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 JohnHCurry.com/podcast. Again, that is JohnHCurry.com/podcast, 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 johnhcurry.com/podcast. Again, that is johnhcurry.com/podcast, 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 johnhcurry.com/podcast. Again, that is johnhcurry.com/podcast. 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: www.aaanf.org

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 johnhcurry.com/podcast. Again, that is johnhcurry.com/podcast. 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

Avoiding a Tax Hit in Retirement

After 30+ years working for the State of Florida, Kay Harris was certainly ready to retire, which she did in 2006. She had planned and prepared – financially and mentally.

But, Kay says, there were things that popped up that she didn’t expect.

We talk about how she dealt with the bumps in the road, as well as how she’s been able to achieve a profound personal transformation in retirement while ticking items off her bucket list.

Listen in to find out…

  • The questions you must ask now about your retirement plan

  • The biggest myth about money when you retire

  • How taxes impact Social Security and Medicare – and vice-versa

  • Ways to take your medical coverage around the world

  • And more

Listen now…

Episode Transcript:

John Curry: Hi, folks. John Curry here. Thank you for listening in on another episode of the Secure Retirement podcast. I'm excited about today because I'm sitting across the table from my friend Kay Harris. Kay, welcome.

Kay Harris: Thank you, glad to be here.

John Curry: I'm glad you're here. We have talked over the years many times about different topics. We've known each other 19 or 20 years, I'm not sure which, but it's been a long time that we've worked together.

Kay Harris: More than 20.

John Curry: More than 20. Would you please take a moment and just tell our listeners a little bit about who you are, your background. There's so many topics we're going to touch on today.

Kay Harris: Okay.

John Curry: Florida retirement system, the importance of planning, widowhood, travel, because there's just so much information that you have that you can share, but please take a moment and tell them who you are.

Kay Harris: Okay. Once again, I'm Kay Harris. I've lived in Tallahassee since I went to college here many, many years ago, and I am a Seminole fan for sure. But, I stayed on to work for the state, and ended up working for the state in many capacities, mostly as a systems analyst, as a programmer, as a manager. I ended up working my 30 years, plus another two and a half years in the DROP program, and then I was ready. It was time for me to retire. So, I've been retired now since 2006, and had some opportunities to do some of the things that I wanted to do since then.

I'm a widow, which is I think important for me to bring into this conversation, that I was widowed in 1997, and so, I had to deal with not only the loss of a husband, but I had to deal an 11 year old son I was still raising, and two daughters in their 20s. So there were a lot of issues that I had to deal with since retiring that I might not have been fully prepared for. But, I had a lot of good counseling during the time, because I've known John, and he's been steering me along all this time.

I made some really good choices I'm very proud of, and I've made some surprising issues that have popped up that I was not prepared for, and that's what I'm here for, is maybe to share some of those, and to steer some other people in the right direction.

John Curry: Very good. We'll get into some of those that you're alluding to, because we've had some fun with that a lot. Kay, talk a little bit about the importance of planning going up to retirement. A lot of people will hear this, that are not members of the Florida Retirement System, but a lot of them will be members of the Florida Retirement System. 

While we were having lunch, we were talking about some of the things that are important. You, and Jay and I were talking about that, so talk a little bit about the importance of planning, and I don't want to tell you what to say, but just the overall planning that you mentioned to us over lunch.

Kay Harris: Sure, sure. I'm a pretty good planner anyway. I was a pretty good manager with the state, and I've kind of prided myself on planning things well ahead of time, but I've learned along the way that there were some things I didn't plan as well as I should have. 

Prior to retirement, I think I had my plans for travel, and I had my basic plans down, but there was some little details along the way that I look back now and say, you know, I should have had a little bit more knowledge about what to do with things like excessive leave that I had accumulated over the years, and the wisdom of taking that immediately, or using it up before I retire, what to do with deferred comp. 

I knew about the rollover situation with the DROP program, but I didn't know what the questions to ask along the way, and made some decisions that could have been better beforehand. So, I would advise anybody in the Florida Retirement System, if you're in DROP especially, to get some counseling well before you're retired, and before you start making all your travel plans, and all the things you're going to do in retirement, make sure you got your ducks in a row, as far as everything that's related, that's going to come to you when you retire, and make sure you've made adequate plans to do that.

John Curry: You know, in our work, Jay and I meet with people, or April and I, we talk about what we call a retirement rehearsal, we've done it with you a bit over the years. I find that if we can get people to sit and do that, and we project them ahead five years, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, and we always assume that our clients are going to live to age 100, why? Because some of you will, and we don't want you to run out of money, or run out of income. So I think that's good counsel to get counsel well before you think you need it.

Most people won't do that, because we're so busy fighting the fires that are in front of us, we don't take the time to plan ahead. I want to go back to something you shared earlier that I think people should know. I know this is a little bit of bragging, but share with our listeners what you experienced. You're ready to retire, you were asked to stay, talk a little bit about the change you help make you staying in government, because this was a big deal.

Kay Harris: Sure.

John Curry: You helped a lot of people who are listening to this, and they don't even know it.

Kay Harris: Right. Well, I was pretty much ready to retire after my 30 years, and leave the state, but I was asked to come back, because a dear friend of mine, who had a boss, one of my bosses previously, begged me to come back to the medical data section of the Florida division of worker's comp, which is in financial services. The reason was because Florida was like at the number 50 in terms of processing worker's comp medical data. It was basically a batch system, a hand entered system, and he knew that I was pretty knowledgeable about transforming systems.

John Curry: Excuse me a sec. When you say number 50, you mean as far as ranking of the states? We were dead last?

Kay Harris: Ranking of the states. We were dead last. Florida, this big state with huge worker's comp claims, and a lot of medical data that had to come in, we were still processing out, like something out of the '60s, with data coming in on pieces of paper that were then double entries in a huge room full of data entry people, and they said, "We got to change all this," and what we did, and I said, "Okay, I'll come back. I'll stay one year," that turned into two, that turned into two and a half. But, what we did is we transformed, we basically, together, transformed the worker's comp data medical management system in the state of Florida to a server based system that was top in the country when I left, and I'm pretty proud of that.

We were able to save the state a lot of money in doing that. We got rid of a lot of those data entry people, and then we put them into other jobs they could do that were better, that were related to electronic data processing, and when I retired around 2005, and 2006, that was still pretty new with the state, to have a fully electronic medical data system for worker's compensation. It's just so many pieces of paper, it's unimaginable. But, we did that, and I got an award for that, and our unit got both the Davis Productivity Award for innovation, and for saving the state money. We saved something in the neighborhood of four million dollars, I dare. 

So that was a nice way to exit, when I did finally leave. It was nice to know that we had accomplished something great for the state of Florida, and a lot of people maybe don’t think it's glamorous to work for the state, but I fairly enjoyed my 32 and a half years. It was time to go, and it was time to go, but I thoroughly enjoyed being there, and I was happy that we accomplished something that helped so many people, and made Florida look really good.

John Curry: That's awesome. I was probably there when you received that award. I go to most of the presentations. I always like to be a sponsor when I can. Your comment about state work not being glamorous, but you know, it's important. My grandfather, and my father both retired from the department of transportation out of DeFuniak Springs, and all these years I've had a passion, and I mean a passion for helping members of the Florida Retirement System, because my grandfather got bad advice. 

When he retired, he took option one. He lived less than five years in retirement. So when he died, my grandmother lost that check for the rest of her life. She lived 27 more years. All she had was social security, and then what my dad and my uncle did to help her. When my dad saw that, he said, "I'm not making the same mistake." So when he retired in 1992 at age 62, he took option three. A good option, because my mother's still getting that check when he died three and a half years ago. But, they lost tens of thousands of dollars that they could have used in their lifetimes. So both men did the best they could do with what they knew, but they would not seek advice, and not matter how much I offered, they didn't want to hear it.

What did I know? I'm their son or grandson, you don't know anything. So, I'm adamant about us bring good information to help people, whether they work with us or not. They could work with somebody else, as long as we help them.

Kay Harris: Exactly.

John Curry: So, this thing about state employees, when somebody says, "Well, state government, their state employees are lazy," or as one of our governors call it, "Lard bricks," I go, "Okay, great. Let's fire all the state employees. Let's just shut them down." What happens to our economy? It goes to hell, that's where it goes. It all falls apart, because we need those no good state employees.

Kay Harris: I didn't know those lard bricks. We all worked very, very hard where I worked, and had a great relationship.

John Curry: But don't you think most people who work in state government honestly do a good day's work, and they care?

Kay Harris: Absolutely they do.

John Curry: Absolutely. You got a few bad apples everywhere.

Kay Harris: And they're dedicated, and they're committed. The really want to make a difference, just like people everywhere else.

John Curry: Absolutely, and they take pride in their work.

Kay Harris: Exactly. Exactly.

John Curry: I love it. Thank you for sharing that. I wanted to make sure that we gave you a little kudos for what you did, because you see, it wasn't just for you personally, and your team. You made a contribution-

Kay Harris: To the state.

John Curry: To everyone who lives in the state of Florida.

Kay Harris: Sure, absolutely.

John Curry: And that's what we want.

Kay Harris: Yep.

John Curry: Great. Let's switch gears and talk a little bit, still on the theme of Florida Retirement System. You experienced becoming a widow with a young son, two daughters in their 20s. Talk a little bit about what went up to your husband's passing, anything you want to share in the standpoint of, I know that we talked about your friend, Marylyn, who referred you a long time ago. She shared information regarding what happened when her husband passed away, and so many people have benefited from that. To the extent that you're will to share it, would you do that?

Kay Harris: Sure. Sure. My husband was ill for many, many years from ... Has a lot of health issues, and health problems, so I was, I guess, more aware than most people are of the importance of being prepared if something should happen to him. When he died in 1997, I had an 11 year old son and two daughters that were in college, and he had a lot of heart problems, it was this third heart surgery. So, I was always wanting to be sure I had my benefits with the state of Florida, and they were good benefits, they were really good.

I was really grateful to have them, and I always wanted to know what my situation would be. Of course, death is never really expected, even when you think it's expected, and he died suddenly, and I found myself with an 11 year old son I had to raise. I had prepared fairly well for that, but there were a lot of things I didn't know, and I didn't even know to ask about before he died.

John Curry: Can you give me an example?

Kay Harris: One of the things was how my son would be taken care of, and how long he would be taken care of, because I made assumptions, that I'm sure many people would have, that social security would take care of him all the way through college, and I discovered, to my surprise, that those benefits as soon as your child graduates from high school or turns 18, if they don't ever graduate from high school, as soon as they turn 18.

That was a huge surprise to me. For someone who planned well, I just didn't know that that law had changed many, many years, possibly even before he was born it had changed, and I just didn't know about that until it occurred. The other part that I dealt with the Florida Retirement System, however though, because my husband had 27 years in before he died, I did get a retirement benefit for him, and it was option three that you were just mentioning, and that was a good benefit, because it took care of my son, at least up until the time he was out of high school.

I was able, for myself, since I was getting my own pension when I retired, to take option one, but if I had not been in that particular situation, John, my husband were still living, if I expected him to live, I certainly would not have taken option one, but it was good to know my options under those circumstances, that made sense for me.

John Curry: It does make sense, and let's review those four options for a minute.

Kay Harris: Sure.

John Curry: So, people listen to this. I know what we're talking about. Option one is the option that gives a lifetime income, but the day you die, if it's one month, or 10 years later, that income stops.

Kay Harris: It's the highest amount of income.

John Curry: It's the highest amount of money. That's what my grandfather did. Option two is a little bit less, call it roughly five percent less, you get the check for life, but it's guaranteed for 10 years to whoever you want to get the money. You can leave it to anyone, but if you live 10 years or longer, when you die there's no more money. Then option three that your husband took, is the one that gives him the income for life, but upon his passing you got the same income for the rest of your life, that's what my dad took, and my mother's still getting his check.

Option four is a variation of that. It's a joint life income with two thirds to the survivor. So, if I'm getting $1000 a month, I die, then two thirds goes to my widow. Likewise, what most people don't know, if she were to die first, even if she's never worked outside the home, my benefit would also be reduced, and most people don't know that. They find out the hard way when they take that option. So that's one of the things that we want to make sure that we educate people on that are members of the Florida Retirement System.

Kay Harris: Absolutely.

John Curry: And again, your comment earlier about doing it well before they retire, because then they have time to plan. Some people come to see us literally three, four, six months before they're going to retire, like, "Ops," not much we can do now.

Kay Harris: And most of them want option one, because that's the most money, and they don't think they're going to ever have to deal with the death of a spouse, or unusual situations.

John Curry: It's interesting how we want to avoid this thing called death, isn't it?

Kay Harris: That's right.

John Curry: But yet, it's inevitable. We all have it coming. It's going to happen. My dad said, literally, one week almost to the hour before he died, he said, "You know, guys. You should quit worrying about me. I'm not going to die until God wants me, and when God wants me, he's going to get me. So lighten up." He always said that. All the time he was battling cancer, all those years, his attitude was, "Hey, lighten up, guys. I'm not going until he wants me." 

Kay Harris: That's right.

John Curry: It didn't matter what your religious views are, his was, "Hey, when God wants me, I'm out of here."

Kay Harris: It sounds like a guy I would like to know.

John Curry: Talk a little bit about what were you thinking as you were getting close to retirement for yourself? Were you anxious at all about retiring? Because look, you were a pretty high performer in what you were doing. Was it hard for you to retire?

Kay Harris: No, I think you know when it's time. You know, even when you're making a contribution, and you enjoy the people you work with, I think there's something that comes to you one day, when you say, "You know, it's time for me to go," and I had planned to of five years at DROP, but after two and a half years, I had that moment.

John Curry: Do you remember what it was?

Kay Harris: Yes, it was. I was at one of those long staff meetings that last three times too long, with someone who didn't understand what we did-

John Curry: So, you said, "Hell, no?"

Kay Harris: Yes. I said, "You know, I'm ready to get up and walk out of this meeting," and I'm a very polite lady. I don't do things like that, but if I'm having those thoughts, perhaps it's time for me get on with my life.

John Curry: So, you're telling me someone helped you make that decision?

Kay Harris: Yeah, someone helped me make that decision. But, I think I was sure. That day I was sure. I went to work that day, and wasn't even thinking about it, and by the end of the day, I was saying, "Okay, how much do I get for two and a half years in DROP? Let me go talk to John about that." So, I made that decision. I think you just know when it's time, John, I really do. I've talked to other people who've retired and they said the same thing.

John Curry: I didn't recall the experience of the staff meeting, but I remember shortly after, I think within a week or two, you and I met.

Kay Harris: Yes, we did.

John Curry: And I remember you saying, "I've had enough," you were stressed, because you'd reached a point where, as much as you enjoyed your work, you didn't enjoy the process.

Kay Harris: I didn't enjoy the process. I didn't enjoy parts of it, yeah, and I was anxious to get back to my grand piano that I bought to retire on, and it was sitting in my living room waiting for me. So, I was ready to read all those books, and take all those trips, and play my piano, and do whatever I wanted to.

John Curry: That's a great segue, because see, so many people, was worried about my father when he first retired, 'cause he had no interests. He didn't want to travel, he didn't want to do anything other than go hunting and fishing. Then all of a sudden, one of my other uncles convinced him to travel with him, they'd go to North Carolina doing things. So talk about having that list of things that you really wanted to do, because you're one of the most active people I know in retirement. You don't sit on your butt watching television all day long.

Kay Harris: I do not.

John Curry: So talk a little bit about getting ready to retire, and some of the conversations we had about planning trips, how to finance them, and then talk a little bit about where you are today. You've been retired now how many years? 20 years?

Kay Harris: 12 years.

John Curry: 12 years?

Kay Harris: 12 years. I'm still kind of working though, on the side.

John Curry: 13 years.

Kay Harris: Yes, yes, yeah.

John Curry: So, talk a little bit about when you first retired, planning trips, and now when people would say, "I don't feel like traveling anymore." You're excited about it.

Kay Harris: Oh, absolutely, I was excited about it. One of the things that might not occur to people, I had a list of 300 books I wanted to read. I love to read, I'm a reader, and I found that during my working years, I didn't have a lot of time to read, and I just had so many books that I wanted to read and consume, I had a long list. Then, I had another list of places I wanted to go, and things I wanted to see, so that was there too.

But, I also just wanted downtime. I wanted me time. I wanted time to go to the gym, I wanted time to learn things I never had time to learn before, maybe how to grow a garden in my backyard, but I had plans of what I wanted to do.

John Curry: I remember shortly after retiring about ... You just taught me something, as many times as we've met over the years, I never knew about the list of 300 books.

Kay Harris: 300 books.

John Curry: I read a lot too. I read a lot, and I love to read.

Kay Harris: I do too. Real books, not Kindles. I like books.

John Curry: Right. I want to hold it.

Kay Harris: I want to dog ear those pages.

John Curry: You've got real serious about your health and nutrition there too, shortly after retiring. You got almost like obsessed with it.

Kay Harris: Right.

John Curry: You want to talk a little bit about that?

Kay Harris: Yes. I retired in November 2006, and worked a little bit part-time for my son-in-law, and then got ... He's a naturopathic chiropractor, and he got me really changing a lot of things about my life. About 2008, I decided to get serious about it, and I actually lost 80 pounds in a year and a half, and that made it much easier to travel. So, that was something that I was able to focus on, that I ... A lot of people say, "I don't have time to work on my body, because I got to work." Well, I had time, and I made time to do that. It was a slow process for me, but I got it done. I got it done, and that changes so many things about what you can do when you lose that weight, when you get it off, and you feel great about yourself.

John Curry: You didn't lose 80 pounds, you released 80 pounds.

Kay Harris: I released it, and dropped it, and didn't come back. So, that's right.

John Curry: It changes your world, doesn't it?

Kay Harris: It does, it does. It's great if you can do that before you retire, and be able to climb that mountain a little bit earlier, but I got to it afterwards, and I made the time for myself. That was something a lot of us don't do in our working years, raising families. We don't make that time for ourselves, so that became a big part of my retirement, was-

John Curry: What made it a priority, Kay? What took it from down at the bottom to the top?

Kay Harris: I think it was just that I finally had an opportunity to focus on me. I was really concerned about my kids, and focusing ... That was my excuse, anyway, that I got to focus on them, I got to focus on them. For anybody who food is a comfort, and they gain weight, that that's a way you cope, it certainly is a way you cope, and it's the way you look at yourself as well. I finally didn't have to look at any of them, I was just looking at me, and I said, "I got things I want to do. I got places I want to go, and I want to look great doing it." So, that's what it was for me.

John Curry: So, I think you just hit a key point. It's a holistic approach, I don't know how I came up with this thinking, but it dawned on me about 30 years ago, and helping clients with this. You know, people talk about they want to retire, okay, you want to retire, and you have more time. Do you want more money to go with the time, or less money? I remember arguing with one of my best clients. He said, "Well, I won't need as much money in retirement."

Kay Harris: Yes you will.

John Curry: I said, "Well, I think you will, but even if you don't think you need it, why wouldn't you want the same money you're earning now? Why do you want to settle for less?"

Kay Harris: Exactly.

John Curry: "You got more time on your hands, do you want to have to cut back on your standard of living? Wouldn't that be a time to go pursue other things? If you want to travel, travel. If you don't like traveling, don't do it, stay home. Do whatever you want to do."

Kay Harris: Right, and John, one of the things you prepared me for when we ... First we sessions we ever had, was the fact that it's a myth to think that you're not going to have as much, or need as much money in retirement. That's not true. If you're going want to have any kind of life, you're going to probably be spending more, and you might have to still be dealing with tax consequences of things, because you'll have more money. I never thought that way, that I'm going to have less money, I just wanted to have plenty.

John Curry: Well, think of it this way, because I've known you a long time, so I'm just going to be to the point. So you went from being who you were, "Worker, employee state government," to retired, okay? Then you got serious about your health, with David's help, and you got ... Do you mind if I do a little plug for him? It's David Fraser is who we're talking about.

Kay Harris: David Fraser.

John Curry: Awesome guy.

Kay Harris: Awesome chiropractor.

John Curry: You got serious, and you had a coach who helped there. But, the coach doesn't do the work for you. You're the one who had to change you're eating habits, you're the who had to get your butt in the gym to work out, and if you don't take care of yourself, how can you expect to take care of someone else?

Kay Harris: Exactly. You're exactly right.

John Curry: So, you did that, but the benefit of that is, okay, if you want to take time to read, you want to take time to travel and do things with your family, if you're not healthy and don't have the financing to do it, how can you do it?

Kay Harris: You can't do it, and then it's depressing. Yeah, it's depressing when you can't do what you want to do. I discovered in going to the gym that I love to swim. I hadn't been swimming since I was a kid, under the age of 10. I just didn't, and I just go, "You know what? I love this stuff. I love swimming," and that became my favorite exercise. That had a big part in my losing all the weight.

John Curry: Is that what you still do, you swim?

Kay Harris: I still do, I still swim. I'm still a swimmer, yeah.

John Curry: I've never gotten into swimming. I can swim, but I am not real good at swimming. If you threw me a pool, I could swim, I'd be okay-

Kay Harris: You don't have to be good at it, John. You don't have to be good at it.

John Curry: For me, it's the treadmill, the elliptical-

Kay Harris: It's kind of like dancing. You don't have to be good at it, just get up and do it.

John Curry: Yeah, but I enjoy dancing. That's good. All right, let's take it another step now. You made a comment about taxes. So let's talk about taxes, but let's do it in a big picture of you've got this benefit from the Florida Retirement System, you have social security, and then later when you're 65 you have Medicare, so let's talk about how to coordinate those things, because here at the seminar we did a couple weeks ago, it was packed, we had like 88 people in that room.

But, so many people think that it's compartmentalized, I got my pension or my 401K at work, then social security is standalone, Medicare, and it's not, is it? It all ties together.

Kay Harris: It all fits together. It certainly does. For example, your social security benefits are going to be taxable if you have good income coming in, decent income, not necessarily being wealthy, but just decent income from other sources, a lot of people have no idea that their social security benefits will ever be taxable.

That's a big, big surprise to some people when they retire, and they're just stunned that they have to pay tax on social security they paid into for years, and that's a big cut to do that. The other thing that you learn when you're on Medicare is that that can become an issue for you as well. The reason is because the government, unbeknownst to me, starts looking at your tax returns when you're on Medicare, and-

John Curry: Let's be specific, one second there. Let's talk about what you're getting, let's set the stage. Because a lot of people don't know how Medicare works, you have part A and B, A costs you nothing if you have your full 40 quarters.

Kay Harris: That's right.

John Curry: Part B, you have to pay a premium, folks, each month. This year, 2019, is $135.50 a month, and then what Kay's about to describe is what we call a surtax, I call it, and I'm going to let Kay walk you through what she experienced, because I have to give credit where it's due. Kay Harris is the reason that I got motivated to learn more about taxation of Medicare.

I already knew about the social security, because we taught that all the time, but the Medicare, Kay you're the reason I got so focused and obsessed with that. So share your story.

Kay Harris: Right. Well, I never even thought about my Medicare payments each month, which come right out of your social security check. I never thought about them changing more than cost of living, or government adjustments to it from year to year. I never thought it had anything to do with my taxes, and what I discovered in 2016, is that the federal government takes a look at your income from two years prior, and in 2014, I came to John and said, "John, I want to pull some money out of annuity, and I want to travel a little bit."

He said, "Sure, we'll do that," and I took out, I think it was about $20,000, paid my taxes on it, didn't think about it, had a good time, traveled and enjoyed that. Well, apparently my income for that year, my AGI, was higher than it had been. It was very different from it had been in previous years, or years afterwards, it was just an anomaly. The government looked at that and said, "Oh, my goodness. You have hit a ceiling." In other words, we have this number and if you go over this number for your adjusted gross income on your 1040, you get to pay more for Medicare Part B, and you get to pay more for Medicare Part D, because it looks like you got a lot of money.

So, I studied this, and this is called IRMAA. It stands for Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount, that's IRMAA, and like the recent hurricane, it can hit you when you don't know it's coming. So, I got hit on this, and I discovered in my research that I only went a couple of hundred dollars over a ceiling I didn't know existed, at the time it was around $85,000, if I recall, John, just because of that extra money I took out one year. I went $200 over, and got penalized about $200 a month for the next year.

John Curry: Because of Part B-

Kay Harris: Because of Part B I had to pay a surcharge, and then Part D I suddenly had to pay for the first time in my life, because I'm in an advantage program, I never had to pay Part D. I tried to get out of it, I tried to say, "Well, wait a minute. This was an unusual situation, and I'm not ordinarily like that.”

John Curry: I thought about you last week, Kay. I went to my mailbox, and I had an IRMAA letter.

Kay Harris: An IRMAA letter.

John Curry: I'd already gotten one on B about three weeks prior, but I got the second one. So, instead of just sending one letter, they love to make it painful to say you do have one.

Kay Harris: Yes, yes, and it's very hard to get out of it. You have to have some kind of traumatic event, and you've got only so many days to apply, so you got to be sure you watch your mail. But, as a good planner, which I always plan my taxes ahead of time, and it was just something I didn't know that I didn't know. If I had known that, I could have easily gone in two months before the end of the tax year and bought myself something for my cabin up in Kentucky, and spend another $400, and it wouldn't even have applied, but I didn't know.

John Curry: Or, if we knew that, we could have taken a little bit less. You could have said, "I'm going to take less."

Kay Harris: Sure.

John Curry: Now, for some people, there's nothing they can do, because if their income is such, they're going to have to deal with it.

Kay Harris: Sure.

John Curry: But let's go back to what you said earlier about social security. See, at one time, social security benefits were not taxed.

Kay Harris: That's what I've heard.

John Curry: I am amazed at the number of people who would come in, and they think the money they take out deferred comp for the state, or their DROP money, or an IRA, or 403B if they're at the university, or hospital system, they think that money is not taxed, for whatever reason. 

Wait a minute, you never paid tax on it before, it's retirement, surely you've known this tax, but we got people who they forget it.

Kay Harris: They forget about it.

John Curry: They totally forget about it, because most people are so worried, and afraid of taxes, and hate taxes that they allow the tax tail to wag the economic dog, and until people forget about taxes for a minute. Go through the planning first, look at do you have enough income? Kay, I'm think of someone this morning we spoke with about their required minimum distributions, because of stuff we put in place a couple years ago, this guy doesn't have to take money out of two other accounts if he doesn't want to. 

He can let those grow for another year, and spend the other money. But, it's understanding the rules, and the regulations.

Kay Harris: Understand that too, right.

John Curry: It's understanding it. So, while we're on this theme of social security, Medicare, and IRMAA, anything else you want to throw in that mix? Because I got a couple more questions for you here in a second.

Kay Harris: Basically about tax planning.

John Curry: Tax planning, because you're very, very meticulous about planning that, yes.

Kay Harris: Yes, yes, I plan way, way ahead, and for years, I do have a schedule E deduction for a cabin that I invested in years ago, and that's a wonderful cabin, I continue to use that, but that helps me with my adjusted bills income, for sure. For a while I had a corporation, which gave me certain benefits, I have now changed that to a schedule C, so I'm always planning ahead ... That's schedule C, sole proprietorship business. 

I'm always planning ahead, and looking at all the implications well before the end of the tax year. My annuity started here recently, and that was a taxable event, but it was also income that came, so all of these pieces have to fit together, and that's what's really important, is understanding all the pieces to the puzzle that are going to hit you when you retire.

John Curry: Yes, also if you start early enough, as Kay pointed out, you can implement strategies to where a portion of the income you receive is not even taxed. But, you can't do it at the last minute.

Kay Harris: You can't do it at the last minute, it's too late, and if you don't know what's coming.

John Curry: I haven't promoted this yet, but on April 4th, Peter Stahl coming back, remember him? The Medicare guy.

Kay Harris: Yes.

John Curry: That's one you definitely want to attend, and we'll get the word out. But, he is going to take an hour, and cover some of the stuff we're talking about, but more so, how do you manage healthcare costs, in general, in retirement? Then together, he and I are going to talk about solutions to some of this. He's of the mindset that if people in their 50s will start paying attention to this, that gives them enough time that when they are worried about required minimum distributions, they can have other non-retirement dollars in place to help offset that tax.

Kay Harris: Yes, exactly.

John Curry: But, if you do nothing until your 66 years old, or 67, or 70, then it's pretty late.

Kay Harris: Right, it's too late to plan for that.

John Curry: Not much you can do. The government controls it.

Kay Harris: Right.

John Curry: And, as we're seeing in the news today, we're seeing all kind of talk about raising tax rates back to 70%, and the highest in our country, they were 92% at one time, ordinary income tax.

Kay Harris: Okay, I don't remember that. I think I would remember that.

John Curry: Yeah, I can promise you it's there. We can look it up, and can show you 92%. In fact, that was one of the motivators for Ronald Regan, that when he became governor to cut taxes, and then became president, because he got a million-dollar signing bonus, and he lost 90% of it for doing the movie. He said, "If I ever can control taxes, I'm going to."

It's interesting when you read his story about that, because when he became governor, he pounded the Assembly in California to reduce the taxes, and then when he became president, he was the reason the tax rates dropped from 50% down to 28%, top bracket.

Kay Harris: It's interesting you mention taxes, because I think a lot of people have this idea that what they're going to receive in retirement is mostly not taxable, for some reason they think that, and if you planned well, and you have some income coming in of years ahead, you need to know that that income if mostly likely going to be taxable, unless you've made certain provisions for that.

John Curry: I think they're two myths. "I will be in a lower tax bracket when I retire," we rarely see that. Most people are in the same bracket, if not a bit higher, and then they tool along for a few years, then this thing called RMD, Required Minimum Distributions, when you're 70 and a half get them. 

If they've done a good job of accumulating money in a higher raise in deferred comp, now all of a sudden, "Whops, I got to take out 10, 15, 20 thousand dollars," that on top of their income, makes them in a higher bracket, so they pay more income tax. Medicare Part B looks at it, and says, "Mm, you're rich, Kay. I'm going to take some more to the tune of 200 bucks a month."

Kay Harris: Exactly, exactly.

John Curry: So that's what you're describing.

Kay Harris: Yes, exactly.

John Curry: There is no way, in my opinion, I'll just say it emphatically, there's no way that you can plan for that without doing some rejections. You've got to do a dress rehearsal, retirement rehearsal, and say, "What will my income be five years, 10, 12, 20, 30 years out?" Then ask the question, "If we have the same tax brackets we have today, what would be the impact? If social security and Medicare are taxed the same as today, what would it look like?" We know that's going to change, because congress keeps screwing with it.

Kay Harris: Absolutely. Absolutely.

John Curry: And depending upon, I don't care about people's political views, it doesn't matter if you're democrat or republican, or independent, whoever's in power is going to try to change the tax rates, either up or down. That's just a game that's played every year.

Kay Harris: Exactly.

John Curry: Every administration.

Kay Harris: Well, you got to know your options, and you got to consider the consequences, because that's good planning.

John Curry: You're talking about options, let's talk about what we were discussing during lunch. One of the things that I focus on more, and more is getting people to plan first. I tell them, "We're going to charge you a fee for the planning. You have zero pressure to buy a product, I have no pressure to sell a product, but we're going to take you through everything we've been talking about, so you'll understand what the heck is out there." 

I like to tell people, there are only four things you can do when we get done with the planning. We'll give you a report, only four things you can do with that report, totally ignore it, and do nothing. You could shred it. Number two, do it all by yourself. You can take the result of our study to someone else and get them to help you, or you can say, "Okay, I want team Curry to help me," that would be me and my team. Give me your thoughts on that, about the process, the way I'm doing it from the standpoint ... Your view is find counsel, get help. Am I being too abrupt with that four step approach?

Kay Harris: Oh, I think that's awesome. I think that's great, and I'm certainly the one that will go and get a lot of other opinions, and ask a lot of questions, and find someone I'm comfortable, that I have some confidence in, for sure.

John Curry: Let's address that for a second. That wasn't the purpose of this podcast, but let's talk about that. Too many times, we told this gentleman this morning, he was uncomfortable with his accountant, I said, "Well, ask him some questions. You and your wife sit down, prepare your questions, it's okay. If he's offended by that, you should find another professional."

Kay Harris: Absolutely.

John Curry: Now, if you're being horse's patoot, that's a different issue, but everyone who's a professional providing services should be willing to answer your questions to make you feel at ease, but you always do your homework.

Kay Harris: I always do, and when I need professional help, whether it's an estate planning attorney, or a CPA, or anyone else, I do what's called a meet and greet. I call them up, and I say, "I'm not doing a consultation, I want to come meet you." I can tell with my list of questions, and the response of that person within about five minutes, if that's somebody I can work with. That's been important to me all my life.

I don't just go by a list of somebody's credentials, 'cause I have to sit down them and look at them, eye to eye, and get a feel for that. Maybe I'll have a second visit after that, but that's relationships and trust are very important to me.

John Curry: You and I met because of the strong relationship, someone that you valued her opinion, and I valued her opinion, and she said, "John, you need to meet Kay," and I don't know exactly what her words were to you, but we met ... It was the no BS deal. We got right now, you had your questions, and we created a relationship, and went to work.

Kay Harris: Right, it was my relationship with Marylyn that I had the confidence to do that. That was probably a rare situation, John, because I got a good person the first time. Usually I go through a lot of people before I get that happy person that I want. But, in that situation, I had so much confidence in her, and you had so many things that I had never even thought about that were not on my list, and that was so impressive. Now, I've known you 22 years, so that's a good thing.

John Curry: Well, I appreciate you saying that, but I will tell you, you taught me a lot over the years. The most impressive one though, that I felt badly about, was about not knowing about IRMAA, and I remember you saying, "Well, look. There's no way you can know about everything, but this is something you can learn to help clients." Leading up a few weeks ago, and I called you about doing this, you even asked the question, "How can I help?"

I said, "Are you kidding me? You've got such a wealth of knowledge that people would benefit." But every time someone brings a problem to me, I don't get upset about it. I go, "Okay. How can we learn from this?" Because if I can help you with it, now I've got another piece of knowledge that I have, that we could help other people with.

Kay Harris: Sure.

John Curry: So, I can either be upset about it, grudgingly solve the problem, or embrace it and learn, and help other people.

Kay Harris: Yeah, we’ve got to keep learning. We just got to keep learning. I can promise you, I will not be caught by IRMAA again.

John Curry: No, you may not get caught by IRMAA, you may have to pay IRMAA, but it won't be a surprise, is what you mean.

Kay Harris: That's right. Yeah, I'm going to make sure.

John Curry: There's another side of that coin. I remember, I even said this in the last seminar, people will come into me, and they'll say, "I want to be in the lowest tax bracket possible when I retire." I'm like, "No, you don't." "Yes, I do. I want to pay less tax." "No, that's not what you said. You said you want to be in the lowest tax bracket possible. If you're in the lowest tax bracket possible, you don't need my help, because that basically means you have no income, and you have a lousy retirement. What you meant to say is you'd like to be in the highest tax bracket, but find legal ways to reduce the income tax."

They go, "Oh, yeah. You're right." My goal in some ways is, I hope you do have a IRMAA issue, because it means you made so much money, you don't care, and you're living the life you want to live, doing the things you want to do. So, let's go back to some of these things that are on your bucket list.

Kay Harris: Okay.

John Curry: I want you to talk a little bit about travel. Some of the travel you've done, some of the travel plans you have in the future, because I see so many people who've, "Retired," and they say, "Well, you know. I'm too old. I can't do this. I'm 70 years old now." "I'm 75, I can't do that, I can't do that." Would you help me get rid of some of that nonsense of their thinking?

Kay Harris: Absolutely. There's so many options out there for great travel. It's a whole new world that I never had the time until I retired, because I was working, I had my family, other people always came first. Well, when you retire, there's a whole world out there, and you're not going to know what's out there unless you just get out there and see it.

I decided if I'm going to travel, I'm going to travel first class, so that's a decision that I made for myself, was to get out there and see what I wanted to see, in the way that I wanted to see it, and very rewarding, it really is. It costs money to do that, but you're spending it on yourself, for a change. You're spending it on yourself, but I've had an opportunity to see parts of the world, Canada, the West Coast that I've never seen before. 

I've been to Costa Rica, I've been to Austria, I've been to London, I've been on several trips, and every trip makes me want to do more traveling, and do more traveling. There's so much of the world that is out there, that is such an opportunity to have new adventures, and the more you go, the more you want to go.

John Curry: How do you go about planning those? Do you say, "I'm going to take one or two major trips a year?" Or do you think you sit down and say, "Here's number four and five on my list," and just go down the list? How do you do that?

Kay Harris: Well, I'll segue into something there. I like to try two big ones a year, really big ones, and then small getaways. The only thing, John, that interferes with my plans for really great trips twice a year is those unexpected medical expenses we've talked about, that people don't plan for in retirement. Everything from the neck up that is not cover by Medicare, your ears, your eyes, and your teeth. 

When those expenses come along, sometimes those trips are once a year, or not at all. And so, I wanted to be sure to get that in, because that was the one area that I really had no idea how expensive it could be, and how much Medicare would not cover. So, when I have to give up one of my two trips, that's not a good thing.

John Curry: Well, let's go back and expand on that for a minute, regarding Medicare.

Kay Harris: Uh-huh.

John Curry: Earlier we were talking about the fact that you are under the CSP Medicare Advantage.

Kay Harris: Yes, I am.

John Curry: Another option is to do original Medicare, with a Medicare supplement policy, which is the way I went. Talk a little bit about your experience, because you share some real positive things earlier about all the different places you've gotten care, and a lot of people listen to this are going to have CHP Medicare Advantage available, so share some of that.

Kay Harris: Sure, I will. I was, of course, with the state system all the years that I worked for the state, and that was great, and then you have kind of a bridge when you get out of there, they cover you for so many years until Medicare kicks in for the state of Florida, so that was great. I started with CHP in 1983 when they first opened, and my family had been with them the whole time, I had a very good experience all along the way.

Then when I hit Medicare, I went to their seminars that they offer here in town, and got all the scoop, did my homework, and talked to them about it. I said, "Well, I like all that." By that time, almost ever doctor in Tallahassee was somehow integrated with CHP, it wasn't like they had a small network, they had a huge network of people all over the city. It's hard to find anybody now, who's not associated with Capital Health Plan.

So, I chose to go with their Advantage program, which basically means that they take over the drug portion of Part D Medicare, and you work through them. You don't carry your Medicare card anymore, you carry your CHP card. My experience with them, and every year I go back to their seminars and review everything again, is that it's provided great benefits for me, in the form of healthcare, $150 a year I get back for being part of a gym and taking care of myself. I don't have to get any permission from anybody to go to a specialist anymore.

But, one of the issues that some people might question that I have not had a problem with at all is travel. Every time before I travel to Europe, and before I went to Canada, before I went to Costa Rica, I called, and they checked, and they said, "Well, just take your card with you, and you might have a base charge of $50, or something, depending on the country you're in, but we cover you." That has been true for me. I have been in Kentucky and gone to urgent care, and paid nothing. I just showed them my card.

I have been in Europe and had an issue where I had to go to a pharmacy, and they didn't ask for anything. They just took my card. I've been to Costa Rica, and had the same experience, and then in South Florida, I went to an emergency room, Sarasota, they gave me a bill, I took it to CHP, and they paid it. My experience with CHP has been positive. That's all I can do is report what I have, and one of the reasons I probably won't move out of the county before the maker calls me home, it's because I love CHP, and this is where I've been happy since 1983.

John Curry: So, to me that was refreshing for you to share that, because I've heard stories-

Kay Harris: Sure, everybody's got their story.

John Curry: The one that's most painful was a friend and a client, who had a $5000 bill, and CHP would not cover it. I don't know if they've got it resolved, but the last time we had talked, they had not, because he was traveling on a cruise ship, it's where it occurred.

Kay Harris: Wow, okay.

John Curry: Yeah, and he got very ill, so that's refreshing to hear that, because like you, from time to time, I would go to the Medicare Advantage workshops, even though I knew I was not going to take that, I wanted to be knowledgeable about it.

Kay Harris: Right.

John Curry: I wanted to understand it.

Kay Harris: Well, just do your homework. CHP has wonderful seminars, they're every year in October, for everybody on Medicare. They have a series of them, you just go to their website. There's several options for state workers who retire, you can get ... I'm actually on the, I'm pretty healthy, so I'm on their basic plan, but there's other plans where you can get more. I don't think I've used prescriptions more five times in the last eight years. So, I'm healthy, and I choose the option that goes with that, but they have other options as well, and just ask a lot of questions, talk to a lot of people, and find out for yourself.

And you know, if I had ever had a bad experience, then I probably would have looked at another option, but for me, it has worked beautifully.

John Curry: Let's do this. Let's take a few minutes and kind of summarize, and then wind down. I'm just sitting here, just amazed at how much we've covered here in this time together. You've shared your experiences with which option to choose for yourself, and also your husband from Florida Retirement System, how to coordinate that with social security, and Medicare, and your health insurance covered you after retirement.

To me, the most profound though, is your willingness to talk about what you experienced becoming a widow. What would have helped, in hindsight, for you to be better prepared for widowhood? Is there anything that could have made it better?

Kay Harris: Probably not for the emotional part, no. You're never prepared even though you're prepared, is what I can say for that. 

John Curry: Say that again.

Kay Harris: You're never prepared, even when you're prepared, because my husband had been ill for 17 years before he died, off and on with hearth problems and other problems. So, I guess, one part of your brain says it could happen at any time, and another side of your brain isn't ready, no matter how ready you are. So, there were a lot of issues I had to deal with that were just financial, and I don't think any of us expects to find ourselves alone, when you've been married a long time, before you're 50 years old.

So, I was prepared in general, but not in specifics for how to deal with what I would face, with a young child.

John Curry: Did you and your husband talk about finances on a regular basis? I know you focus on it. Was he the same way, or did he kind of resist it?

Kay Harris: He resisted it, even though he was a CPA, which is kind of unusual. It was kind of like ... I think a lot of people are like this, they don't really want to talk about their own death, and he was not healthy. So that was a topic that he probably thought about a lot, but didn't want to talk to me about it. So a lot of my research I did on my own. A lot of my thinking and planning I did on my own, or with other professionals rather than with him.

John Curry: Well, one of my mentors told me many, many years ago, he said, "Look, happy, well-adjusted human beings don't want to talk about dying," and in my own case, I do my planning usually once a year, either on or close to my birthday, and my attitude is let's talk about death once a year, and then live the rest of the time, and then move on. 

Whether that be life insurance beneficiaries, reviewing the wills, because I don't want to dwell on it either. Get it done and get it out of the way.

Kay Harris: Get it done, and move on. Exactly.

John Curry: Right. What advice would you offer anyone, especially anyone who's listened to this, that's a member of the Florida Retirement System, that is ... Let's say they're five to 10 years away from retirement. What advice would you offer them?

Kay Harris: Basically just to plan ahead, and know what you want. Define what you think you want your retirement to look like, even if it's 20 years away, even if it's 15 years away, and then talk to some experts who can give you options, and explain consequences to you, and do it early, rather than later.

John Curry: Expand on when you say, "What you want retirement to look like," you mean like, as far as are you going to travel?

Kay Harris: Yes, what do you want to do in retirement? What is your bucket list? What is it you imagine it to be? When you start talking about that, that's when you bring up things like, "I won't make as much money in retirement." You need to be thinking about, "Really? Really?" Is that what you really want in retirement? Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? How much will it cost? How will you pay for that? How are you going to live? Where are you going to live? What do you want to do? What your options are, but those things you should talk about when you're as young as your colleague here at the table, who just had his first baby last year.

You need to think about that now. What do you want your retirement to look like? What do you want to be doing with that child in 20, 30, 40 years? Do it well ahead of time, and find out what you need to know way ahead to time, not two months before you're ready to have your retirement party.

John Curry: All right, one more question. What is next for Kay Harris, because I know you're not sitting on your fanny doing nothing, so what does the future look like for Kay?

Kay Harris: The future for me is getting back to that list, because I didn't get through all 300 of those books. I got kind of diverted into some other things, or solving other people's problems, and I'm getting back to my book list very quickly, I'm going to get back. In fact, John, I think I have a book in me to write.

I've always been a good writer, and I really didn't know why I have the gift of gab, and writing and didn't have a funnel for it, so I think that that's probably going to be on my list of things to do.

John Curry: What would the subject be of the book?

Kay Harris: It would have nothing to do with my career. It would have nothing to do with financial planning, or anything like that. It would probably be more about knowing yourself, and being happy in the moment, of every moment of every day, being happy and making choices, and knowing how valuable you are as a human being, something along those lines.

It hasn't come to me yet, but that's what I'm finding in my own life, and if I can find a way to effectively share that with some other people, you don't need years of therapy to get your mind on the bright track.

John Curry: I want to buy the first copy. So when are you going to get busy on this thing?

Kay Harris: Soon. Soon, very soon.

John Curry: I'm going to bug you. As your friend, I'm going to poke at you.

Kay Harris: Do that. Do that. I don't care if it's a best seller, nobody has to read it, but it's just a lot of thoughts, things I have learned that I want to get down.

John Curry: Get it done. I procrastinate on mine for literally three years, I talked about doing it, and finally 2009 got it out, and just this morning, driving in, I was talking with the lady who help me do it. I said, "I got another book in me. Will you help me?" She said, "Absolutely." So if you need an editor, I got somebody that can help you.

Kay Harris: Right. I also want to get back to my piano, which I bought when I retired, my beautiful white baby grand piano that hasn't been played enough. I want to get back to doing that. Music has been a part of my life from the time I was six years old, and took my first piano lesson. My birthday's coming up Sunday, and I'm going to go hear my favorite pianist on Clearwater Beach, because he's going to be there, and so am I. I'm going to do the things that I enjoy doing on a daily basis.

John Curry: Happy birthday in advanced. Kay Harris, thank you so much for joining us today.

Kay Harris: Thank you, John, for being there for me.

John Curry: Aww, thank you so much. Thank you.

Speaker 3: If you would like to know more about John Curry's services, you can request a complimentary information package by visiting JohnHCurry.com/podcast. Again, that is JohnHCurry.com/podcast, or you can call his office at 805-562-3000. Again, that is 805-562-3000. 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 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 performances 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 at 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 Guadiana and opinions stated are their own.

2019-77163, Exp 3/27/2021 

The Emotional Side of Retirement

Former circuit judge Terry Lewis has embraced retirement. He’s indulging in hobbies and interests, getting involved in the community in unique ways, and even giving back to the next generation of the legal profession.

He feels like staying active and busy is a key to happiness when you’re no longer working. But, he says, don’t feel like you have to wait until retirement to do things that make you happy – he sure didn’t.

And you do have the time too – you just need to find it.

We talk about what he’s up to these days and how it affects his mental and physical well-being, as well as…

  • The power of mentors and a “support group” to help you master a new skill

  • What really happens in small claims court – this isn’t Judge Judy

  • The type of retirement that is a “death sentence”

  • Ways to prepare for retirement you haven’t considered (that have nothing to do with finances)

  • And more

Listen now…

Episode Transcript:

John Curry: Hi, folks, John Curry here with another episode of John Curry's Secure Retirement Podcast. I've been looking forward to this interview today. I'm sitting here with my friend, Terry Lewis, who recently retired as Circuit Judge. We've been wanting to do this for a long time, Terry, but we couldn't do it, because you were still actively working, and we didn't feel comfortable doing it, but welcome. Thank you for agreeing to do the podcast.

Terry Lewis: My pleasure.

John Curry: The reason I wanted Terry to be with us today is because he has worked in the legal field, as an attorney, a Leon County judge, circuit judge, but he's also an author. We're going to talk about a lot of things today. We're going to talk about how he got into writing books, and why he likes doing it, and also talk about some of his most famous cases, most interesting cases. Terry, if you would first, just tell us who the heck Terry Lewis is. Give us a little bit of your background.

Terry Lewis: Well, I'm a North Florida native. I was born in Live Oak and grew up in Perry, then came to Florida State, and so I haven't steered too far from home. My dad was in business for himself. He was a subcontractor in construction industry, did flooring, mostly tile, and then when carpet became a little more popular, did that. I worked some for him. I wasn't his best worker, so he probably didn't want me to be too much around.

My mother was a schoolteacher. That's pretty much where I came. I came up to FSU in '69, went to school, and ended up going to law school here.

John Curry: What possessed you to want to become an attorney? What was the attraction?

Terry Lewis: I'm not sure, except I always, in the back of my ... From a young age, I liked the idea of it. I always thought I'd be a lawyer. I don't know why, except that I used to watch Perry Mason when I was growing up, and I said, “Well, he's cool. I like that.” That was about it.

I thought about teaching, because I liked that, too. I like teachers. I always have. My mother was a teacher. I also knew, from experience, that teachers don't make a lot of money, not that I wanted to make a lot of money, but I thought, well, I like both of them, but I think that I like law, and I think I can make a little better income doing that, so that's pretty much what I did. That's why I majored in history in college. What are you going to do with history unless you teach, right?

John Curry: That's right.

Terry Lewis: I said, “Well, but I'm going to law school,” right? If I hadn't gotten into law school, I guess I would've been a teacher probably.

John Curry: That's funny, because I remember three paths I thought about doing. I wanted to be a minister, a schoolteacher, and a lawyer. I moved here from the Air Force to go to FSU, then law school.

Terry Lewis: Chose not to do it.

John Curry: Yes, I didn't go to law school, but I had so many friends in class that are attorneys. Sometimes I look back, and I go, well, I made the right choice for me, but I enjoy still reading and studying about legal issues. That's why I enjoy doing these interviews.

Terry Lewis: I think a lot of people do. That's why the cop shows and the legal themed shows are very popular. There’s a bunch of them.

John Curry: Bunch of them. I always enjoyed Perry Mason, but I've got to tell you. My favorite one was Boston Legal with William Shatner.

Terry Lewis: Oh yeah, uh-huh (affirmative), yeah, a lot of tongue in cheek, and a lot of, I guess, black humor in that one.

John Curry: Right, dark humor.

Terry Lewis: Yes.

John Curry: I can see you as being one of the characters in that show.

Terry Lewis: There was also one that came up a little before that one. I can't think of its name, but it was a firm out of ... Maybe it's LA Law. It was firm out of Los Angeles. Corbin Bernsen was on that, who ended up playing the father on Psych. That was a real bluestocking law firm, but nothing quite like the old Perry Mason.

John Curry: Here's a question for you. While you were especially working as a judge, did you ever look at any of these shows and go, “Oh, man, they're so off base,” or did you look at it and say, “It's pretty realistic,” or a combination?

Terry Lewis: Combination, and you mentioned writing. I would read, and I would see things actually and say, “Oh, come on now.” I'm sure every profession that sees themselves represented in a film or TV do that, so it's not unusual, but yeah, you'd see things like Law and Order, where they're walking down the hallway talking to the judge about a search warrant. Oh, come on.

John Curry: You're not doing that.

Terry Lewis: That's not going to happen, or a John Grisham novel, where they're ex parte-ing, talking to the judge without the other side being there, which they can't do, so yeah, I look at things sometimes and say, “That's crazy,” and sometimes, the ones I like, says, “Yeah, that's pretty realistic.” 

John Curry: Wouldn't we call that poetic license. 

Terry Lewis: Yeah, they do call it, or whatever they call it. I forget, yeah, some sort of license. That's okay. John Grisham sells a lot of books, but my wife and I will be driving down and listen to Audible or something of a ... She, who is not a lawyer, but is pretty smart, will say, “Well, wait a second. They can't do that, can they?” 

I'll say, “No, they can't.” You say, you get a little bit of license, but it takes away from the verisimilitude, the authenticity, which, if you're in that, you descend, what is it, suspend your disbelief?

John Curry: Right.

Terry Lewis: You get into the story, and then something like that happens, and it jars you, so now I don't believe it. You've got to be careful how much license you take, I think.

John Curry: True. I think that's true of any type of writing. Since we're into that, talk a little bit about what our court system looks like and how it works. Most people listening to this will never, ever go before a judge. If they do, it's going to be, could be a traffic violation. It could be some small thing, could be a marriage or a divorce, or some friend in trouble, going as a character witness or something. Just walk them through, a little bit, from your experience as an attorney, and then the two different levels of judges, just a little bit about our legal system, if you would. Educate us.

Terry Lewis: In the very limited time we have, I will do the best I-

John Curry: We're very limited, sure. 

Terry Lewis: Well, I ... As we were talking before, actually I've taught a course on occasion with judges called Perceptions of Justice. The whole premise of that is that, as a judge, even if you've made the absolutely correct legal decision, the correct ruling according to the law, if the parties in front of you don't understand it and walk away not knowing why you did what you did, have you really done justice, the perception being as important at least, perhaps more important, than the actual law itself, or the doing of justice. I've always thought it important to do that. 

Now the judicial system itself ... I remember when I was very new on the bench, and I went to a course that talked about small claims. I was in County Court, and we'd have small claims, which is The People's Court, they call it. That's where a lot of people go. The amount involved is very small. The rules of procedure are less formal. Anybody that's ever watched The People's Court on TV or Judge Judy or whatever, have a pretty good idea. Okay, I've read your complaint. I've blah-blah-blah. Here we are. Let's see what we're going to do.

John Curry: Those are fun to watch, too, by the way.

Terry Lewis: Yeah, yeah. I'm here to tell you that it doesn't happen like that. They're not rude like Judge Judy. “I've heard that. Shut up and sit down. I wouldn't believe you if your tongue was notarized,” and all that.

John Curry: You're a comedian, too. I forgot to tell people that.

Terry Lewis: It's not quite like that. I remember this course, and the guy that was doing it made a very good point. He held up a picture of a person and said, “Okay, who can tell me who this person is? This is Justice Brennan from the U.S. Supreme Court.” Then he held up a picture of Judge Wapner, who, if you go way back, was the original People's Court judge.

John Curry: Everybody knew him.

Terry Lewis: All the hands went up. “Oh yeah, that's Judge Wapner.” The point was that most people in the population, if they go to court, will end up in County Court. They'll end up in small claims or misdemeanor, traffic. We are what we call the volume discount dealer in County Court. I mean, you see so many people. There's good and bad about that, because there's so many, you have to have streamlined methods or procedures to handle cases. You end up ... If you've ever been to a traffic courtroom full of 150 people, you see a video, and the video is like an advisory. 

Okay, here's what's going to happen today. You're charged here with a traffic offense. You've got three choices: plead guilty, not guilty, no contest. If you plead no contest, you're guilty. Here's what's going to happen. If you're a first time blah-blah-blah, here's the sentence you might expect. It walks it through, and if you want to have an attorney and you can't afford one ... It's sort of like what you would do with an individual, but you do it by video for the mass people.

In County Court, you could actually enter what's called a plea in absentia, which means I can enter a plea, and the judge doesn't even have to be there, and I know what my sentence will be, because it's already spelled out in this plea agreement. Ooh, well, that's pretty cool, so a lot of times as a County judge, I'd come in, and what used to be 150 is down to about 25, because everybody has paid their small, little fine, or done whatever it is, and they're gone. You have the advantage of it being consistent. You're charged with this, and you know that everybody's going to get the same thing. 

In small claims, it's like a Judge Judy, but without the rudeness. People come in, and it's designed to be quick. You file a complaint, and the complaint doesn't have to be anything formal. It just might be John Curry owes me money, because I loaned him $500 and he hasn't paid me back. That's all that you need. 

John Curry: Really? It's that simple?

Terry Lewis: It's that simple.

John Curry: I never knew that.

Terry Lewis: It's called a statement of claim. What they depend on is they serve it on the defendant. I'd be the plaintiff. You'd be the defendant. They'd serve it on you, and within 35 days, we'll say, the case is in front of the court. I'm there, and you're there. If you're not there, I get my judgment, because you've been served. You didn't come. You didn't respond. If you're there, and I'm not there, it gets dismissed. If we're both there, they say, “Well, listen. We're going to send you over here to a mediator. We have volunteers that will come in and try to help you resolve your case.” You go, and you spend a few minutes. 

If you can't work it out, you come back, and we set it for trial. The trial will be set within another 30 days. Your case, theoretically, should be over in 60, tops 90, days. It's a very informal, very efficient way to handle it. You sometimes wish, having been part of the system for a while, that we could incorporate a lot of that into other cases, which become extremely complicated and take way too long.

John Curry: And expensive.

Terry Lewis: And expensive-

John Curry: Experimental.

Terry Lewis: To resolve, but the more money at stake, the more people are reluctant to do that. It's just, I guess, the nature of the beast. Most states are like Florida, and they are divided into what we call County Court, which may be something else, and a Circuit Court. The County Courts in Florida, and the similar courts in the other states, are what we call courts of limited jurisdiction. Their authority is in your ... They have authority or jurisdiction over certain types of cases. County Court in Florida, any civil case that involves less than $15,000 in damages that's at stake is in County Court. Any crime that's a misdemeanor and only a misdemeanor, it will be in County Court. Some landlord/tenant eviction can be in County Court.

Circuit Courts, and they go by different names in different states, are called courts of general jurisdiction, which means everything else, which includes anything over $15,000 civil, any more serious criminal offenses, family law, probate, guardianship, real estate disputes, so everything else is in Circuit Court, and that's pretty similar. What is confusing to a lot of people is that different states call those different courts by different names. In Florida, you're a County Court; you're a Circuit Court. If you appeal from Circuit Court, you go to a District Court of Appeal. If you go from there, it's to a Florida Supreme Court.

John Curry: It's still a State of Florida court.

Terry Lewis: Right.

John Curry: It's a District Court, Florida State.

Terry Lewis: Yes. Now, if you go into Federal System, the District Court is not the court of appeal. It is the trial court, so go figure, but that's the ... If you go to a Circuit Court in the Federal, that's the appellate court. 

John Curry: It's reversed.

Terry Lewis: Yeah, crazy.

John Curry: It's confusing.

Terry Lewis: States have their own. For example, in New York, the Supreme Court is the trial court. If you've ever watched Law and Order, ding-ding, they'll have a little thing to tell you, and they'll say, “Supreme Court, Day so-and-so.” It's not really the Supreme Court, in terms of you think the Supreme Court like the U.S. Supreme Court or Florida Supreme Court. That's the trial court. It can be very confusing, even for people who are familiar with it, but most states and the federal system are usually set up that way. 

You don't have a county court in federal, you have what's called the Magistrate. The Magistrate in Federal Court will handle the less serious criminal things and minor civil stuff. They're all pretty much like that, in all the states and the federal system, in terms of how you handle it.

John Curry: You were judge for a long time, so nine years County Judge, 21 years Circuit, so 30 years. Talk a little bit about what happened when the Legislature came out with the standard rules of sentencing. I don't know what the proper name is. I'm going to call it standard rules.

Terry Lewis: Sentencing Guidelines.

John Curry: Sentencing Guidelines, thank you. Talk a little bit about that, how that changed your world, from being a judge.

Terry Lewis: Well, they actually came out with Sentencing Guidelines before I came on the bench. It would've been in the '80s, so at least if not early '80s, by the mid '80s, because at the time I was working as a contract to do appeals for the Public Defender's Office. I had ... Those were issues a lot of times, where you violate the Sentencing Guidelines, and that was an issue for appeal. They've changed over the years. 

At that point, it was a range, from this to this. You had to have written reasons. A lot of the appellate court time was taken up with what's a valid legal reason to depart from that range?

John Curry: Excuse me a second. Can you tell us why it even came about? Was it because of different judges have a different, so different, views on the outcome?

Terry Lewis: I think that's the conventional wisdom about it. It was that there was some concern in the Legislature that somebody in Miami, who robbed a Minute Market would get three years, and somebody in North Florida would get 30. They said, “Well, that doesn't seem right.” 

John Curry: No.

Terry Lewis: Geographical difference should make a ... Of course, a lot of people would say, “Well, no, if you believe in local rules, local customs, local whatever,” he says, “Well, this is how we feel up in North Florida. You commit a robbery, you're going to jail for a long time, period. Why should we be ...” That was, I think, the impetus behind it, was to try to make it more uniform, so if you went to prison, you're sitting there saying, “Well what'd you do?”

“I robbed a Minute Market.” 

“What'd you get?”

“Thirty years.”

“Damn, I only got three.” 

Then you're going, hmm, what ... You're thinking something's wrong here. I gave you the example. You went to County Court traffic court, and you ended up in jail for 12 months on a DUI, and another guy says, “No, I just paid a fine, did some community service, and did some DUI school.” You'd be thinking, I got railroaded. I got a bad deal.

John Curry: I don't like my judge.

Terry Lewis: Yeah, and of course, as long as we have people doing it, it's going to ... I think that was the idea. It was to take away some of the discretion, to make it more uniform, but anytime you do that, you have inherent problems. Like I said, you ... Well, what's a good reason to depart? Then you have to litigate all that. It takes a lot of effort, lot of time, lot of money.

John Curry: What do you mean by depart?

Terry Lewis: Well, if you had a range, the Law would say, “Well, you know, there may be circumstances where you want to go below or above,” like well, the defendant showed no remorse, so I'm bumping that up. Well, we don't know whether that's going to be a good ground or not. You go to the appellate court, and they said, “Well that's ... You shouldn't do that.” He didn't show remorse because he said he was not guilty, and he got found guilty at trial, so that shouldn't apply. That's just one example of various things that judges would say to justify it, or going ... not just going above, going below. The defendant is the sole provider for his family, or there was a need for restitution to be paid, whatever. 

You had to work through all that. That's been since the '80s. That's what 30-40 years, I think.

John Curry: Yep.

Terry Lewis: Not that much, and they've changed. Then you have ... Of course, when they change it, you have somebody who says, “Well, is he sentenced under the Sentencing Guidelines that were in effect at the time of his crime or the time he was convicted or the time now he's back?” 

John Curry: It's a moving target, isn't it?

Terry Lewis: It-

John Curry: It's complicated.

Terry Lewis: I have a saying, “More law, less justice.” The more times you start tinkering with it, after a while, you get ... Now, we've in a groove now, I think, with the Sentencing Guidelines. They changed it several years back, so now basically they've set a bottom. They didn't set a range. They said, “Okay, well, they score out.” If you came before me, they'd look at your past record. They'd look at the nature of the offense, and various other things, and you would score. If your score was a certain amount, then your minimum sentence would be X, and I would have the authority to sentence you to anything from the minimum up to the legal maximum.

Let's say it's grand theft. You embezzled money from Jay, here. You came up. You'd look. Do you have a record? Do you not? It may be that you'd score in what they'd call a non-state prison, which meant, unless you've got a good reason, you're not going to prison.

John Curry: It's that detailed in the scoring.

Terry Lewis: Right, but if you scored a certain amount, it would mean, well, you could go to prison for, say, 13 months. You scored 13 months, but I could go 13 months up to 5 years, so the judge still has discretion. If I want to go below that, which I did with the case we were talking about, I've got to have a legal ground to do it. I've got to articulate that, either ... preferably in writing, as to why I'm doing it. 

I might say, for example, "Yes, well the victim was an active participant in that, and was a mitigating factor, because the victim instigated the fight, which ended up with the injury that the victim got." That's a mitigating ... The person has a physical or mental problem that requires treatment, which is not available in prison. There are several things that are listed, that you can hang your hat on, so to speak, if you find it ... or I forget what the other one is. There's a few others.

John Curry: I'm glad we covered this, because I had no clue, number one, that it was that strict, and that, I guess, systemized, which is good. Knowing more about the range, when you hear of a sentence now, people who listen to this, they'll have a better understanding.

Terry Lewis: Yep.

John Curry: Thank you for taking time to do that.

Terry Lewis: Oh, sure, and keep in mind, too, that at least 95%, probably more, sentences are the result of a plea bargain, where the State says, “Okay, you plead guilty or no contest, and we agree that this will be your disposition,” and they agree. It comes in front of the judge, and the judge always has the authority and discretion to say, “No, not acceptable.” If you did that, things would grind to a halt, because they'd say, “Well, what are we going to do? Let's go to trial and ... Well, Judge, what would you do?” I'm not getting involved in a plea bargain. That's not my job.

John Curry: Well, we hear about plea bargaining all the time in the news. Would it be fair to say that that's somewhat of a negotiation between the two sides?

Terry Lewis: That's exactly what it is. The State makes an offer. The defendant says yes or no, or they come back with a counter offer. They go back and forth. It's like anything else. Both sides are looking at what's my chances of winning? If I go to trial, can I get a conviction? Well, I think so, but there are witnesses in my case, so I'm willing to accept less if you'll ... Plus, it'll save me the time and trouble and effort.

John Curry: Sure.

Terry Lewis: Can I get my witnesses? You never know what'll happen. Maybe they don't show up. Maybe they don't say what I think they're going to say. On the other side, it's like, well, what's my chances of getting an acquittal. I'm looking at ... They're offered five years in prison. That's a lot of time. Well, yeah, but you could do 15. It's a second degree felony. You could end up doing 15. You score out for 8 or 10, so 5 is pretty good, if you're convicted. 

It's always, in civil and criminal, weighing the chances that you have of succeeding all the way. Like I said, part of it is time and money. From the State's standpoint, they may have a very strong case, but they're saying, “Listen. If you'll save me all the trouble of having to do it, I'll make you this offer.” 

John Curry: Interesting. That's a good clarification, too, because you know that there's something going on, but you have never really understood the ... I hope I never have to participate in it, to be honest, on either side.

Terry Lewis: Yeah, I'm glad you haven't, too.

John Curry: Let's switch gears and talk about things that you're doing. Way before you retired, you started writing books. You were telling me earlier, while we were having lunch, you've actually published three. One is finished, looking for a publisher, and you're almost done with number five.

Tell us about the books. When you started doing this, I was fascinated. In fact, you were gracious enough to donate some of your books one night, as a door prize, at seminars. Tell me more about how you got into that. Tell us a bit about your books. Folks, you've got to read his books. They are very good. They're fun to read, if you like legal stuff. Please, tell us. Give us some background.

Terry Lewis: Well, we talked earlier about Perry Mason, and how I got into the law. I've always liked mysteries. I've always liked legal themed mysteries to read and to watch. I used to read that sort of genre. In some cases, as we talked ... Some books, sometimes, like we talked about, you'd look at it and say, “What?” I would've said, “That's crazy.” I would say to myself, “I could do that. Somebody wrote this book, and they got it published?” I'd say to myself, “I think I could do that.” I'd never done anything like that before, never took any ... Well, I did take, actually, I took a creative writing course when I was undergrad, but I remember very distinctly my instructor not being very encouraging.

John Curry: I remember, also, you telling me one time at a Rotary luncheon that you got interested in writing, so I think you went and took a class in the evening.

Terry Lewis: Yes, I did.

John Curry: Talk about that for a minute, because the reason I want this emphasized is too many people sit back, and they hold back, “Oh, I could never do that. I could never do that.” That's a bunch of hogwash. If you decide you want to do it, just go do it.

Terry Lewis: Yeah, well, it's like anything else. You could say, “I'd like to be a pianist. I'd like to learn how to play the piano and be a concert pianist.” Well, you know you're not going to do it right away. You have to learn it. You have to do it.

What actually got me started was I'd read these things, but I read, very soon after I got on the bench, which would've been January of '89, I read Scott Turow's book — I actually pronounce it Turow, but everybody says Turow — his book called Presumed Innocent. I read that book, and I said, “Man, this guy knows what he's doing. He knows what he's talking about. It's very realistic, great story. Boy, I wish I could do something like that, as opposed to looking at some of the crap that I read.” 

That's what really got me going. I said, “I'm going to see if I can write something that I can look at later and think it's okay.” I did that, and that was probably sometime in 1990. I'd just make notes and do an outline and write some rough drafts and stuff, didn't really know what I was doing. Of course, my wife would say, “What are you doing up there?” 

“Oh, I'm writing a novel.” 

“Okay fine, dear.” 

John Curry: I could hear Fran doing that, “Okay fine, dear.” 

Terry Lewis: Yeah, never expecting anything to come of that, of course. Then, as you say, it was probably two or three years into that process I said, “It may be a good idea if I took a class on writing. That might be worthwhile. Maybe FSU's got something.” As it turned out, they were having a class at night, called Narrative Techniques, taught by Jerome ... Gosh, I'm running a blank now on his name. Shoot. Anyway, he was the head of the department, of the Creative Writing Department. I'll think of it. Anyway, he was teaching it, and it was at the Center for Professional Development. 

I called up my friend, Mary Pankowski, who was heading up that at the time. I said, “Mary, is there any chance I could get in there?”

“No problem. We'll get you in.”

Okay, I got in, so I'm there the first night, and he's looking over the roster and looking at me. “How'd you get in this course? This is supposed to be undergrad, full-time?” 

“I don't know. I just signed up.” 

John Curry: I have a friend here.

Terry Lewis: That was a great course. Stern, Jerome Stern was his name. He was very nice. He would give assignments. We'd turn in our stuff, and he would make comments on it. I found him to be very insightful, very funny, and encouraging. 

When that was over, there was another course, called something about Novel Writing Workshop or Novel Workshop, taught by an undergrad, or a graduate student, Pam Gault, so I decided to take that. That was also good, mostly because she would do the same thing. She would critique whatever you turned in, but you had other people in the class do the same thing. After the class was over, there were three or four or five of us that said, “Want to continue? We don't have to be in this class to do this.” We met, and that helped me finish my first novel, because I'd have to turn something in, people would critique it, and it helped me get through.

John Curry: Tell us the title of your first book.

Terry Lewis: Conflict of Interest.

John Curry: I remember the book. I couldn't remember the title of it, but I remember reading it. I couldn't put it down. I read the book in one sitting.

Terry Lewis: Okay.

John Curry: I enjoyed it. It was a good book. How long did it take you to go to book number two?

Terry Lewis: I started right away on book number two, because after I finished that, and I got pretty good feedback on it, it made me think, maybe I can find a publisher. I eventually found an agent and a publisher, small publisher, Pineapple Press down in Sarasota, but I was just tickled pink to have it published. My agent said, “Well, just keep writing. Don't stop,” because it takes so long to get it done, but also so long from the time you submit something that it might get accepted by some publisher and may get published. That's typically at least a year and a half, and a lot of time more, depending on when it's accepted. It generally takes me, or took me, five to six years from start to finished product.

John Curry: Do you see yourself continuing to write, now that you're retired and have more time?

Terry Lewis: Yes. One of the things I wanted to do is not go ... I feel certain that I will do something legally related, mediation, arbitration, senior judge, something, but I'm not going to do that for at least six months or so, maybe a year. Number one, I can't work for the State, or else I'll lose my retirement, which I don't plan to do.

John Curry: Right.

Terry Lewis: I don't want to work for free. Since I've started this little thing of writing on the side, I thought, I'm going to try to concentrate on that more, and really spend more time doing that, and hopefully see whether I can produce something quicker. If I could earn some decent income, I thought I'd do that.

John Curry: You might be the next John Grisham. 

Terry Lewis: Yeah, I doubt it, but yeah.

John Curry: Earlier, while we were having lunch, you made a comment, and I wrote this down. “I'm doing what I used to do on the side when I was working. I now do more of it.” Expand on that a little bit, because so many people retire, and I see two ends of the spectrum, 44 years now doing my work. I see people who retire. They do nothing. They sit in front of the television, and they wither. I see others who, they retire, but they're very busy doing other things. Just share with our audience some of the things that you're involved in, because to me, it's a bunch. You're a young guy. Yeah, you're ... I forgot. Tell us how old.

Terry Lewis: 67.

John Curry: 67, so you're only a year older than me. You've got a lot more life in you, so you're not going to sit around and do nothing, good Lord willing, right?

Terry Lewis: Yes.

John Curry: Tell us some of the things you're doing, and why.

Terry Lewis: Well, we've mentioned the writing. Yeah, I started that in 1990, so I've been doing that on the side for a long time. You find the things that were connected to your profession. For example, I just recently did a round as the presiding judge for a mock trial team practice, which I used to do as a judge all the time. Now I'm not a judge, but they still think, “Well, come on down and help us.” This is the FSU Mock Trial Team. Sure. 

I have a guitar, which I, one Christmas, about five or six years ago, got lessons, guitar lessons, as a Christmas present. I knew how to play the guitar, in terms of just basic stuff, chords and things like that, and all of that. I wanted to go further, and I quit taking lessons after a couple years, but I still would play guitar and practice on it, on occasion, so I do that. I try and do that a little bit more. 

I got a call the other day from the lady that heads up the curriculum for the OLLI, the Osher Learning thing and said, “Maybe you'd like to teach a course.” It's hard for me to say no to those kind of things. I like teaching.

John Curry: Sure.

Terry Lewis: I've been asked to teach two courses: one, Evidence, with Professor Earhart, who I mentioned before, and a course called Perceptions of Justice I'm going to teach with a couple other judges at the, what we call, the College of Advanced Judicial Studies in May, so I've got to get ... It's all the stuff I used to do before, which I'm still doing. I've also been asked to do a course, short course, on Evidence for the Criminal Defense Attorney's Statewide Association in April. I have signed up to do a prescreening with my dog, to see if my dog can be a therapy dog, with the TMH program.

John Curry: That'd be awesome.

Terry Lewis: Yeah, and that screening is Saturday. I figure, "Well, I spend a little bit of time with him, because I walk him a couple times a day, and we have a pretty good thing," so that would give him something to do and something for me to do.

John Curry: Take a moment and explain that, because a lot of people don't know about that program. That's one of the best programs around. Would you share a little bit of what that is?

Terry Lewis: Yeah, there's several options that you can do, with the idea being is that ... I think the main thing, the one that got me interested was a friend of mine, Chuck Mitchell, got this thing going.

John Curry: That's where I first heard about it, for sure.

Terry Lewis: Yeah, try to allow dogs into the courthouse, and for the purpose of being a comfort to alleged victims, child victims, of sexual abuse. I think most people understand having a dog like that calms you down. It's good for you. That's why a lot of people with dogs have a lower blood pressure and all that stuff. I thought, that's a nice thing, and it's a good program. Of course, I was there when they had a certificate, the paw prints on the thing to certify that they can come in and do it.

There are other options. You can also go to nursing homes. You can go to schools and sit there, and they have-

John Curry: Hospice programs.

Terry Lewis: You can have your kid, who's real nervous or anxious if they're asked to read in front of an adult, but put a dog there, and the dog's just sitting there, and you're reading to the dog. Dog doesn't judge you. Dog doesn't say, “That's not how you pronounce that word.” They're with Florida State Hospital. There are a lot of ways that you can be a comfort. I thought, I'll see. Maybe my dog won't make it through the prescreening. I don't know.

John Curry: The dog might make it, but you may not.

Terry Lewis: Yeah, yeah, that's what usually happens. He's a pretty chill dog, so I'm hoping that'll work.

John Curry: Now, so far, you've been talking about all the things that are nonphysical, but talk about some of the things you do for physical activity.

Terry Lewis: Oh, yeah, for many years my exercise primarily has been basketball and tennis, and conveniently located to the courthouse is the First Baptist Church, and they have the Christian Life Center. I've been going up there since probably mid to late '70s, when I was a lawyer, and I just keep going. There's some people that are still there that were there when I first started. You think, well, you're 67. What are you doing playing basketball, but there's usually somebody about your age and speed that you can try to stay with. That's good exercise.

I've been playing tennis pretty much since law school, through basketball, actually. A fellow classmate of mine was also an avid tennis player and said, “Let's go out and play some tennis.”

I said, “You don't want to play with me. I don't know how to play tennis.”

“Ah, we'll just hit a bucket of balls.” That got me started on tennis. That was back in the mid '70s. I've been playing tennis pretty regularly since then. I fairly regularly go at lunchtime and play basketball, and fairly regularly play tennis.

John Curry: One of the things we're going to be talking about, with an upcoming interview, is how to start planning for these things years before you retire. So many people will say, “I have no hobbies. I don't do anything.” I have a friend, who's going to talk about the transition. Why wait until you retire to do it? You did that early on. For you, it's not a big deal to walk out of the door to find something to do, because you're doing some things related to your profession, some things totally different, like writing and the guitar, teaching some things, but some things related to your profession, but other things that can change the venue and change the mental venue, if you will.

Terry Lewis: Yeah, my advice to your clients is don't wait until retirement. This is important for your day-to-day living. For example, writing ... People say, “Well, when I retire and I have more time, I'll get around to doing something.” No you won't.

John Curry: Nope, I agree.

Terry Lewis: Some say, “Well, I'd do that, but I don't have time to do it.” No, no, no, you make the time.

John Curry: True. I was struck by, which is the reason I wanted you to talk about it, you taking classes at night, because I know very busy in your work, family ... very devoted to your family. A lot of stuff that you do ... You're very active in your Rotary Club. In fact, I'm happy that you're being honored as the roastee this year. 

Terry Lewis: One thing I couldn't do, as a judge.

John Curry: That's right, but you make the time.

Terry Lewis: You're right.

John Curry: You had to give up your freedom, your evenings. You could've been home watching television or being with the family. You paid the price in time and money to build on a skill. Unfortunately, so many people are like, “Well, I don't want to do that,” but then they'll whine and complain later, because they don't like the results they got.

Terry Lewis: Yeah, I don't have a lot of sympathy.

John Curry: I don't either. Either go do it or shut up.

Terry Lewis: Well, some people, if you're especially younger, and you've got young kids, and you've got two or three kids, and they've got this going, and you just really literally do not have the time-

John Curry: That's a different issue.

Terry Lewis: Yeah.

John Curry: Even then, if people can find an hour to watch a television show, they could find an hour to get online and read and study.

Terry Lewis: Exactly. People ask me about writing. I said, “Yeah, it's a lonely endeavor, and it does take a lot of time,” but I say, “Well, how long does it take you to go play a round of golf?” At least four hours.

John Curry: That's right.

Terry Lewis: Four hours. That’s a lot of time.

John Curry: Or go to a football game or watch a football game.

Terry Lewis: Yeah, go to a football game, prime example ... You've got to get there early. You've got to tailgate, and they do all this stuff. Yeah, I mean, you have to prioritize and you have to make choices, so you make choices. Don't regret it. I mean, if you said, “Well, I don't have time to do it,” and you did something else, you maybe spent time with the kids reading, that's great. I've got no problem with it, but I always reject the thing that I don't have time to do something, especially if they're in the same situation. Like you said, I've been doing a lot of things for a long time. Maybe if I didn't do so many things, I'd be better at it. Maybe limit yourself, sort of like, well, you know-

John Curry: Well, there's a lot to be said for focus on a few things.

Terry Lewis: Yeah.

John Curry: No doubt about that. Let's wind this up a little bit. Let's go back to some of the things we've already been covering, in fact, but what advice would you offer people. Suppose there's somebody listening to this, who, they're 5 to 10 years away from retirement, could be longer, but let's just say 5 to 10 years. They're not sure, okay, what am I going to do when I retire? I'm not sure what I want to do.

Share your thoughts on what process, if you will, they should start thinking about, not the financial side, or that, too, if you want to talk about it, but primarily just getting ready mentally for this thing called retirement or slowing down. For me, I know I'll never fully retire. I'm taking Social Security and a pension now, but I'll never fully retire, as long as I am healthy and clients want me. Now, if they quit coming to see me, then I'm done, I guess.

Terry Lewis: That's another factor. You may have to consider that, yeah, because in the business you're in ... Essentially, the financial is definitely a part of it, because if you're not financially secure and have a plan financially, it's difficult to do the other things that you want to do. You feel pressured to earn the money.

John Curry: You've got to have the money to fund what you want to do.

Terry Lewis: Right. A friend of mine, who has been retired not very long, but came back to volunteer, not get paid, but volunteer as a senior judge, he said, “Well, I planned financially very well, but emotionally I didn't plan too good.” He says, “There's only so many projects around the house you can do before you get bored.” 

Now, if you really like that, it's fine. I'm doing things I like. I don't really regret my decision at all. Like I said, I'll probably end up doing something legally related, but I feel like I don't have to, which is important. There were other things that I did, while I was a professional and full-time employed, like we talked about, that I enjoy, so it doesn't bother me. I do other things. 

It's that same advice we talked about, is you need to have a balance in your life. If all you're doing is working ... You say, “Well, I love my work.” I do, too, yeah, but that's one of the reasons I really am glad I got into judicial education fairly early on, because that gave me a related thing. It was related to what I was doing, and it helped to make me a better judge. Obviously, if you're teaching something, you have to learn it, and attending classes, as well.

There are things you can do that will help you in whatever profession you're doing, but will also give you an outlet, give you a little balance. You've got to use both sides of your brain. It also helps reduce stress. Exercise is one of the greatest stress reducers.

John Curry: Absolutely.

Terry Lewis: It's like they say, “A tired dog is a good dog.” Same thing ... If you're tired, you're not going to get in too much trouble.

John Curry: Won't be in front of a judge.

Terry Lewis: Yeah, but mostly you feel better. It's a good tired, as opposed to the stress and strain of looking over documents and doing that all day. 

John Curry: How would somebody refer to you now, still refer to you as Judge or Retired Judge? What's the official moniker for you now?

Terry Lewis: I think, in some circles, you're always considered judge. I had a lawyer call me the other day, on a premise of engaging my services for something. He called me Terry. He said, “I've got to get used to this,” but yeah, and it was sort of like when I became a judge. People I'd known a long time — lawyers, friends, and stuff — insisted on calling me Judge, even if I wasn't in the courtroom. Now, in the courtroom, you've got to do it, because everybody's looking at that, and it's formal, and you've got to keep certain protocol, but invariably, the ones that I didn't know that well, lawyer who I'd see occasionally, would call me Terry. They were like, “Oh yeah, I'm friends with the judge. Oh yeah, I call him by his first name.”

I suspect the same kind of thing. It's like senator. You're always a senator, Senator Bob Graham, or governor-

John Curry: Governor, or whatever.

Terry Lewis: Whatever, what may ... regardless of that. I think that's appropriate, but it's also appropriate, now you're not a judge anymore, we just call you whatever we called you before, which is Terry.

John Curry: Maybe some that's not repeatable. 

Terry Lewis: Yeah, right, right, truly.

John Curry: Well, Terry Lewis, I thank you so much for today, because it was very-

Terry Lewis: Certainly.

John Curry: I want to wind down what I learned today. What I've learned today is more about our court system, the Sentencing Guidelines, and that when you go in, there are different levels of judicial services. When you started going through the local courts and the circuit, to me, that was very educational, and I'll bet a lot of people listening in learned a lot today that, if they ever need it for themselves or a family member, they'll be better prepared. Thank you for sharing that.

Terry Lewis: I hope it's not too boring for your listeners. 

John Curry: I don't think it will be, because I think what you did, you did as you always do. You're always very gracious in what you do, but I do want to end it on this, okay, because I almost forgot this. Talk a little bit, a little bit, about your most famous case, because a lot of people may not even know this, but you presided over, in Leon County, the hullaballoo over Bush/Gore. Can you talk about that for just a little bit?

Terry Lewis: Sure.

John Curry: As our parting shot?

Terry Lewis: Sure. I was one of several judges involved in many cases. I think there were over 30, somewhere around 35-36, various actions, claims, that were filed regarding this election, somewhere-

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

Terry Lewis: Yeah, some down in South Florida, butterfly ballots and this, that, and the other. We had several that were filed up in Tallahassee. They're filed here because we're the State Capital. If you sue the governor or the secretary of state or any statewide office, you generally sue them in their home, which is Tallahassee, where they have their main office. That's why the ... The very first case I had was a case against Secretary of State Katherine Harris by Volusia County, Dade County. Broward County eventually joined in by the Gore team, saying, “There's a provision in the election law that says if somebody meets certain criteria and requests it, we have to do a recount of designated precincts.” That's what they had going.

They were trying to do a manual recount of certain precincts, certain voting districts in those counties. They had suggested to the Secretary of State that the statute says we have to get this in, we have to certify our results, within a week of the election. That was the 7th; it'd be the 14th. By the 14th we have to get our certified results. We don't think we can do that. We have to do this manually. It's going to take us longer, so we need an extension.

Another part of the statute ... That one says you shall get your results in within seven days of the election, so they were mandatory to do that, but another part of the statute said the Secretary of State may reject untimely filed certified results. The Secretary of State sent a letter, memo, or whatever, to the supervisors of the election saying, “If you don't have your stuff in by the 14th, I will not count them. The votes will not be counted.” Ah!

They filed a suit in Circuit Court, asking for an injunction, which is what you can get. An injunction basically is either telling somebody not to do something, or telling them to do something, enjoining them either affirmatively or negatively. They asked ... It's also called a declaratory judgment. We have a dispute about what the law requires, and we need a judge to declare what the law is. 

They were saying the Secretary had to accept our late votes, and the Secretary was saying, “No, and I ain't going to do it,” so we want you to declare what the law is and to tell her to take our votes. Yeah, that was the first thing that we had, up in Tallahassee, I think. I heard the arguments on it, and made my ruling that the term may, in terms of the Secretary may reject, means that she has discretion. It means she can or cannot. It doesn't mean shall reject, like they shall have it filed. There's a conflict there. They're supposed to get it in, but it doesn't mean that she has to reject it. She may reject it. 

I said that, by her telling the counties that they won't be counted, regardless of their reason, she has advocated her responsibility to exercise discretion. You can't just say, “This is my policy,” like a judge. “I have discretion to sentence, but if you come in with a DUI, this is what you get.”

“Well, Judge, you've got the discretion. You can do it both-”

“This is what it's going to be.” Well, that's not discretion. It's sort of like, “I don't take no contest pleas. You have to plead guilty.” You just can't do that. You have discretion. You've got to exercise it, so she's got to have some reason. That was my ruling. It came back to me within a couple days, because the Secretary of State sent out a letter to them and said, “Okay, tell me what you're reasons are.” They gave her a reason, and she said, “That's not good enough, still not going to count them.” 

They came back and says, “Judge, you need to hold her in contempt of court, because she hasn't done what you told her to do.” My second ruling said, “Well, no, I told her to exercise her discretion. Now, you may disagree with that, but she's exercised her discretion. She's said why she doesn't think that's a good reason. Now, you have a remedy under the election law, if you think that the Secretary of State has unreasonably exercised or abused her discretion, but it's not a contempt of court.” 

That was my first case, and I guess the one that you're probably thinking of. Well, there were a couple other things that I had there I thought were going to be important and ended up not being, but the recount was what you're probably thinking of, right?

John Curry: Yeah, it was.

Terry Lewis: Sandy Sauls had, actually, where they filed for what they call a contest of the election, which is the remedy I was alluding to. Had it been me, if I were on that side, I would have said, “Judge, can we amend our complaint? We want to file a complaint to contest the election and ask for a statewide recount.” That's where it was going to go. I don't care what happened. It was either going to be requested by Gore or it was going to requested by Bush. They were trying their best to make the optics look-

John Curry: The truth is, it was inevitable that that's what was going to happen?

Terry Lewis: Of course, the team that's winning, which was Bush, would say, “Oh, no recount, no, no, no, no.” To me, they weren't going to ... It was not going to end up with just the three or four counties being recounted. That was not going to happen, because that wouldn't be right. It wouldn't be fair. They were all heavily Democratic. It was pretty obvious to me that eventually ... If it had been me, I would've just right away ... I would've saved the time. I wouldn't have gone up to the Florida Supreme Court, gone up to the U.S. Supreme Court, come back, done a couple of other things. By then, you'd wasted too much time.

By the time you had the trial with Sandy Sauls, you were really running down to the wire, and then the Florida Supreme Court says, “No, we think you're wrong, Sandy. We want a statewide recount of all the ballots.” It came back, and Sandy Sauls said, “I ain't doing it. I recuse myself.” Judge Nikki Clark was home by then and had had a pretty rough week. Anyway, she got a lot of death threats and terrible things, so she said, “I prefer not to do it.” Of course, then it came to me, who happened to be there on a Friday afternoon.

John Curry: Lucky Terry.

Terry Lewis: Yeah, so that was the one that was probably the more visible.

John Curry: What would you say were the learning opportunities for you, going through that, because it had to be a hell of a lot of pressure on you? I remember talking to you during that time some, and what I've always been impressed with is you never revealed your personal feelings about any stuff. You're just like, “This is my professional job,” and you don't talk about it. In hindsight, looking at that, back in 2000, early 2001, what came out of that for you? What was the learning opportunity, if any?

Terry Lewis: It reinforced my belief that ... We talked about the perception of justice, is that, depending on the place where you're coming from, if you are an invertebrate — not invert, invert, what's the term? — unrehabilitative partisan, you see things in a partisan way. If you're a diehard Democrat or diehard Republican, you're an advocate for your client or your candidate, you think everybody else is like that. It's like being a liar, a ... What do you call it when you can't help yourself? You're a liar and you can't help it?

John Curry: Yeah, the compulsive liar?

Terry Lewis: Compulsive, yeah. You think everybody else is. People would look at that, and they would look at me and other judges. They would look to see what party we belonged to. Who appointed us? 

John Curry: Right.

Terry Lewis: And say, “Oh, well, we know what's going to happen here.” 

John Curry: No, you don't.

Terry Lewis: Yeah, that's an insult, because judges ... I don't care where they come from politically. Now not everybody, of course, but I think most judges have integrity, and they're conscientious, and they want to ... They may be wrong. We're all wrong,- 

John Curry: Sure.

Terry Lewis: But they want to come to what they think is the right answer, based on the facts and the law. That's annoying, but that's there. It reinforced my belief that it's important that judges explain to the litigants what they're doing and why, so that people who are watching — here, you had a lot of people watching, because it's on national and international TV — would say, “Okay, I understand. I don't agree with it, but I understand.” It helps to encourage or promote trust and confidence in the whole system, if they know what you're doing. That's why it was probably good it was televised. 

John Curry: Yes, and you told us during lunch, when you had lunch with Jay and me, from the standpoint of the professor that will call on students, who are asking questions even now, so this case is still out there from the standpoint of in the public domain, if you will, as being studied. It'll happen again. There's no doubt that it will happen again.

Terry Lewis: Right, like I said, I just did an interview for a group that's doing a documentary on it. Yeah, it's still ... Of course, next year will be the 20th anniversary of that. It doesn't seem like that long, but Craig Waters of the Florida Supreme Court is trying to do something to get a lot of the participants together to do something. That's a ... Yeah, it'll always be a little footnote in history. That was a special situation.

John Curry: Well, you had your few minutes of fame. 

Terry Lewis: Yes.

John Curry: I remember seeing you on television a lot then. Terry Lewis, thank you so much for doing this.

Terry Lewis: My pleasure.

John Curry: It was good seeing you again.

Terry Lewis: Yeah, thanks for lunch.

John Curry: You're welcome.

Announcer: If you would like to know more about John Curry's services, you can request a complimentary information package by visiting johnhcurry.com/podcast. Again, that is johnhcurry.com/podcast, 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 in Financial Services, Certified in Longterm 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. 

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2019-75824 EXP 3/5/2021