A Unique Way You Can Honor Local Vets

With the precision of a military operation, Honor Flight Tallahassee takes 75 local veterans to Washington, D.C. each year – free of charge.

They stop at the major war memorials in the nation’s capital, as well as Arlington Cemetery. It’s a time of intense emotions… memories… and gratitude.

These are the men and women who’ve protected the American way of life and sacrificed so much, says my guest Mac Kemp, and he considers it an honor to be part of this organization.

Mac, chairman of the group and deputy chief with Leon County EMS was instrumental in forming the local chapter and ensuring that vets from World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam War are able to get the recognition they deserve.

Mac and I talk about highlights from past trips and how everyday people can get involved, as well as…

  • The rewards of being an Honor Flight Guardian

  • What vets always say during the trip

  • How the group cuts through D.C. traffic ”like butter”

  • A welcome back ceremony like you’ve never seen

  • And much more

Listen now…

Episode Transcript:

John Curry: Hi folks. John Curry here with another episode of John Curry's Secure Retirement Podcast. I have the pleasure today of sitting across the table from my friend Mac Kemp. Mac is the local chairman for Honor Flight Tallahassee. He'll tell you more about his other duties here in a moment but, Mac welcome.

Mac Kemp: Thank you very much, thanks for having me.

John Curry: My pleasure, glad to have you here. Let's start off by talking about who you are and then we'll talk about the Honor Flight. Give our listeners a little bit of a background about who you are, what you do in your day to day job, and then how in the world you got involved with Honor Flight and your actual, official role of Honor Flight.

Mac Kemp: Sure. I'm actually deputy chief of Leon County EMS. Been doing EMS for a very long time. The Honor Flight came along as something that I read an article about many years ago and it seemed like that it was a perfect fit with our agency because the flight that we go on most of the veterans are elderly and many of them have physical issues of different types and we need paramedics and physicians to go on the flight. So, I knew that Leon County EMS had the paramedics, we had the equipment, we had the ability to do this. So, I wrote up a proposal and showed it to my boss who was chief Tom Quillan at the time and he was a veteran. He thought it was a great idea so, we took it up to county administration who said let's take this to the board of county commissioners and we did a presentation to them and they fully supported it. So, it was off we went from there.

John Curry: That's great. You've had what six flights now?

Mac Kemp: We've had six flights coming up next year, in the spring of 2019 will be our seventh flight.

John Curry: Well I had the pleasure being on three of those.

Mac Kemp: Yes.

John Curry: So, I've enjoyed them.

Mac Kemp: And we appreciate your support in many, many different ways.

John Curry: Well you're welcome to that, it's a worthy cause. Speaking of worthy cause, let's explain who is Honor Flight and the mission of Honor Flight.

Mac Kemp: Yeah. Honor Flight is there is a national organization called Honor Flight Network out of Washington ... that helps us in Washington DC and they are a group that helps coordinate hubs across the nation. There's 131 hubs across the United States in 45 separate states that fly veterans since Honor Flight's inception, they've flown over 200 thousand veterans to Washington to see their memorials and currently as of today, there's about 30000 veterans that are on waiting lists to go. We have a waiting list here between 150 and 200 at the current moment right here in Tallahassee. 

John Curry: Really?

Mac Kemp: Yep, there is always people that are waiting to go.

John Curry: Can you do a breakdown roughly, I know you usually throw out numbers, how many World War II, Korean, Vietnam ... can you have a rough idea of how many of which that we've taken? No, on that waiting list. [crosstalk 00:03:19].

Mac Kemp: On the waiting list right now it's predominantly Vietnam veterans. We have ... I think we only have five World War II veterans that are signed up right now for this flight. Our first two flights were all World War II veterans, 100%. They're getting at the age where it's difficult for them to go there. They're all in their late 90s at this point. Korean war veterans we probably got somewhere between 40 and 50. Then the rest of those veterans on our list are Vietnam veterans that are waiting. We get applications literally every day.

John Curry: Good.

Mac Kemp: Every day.

John Curry: That's good. I can remember a time when we had hard enough time just letting people know what Honor Flight Tallahassee was.

Mac Kemp: Yes.

John Curry: And getting veterans to actually apply.

Mac Kemp: Yes.

John Curry: So, it's great that you got that waiting list. So, let's talk a little bit about what the purpose is. You alluded to it but, I want to go deeper. Because unless someone's been on one of these flights, you don't have a clue what it's like.

Mac Kemp: No, you don't understand. It's really 100% to honor these veterans that have been to war for us, that have preserved our freedoms, our American way of life. We talk about this in our board meetings often that we strongly feel, every one of our board members feels that everything we have, everything we're allowed to do in United States, every freedom that we enjoy, is because of the veterans that have served and sacrificed so much over the years to preserve those freedoms. I'm a little biased but, I think the United States is the most amazing country on Earth and I am so blessed to live here. The only reason that we enjoy all the things that we do is because these veterans have laid it on the line and many of them have died in past years for our freedoms.

So, we feel like it's little enough to take a one day trip to thank these veterans for their sacrifice and their service. One day trip to take them to these monuments and memorials that they've never seen before. You think about the memorials in Washington DC, they're there for everybody to see but, really those memorials were built for those veterans.

John Curry: Ton of them. 

Mac Kemp: That's right.

John Curry: I remember on the very first flight, the gentleman that I actually had the honor of being his guardian, very dear friend, has been for many, many years. He opened up and talked with me about things that he'd never discussed with his family. Never. Well, both of them did because I was the pleasure of being a guardian twice and then part of your team working one time. Thank you for all the hard work you made me do by the way.

Mac Kemp: Absolutely. I appreciate it. 

John Curry: It was amazing just listening to the stories and I know in Harry's case, the first gentleman Harry Grant, also Charles Lamb but, Harry was talking about things, "You know John, I've never discussed this with people in my own family."

Mac Kemp: That's true, most of these veterans have never talked about their experience but, when you put them in an airplane with 79 other veterans that understand what they've been through, they start talking about things that no one's ever heard. I've heard stories, the veterans have told me stories that they've never told their family. There's certain things that they feel like were almost unspeakable that they had to participate in. It was hard, it was difficult. It was ... and I have a lot of them tell me, "I like to talk about the happy things, I don't like to talk about the bad things". But, the bad things are important and this trip helps them to come to terms to some degree.

I had one letter from a gentleman up in Minnesota who was a son of one of the veterans and his father served in Burma during World War II and he said his father always felt like that the troupes that were in Burma never had been recognized for everything that they had done and he said that after 75 years the trip on Honor Flight, and this was his words, finally knocked that chip off his shoulder. So, I take that as a great success that Honor Flight was there to honor him for what he did.

John Curry: Absolutely. I served in the Air Force during the Vietnam era and I'll tell you, you've got a lot of Vietnam veterans who really feel that. Spit on when you came back, cussed at and called baby killer and stuff like this. So, I can relate to some of that.

Mac Kemp: Absolutely. I have a letter that was from this past Honor Flight from Captain Murray who was a Vietnam aviator that went on our flight. He wrote this letter right after the flight on Memorial Day as a matter of fact and he wrote in the letter that when we got to the airport, a woman, a total stranger, walked up to him and said, "Were you a Vietnam veteran?" He said, "Yes I was." He said she extended her hand said, "Welcome home".

John Curry: Wow.

Mac Kemp: He said that in his entire Vietnam experience, no one except family had ever welcomed him home. That was all of his negative feelings from Vietnam. He says this one woman, he says we'll never know who she was and she'll never know what effect she had on my life but, she changed how he felt about his war experience because he was finally welcomed home after all of these years.

John Curry: All it takes is one person showing appreciation.

Mac Kemp: It does. 

John Curry: And we're going to come back full circle to that in a minute, talk about what you see when you get there because it's amazing. I don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves here because I can sit here and talk all day long about this because of the experiences but for our listeners, let's take them through what happens from the time we get out of that hanger at 5:00 in the morning. Just walk through what goes on.

Mac Kemp: Sure. We get to the hanger usually around 4:30 in the morning because we have to go through TSA checks. We have to feed everybody breakfast, we have to get everybody in their teams because we have a red, white, and blue team because we have three buses. A red, white, and blue bus. So, we get everybody together, lined up with their guardian, get their wheel chairs, get their oxygen set up. Whatever it is that they need, we get all those things set up. We have to go through the dreaded TSA checklist.

John Curry: Let me stop here for a second. Let's go back up because I don't think people can have an appreciation of what you just said about oxygen, wheelchairs, etc. That is a major project. 

Mac Kemp: It is.

John Curry: Getting that stuff on that plane. I know the flights I was on, your crew went out there usually the day before and had all that on the plane. 

Mac Kemp: The week before.

John Curry: The week before?

Mac Kemp: It takes a week, we take the hanger over for a week and we actually start getting all that in because the day before, we have ... TSA does a pre-check for us on the equipment. So, they clear all the ... we take 60 wheelchairs, we take cardiac monitors, we take medications of all different descriptions and types. We basically have one of most everything that's in an ambulance that's going in that plane. We have 80 veterans that are the youngest is going to be around 70 and the oldest is going to be around 100. So, we have a lot of medical conditions to be concerned about and we need to make sure that we have every possible option covered as far as medically. 

I can very proudly say, in the six years of flights, we've taken 480 veterans and we've brought back 480 veterans. That's one of the biggest goals is to bring them back to their families, healthy and whole.

John Curry: Well I know the flight that I was on with you where I was working, I thought we were going to lose a couple of them because they were wandering off, and I had to go get them.

Mac Kemp: Yes. We always do. We always have some wanderers and we have some people that even though we tell them to stay off the stairs, they ... use the ramps, they get a little stubborn.

John Curry: We'll come back to that in a minute when we tell them some of the stops.

Mac Kemp: Okay.

John Curry: Let's tease them, let's don't tell them that yet.

Mac Kemp: Okay.

John Curry: Like you said, we get to the hanger, they’ve got to go through TSA.

Mac Kemp: Right, so we get our breakfast, we do TSA, we get all that stuff, we get everybody loaded up, go through the TSA inspection to make sure everybody gets checked off to get onto the flight and we get them on and it's wheels up at 7:00 AM. We've never been late so far. So, 7:00 AM we get ... it's about a two hour flight to Washington. We get to BWI at ... which is ... everybody always asks why do we go to BWI why don't you go to some of the Washington airports and I got because the gates are locked out. 

John Curry: Lets' tell them about BWI. Baltimore Washington International.

Mac Kemp: Baltimore Washington International. So, we get there and we do some things that are surprises that we plan ahead for the veterans to honor them right off the bat when we get there as far as getting to the airport. The main issue is getting off the airplane at this point. Getting them into their wheelchairs, and then getting them to the three buses that are awaiting with the United States park police escort. So, we have everybody ... we have to make sure that everybody's in their team, red, white, and blue and that we've accounted for everybody on the bus.

John Curry: Okay. I've experienced this but, I want to ask you a question. 

Mac Kemp: Absolutely.

John Curry: Share with our audience what happens when the people, the passengers, I got chill bumps. When they see us and they realize what is happening, share with the group what takes place. [crosstalk 00:13:43].

Mac Kemp: The thing is, we plan a lot of things to honor the veterans. But, the best things that happen are the things that are spontaneous that we don't plan. It starts in the airport and as soon as we get off the plane, the people that are just in the airport there to catch a flight realize that these are veterans that have served the United States of America and they spontaneously come up and start shaking hands, hugging necks, clapping and just telling ... just making these veterans feel appreciated and it's great to see the faces of the veterans because they don't get it yet. They don't understand that all of this is for them and that it's spontaneous. But, this happens at every single stop. 

We've had groups of military that were going off to battle in Afghanistan or somewhere else that realized that these older veterans were coming by and instantly just came over and started shaking their hands and acknowledging. We've had school kids, we've had boy scout troupes, we've people in general. 

John Curry: I witnessed some of the younger troupes that were shipping out just standing at attention and coming full salute to the [crosstalk 00:14:58].

Mac Kemp: Yes. Mm-hmm (affirmative). They did that ... [crosstalk 00:15:01].

John Curry: I love seeing it.

Mac Kemp: And these older veterans, that's just an amazing appreciation for them is to feel that connection with current active military so, it's just a ... and we didn't plan that. It was just ... it just happened. There's other things, we've had people, I'll tell you that we had people show up that we didn't expect. We had the Baltimore Ravens' cheerleaders.

John Curry: That was funny.

Mac Kemp: Show up at one and the veterans, particularly the male veterans now, they just absolutely loved that. There's no way around it.

John Curry: Especially when some of the cheerleaders was sitting in their lap in the wheel chair.

Mac Kemp: Absolutely.

John Curry: Encouraging.

Mac Kemp: Some funny moments. But, people like that, different groups, different bands show up. We had ... at the World War II memorial we've had the ... the Royal Scots Dragoon Band from England showed because they knew that we were going to be there and they were in town doing a concert and they came and did a once hour concert at the World War II memorial for us. We didn't plan that. They just heard about it and they came. Things like that have happened almost every flight. We've had the governor meet us at different places, we've had different senators and representatives meet us.

John Curry: The governor met us at Arlington.

Mac Kemp: Yes.

John Curry: Because I was on that flight when he came.

Mac Kemp: The governor's met us multiple times either at the hanger or out in Washington if he's there. 

John Curry: The first flight I remember he greeted us when we came back.

Mac Kemp: Yes.

John Curry: I have a picture with Harry Grant and myself and my grandson.

Mac Kemp: Yes.

John Curry: As a matter of fact it's over there somewhere I think.

Mac Kemp: Yes.

John Curry: Let's talk a little bit about the stops. Well let's have some fun with the park service first. So we get on this bus, buses, and we are led folks, to Washington DC and I forgot, is that about an hour drive?

Mac Kemp: It's about an hour.

John Curry: And we're led by a motorcycle cop and then one in a car. Tell them a little bit about that because there's been some funny things happen on that.

Mac Kemp: The thing is, when we're driving through Washington DC with three buses and a police escort front and back, there are literally thousands and thousands of people that are standing on the side of the road watching saying, "Who the heck are these people?". My answer to them is this is American royalty. These are the veterans that have protected your country. So, they should be honored this way. This turns out that the police escort is one of the highlights of the trip.

John Curry: Yes it is.

Mac Kemp: To watch the police cut through all of this traffic and Washington has lots of traffic, people in Tallahassee think we have traffic. No, not really, not compared to Washington DC. We could not get to the monuments without the park police escort.

John Curry: And we drive right up to the monuments.

Mac Kemp: We do, drive up right to the edge of it which is great because these veterans don't need to go that far. They don't need to have to walk a long way. So, it's great but to have seen them cutting through traffic like butter, just cutting through the middle of it. Cars going everywhere. One of our ... we've had one of the same officers, Officer Larry Holmes, we've had him for every single flight and he will drive his motorcycle up to the back of the car and literally bang on the trunk to wake them up, to make them pull over. There's nothing that makes the veterans just cheer and laugh more than seeing that. But, it's really part of that sense of we are honoring them in many different ways and this is one of the ways because, they are VIPs. Usually those escorts are for the president, or some other movie star or somebody but, these are the people that I think that are just as important.

John Curry: Yep, it's a lot of fun to watch that. All right so let's talk about ... so, we get to downtown Washington DC and talk a little bit about the stops that are made, each of the memorials, so people can get an appreciation of what happens.

Mac Kemp: Well before we stop, the first thing we do is do a short driving tour around Washington because, a lot of these veterans have never been there, they've never seen the capitol, they've never seen the White House, they've never seen the common ... the Jefferson Memorial so, we drive around a little bit so they can see some of those memorials because, we can't go to all those. There's not enough time. So, we're going ... we're there for the war memorials, that's what we're there for. So, the first stop is World War II. World War II is a huge memorial, it's very well done. It has a column for every single state and every territory. They're all out there. It's just an amazing memorial, huge water show that goes on there. In the back of it there's the wall of remembrance which is a star for every 400 ... I think it's every 400 men and women that died in World War II. There were thousands that died in that war.

So, it's an amazing thing, it's a very solemn thing and so we stopped there and spend a couple of hours at the World War II memorial. While we're there we do a group picture with all 168 people on the flight. We get them in one giant shot which is amazing and then we do a short brief ceremony to remember those that were not able to go on the flight or those that have passed on. There's a lot of those memories for these veterans. They remember all their friends from long, long ago that are no longer here with them. There's a lot of memories between there and when we get to Arlington National Cemetery. There's a lot of that memory going on.

So, we go to World War II, we get lunch on the bus as we end. The other thing I'll tell you is ... I have to mention this, Senator Bob Dole is a former Senator, he was a wounded World War II veteran. Amazing guy, he has come to almost every single flight that we've been on and he goes out on Saturday, he greets all the honor flight groups. We're usually not the only one there. Last flight there were nine other Honor Flight groups in Washington the same day that we were. It was pouring rain, and Senator Dole was in his wheelchair with someone holding an umbrella out there. He wasn't going to let some rain stop him from showing up. He's an amazing guy. He shakes hands or hugs necks with every single veteran that comes up.

John Curry: He appreciates them and he poses for photos.

Mac Kemp: And he does. 

John Curry: And it's said to see his state because, again being on three of these things from year to year, you see how his health has been failing him and he's a national treasure himself.

Mac Kemp: He is. Actually, I'll tell you though, he looked better this past flight than he's looked the past three or flights.

John Curry: Really?

Mac Kemp: He looked better.

John Curry: Awesome. That is great.

Mac Kemp: I think it was weird, even in the rain, even in the rain.

John Curry: Well I was in Washington this last flight but I was there for a conference. 

Mac Kemp: Right.

John Curry: So, while you guys are doing that, I was getting a tour of the House of Representatives.

Mac Kemp: Okay.

John Curry: That's why I didn't ... I was going to go crash the party but, they said no, you can't because we got this going on so I couldn't do it.

Mac Kemp: I understand.

John Curry: Couldn't do it.

Mac Kemp: Well, from there we go to a common place in between Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial and the Korean War Memorial. They're all three together in an area there and we spend about two hours and allow the veterans to view all of those memorials. Like I said, we are taking World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam veterans so they all wanna see those memorials and a lot of World War II veterans have sons or daughters that were in Vietnam. So, they want to go there for those. We see those memorials there. They're all impressive in their own way. You just ... you can never forget your first visit to the Vietnam wall. It's just ... it's moving. The things that I've seen on every single trip, the things that people leave at the wall in memory.

This is literally true, I think it's three flights ago, we were walking down and there was a lot of people and I realized everybody's having to walk around something. It was a Harley Davidson Motorcycle. I was like ... I finally saw one of the park police ... not park police but park rangers and I said, "Why is there a motorcycle parked in the middle of this? Why would somebody park there?" They said, "Someone left it as a memory of ... for someone that died". 

John Curry: Wow. 

Mac Kemp: In Vietnam and [inaudible 00:24:13] they actually collect all of the things and they keep them in a warehouse in DC and so that motorcycle is going to be kept in permanent collection. It was essentially a donation. That's an amazing thing to me. It's very emotional, it's very ... it means that much that somebody would give away their prized motorcycle because it was ... it moved them so much. So, we see something different every time. Korean War Memorial, one of the great things two, three trips ago, we a had a guy from close to here, Mr. Dillon realized his picture was on the wall. 

John Curry: I remember that.

Mac Kemp: And he didn't know that his picture had been etched in the wall but it was him and we got his picture now and then and that was something, that's an amazing thing.

John Curry: I want to comment on that, of all the memorials to me and I have it on my wall there, the picture on the wall over there with Harry Grant, to me the most moving memorial is the Korean Memorial. And for the folks who have not seen it, I would encourage you to Google it, looked it up and look at a picture. It is basically life-sized bronze statues of a group of soldiers walking on a patrol and every time I'm there I look at that and ... I went down there again while I was in DC back in May. It is very moving, and I just stand there, I stood there for probably 20 minutes just looking and just like wow, how lifelike.

Mac Kemp: Mm-hmm (affirmative) it is. It's truly amazing.

John Curry: Yeah it is.

Mac Kemp: Each one of them in their own way is moving, in its own way.

John Curry: I'm curious because I served in the Air Force, did you guys go by the Air Force Memorial this time?

Mac Kemp: We did.

John Curry: Fantastic because [crosstalk 00:26:04].

Mac Kemp: We built that in because, it's close and it's great to see ... there's three squares, and it was great to see everybody laying down in the middle of the three squares to take a picture straight up.

John Curry: It's cool to me.

Mac Kemp: I thought somebody had fallen out, of course as a paramedic I was like, "Oh my gosh, there's somebody I'm going to have to go deal with a medical issue" then I realized they were just laying down taking pictures. It was pretty funny.

John Curry: We did that on the ... first time that we stopped was the third flight I was on.

Mac Kemp: Yes.

John Curry: That was the first time because I just it'd just been [crosstalk 00:26:35].

Mac Kemp: We had time.

John Curry: It was the time.

Mac Kemp: We just have enough time but, now we built it in.

John Curry: Good, good for you. That's good.

Mac Kemp: So, we go to the Marine Memorial which is also called the Iwo Jima and we have actually had several gentlemen from Tallahassee that were at Iwo Jima in World War II. They all told me, every one of them that were marines, if we don't go to that memorial, I'm not going. That's the one I want to go to, the others are great but, that's the one I want to go to. So ... and the Marine Memorial was impressive too because you don't realize how big that thing is.

John Curry: It's huge.

Mac Kemp: Until you go and it was just recently renovated, they finished renovations about a month ago. So, the whole area's been renovated so, that's pretty cool. We go to the Air Force Memorial and then final stop before we go back to the airport is Arlington National Cemetery, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This is ... I think, this is just my opinion but I think it's the most solemn ceremony in America. And if you don't appreciate and aren't humbled by that ceremony, you should get out. You should go somewhere else. It's an amazing thing to watch the changing of the guard. It's ... they've been doing this for decades and decades without stopping. It's just ... there's something there, it's almost a religious experience.

John Curry: Well you know, the last flight I was on, you and I were ... I grabbed one of the guards we were talking to and he was one of the guys who served and refused to step down even in the threat of hurricane.

Mac Kemp: Yes.

John Curry: And they were told, you don't have to do this. They said, "Are you kidding me?" They didn't want to miss it. I want you to share this because ... tell the story about what happens when you hear the taps or their scraping their [crosstalk 00:28:36].

Mac Kemp: This is something that we didn't realize on the first flight and we found out later on that ... the thing is, the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown is done the same way every half hour, on and on and has been done this way for decades. They don't change it at all. Except for one small subtle thing that we learned that we didn't know in the first flight but, we learned later. They told us that when they know, the guards, when they are doing their patrol when they are walking back and forth with their weapon that when they know that there are veterans in the crowd, they scrape their heel.

John Curry: The tap.

Mac Kemp: The tap. The scrape it on the ground and when you stop and you know that, then you listen for it. They actually do. So, it's a ... and so we tell the veterans that after we pull up to tell them to look for that. That helps honor them also. They're being honored by these active duty army guards at the Tomb of the Unknown.

John Curry: It's worth commenting on this too about how solemn this is and the people that are there, they don't put up with any shenanigans. You're not going to be talking, you're not going to be fidgeting, you're not going to be making noise. It's not tolerate.

Mac Kemp: No.

John Curry: It is zero tolerance for that. 

Mac Kemp: If you want to look up on the internet, there's dozens and dozens of examples because that's the one thing they will stop for and they will call you out. If you're talking, doing anything that's inappropriate, they have a phrase, some sort of a can phrase that they use but ... it's a sacred ceremony, and that you should be standing and quiet and I'm ... now we've never had a veteran that would [crosstalk 00:30:43].

John Curry: I've never experienced anybody doing anything that [crosstalk 00:30:43].

Mac Kemp: I've not seen it but if you look on the internet [crosstalk 00:30:46].

John Curry: I'm going to check that out. Thanks for that because, the times I've been, three times on the Honor Flight and then one time on my own, I've never witnessed that. When I was in this conference I made sure I went to Arlington. I'm the one if I go to Washington DC, I'm going to that. I just have to.

Mac Kemp: If phones are ringing, which that's one of them or if someone is playing around on their phone or whatever, if they notice that, they call you out.

John Curry: Wow. So folks if you go, hide your phone.

Mac Kemp: Yeah.

John Curry: Turn it off, be quiet. I know on one of the flights we had the pleasure, we were on a tight schedule of actually watching them lower the flag.

Mac Kemp: Yes.

John Curry: I think I was the only one [crosstalk 00:31:31].

Mac Kemp: We saw that on two flights.

John Curry: Did you?

Mac Kemp: On two flights. Been able to schedule that and that was just something extra that we were able to see and that was great to see that ending ceremony at the end of the day.

John Curry: Right. It's amazing, it's amazing stuff. 

Mac Kemp: The thing is though, that's all the Washington flight, the best is yet to come. You know that.

John Curry: What's that?

Mac Kemp: It is I'm coming home.

John Curry: Tell them.

Mac Kemp: Coming home.

John Curry: Tell them what happens when we land.

Mac Kemp: Well, when ... after we finish at Arlington, we have an hours ride back to the airport so, that's usually a time for ... to rest and relax and the veterans are usually talking to each other and telling stories and things that they've never told in their entire lives to anybody before. So, we get back to the airport [crosstalk 00:32:23].

John Curry: Let me interrupt you for a second. I remember you saying one time, telling some group, I forget where because I've heard you speak so many times about how you anticipated everybody falling asleep on the bus or on the plane ride back, tell them what really happens.

Mac Kemp: Actually, the guardians, they always tell me they are praying that the veteran will fall asleep and it has never happened.

John Curry: Let me tell you something folks, if you've not served as a guardian, you should check into that. It's hard now because most of the veterans want a family member to be their guardian, I've been honored to serve as a guardian to two of the people but, it's work. It's work because you're responsible for that person the whole day and taking care of that person but it is such a joy and such a privilege to do that because it's like Mac said earlier, this is a big deal, this is not taken lightly. It's a lot of fun getting to know that person.

Mac Kemp: It is.

John Curry: And others around you.

Mac Kemp: We tell the guardians, don't plan anything on Sunday because you're just going to want to sleep and relax.

John Curry: That's right.

Mac Kemp: Because you will be worn out.

John Curry: I slept to probably 10:30 or 11:00 the next day.

Mac Kemp: Absolutely. You will be tired, you will be tired.

John Curry: And I'm a pretty fit guy but I was tired.

Mac Kemp: But we do have about a two hour flight on the way back. We feed them, give them supper on the way back. We do a couple other things where we honor them along the way. The best part is, is when ... we get back at 9:40 at night, it's pitch black at Tallahassee airport, but when the plane turns and you can see the brightly lit hanger, you always hear what are all those people doing there? That's the great thing about Tallahassee is that there are friends, there are family, there's boy scout troupes, there's military units, there's people from the Tallahassee swing band or whatever organization that's got a [crosstalk 00:34:12].

John Curry: High school kids come [crosstalk 00:34:13].

Mac Kemp: High school kids, we've got just all kinds of people that love veterans. We've had easily from anywhere from 1500 to 2500 people at a time to come out at night and different times and just to welcome the veterans home. They hold flags, there's lots of veterans groups. The patriate guard, lots of other folks that are out there from the military that are all decked out in their uniforms and different things. There's ... we have what's called a water arch salute that is provided by the Tallahassee fire department where they actually shoot water over the top of the airplane as we come in. That's an old World War II tradition to honor people. We give them little gifts and prizes, but the greatest thing is that there's just thousands of people there to shake their hands, pat them on the back, hug their necks. Welcome them back home, and thank them for the service that they provided.

So, they've hopefully had a very long, wonderful day and we hear this all the time, and I'm not making this up, the veterans tell us it was the best day of my entire life and I get worried when they stand next to their wife or something and ... wasn't your wedding day? Or maybe when your child was born? But they say ... this means a lot to them and we have had veterans that I know have been buried in their Honor Flight T-shirts, we don't sell those. We only give those to the veterans that get them.

John Curry: That's the gold color ones.

Mac Kemp: The gold colored shirts. We have had veterans that instead of a flag on top of their casket, have requested that T-shirt.

John Curry: Tell them how they get one like I'm wearing. These aren't given away either.

Mac Kemp: These are ... no, we don't give away the blue guardian T-shirts. The only way that you can get one of those is if you have been a guardian on one of our flights.

John Curry: Mines not for sale.

Mac Kemp: We don't sell those except we would ... actually we don't even sell them if a guardian needed one, we'd provide, veterans, we'd provide extras but, we never sell them.

John Curry: You do have some that are for sale.

Mac Kemp: We do, they're just regular gray shirts with our logo on the front and back. But, we love to get advertising there but, we don't sell the veteran or the guardian shirts. You see ... and we thought well, this is just a one day trip, we're just taking them up to see some memorials that was all it is. It turns out to be much more than that.

John Curry: Big time. I was telling a friend last week that I was going to be interviewing you and he said ... for the podcast and he said what in the world does Honor Flight have to do with retirement planning. You do retirement, you're a secure retirement podcast. I said, "Think about it, these are people, all of them are retired. Most of the people that are volunteering, most of the people that are serving as guardians have retired and they're doing things to have other interests". I said, "When you retire, it's not just about having enough money for retirement, what are you going to be doing? What's your health like? Are you able to go on a flight or a cruise?" So, it's all encompassing.

Mac Kemp: Yes.

John Curry: It's not just about planning because the money side, that's why we want diverse topics when we do these.

Mac Kemp: People are very passionate about veterans, I mean we found that over and over and over, it amazes me how supportive. We have a lot of people that are just constantly checking in with us to say, "Is everything going okay? Do you need anything? Is there anything that we can do to help?" And it's not about me. It's not about the board, it's not about even the Honor Flight organization. It's about the veterans.

John Curry: Absolutely.

Mac Kemp: And that's what it has to be about.

John Curry: And some people listen to this may be skeptical and say, "Yeah, every charity says that" but, I'll tell you folks, the people that I have been involved with, with Honor Flight, is nothing but good quality people who care and it's not self-serving. It's, hey, what can I do? I've seen people who ... well, I remember one time I needed help with the wheelchairs. People just come grab them, they help. The one where you had me working so hard, that's where you wore me out. 

Let's do this, let's talk about how people get involved. Lets ... I know we’ve got to wrap up here in about five minutes ... three to five minutes, let's just talk a little bit about how can people get involved? Obviously donations are appreciated and needed.

Mac Kemp: Sure.

John Curry: And I know when I was helping with some of the fundraising I would ask people, help me send at least one veteran on this flight. And at the time it was $500.00, is it still about that?

Mac Kemp: It's actually gone up a little bit because the cost to charter a flight has just gone up astronomically. We're paying much more than we originally started with six years ago, so it's probably more closer to $700.00.

John Curry: $700.00, would you mind sharing with our listeners what it costs to fund this thing each year?

Mac Kemp: No, it's a little over $100,000.00 to send the flight. This last flight to actually charter the airplane for one day was just over $93,000.00. Then we charter the buses, we pay food for the veterans and the guardians for all three, actually guardians do pay their own way though so, that should be clarified. These people whether family or not, they really want to go on this flight and so, they pay their own way.

John Curry: Yeah and that was $500.00, is it still $500.00?

Mac Kemp: Still $500.00.

John Curry: Okay. [crosstalk 00:39:49].

Mac Kemp: But, that doesn't cover all the costs. But that helps defray the costs.

John Curry: But, $500.00 folks is a bargain so, if you want to go, the $500.00 is well worth it.

Mac Kemp: It'd be a great day and everything's included for that. So, the ways you can help is donate money, donate your time, we need volunteers, this is 100% volunteer organization. The board are all volunteers and then we have a group of probably 50, 60 folks that come out and volunteer and help us get ready for each flight and do different events for us. We've got the Veterans Day Parade coming up and we'll have school kids, we'll have different other folks that have volunteered that will go out and hand out flags to the crowd and just represent Honor Flight. We'll have some of our veterans in the trucks with us that will be waving at the crowd as they pass. They go by. They love that, these guys love to get out and I say guys, it's men and women.

John Curry: Yes.

Mac Kemp: That come from all three wars. The other thing that you could do is you could be a guardian. And a guardian again is a commitment for all day plus you have to come to an orientation. Two hour orientation just so you know exactly what's expected and how to make sure that everybody gets there around safely. So, guardians, volunteering, donations and then coming out and helping us at our events, different things like that. So, there's a wide variety of things that are always going on.

John Curry: I'm amazed at how this community has reached out to support Honor Flight. As we were getting ready, having lunch earlier, you were sharing with us that you send out a request, a plea for $3000.00 but you didn't get $3000.00. What did you get?

Mac Kemp: No, we got way over $26,000.00. It was because the wheels on the wheelchairs had degraded and fallen apart and we had to replace all of them. It was a $3000.00 job just for the parts and then we had the Leon County Sheriff's office team that was going to do the work for us. But, we had to buy the tools to put them on with. We had to buy the tires. When we put the plea out, the Tallahassee and North Florida Region, actually also South Georgia, really just came through. They just were amazing and that's going to help us get this next flight off the ground.

John Curry: That's great, that's great. How are you doing on fundraising so far for the next flight?

Mac Kemp: We're doing pretty good right now. We're doing pretty good, we do have some donations coming up from the city and the county, they provide some small ... some portion, donation. We're doing pretty good right now but, any donation's going to help us get more veterans.

John Curry: Okay, tell people how to get in touch with you. [crosstalk 00:42:36].

Mac Kemp: Oh yeah I forgot, this is the most important part, send us your veterans. 

John Curry: Right.

Mac Kemp: That's the most important part. If you know a veteran from World War II, Korea, or Vietnam, that would like to go on this flight, the cost 100% free. We will not even accept a donation from a veteran before they go.

John Curry: Not the first year anyway.

Mac Kemp: Not the first year.

John Curry: Now once they've been, we'll take their money.

Mac Kemp: We'll take it. But before they go, they can't donate. Because we want them to feel honored and appreciated, 100% of the way. So please go to our website at www.honorflighttallahassee.org and you find our applications there for veterans. Print those off and have these veterans send them out. Fill them out and send them in, please.

John Curry: That's great. I'm just pleased to be a part of it with you and want to get even more involved but, Honor Flight's just been a great organization. But, I do want my gold shirt so, I'm a Vietnam veteran so, I want to go.

Mac Kemp: You are, you can.

John Curry: But, I want to go, but I tell while I'm being honest with you, we talked about it before kidding around but, I would feel guilty taking a seat from someone else.

Mac Kemp: I hear that from every single veteran that goes.

John Curry: Because the other person ... there are other people who are more deserving and I've got my two guardian T-shirts for going and I've worked on the flight and will continue doing so but, I do want to go.

Mac Kemp: You remember that General Snowden?

John Curry: Yeah.

Mac Kemp: And I tried to talk him to going, if anyone ever deserved to take this trip.

John Curry: It was him.

Mac Kemp: It was him.

John Curry: Absolutely. 

Mac Kemp: And he absolutely refused and he said save my spot for somebody else and he never went with us and I was the one that wished he would go.

John Curry: Sure. 

Mac Kemp: But, he never would because he wanted somebody else to have that spot. Amazing guy.

John Curry: Mac Kemp thank you for all you do with Honor Flight.

Mac Kemp: Thank you.

John Curry: And thank you for being with us today.

Mac Kemp: Thank you for your support. We appreciate you very much.

John Curry: You're welcome, it's an honor to be part of Honor Flight and help out in any way we can and people please, if you have questions, call me, email me, I'll help any way I can but, this is a worthy cause. Again Mac, thank you so much.

Mac Kemp: Thank you.

Speaker 3: If you would like to know more about John Curry Services you can request a complimentary information package by visit 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, Master's in Science and Financial Services, Certified in Long Term Care. Registered Representative and Financial Advisor, Park Avenues 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 un-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 judiciary capacity. Please contact one of our financial professions 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 and subsidiaries, agents, or employees cannot 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 2005-20018. 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.

# 2018-67774 Exp 10/2020

Paying for Healthcare in Retirement

You can have all the money in the world in retirement. But if you don’t have your health… well, you really can’t enjoy it. Part of that, says Bill Kepper, a physician for 40+ years, is being a good patient throughout your life, following doctor’s orders. 

But as important is making sure you can get the medications, procedures, and other things you need as you get older… while you’re depending on your retirement income and retirement accounts to pay for it.

Bill shares his thoughts on the healthcare system and how to best take care of yourself.

Listen in to discover:

  • Habits you can adopt now for better long-term health

  • The importance of staying active – physically and mentally

  • Fitness and nutrition habits anybody can adopt

  • Tips for adjusting to more time at home in retirement

  • And more

Listen now…

Episode Transcript:

John Curry: Hi, this is John Curry. Welcome to our podcast today. I'm sitting across the table here with my good friend and personal physician Bill Kepper. Bill, thank you for joining us today.

Bill Kepper: A pleasure to be here.

John Curry: I have known you for over 40 years, you've been my personal physician all these years. My wife introduced us, in fact, before we ever got married, and we started working with you.

Bill Kepper: And you've been a client of mine for I don't know how long, maybe the same length of time.

John Curry: So, we have a professional relationship, but I have to tell you, folks, we have a personal relationship, 'cause I consider Dr. Bill Kepper to be not only a great physician, but a good friend, a counselor, and a good confident. Bill, what I want to do today is focus on a theme called Health and Wealth. People are so worried about their money, worried about the stock market, do they take their money away, how do I save more money, financial advisors tell them maximize your 401k. My position is, after 43 years of doing this, it's nice to have some wealth, but I'm seeing a lot of clients who don't have good health when they retire. They're not gonna get to enjoy that money very long. So, I want us to talk a little bit about health issues, but I would like you to start ... Please, just tell us your background and why in the world you decided to become a medical doctor.

Bill Kepper: Well, I grew up in the suburbs of New Orleans out by Lake Pontchartrain in a family of three, being the caboose in that family. Mom and Dad, attorney dad and mom somewhat of a local socialite with all of her old Newcomb buddy friends and housewife homemaker. She had joined lots of different clubs. We enjoyed a fairly idyllic lifestyle in a brick, one story, three bedroom house, and had family same last name in New Orleans saying my mom was a Yankee from Shreveport, Louisiana.

John Curry: A Yankee, huh?

Bill Kepper: So, after having gone through high school at a private school in New Orleans called [French 00:02:16], where I was forced to learn Latin and French, decided to go into premed curriculum at LSU. So, I went north for college, north and a little bit west. Met my wife on a blind date, first football game blind date between fraternity and sorority in 1968 on October 5th, did not know she was gonna be my wife, but I was hoping from that day on that that might happen.

John Curry: Wow, so you knew right away.

Bill Kepper: Well, she liked me and that was kind of unusual. I was a bit of a nerd back then. I might still be a bit of a nerd, but nobody has the guts to tell me.

John Curry: There afraid you might give them the wrong prescription.

Bill Kepper: Or the wrong exam.

John Curry: That's funny, that's funny. Talk a little bit about your experience as a medical doctor. You've been practicing how long? Forty years, forty-two?

Bill Kepper: Well, it depends on whether you count what I did in residency in 1976, started the residency program, got my Florida license a year after my first GGY1, post graduate year one. So, I started practicing in '77 with a license, but '79 had my own private practice. That continued to thrive for a long period of years such that in the early '90s, mid '90s, we decided to band together against the powers of the hospitals and the insurance companies to form an organization called Tallahassee Primary Care Associates, primarily family doctors and pediatricians. We later added specialists to our group. I enjoyed being a member of that organization up until 2014, when I retired to go from that organization to go work at Southwood with Hospital Corporation of America, [inaudible 00:04:18] Medical Clinic.

John Curry: And now you're fully retired.

Bill Kepper: Fully retired as of August 31st.

John Curry: August 31st just last year.

Bill Kepper: Last year.

John Curry: So, we'll come back around to the healthcare issues in a moment, but from your perspective of being [inaudible 00:04:34], I've known you personally all these years. You've worked very hard, you didn't just spend five minutes with a patient and run them out, you worked long hours, you loved what you did for a living, it wasn't just work for you, it was a calling.

Bill Kepper: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: How have you adjusted to this thing called retirement?

Bill Kepper: It's interesting because I could honestly say that the first couple of months of retirement felt like an extended vacation. Hunting season ensued, as it usually does in the wintertime, and I enjoyed spending more time in the woods than I had been able to for the last several years. But now it's seeming like a little bit of planning on my part for activity would be helpful, though I do have to recognize those plans are subject to change based on still being married to the sweetheart I met in 1968.

John Curry: So, what are you trying to say, that Sharon has her own views about what to do?

Bill Kepper: Sharon has her schedule about what she wants to do, and I should understand that I will be needing to work around that schedule.

John Curry: So, it sounds to me like that you went from having one boss on the work side, to now you've got a full-time boss on the home front.

Bill Kepper: Well, yeah, and I've always had a full-time boss on the home front. I just wasn't home as often as I am now.

John Curry: Let's talk about that for a second. Do you find, or did you find initially anyway, that it took some adjusting because you did work such long hours and then finally you're at home? Did you find there was any type of stress going on there?

Bill Kepper: Well, it was interesting because about the same time I was retiring I was seeing my pulmonologist, who was confirming the fears that many of my primary care doctor and cardiologists thought I might have developed sleep apnea. So, the adjustment was getting used to sleep apnea machine, CPAP, AutoPap, which was not at all difficult, and I began sleeping much better, dreaming really interesting dreams and then waking up to the same disappointed every day is the same day.

John Curry: That sounds like that movie "Groundhog Day" just a little bit in there to me. What are some of the issues that you noticed as a doctor treating your patients that prevented people from truly enjoying their day to day life and maybe even would hurt them going into retirement years?

Bill Kepper: Well, over the years ... and I think I lived through a fairly marvelous period of innovation in medicine. When I first started in medicine there was very few open heart surgeries being done in only certain selective centers in the world, the Charity Hospital associated with Tulane Med School, they had not done any coronary bypass surgeries while I was in med school there. They were doing them down the road at [inaudible 00:07:37] Clinic, but they were not doing them at Charity Hospital. Valvular surgeries were being done, you know, on a regular basis, but Clinic and some of the folks there were majorly involved in helping to restore lives after coronary artery disease happened. 

We went through a period where we evolved a whole lot of very effective treatments for hypertension, so I saw a reduction significantly in the people who were under medical care not getting nearly as many strokes as they had been getting percentage wise, not having the younger age nearly as often that would take people out of a period of vitality or early retirement. 

Then coronary artery disease started taking a significant hit with good mediations to adequately control the cholesterol levels. This presupposes the patients would actually go to the doctor, get diagnosed, take the medication, and continue to take the medication if they were gonna get the benefits of the changes in medicine during that time.

John Curry: Well, I can speak to that personally because I had open heart surgery, triple bypass to be exact, in July, July 10, 2008. I can't remember how many times I complained about the medications that you had me taking, and you explained to me in a very nice matter, "Look, these are important for these reasons. You can ...", 'cause I started working on my diet and my exercise and started taking these things seriously. But I can see where it would be very easy once you've made improvements to think, I don't need that medication anymore. 'Cause I'm the kind of person I don't even take an aspirin.

Bill Kepper: But, John, you're the kind of person who will get 100%, 110% into a self rehab program and think that's gonna solve the problem.

John Curry: True.

Bill Kepper: Sometimes it does.

John Curry: Well, it's made a big difference.

Bill Kepper: It's made percentages of difference for you, but the difference is you don't have to compartmentalize one or the other. You can combine both.

John Curry: Absolutely, and that was the take away for me, that you need to do everything you can do for yourself, eating right, exercise, relaxing, not being so stressed out, but take advantage of modern technology and modern, especially medical technology, and use the pills and the treatments that are available to improve yourself. That's really what you just described, isn't it, is taking advantage of the technology?

Bill Kepper: Yeah, if in doing so you make your doctor look good.

John Curry: I like that, especially if you follow directions, right?

Bill Kepper: You're still here.

John Curry: That's right. I'm still here, still here. Let's talk a little bit about the future of healthcare in our country. People are concerned about that. The costs are going up and up. All of the stuff about so called Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, some people love it, some hate it. To the extent you're willing to talk about your professional [inaudible 00:10:41] in this sense, how do you feel about it? I mean, is it good care, bad care, as a whole? What's your view as a retired physician?

Bill Kepper: Well, let me preface what I'm gonna say or maybe change the response a little bit. Our conversations recently have been more not about the effectiveness or lack of effectiveness in healthcare but the availability of health care and the financing of healthcare.

John Curry: Okay.

Bill Kepper: When people start getting on TV and start talking about healthcare, they're talking about how to pay for it. Who's gonna have access to it, and who's gonna pay for those folks' access to it? So, during the Obamacare origination and thought process, that's what the whole question was to be resolved. I think that medical care as far as capacity to develop new and novel therapies has gone on pretty much unabated. Every one of those has come out extraordinarily more expensive than we hoped they would, and they stay expensive because bit pharma requires a whole lot of money to run its engine. Is big pharma our friend? The answer is, I think, on an individual basis big pharma is our friend, but on the standpoint of what big pharma has done to our economy, it has separated us into a group of haves and have nots. I have an insurance policy that will allow me to pay for any $300 dollar a month medication, or I don't have an insurance policy that will allow me to pay for a $300 dollar a month medication. I understand that creates sometimes vital differences in outcomes.

John Curry: Yes. You said something very interesting there that caught my ear. So, the quality of the care is there, that's not really a question I don't think in this country 'cause the people in your profession are caring individuals. So, it comes down to affordability: Can I afford the care while I'm working, but especially is causing a lot of angst when people retire. I'll tell you, when we're meeting with clients either in number one or two, sometime they'll switch the order, is: I'm worried about cost of healthcare, and I'm worried about running out of money, in other words losing income, and they'll flip flop. Some will be number one, some will be number two. But we're seeing that those are the primary concerns. How do I pay for my health insurance in retirement, my healthcare, rather, and will I run out of money. Will I spend all the money I have in my retirement accounts and be broke?

Bill Kepper: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: And you look at that, and as a retirement planner, we have to help find ways so people can finance that care. It's becoming more and more difficult. We see people, Bill, who are paying more for prescriptions each month out of pocket than they paid for a mortgage payment. That's insane.

Bill Kepper: Yeah.

John Curry: I don't know what the answer is. I'm certainly not a politician, so I don't know what the answer is. I'm not an economist, but I look at that and as a planner I don't want to just talk about people investing money or having life insurance. How can I help them have a better quality of life today while they're working, but especially in retirement? Because this is something I've been doing for 43 years, I hope to do it for another 20 or 30, well long as I live. I keep telling people I'm gonna be like George Burns and live to be 100 years old and keep on working, but on my terms. Don't get me wrong. I don't want to work every day, and I don't work every day, but I want to have fun.

Bill Kepper: Sure, Gracie.

John Curry: Okay. I don't think he's buying that. Okay. Talk a little bit about the biggest issues you think hurt us from the standpoint of enjoying our life. Is it high blood pressure? Hypertension? What are the things that you think, based on what you've experienced, are the things that are getting to us?

Bill Kepper: I think probably overcommitment to things that may or may not have value is the biggest stuff that gets to us. As far as healthcare concerns, you know, we've done a pretty good job of reducing stroke, we've done a fair job of reducing cardiovascular disease in general in those people who are under treatment. The hypertension has reduced the likelihood of rupture of aneurysms as well as having blockages in major arteries that supply organs that we cannot afford to damage without loss of capacity. So, you know, that's pretty good. We're still having the major battle with trying to find out where the genesis of cancer is and how we can do something to stop that in its tracks before it gets started, or preferably early recognition and effective treatment for that. A lot of cancer remedies are still pretty hard to deal with and leave us with loss of function at times.

John Curry: What are the things you think we should be doing as individuals to give ourselves the best chance of having a long life?

Bill Kepper: Wear your seatbelt.

John Curry: Okay.

Bill Kepper: Quit smoking.

John Curry: Okay. I wasn't expecting those.

Bill Kepper: Well, people die of those things.

John Curry: Yeah.

Bill Kepper: Avoid large crowds of people during the wintertime, so you don't get the flu. Airports.

John Curry: Stay away.

Bill Kepper: Stay away or bring your hand cleanser or wear gloves, you know, the types of things that we can do for preventive. Gone are the days, I guess, hopefully, where we worry about on a daily basis thermonuclear attack. Still remember diving underneath desks, and I realize that was a ridiculous posture to die in.

John Curry: Yes, I remember that.

Bill Kepper: Yeah, the Cuban Missile Crisis was ... I mean, not as big in New Orleans as it was in Florida, but it was big enough to make an impact on us. But I think, you know, living with consistency in your life habits, not jumping after everything that's on certain TV shows that may be or may be not run by a knowledgeable doctor.

John Curry: Talk a little bit about the things that we can do from a fitness and nutrition focus. Is there too much emphasis on that, or is it truly just the way I am is the way God made me?

Bill Kepper: Okay, so you're asking me to say, what should I do not what do I do?

John Curry: Okay, well, your words not mine.

Bill Kepper: Having been able to get off the rat race, the treadmill of work, I've been able to enjoy much more recreational time. I'm the type of person that will not go to a gym and exercise, 'cause that looks like work. But I will go out and walk the dog. I will go out and decide to park a little bit farther away from the hunting stand, so that I get to carry my equipment closer and maybe increase my chance of being successful. I will be that person who doesn't mind the fact that this self propelled portion of my old lawn mower is broken, so I have to actually push the thing, because I think there's value in that. So, getting physical activity rather than exercise, I like to say, because to me it makes more sense. It's getting closer to that time of the year where you can smell the cut grass. When I finish cutting my half acre yard, which has got a house on it so it's not a whole half acre, it gives me a sense of accomplishment to know I've done something, in a way my own little cardiac stress test to prove that I can still have the capacity to enjoy life. I enjoy fishing. I'd rather fish from a kayak than I would a sailboat, 'cause it's too much work to sail a boat. It's more efficient from a kayak.

John Curry: I love my kayak.

Bill Kepper: Plus there's some exercise associated with that, as long as you don't hurt your back by getting off the top of your care.

John Curry: Right.

Bill Kepper: But keeping yourself reasonably trim and fit is good things, and some centering type of things where you expand your knowledge as well as your capacity, physical capacity, read a good book, find something worthwhile to do for the sake of others, and volunteerism, those sorts of things add value and I think years to life. Many, many years ago I was reading in what we call a throw away journal, which is one that has more drug adds and fewer well thought out articles, but there was an article written about the benefits of jogging. This person who was in Scandinavia somewhere had done this extensive study about how much longer people live if they have the active lifestyle of running on a regular basis. It was roughly equivalent to the amount of time they spent running. So, I got from that, if you like to run, go. You'll live longer doing what you like to do. If you find it onerous, then you'll live longer doing something onerous. So, a lot of my choices are with activity other than exercise, doing something I enjoy doing.

John Curry: I agree totally. I happen to go to the gym three days a week, but I enjoy walking. I take long walks, I mean sometimes like an hour. Go the park, enjoy being outside. Sometimes at hunting camp, even during non hunting season go out there and just walk.

Bill Kepper: That's the best time to get out and walk, non hunting season.

John Curry: That's right, otherwise you might get shot. Look, there's a big old deer. Let's get him. But what it does for me, it not only gives me the physical activity, but it also works on the brain, letting the brain decompress some. I'm reading more and more things that say that the key to having an active life in retirement, in your 70s, 80s, and 90s ... Our oldest client is 100 years old, excuse me just turned 101 I think. She's very alert, she reads, she studies. So, let's talk a little bit about the importance of exercising the brain, too, not just the body. What does medical science tell us about that?

Bill Kepper: Medical science would say that that's one of the better things you can do to prevent Alzheimer's, is stay engaged in problem solving types of activities, puzzles, those sorts of things, reading about new idea, perhaps even learning a foreign language, though I don't know that it's necessary now that I've gotten English and Redneck and Cajun and all those things throw at me, along with a smattering of French. But to me-

John Curry: Ha, Redneck.

Bill Kepper: ... the key issue is, with me and my wife, my wife will often ask me what I'm thinking, and I'll often not be aware that I'm thinking about anything in particular, but I'm just you know letting my mind wander when I'm out there in the woods or doing something like that. I find it very beneficial for me and hopefully for others that at times when I catch myself doing that, I say, how could I better be putting my mind to use? I will spend some time in prayer. To me, that's centering because it helps me to connect with the God who I think created me, and the God who I think has called me to come live with Him for eternity.

John Curry: Very good. Talk a little bit about some of the things that you've done, since you brought up your faith there. You have done a lot of work over the years on different missions. I know one of those was a trip to Haiti. Would you talk a little bit about what you've done as far as ... I know, sometimes you don't like talking about it, but to the extent that you're willing to share, just a little bit of some of the things you've done, because there's more to life than just work, work, work.

Bill Kepper: Well, some of the best part of work ... and John you may recognize this  too because you've been involved in volunteerism with honor flights and that sort of stuff ... is what you give of your capacity to people who can't possibly repay you.

John Curry: Yes.

Bill Kepper: So, what Haiti, which is one of the times I reflect back most to some of the original 9/11, I started the first day at short term mission project in Haiti at a village I had been to several times previously.

John Curry: I never knew that. So you were there when the attack occurred?

Bill Kepper: Yeah. Somewhere around 10:00 in the morning, we were in the midst of seeing our 20 or 30th patient in the clinic building, and our pastor, who came by with new technology for us at the time, cell phone, said that the United States was under attack. Of course, incredulity was the first emotion I had. "No, there's no way. United States couldn't be under attack. We've got too many satellites, we've got too many things covered." The attack came from within.

John Curry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bill Kepper: We found out as much as we could out there, and so I gathered the people together who were volunteers at the clinic. We had nurses and lab techs and just plain volunteers to help us with the pharmacy and that sort of stuff. I don't remember which other doctor was there. I said, "Guys, we have just heard some terrible news about the United States under attack. We won't be able to find out more about that till we get back to our compound tonight where we can turn on cable news network and see more about it. We've got a clinic to run. So, let's have a period of prayer and reflection on what might be going on for our loved ones back home in the United States, knowing that we're here for a purpose and reason, and we need to accomplish that purpose and reason." 

Turned out the end of the week, after a lot of prayer and my concern that I might have to buy a Haitian schooner that they use for bringing food substances, et cetera, from the north part of the country down to the south, and back and navigate my way back to the United States, we were able to board an airplane and take our trip back a few hours too late to make [inaudible 00:25:35], but I think we were one of the first flights into Miami that Sunday afternoon, to come back to the United States. That was a weird time to be in Haiti, when all of this stuff was going down and all the airplanes were shut down and that sort of stuff. Didn't stop me from going. It just made me think about, you know, who's in charge and who has to respond to that person in charge, with faith, in order to be able to continue to do what you do. 

You know, the first time I went to Haiti I was afraid that I might not come back. That fear had disappeared by the time that 9/11 happened, but it came back pretty quick. And as being responsible for the care of the other people that I went, I didn't share that responsibility by myself. Somebody else was guiding the trip, too, and that person was the one that compelled me to go to begin with.

John Curry: What are you doing now in retirement or what will you be doing since you have all the extra time on your hands? What does retirement look like going forward, say, just look out, say, five years?

Bill Kepper: I think I plan on traveling, putting some of that money that you helped me save up over the period of time to good use, and seeing part-

John Curry: Enjoy it while you can.

Bill Kepper: ... part of the world where, you know, I haven't seen both ... No, traveling our nation as well as maybe international travel. My wife had not ever flown before we got married, and we flew to Jamaica for our honeymoon, but she's flown since then. She doesn't mind the experience too much. We were fortunate to have a son who competed in international rowing and got to see parts of Europe and parts of Asia and South America as a part of following him around as crew parents. So, that was great for travel, but since he's retired from that we need to have our own impetus to get us out of Tallahassee and move out and see some things.

John Curry: Very good, very good. You mentioned hunting earlier. How important do you think it is when people come to this thing called retirement, that they have hobbies, interests, to keep them busy in retirement. Or have you been retired long enough yet to know?

Bill Kepper: I think it adds value to what you can do as having a set point in time where you're gonna go out and do something you enjoy. If you haven't figured out what you like yet, you need to start figuring that out so that you can say, "I might want to be working with stained glass." "I might want to, you know, take up golf." Oh, lord help you. If more people were satisfied with their golf score at the end of their golf game, I might have thought about taking it up, but they're a bunch of unhappy folks.

John Curry: Right, angry, and slapping a little ball around. I'm one of those.

Bill Kepper: As well as they wanted to do. I've got fishing and never brought home any fish, not very often but on occasion, but I still had a good time fishing. To me, hunting and fishing are those things. They add value because it gets you out of the rat race to a certain extent. Yes, it costs a little bit of money, but I think the money is well spent. I think you could buy fish almost as fresh as I get to bring home and cook them up and they might taste pretty much similar, but there is some degree of benefit. I don't know, maybe I'm going back to the caveman times, hunter/gatherer, taking home, bringing home at least the main course so you can enjoy your vegetables even more.

John Curry: Absolutely. I started deer hunting again this year with my brother, my son, and my grandson. I quit for years, wouldn't do it. I did it because of them. Some of the best time has been just sitting around the campfire, just grilling some meat on the grill, sometimes it was chilly, and just talking. Having a good time and just being with the family. I didn't care if I shot a deer or not. In fact, I had an opportunity to kill several, and I didn't even shoot one. Everybody else did. They said, "Why didn't you shoot a deer?" I said, "I was just enjoying sitting there and relaxing." Cold at times, but I had not done that in 10 years. I did other things, but to me it's gone back full circle to where I enjoy doing that, 'cause it gets me outside, like you said, walking to the stand, park the truck down the road, walk farther. I get my exercise, get outside closer to God. It's just great.

Bill Kepper: You even get to see the day begin or the day end-

John Curry: Or both.

Bill Kepper: ... from an elevated position. That's not a bad thing.

John Curry: I agree totally. I agree. But you're right, it's very therapeutic. We're getting close to the end here. To kind of wind down, what suggestions or advice would you offer to anyone who's listening to this from the standpoint of this theme about health and wealth. You're working so hard to make money, 'cause you've gotta have a job, pay the bills. You're trying to save for retirement. But, what advice would you offer to tie the importance of taking care of your health now and a plan of action at the end when you go into retirement, to be able to truly enjoy your wealth? What would you say?

Bill Kepper: Good question. We all know the story about pro football players who have extraordinarily good health through high school and college, maybe a few surgeries, do carpentry work on them, and yet because of the series of concussions that they might have had or something like that, don't get to experience a full senior life. I think it's thereby good to put on your helmet, even if you're not a football player, of protection, so when you ride a bike you wear a helmet. When you go rollerblading, maybe you wear all those guards that I had on when I fell down on Harriman Circle one day. I hurt my pride, but that was about it. Didn't put the roller blades back on either.

John Curry: I'm not going to, so you were braver than I am. I'm not going to put roller blades on my feet, or roller skates either.

Bill Kepper: I had a friend that did it, and he loved it. I thought, "Well, I'll see ..." You know this about guys. Guys will buy sporting equipment, which will then encourage them to use the sporting equipment 'cause they don't to pay for something and not use it, and then they go out and try the sport. You know, vis a vis all the people with the golf clubs. So, I think that, you know, there's a little bit of that in me.

But I think keeping yourself physically healthy is a lot easier than reclaiming health after you've already lost a crucial function. So, by being cautious and, like I said, use reason in which you try to do things. Don't go out and try to run a marathon without training for it. Don't necessarily think that everybody has to run a marathon. I remember in my running career, which I cut short on purpose sort of like Forrest Gump, but way before he did, I ran a 15k one time. I said, "That's pretty much what I want to do, is run a 15k." But I didn't want to run a second 15k, because I had other things to do.

John Curry: Right. But at least you tried it.

Bill Kepper: Yeah.

John Curry: That's a good place to come to a close here. How important is it to try new things instead of just saying, "Hey, this is the way it is. I'm not gonna change." 

Bill Kepper: Well, there is that ropes course down there at Tallahassee Museum. I've thought about going down there and trying that. 

John Curry: It is fun, I've done it.

Bill Kepper: Yeah, I know a person who was a principle in designing it and putting it up. That's Dr. Ben [inaudible 00:33:42] son, Lucas. Yeah, I'm gonna do that. But I think it's important to try new things to challenge yourself, not to get caught up in the humdrum of the usual and the always. Go somewhere that you are intrigued with that's not particularly dangerous. [inaudible 00:34:05] going to the Ozarks 'cause you've seen both other mountain ranges in the United States, but you haven't been to the Ozarks yet. You might find a diamond there, something like that.

John Curry: Very good. So, just get out and do something different.

Bill Kepper: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: Do something different. Well, my friend, thank you so much for taking the time to share your stories. It's been a pleasure sitting here with you.

Bill Kepper: And likewise.

John Curry: Thanks, Bill.

#2018-59261 Exp 6/20

The Two Most Important Elements of Financial Planning

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

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

We also talk about…

  • How to overcome the Main Street versus Wall Street divide

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

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

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

  • And more

Listen now…

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

Ron Insana: Hey John, how are you?

John Curry: Good. Good to see you.

Ron Insana: You too. Thank you.

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

Ron Insana: We're in a hall.

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

Ron Insana: A hotel hallway.

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

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

John Curry: Good old FNN.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ron Insana: Absolutely.

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

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

John Curry: Everything's a deadline.

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

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

John Curry: And quickly.

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

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

Ron Insana: Correct, no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Curry: No doubt. No doubt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ron Insana: I see that, yeah.

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

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

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

John Curry: Interesting.

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

John Curry: Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Curry: They shot each other back then.

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

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

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

John Curry: Right.

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

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

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

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

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

Ron Insana: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Have some liquidity.

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

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

Ron Insana: Yeah.

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

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

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

Ron Insana: It really was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Right.

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

John Curry: Sure.

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

John Curry: Absolute.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ron Insana: Thank you for having me.

John Curry: It's been a pleasure.

Ron Insana: Appreciate it.

If you would like to know more about John Curry’s services, you can request a

complimentary information package by visiting 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, CLU, ChFC, AEP, MSFS, CLTC, registered representative and financial advisor of Park Avenue Securities, LLC (PAS). Securities products and services and advisory services are offered through PAS, a registered broker dealer and investment advisor. Financial representative of the Guardian Life Insurance company of America, New York, New York. PAS is an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian. North Florida Financial Corporation is not an affiliate or subsidiary of PAS. PAS is a member of FINRA and SIPC. This material is intended for general public use. By providing this material, we are not undertaking to provide investment advice for any specific individual or situation, or to otherwise act in a fiduciary capacity. Please contact one of our financial professionals for guidance and information specific to your individual situation. All investments contain risk and may lose value. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Guardian nor any of its subsidiaries offer Long Term Care Insurance and Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents or employees do not provide legal, tax, or accounting advice. Please consult with your attorney, accountant, and/or tax advisor for advice concerning your particular circumstances. Not affiliated with The Florida Retirement System. 

The Living Balance Sheet® (LBS) and the LBS Logo are registered service marks of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. © Copyright 2005-2018 

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

#2018-61307 Exp 6/20

Don’t Forget Healthcare in Your Retirement Planning

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

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

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

  • How to maximize your health savings account

  • Ways to plan effectively for long-term care

  • The right time to enroll in Medicare – it’s different for everybody

  • How the new tax law could impact your healthcare planning.

  • And more

Listen now…

John Curry and Peter Stahl Episode Transcript: 

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

Peter Stahl: Thank you, John.

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Yes, we do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Stahl: Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Stahl: No, they weren't.

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Much better.

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

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

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

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

Peter Stahl: I like that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Stahl: Absolutely.

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

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

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

Peter Stahl: I've enjoyed it as well.



If you would like to know more about John Curry’s services, you can request a

complimentary information package by visiting 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.







#2018-61433 Exp 6/20

Achieving Simplicity in All Areas of Your Life

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

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

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

  • Having “more” of something doesn’t mean you have more value

  • The “old school” method for achieving key objectives

  • Why you should be thinking inside the box

  • The OCT method for focusing on tasks with the most impact

  • And more

Listen now…

Episode Transcript: 

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

Steve, it's good to see you again. 

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

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

Steve Harvill: That's quite an honor. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John: Absolutely. 

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

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

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

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

John: Right. 

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

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

John: Yes. 

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

John: Yes. 

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

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

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

John: Yes. 

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

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

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

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

John: Okay. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Harvill: Yeah, creative restriction. 

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

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

John: Oh, you would not? 

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

John: Oh, got it. 

Steve Harville: Yeah. 

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

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

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

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

John: Yes. 

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

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

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

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

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

John: Yes. 

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

John: Yes. 

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

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

Steve Harvill: Really good idea. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Harvill: Yeah, broken down. 

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

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

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

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

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

John: Yes. 

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

John: And allow your brain to rest. 

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

John: Okay. 

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

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

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

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

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

John: Yes. 

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

John: Because now you have a visual representation. 

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

John: Just that quickly. 

Steve Harvill: Just that quickly because they see it.

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

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

John: Yeah. 

Steve Harvill: It's a big issue. 

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Harvill: Mine does too. 

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

Steve Harvill: Until they look up at you. 

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

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

John: It is important. 

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

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

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

John: Thank you so much. 

Steve Harvill: Thank you so much. 

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

Steve Harville: Sure. 

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

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

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

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

If you would like to know more about John Curry’s services, you can request a

complimentary information package by visiting 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, CLU, ChFC, AEP, MSFS, CLTC, registered representative and financial advisor of Park Avenue Securities, LLC (PAS). Securities products and services and advisory services are offered through PAS, a registered broker dealer and investment advisor. Financial representative of the Guardian Life Insurance company of America, New York, New York. PAS is an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian. North Florida Financial Corporation is not an affiliate or subsidiary of PAS. PAS is a member of FINRA and SIPC. This material is intended for general public use. By providing this material, we are not undertaking to provide investment advice for any specific individual or situation, or to otherwise act in a fiduciary capacity. Please contact one of our financial professionals for guidance and information specific to your individual situation. All investments contain risk and may lose value. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Guardian nor any of its subsidiaries offer Long Term Care Insurance and Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents or employees do not provide legal, tax, or accounting advice. Please consult with your attorney, accountant, and/or tax advisor for advice concerning your particular circumstances. Not affiliated with The Florida Retirement System. 

The Living Balance Sheet® (LBS) and the LBS Logo are registered service marks of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. © Copyright 2005-2018

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








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The Importance of Self-Care

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

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

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

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

  • The right way to meditate… even you don’t think you can do it at all

  • Easy stress reducers you can start today

  • The importance of rest and sleep to your brain function and physical well-being

  • How to combat the sometimes “self-imposed” physical limitations that come with age

  • And more

Listen now…

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Staying Flexible in Education, Your Career, and Life

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

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

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

We also cover…

  • Applying a results-driven approach to financial planning… and life

  • The benefits of making a job your mission

  • Why you should never view your competition as an “enemy”

  • The “disruptions” that are impacting higher education and Florida’s job market

  • The value of lifelong learning

Listen now…

#2018-61403 Exp 6/20

A Secure Retirement Method to Deal with Financial Threats

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

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

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

Listen now to discover…

  • The 4 biggest threats to your retirement right now

  • How taxes can impact your retirement plans in ways you didn’t know

  • Why you need to go through a “retirement rehearsal” right now

  • A 4-part plan for creating an effective retirement plan (or fixing your current one)

  • And much more

Listen now…





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