company for every task that happens almost every day. So that I am sure that everybody in Dallas is doing the right stuff all the time. 

We utilize a thing called the OCT, the one critical thing, every day. And we want to be sure we get that one most important thing done. And then everything else on the checklist is gravy. 

John: I think anyone listening to this, if you just took the idea that Steve just shared of, "What are the three things I want to get done?" And possibly maybe it's four if you count your OCT, because how many times do we get up, "Oh, I've got all these things to do," and you've got this big list. But if you forced yourself, the restraint you said earlier ... 

Steve Harvill: Yeah, creative restriction. 

John: Creative restriction. Move it down to three and maybe four counting your Number 1 thing. So how do you apply that in your personal life? Do you do the same thing in your personal life? 

Steve Harvill: I do. And I wouldn't let you use that fourth item on your checklist. 

John: Oh, you would not? 

Steve Harvill: I would say the OCT is one and you get two other ones. 

John: Oh, got it. 

Steve Harville: Yeah. 

John: So it has to be one of the three. 

Steve Harvill: It has to be one of the three. And people will do that. We call it, "The bleed." People will say, "Here are my three things, and here are the three parts of the first thing." And I will say, "No. No. No. That's six parts already. You only get one thing to do, the elements of the discipline around that idea of three." So I use it constantly in my life. 

So I'll have the list of the next three books that I'm going to read. I already have them written down and then the order that I'm going to read them. I'll keep that list active all the time. I'll hear something or I'll see something that will catch my eye, and I carry my notebook with me all the time. That will get in the notebook so that I never let it escape. 

One of the problems in complexity is things escape. They're ethereal, right? 

John: Yes. 

Steve Harvill: They're like fog. They're here in a moment and then they're gone. But the more simple things that you can do and a more simple perspective allows you to capture them. 

So all of the stuff we do, we capture. We never let it go.

John: I agree with that. And today you made a comment, "If you're taking notes, and how could you not be taking notes?" I keep journals. One entire bookcase in my home is just nothing but leather bound journals. 

And friends will be critical and say, "Why do you pay $20 for a leather journal when you can just buy a legal pad?" I said, "Because a legal pad I will lose it. I will lose those sheets. Those leather journals will be there." 

Steve Harville: Yeah, it's amazing how when someone uses an artistic form of note taking, that the notebook, the paper, the pen and pencil are very important to that process. 

John: Yes. 

Steve Harvill: They select a specific thing to use. They use it all the time. It's part of that kind of the criteria of the habit of doing, right? Is they select a specific one. We used to do ... and I've got idea notebooks like you fill a wall. But I used to have trouble going back and finding the ideas in the notebook. So when I was writing my latest book, I went to a five by eight index card system. So all my notes were on five by eight index cards and then I filed them by the idea. And I thought, "Oh my God, all those journals that I did. If I had been doing the cards, I would have found everything." 

John: Yes. 

Steve Harvill: So I made a big shift. One of the things about simplicity is you need to be flexible to new ideas, right? And so that was a huge shift for us to go to the five by eight cards that we started probably a year and a half ago. 

John: I like using four by six cards to keep notes for articles I'm working on, so I'll have them alphabetical.

Steve Harvill: Really good idea. 

John: If I get an idea of something for our newsletter, I may not be ready to write that article, but I can write it down and file it. 

Steve Harvill: We have a huge thing for newsletter. We have a 30,000 circulation newsletter that goes out every month, and I have the newsletter file and I have the Blog file and I have the Over Coffee, which is our video series, the three-minute video you can watch while you're having your coffee in the morning, called, "Over Coffee."

I have those categories, and those are topics that I'll go back and I'll write on, I'll think about. I'm doing one on the relation of simplicity in the universe, and I have all the notes on that. That's the magazine commissioned us to write that. And so that's how I keep my notes also. Very simple and elegant methodology. 

John: I love it. Would you take a few minutes and talk about the importance of narrowing it down to the three things, though. Because you talked about that like the traffic light. You showed that. I believe we do think in threes. I don't know where I've learned that over the years, but I think we do think in threes. 

Steve Harvill: There's a process of simplicity called, "Thoughtful reduction." And that's that capability of taking something that's large and making it smaller. And to do that, in order to thoughtfully reduce something, you have to think. That's what the thoughtful portion is. It's not just reduction. So that large lists of large things can be made smaller if you think about them. 

And so you have to be able to place them in the right order, be able to see them is really important, scale. And so we make sure we see everything in order to be able to know what to do. So we use Post-its a lot. So we'll use large Post-its to build maps of the idea. We'll move the pieces around on it. We'll storyboard them on large sketch pads so that we can see the idea.

John: You'll hear some noise in the background, folks, because we're at a conference and things ... 

Steve Harvill: Yeah, broken down. 

John: ... are being done. So bear with us just a moment. 

But Steve, let's go back to ... the last few minutes we have let's talk a little bit about why it is so important to narrow it down to those things. I think intuitively most of us know that our lives have become more and more complex. Supposedly technology is supposed to make our lives better. 

You were sharing with one of my colleagues earlier chastising him in a nice way about checking his e-mails too much and allowing him to disrupt his family time. 

So why is it that we have all these tools that are supposed to make our lives better but it's made our lives more complex? 

Steve Harvill: That's because we think any time we get any free time, it has to be filled with productivity. 

John: Yes. 

Steve Harvill: That's wrong. Free time isn't meant to be filled with productivity. It's meant to be free time. 

John: And allow your brain to rest. 

Steve Harville: Exactly right. So here, I'll give you a quick exercise to show you how to do that. 

John: Okay. 

Steve Harvill: Take six Post-its. Two each of the same color. Right? So let's say there's two red ones, two yellow ones, two blue ones. 

On the two red ones write the two most important things you have to do tomorrow, one and two. 

And the next one, the next color, write the two secondary most important things you have to do.

On the last one write the third things that you have to do that are third most important. 

So now you have two of the most important, two of the second most important, two of the third most important. Okay? 

John: Yes. 

Steve Harvill: Now take one of the most important ones and throw it out. You don't get to do it. Take one of the second ones and throw it out. You don't get to do it. Take one of the third ones and throw it out. You don't get to do it. And you will be shocked at how fast you'll make that decision. And it will show you exactly which of those was the most important. 

John: Because now you have a visual representation. 

Steve Harville: We use poker chips and we'll tell people, "Here are your poker chips. Here are the reds, the blues, the grays. You get to do your most important, second most and third. Now, immediately throw out one of your most important. You don't get to do that one." They'll look. They'll move it off. That's how fast they're able to figure out what's important. 

John: Just that quickly. 

Steve Harvill: Just that quickly because they see it.

John: That is a great exercise. And I would think that the sooner we teach our children and our grandchildren how to do this, the better their lives will be. 

Steve Harvill: Yeah, they're fighting it all the time. You know, we're teaching our children the same way we taught our children in the 1800s. We're teaching them for jobs that won't even exist. That's an entire different Podcast on the problems with the way we're doing things. We're stifling stuff. We're forcing pegs into the wrong holes and we're producing students that are very good at rote. They can win contests but they can't independently think. They can enter a math contest and win a math contest, but if given that problem out of the context of the contest they can't solve it. 

John: Yeah. 

Steve Harvill: It's a big issue. 

John: It's a big issue. And people are not paying attention. I love what you shared earlier, because it's a pet peeve of mine is when I'm going to the store to give someone my money and they're not looking me in the face. They're ignoring me like I'm a headache. 

Would you share just a little bit about that story, about the coffee? 

Steve Harvill: Yeah. It was in the coffee shop this morning. And they opened ten minutes late. Even though they committed on their sign to open at 6:00 a.m. it was ten after. I went in and I said, "Are you ready to go? Are you open?" She had opened the door. No answer, just nodded her head. I said, "Okay." And I ordered coffee for my wife and I. And as she was making it she never looked at me. As she rang me up, she never looked at me. She said, "Put your room number." And she handed the thing. 

And I bent over and stuck my head down on the counter so she'd look at me in the face. And I said, "Follow my head up," and she followed my head up. And I said, "You know, your tip is not based on your product. It's based on your personality. So why don't you smile just a little and look someone in the eye, and you'll be surprised at how much money you'll take home tonight." She just looked at me and went, "Hm." Obviously not that effective. 

John: I do that all the time, and my wife gets angry with me. 

Steve Harvill: Mine does too. 

John: But I will say, "Look. If I'm giving you my money ..." I will put the bill out there and somebody will hold onto it. They will take it and I will hold it ... 

Steve Harvill: Until they look up at you. 

John: ... until they look me in the eye. And it's a pet peeve, because in my world I don't get paid nor should I get paid until I create value. If you're my client and I bring value, then we should do business. If I don't bring value, we should not do business.

Steve Harvill: It's the idea that people think the transactional business is not important. Right? Even though it's not a relationship building business, it's straight transactional, they'll think it's not important. It is. 

John: It is important. 

Steve Harvill: It touches another person, so it's important. And I would spend more money training my transactional employees than I would spend training my relationship employees, because every phone call, every exchange of money, every question asked and answered is part of the deal. 

John: Yes. I agree totally. Well, I know we have other things to do. We're still at this conference. Steve, I just want to thank you so much for taking the time to share this with the listeners, and we bring value by sharing things outside of the financial planning world that I'm in, and I just thank you so much for doing this. 

Steve Harvill: John, I'd do anything for you. Just ask. 

John: Thank you so much. 

Steve Harvill: Thank you so much. 

John: If somebody wanted to receive information about your book ... 

Steve Harville: Sure. 

John: ... or just about your company, tell them how to get in touch with you. 

Steve Harvill: Yeah. The newsletter is free. It goes out every month. The blog is posted every two weeks. You just have to go to So And you can sign up for it there. You have access to all the past newsletters. You can order the books. You can do anything you want from there. See all the videos, everything on the website. And we'd love to have you as a visitor and a subscriber. 

John: And I would encourage you to do that. You'll find great information that will help you grow and be more creative in your own world. Again, Steve, thank you so much. 

Steve Harvill: I'm honored. Thank you for having me. 

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, CLU, ChFC, AEP, MSFS, CLTC, registered representative and financial advisor of Park Avenue Securities, LLC (PAS). Securities products and services and advisory services are offered through PAS, a registered broker dealer and investment advisor. Financial representative of the Guardian Life Insurance company of America, New York, New York. PAS is an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian. North Florida Financial Corporation is not an affiliate or subsidiary of PAS. PAS 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 nor any of its subsidiaries offer Long Term Care Insurance and 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® (LBS) and the LBS Logo are registered service marks of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. © Copyright 2005-2018

This podcast is for informational purposes only. Guest speakers and their firms are not affiliated with or endorsed by PAS or Guardian and opinions stated are their own. 








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The Importance of Self-Care

When is the best time to start eating right, exercising, and working on reducing the impact of stress in your life? Right now, says Ellen Berkowitz. 

As a doctor specializing in psychiatry, Ellen has seen the impact of a lack of proper “self-care” in herself and her patients. She shares some simple techniques and practices you can use for your own self-care plan at home.

The result is a better quality of life – and health – now and as you get older. And that’s just as important to your retirement as the financial side of things. It’s never too late and you’re never too old to starting take care of yourself

We go into detail on self-care strategies, including…

  • The right way to meditate… even you don’t think you can do it at all
  • Easy stress reducers you can start today
  • The importance of rest and sleep to your brain function and physical well-being
  • How to combat the sometimes “self-imposed” physical limitations that come with age
  • And more

Listen now…

#2018-61406 Exp 6/20

Staying Flexible in Education, Your Career, and Life

When it comes to retirement planning, what you want can be very different than what you really need. The same goes for many things in life, says Dr. Jim Murdaugh. We get into the nitty-gritty of that philosophy.

Since this week’s guest is president of Tallahassee Community College, we also cover his first-hand experiences in how the college experience is changing.

Jim came to that role after a long career in local and state law enforcement, where he had a variety of roles. As he likes to tell those just starting out… life isn’t a straight line. He has some tips for embracing that fact.

We also cover…

  • Applying a results-driven approach to financial planning… and life
  • The benefits of making a job your mission
  • Why you should never view your competition as an “enemy”
  • The “disruptions” that are impacting higher education and Florida’s job market
  • The value of lifelong learning

Listen now…

#2018-61403 Exp 6/20

A Secure Retirement Method to Deal with Financial Threats

Many people think they are taking all the right steps toward a long retirement full of time with family, travel, and relaxation. Unfortunately, there are many financial threats to your retirement plans – some you can see, some that are invisible until they take away income and assets. To make matters worse, too many folks have assumptions about their current retirement plan that are just plain false.

But you can plan and prepare for these threats, even the unexpected ones, to protect your retirement funds. And you can cut through the misinformation out there. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach here, and the solution is not to simply buy more financial products.

It takes a personalized plan, and you must take action ASAP.

Listen now to discover…

  • The 4 biggest threats to your retirement right now
  • How taxes can impact your retirement plans in ways you didn’t know
  • Why you need to go through a “retirement rehearsal” right now
  • A 4-part plan for creating an effective retirement plan (or fixing your current one)
  • And much more

Listen now…





2018-57439 Exp 3/20

7 Mistakes Most People Make When Planning for Retirement

You’ve done the planning you need for your ideal retirement… or have you?

There are several factors outside your control that will impact your savings and payments from Social Security, a pension, or retirement plans. But you can prepare for these issues so the effect is less drastic.

And you can make sure you’re not making critical mistakes right now with your pension, healthcare, and more that could sabotage your retirement dreams.

Listen in to find out…

  • The consequences of underestimating your life expectancy
  • What you should consider first when retirement planning
  • The “silent thief” that robs your retirement savings and payments
  • How to make sure you’re not overpaying your taxes (most people are)
  • The two factors that, over time, ensure that your money doesn’t go as far in day-to-day life
  • The unexpected way you can lose your life insurance

Listen now…





2018-56434 Exp 3/20

Easy Ways to Improve Your Health for a Better Retirement

Retirement is not just about money. Physical fitness is also key.

My personal trainer Jason Harville shares easy ways you can stay fit, no matter how old you are… especially if you have any issues, conditions, or injuries.

This is not about becoming a bodybuilder. Rather it’s achieving a standard of fitness that incorporates flexibility, cardio and strength for better overall body function. That’s key to truly enjoying a long and healthy retirement.

Find out…

  • The most important benefit of having a personal trainer
  • The 3 elements of any successful fitness plan
  • Exercises you can do right now to improve health
  • A diet plan that makes sense in the real world
  • The simple exercise you should do if you sit a lot at work or at home

Listen now…