Retire to Something, Not From Something

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

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

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

Listen in to find out…

  • The surprising things your retirement planner should be asking you

  • How car insurance affects your retirement planning

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

  • The difference between money and income

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

  • And more

Listen now…

Episode Transcript:

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

Mr. Curry, welcome to your podcast. 

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

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

John Curry: No. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Curry: I agree. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Gordon: Absolutely, absolutely. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Gordon: Absolutely. 

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

John Curry: Yes. 

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

John Curry: So true. 

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

John Curry: Well they get lost.

Steve Gordon: They get lost. Yeah. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What are you worried about?"

"Worried about running out of money."

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

I hear, "What?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Curry: And sometimes-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Curry: I hope I never retire. 

Steve Gordon: I know that. 

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

Steve Gordon: I get that. But every-

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

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

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

John Curry: Okay. 

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

John Curry: I'm sorry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Yes we are.

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

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

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

Steve Gordon: That's it.

John Curry: Well thank you my friend. 

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

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

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

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

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