When they reached retirement, Phil and Betty Ashler were finally ready for some travel. They say anybody can – and should – do it too, even if you don’t have much experience.
Phil and Betty are keeping busy in other ways, including some very unique volunteer work.
It was a lifetime of discipline in following a financial plan that got them to the point where they can do the things they enjoy most. And they’re living life to the fullest, finding fun everywhere they go.
Tune in to learn…
How seeing new places is only the beginning of the benefits of travel
Tips for inexperienced travelers – going across the country and around the world is easier than you think
The value of having a life outside of work
Why you should always call your bank before you travel
John Curry: Hi, folks, this is John Curry. Welcome to another episode of the Secure Retirement podcast. I'm pleased today to have Betty and Phil [Ashler 00:00:09] sitting across the table from me. Welcome, folks.
Phil: Thank you.
Betty: Good to see you, John.
John Curry: Glad you're here. We've had a delightful conversation in the last hour regarding your planning on the personal side. But today, our primary focus is going to be to share some of their stories about travel and retirement. But first, Betty, if you would please, let's start with you, share with our audience your background. What kind of work you did, when you retired, things like that.
Betty: Okay. Well, I retired from Lively Technical Center as an educator in 2011, and Phil and I decided that on, we'd better start, this was after we had just taken care of our parents, and raised our family. We decided we'd better look ahead and maybe do some things finally for ourselves. One of the things working, looking at our finances, and trying to think about looking forward to traveling and doing some fun things, and that's what we were going to be talking about here today, and enjoying some of those pleasurable moments with you.
John Curry: That's very good. Phil?
Phil: Well, I came to Tallahassee in 1967 to teach high school, and taught at one of the schools here in town for about 14, 15 years. Betty was out at Lively, and she said they're starting a new computer programming class. I said I've always been interested in computers, so I went ahead and signed up for it, and went out there at night for about two years. Went in one night, and I was told that the auditor general here in town was looking for some programmers. So I went ahead and applied, and I got, I think I was the second one from Lively. Then I did that for a number of years. We did the Medicaid fraud. It was COBOL, and Assembler, and some of the older languages which I don't think they use today.
Then the state changed who was going to be covering things, and we ended up going to FDLE, because they did most of the law enforcement. So I was at FDLE for a number of years, and retired in 2007. My dad was getting on in age, and he needed, I guess, somebody to come out and help him do some things. He was into computers. He liked to do email. He liked to look up different things. I'd spend maybe a day or so during the week helping him do that. Like Betty said, we progressively went through that.
Since he was in the service, in the Navy, we did do a little bit of traveling, but it was mainly between Washington D.C. and Hawaii, back and forth a couple of times.
John Curry: That's tough duty. Hawaii.
Phil: Yeah. But it, no, I kind of liked to see some of the places that he visited when he was in the service. I guess the major, except for going to Canada where some of my relatives, I think we made one or two trips to New York City where my grandparents lived.
But we really hadn't done that much traveling. Back, I think it was around probably 2013, Betty and I sat down and said, "We need to go take a trip somewhere." So Betty started looking around, got on the Internet, and found the Viking Cruises. So we looked at that, and you have to sign up almost a year ahead of time. So we went ahead and signed up for one of the Viking cruises. That was the beginning of a couple of vacations that we've had.
John Curry: Well, I have the advantage over our audience that's listening to this, because we have a lot of meetings two or three times a year, and I get to hear these stories. To me, it's fascinating. That's why I wanted you to participate in the podcast, because just the wonderful stories you've shared. Betty, jump in and share with us, what attracted you so much to the, I know we're promoting a company here called Viking, but why do you like Viking Cruises so much. What do you like about them?
Betty: Well, for one thing, it's all-inclusive. We had heard people just thought it was just wonderful. You don't have to, once you've signed up, it pretty much included the air, and they greet you on the other side. We are not what I would consider that well traveled. Some people have the advantage of maybe through other experiences in their life, they're used to traveling abroad. We wanted something, at least for our first trip abroad, where we were taken care of. They wouldn't lose us.
John Curry: They wouldn't lose you?
Betty: They wouldn't lose us. So we ended up, we chose, and this particular year that we were looking at, it was the Fall of 2014. That was the 70th year, I believe, of the-
Phil: D-Day Invasion.
Betty: The D-Day Invasion. Phil's father had actually been involved in that. What was the ship he was on?
Phil: He was on Nevada, and he was stationed, I think he was supply officer, but they had a number of troops that were going in for the invasion, and getting ready to go in for the invasion. One of the stories that I remember him telling me, and I think he got an award for it, was that they were down below, had no idea what was going on. He got up on the bridge, and got on the PA system, and it was almost like a sports announcer. He was saying, "As we're going in, this is what's happening. These are the boats that are on either side," and-
John Curry: Play-by-play description.
Betty: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Phil: Play-by-play description. He's always been a very, very good speaker. He did a lot of things when he was in college. He did a lot of things when he was in high school. I've got proof of that, because I have a lot of his old papers. I've got old yearbooks. I've got old newspaper clippings. I probably have 90% of what he did in his 90-something years.
John Curry: Did he retire as an admiral?
Phil: He went in as a buck private in the Marines, and retired as a rear admiral. I think it was back in late '60s, '68, '69, something like that, and decided he wanted to go back to Pensacola, because that's one of the previous places he'd been, and he still had a lot of friends.
Then he got into a little bit of politics. He was in charge of the evening college at Pensacola Junior College. I think it was one of the presidents, I don't know if it was Ashmore or, but they decided that they would like to have another two years, because he only had the first two years. So he ran and became the representative from Escambia County. He was told, "You need to make sure that your first bill is passed." His very first bill was to require the American flag at all polling places, which the supervisor of elections in a lot of the counties said, "Oh, no. We gotta go out and buy flags now." But he had a real good political, Reubin Askew was a good friend of his. But they got the extra two years from West Florida, and then there were some other things that he did. So he pretty much-
Betty: The point is he was very patriotic.
John Curry: Yes.
Phil: Well, he's always been.
Betty: We were just trying to look at some of the things that we had heard about all through my, our married life, and Phil had basically lived that. So Normandy was a focal point. That's one of the places on the Viking. It was Paris to the heart of Normandy. I think that's what caught our eye. Plus, it was the 70th year of the D-Day Invasion.
It was a beautiful trip, we were well taken care of, excellent food, wonderful people there. They are definitely set out to make sure that you enjoy your trip. We liked it because, this is probably true of many of the other cruise lines, but they do hire local people. You really get a good experience of what each particular small town throughout wherever you are, whatever country you're in. They do hire the locals, and they have chosen the crème-de-la-crème. They're great.
Phil: Well, one thing that I think really impressed us was when we actually went to the Normandy beaches.
Phil: There were a number of World War II servicemen on the trip.
John Curry: Yes.
Phil: And they actually had a small ceremony for, what was it?
Betty: [inaudible 00:09:33]
Phil: One or two of them.
Betty: Oh, their, that were in our particular travel group. Oh, it was very [crosstalk 00:09:40].
Phil: The people in charge of the place we were at, we went up to a Rotunda area, and they had a ceremony. They had some dignitaries from the French government. Then everybody was given some flowers. You went out to the grave, graveyards-
Betty: And you were, and pick out a grave. And you were to put your white rose on a grave.
Phil: You found a grave that you were interested in. I forget how many thousands of graves are there.
Betty: But, just the, it's very special.
John Curry: I love that story. It especially hits me because on that wall over there, you see my memorabilia from my time in the Air Force, and then also pictures of me on the Honor Flight Tallahassee trips.
Betty: Oh, yeah.
John Curry: It's just one of those things where just hearing that makes you feel good, and it had to be an emotional experience for you, because, number one, following some of the paths that your father had ran. That you heard about during your marriage, Betty, and then you're actually there.
Betty: We were there.
John Curry: I have a question that popped in my head: What advice would you offer someone listening to this, who says, "Wow. I really want to do something like that, but I'm having trouble getting started." What would you say to that person?
Betty: I think you need to look at your finances, and see, "Is this a trip that we can afford? That will not set us back so we can't eat when we come back."
John Curry: So don't take food off the table, in other words.
Betty: Don't take food off the table. That is, for most people that have lived wisely, and tried to plan, start some of their planning processes and all, it's very doable. More than you think. Even for the average person.
Phil: We really didn't spend that much money. My car was a '96, and I got rid of it last year. With almost 220,000 miles on it. Betty's car right now is nine years old. We don't go out and get new cars every couple years.
John Curry: Phil, some people would say you're just tight with money.
Phil: No, because, well, we do a lot of volunteer work.
John Curry: Right.
Phil: I volunteer at a church cemetery. I volunteer cleaning up the church property once a month with a group of-
Betty: Sweat equity.
Phil: ... about maybe seven or eight [crosstalk 00:11:58]
John Curry: Sweat equity.
Phil: Betty helped out on a project doing the, looking at the archives that we have from the church, and taking the memorials that a committee had gone through and documented. She's going for the memorials to who's buried in our cemetery, church cemetery. She has two boxes that are probably about two, now three feet long, filled with documentation. She's been looking up old obituaries in newspapers-
John Curry: Wow.
Phil: She's got a subscription-
Betty: We're going across the-
Phil: But there's about three of four-
Betty: St. Johns has a historic cemetery, basically.
John Curry: Yes.
Betty: But no one had really looked at the folks that were buried there as much in detail, and to say, "What kind of gifts, how did our church get started?" It was in early territorial days of Florida. It's just fascinating. Absolutely amazing.
Phil: When we sit there Sunday morning, and you look at the pulpit, and you look at the crosses coming down, all of those memorials. You look at the paintings. They're not paintings-
Betty: Stained glass windows.
Phil: The stained glass windows-
Betty: We now know now.
Phil: Down at the bottom, in memory of these people.
Betty: And the appreciation of the past history, and who the contributors in the community were, at that time, to get people to where they are now. A lot of us get so busy, especially young folks raising families, they're too busy right now to do that kind of thing. So we're doing a little bit of it all. We're enjoying trying to travel, and look at some of the things where Phil's dad had been, and his service that he had given the country. Also looking more locally here in Tallahassee. And we're trying to leave some contributions ourselves for those that are after us, so that surely they can look back, and maybe become contributors themselves.
John Curry: I think that's inspirational, because some people retire, and their idea of retirement is sitting in front of the television all day, listening, watching to the talking heads, getting embroiled in political stuff that just gets them stressed out, or worrying about the financial news. You've not done that.
You're active. You're doing things that you enjoy doing. You'll probably have another 20 or 25 years ahead of you of life, because you're active mentally, physically. You're doing the things that keep you sharp. For someone listening to this who says, "Well, I don't know how to get started." So you said first, the financial side. Making sure you can afford it. But I remember you sharing stories with me, April, Jay, other people on our team about getting started.
Would you share just a little bit about how you approach things like this? Because you both do your homework. You don't just fly by the seat of your pants. So maybe let's start there. Just a little bit about how you get started doing your research about where you wanted to go, and the best way to do it.
Betty: Well, first of all, I was contacting a friend of mine, and I said, "We're trying to look at doing some things in the future." I was asking, she was in insurance and, "Do you have somebody that you would recommend?" She said, "I certainly do."
She just happened to know you, John, and thought that, that would be a good place for us at least to start as a couple, and come in and see you. I thought, well, we hadn't really thought much about financial planning, and looking ahead. This is how we got really referred by a friend. I think because a lot of times you're trying to reach out, it's very personal information. It's not stuff that you would stand out in the town square and say, "I need help."
John Curry: Right. Absolutely.
Betty: So you sort of you usually, for most people, I think, they go through friends. We're very satisfied. It's a process, I will say it is a process. Sometimes you don't know the right things to either bring in, or the right questions to ask, and with professional guidance, I think working over a period of time, and developing a personal relationship. That's probably the best way to do it is working with a professional, and developing a professional relationship.
Phil: One thing is, I've known you for years through the scouting program.
John Curry: Right. Boy Scouts.
Phil: When you, when I found out you were in this type of business it was, I think you might of called us. I forget exactly how it got set up, but we've been, we meet with you for a number of years, and I think you've got a very good reputation in Tallahassee. All the stuff you do with the different clubs that you're in, and the scouting program. I think that-
Betty: It goes beyond the work setting.
Phil: It goes beyond the work thing.
John Curry: Thank you.
Phil: Because you're interested in other people. And you're interested in helping the other people, no matter if they're Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Explorers, whatever it is. I think you had mentioned a little bit earlier that you had been on some of the Honor Flights. I think that, I've had a couple of friends that have gone on that-
Phil: Fairly recently. In fact, one was on the first Honor Flight. I've heard real good reports on those.
John Curry: I regret that I'm going to miss the one coming up this year in May, because I'll be in Philadelphia for a conference on tax planning, so I'll miss it. I wanted to be here for the send off, or the party when they come back. But those are very kind words. I appreciate you saying that. To me, our work is important. Just like your work was. But it's not just about work. It's having a life outside of work. How do you want to be remembered when you pass away? You want to be remembered as, okay, Phil, and Betty, and John, they had great careers, end of story. No. No.
What you're doing, Betty, I'm fascinated because you're learning so much about people. You'll know a lot of history about the people that are buried in that cemetery.
John Curry: I, this is going to sound weird, but when I travel, I love visiting different cemeteries, and just looking at the markers, and sit there and wonder what kind of life did this person have back in eighteen hundred and something.
Betty: We're finding out.
John Curry: I'm just fascinated. I have a curiosity about people. I get along with everybody. So let me ask you this: Did you apply the same type of approach to your travels, as you do your financial planning? Because you've done a very good job with your planning.
Phil: Well, I think what, after we had the Viking trip, which is a little bit more expensive than some of the other trips, but I think the main thing, it was go and see Normandy, because that was D-Day, and all the stories that people had. The French people are still thankful.
Betty: Ever grateful. Especially the Normandy people.
Phil: As you ride through the towns, on the buses, there's local people telling you the stories of some of the families, and the situations they were in as the Germans were going through. If some of the stories that we see on TV on some of the history channels, or some of those, you can reflect back on what they were telling us when they were there.
John Curry: And you were there.
Phil: And we were there.
John Curry: You got to experience this.
Phil: In fact, I got permission from one of the people to pick up a handful of sand. It's still in a bag at home. I haven't given it to my brothers yet.
Betty: To display, yeah.
Phil: But Betty and I kind of got interested in history. I like to watch the History Channel. I like to watch the Mysteries in Museum. Betty said, "Let's take a trip somewhere in the U.S." So I don't know if she, you got a brochure or somehow she found out about the American Cruise Line.
John Curry: The Riverboat Cruise Line.
Betty: The Riverboat Cruises.
John Curry: That was a fascinating story. I want you to tell that story.
Phil: We decided let's try one of those! We went from, what, St. Paul to?
Betty: Well, that, it was a couple of things we chose. In the meantime, we won't go into too much detail, but Phil had a medical condition of vertigo, and it had to do with, we finally figured it out, it needed to be on a pretty strict low salt diet. Well, rather than, we can't just go from one restaurant to another, because if you get snagged up into something that's a little salty, then we pay the price for that. But on a riverboat cruise, we have kind of learned that once you tell the chef that you have, it could be anybody with allergies or anything.
John Curry: Right.
Betty: You can tell them what your dietary needs are, and you're taken care of for the entire trip.
John Curry: I see.
Betty: Because you can take excursions off. Basically, to cut to the chase, we've had two riverboat cruises. The first one was on the Mississippi from St. Louis-
Phil: St. Paul.
Betty: Instead of going south to New Orleans. We had been in New Orleans before, and we still would maybe want to do some of that again. We took the St. Louis to-
Phil: St. Paul.
Betty: ... St. Paul. Is it Minneapolis?
Phil: Minneapolis, St. Paul.
Betty: Minneapolis, St. Paul up there. Beautiful, beautiful trip. The entertainment is just really, in fact, it's just top-notch and professional. It's very much the Viking Cruises of the Mississippi. The people were just as professional, and it's pretty much the same pattern of they stop in the little towns along the way up the Mississippi River.
Phil: Well, you travel at night. You leave usually after dinner, and you can feel the, it's a very slow trip up, 6, 8, 10 miles-an-hour up the river.
Betty: It's really wonderful.
Phil: Then you get to a new port the next morning. You go down, you have breakfast, and-
Betty: They have excursions.
Phil: You might see you'll start docking or something. Then they have three buses that actually follow the boat. You get on the buses, and you're out for the rest of the day.
Betty: One of them, tell Phil to tell you about the trip we went to be with a German family, oh, several generations of a German family, that were farmers there. They put us on a hay wagon, and took us all out into the cornfields, and took us back to their, this was their home. And took us to the back part of their home. It was hundreds, and hundreds, maybe thousands of acres of cornfields. The whole family was there.
John Curry: Where was that located?
Betty: Oh, I knew you'd ask that.
Phil: It was halfway on the trip, wasn't it?
Betty: You know, John, unfortunately, I'm not going to bring that name up. It was near, is it Braitbart? It was-
Phil: I don't remember either.
Betty: I'm sorry, I can't remember that.
John Curry: That's okay.
Betty: But the point is-
John Curry: That's fascinating.
Betty: ... as a local family. We were there among the cows and all, then we got right back onto the boat, and went back up the river, and we went to another one in, I think it was LaCrosse, Wisconsin. It was a combination between a Norwegian village, and the American Indians, where they had joined together a generation or so back.
They had a trading facility there, and they had how they had lived together in the early pioneer days. They took us on a bus again, into some of these old pioneer villages. They showed us, and an Indian descendant had gotten on the bus, and told us the whole history of his family, and how they came there, and how they became friends with the Norwegians that came in-
Phil: It was a cooperation between the two groups.
Betty: Yeah, it was a meeting of the two groups. The history of our country is just amazing. The American experience is especially exciting when you actually get out to experience it.
Phil: And it's all local people.
Betty: It's local people that are telling you the story. It's not something that's just people have learned in college and all, these are the locals.
Phil: The nice thing on the riverboat is they actually have a riverlorian-
John Curry: Riverlorian.
Phil: If he's not giving a lecture downstairs for an hour or so, telling you about what's going on the next day, he's up in the, just below the wheelhouse. You can go up anytime from 8:00 in the morning, until 7:00 or 8:00 at night, and ask him questions. You can look at the charts. He's lived his entire-
Betty: He had actually lived on the river himself as a young boy.
Phil: He lived on the river.
Betty: Kind of like Mark Twain.
Phil: He had all kinds of stories.
Betty: He really knew the river.
Phil: Different types of things that he'd seen. They had-
Betty: He knows the natural history.
Phil: The natural history. Then just to, you set out, everybody has a veranda, so you sit out there and just watch the people waving at you as you go by. Because there's probably 20 feet, 20, 25 feet because where the boat is, and the shoreline. It's a very narrow section of the river.
Betty: Well, some parts, and other parts-
Phil: Some parts-
Betty: And other parts are quite wide.
Phil: ... and then other parts were wider. But you'd see kids out there playing, and they'd stop and wave. It was-
Betty: Up toward Minneapolis, there was an eagle center. There was a nationally known eagle center, and some of the birds had been injured, and they have to have special permission to keep the birds there, and use them for educational purposes. But then you're right there in their natural habitat, so you can see all the eagles flying around, and they're able to tell you, it was probably a 30 minute discussion down in the eagle center, all about the bird's life, and everything. And how that particular bird was injured, the one they were able to show you up close. Then you go out on the veranda, which overlooks the Mississippi, and all these high banks. The Mississippi gets quite high as you go up further north, and the birds are flying around.Then, in the next night, you're docking in, is it St. Paul and?
Phil: Yup. Then you see more of the city-type stuff.
Betty: Then you see, definitely, the urban and the real modern cities. So it's quite a contrast between the lazy Mississippi-
John Curry: Yes.
Betty: ... and your final deportation there in St. Paul. It was a beautiful trip.
Phil: About a year or so later, Betty said, "You know, let's look at another one." We took the Lewis and Clark expedition trip. I'm trying to think-
Betty: It was on the Columbia and the Snake Rivers.
Phil: Columbia and Snake River.
Phil: So it was everything from high speed boat trip up the Snake River.
Betty: Well, they have different excursions-
Phil: You signed up for different excursions.
Betty: ... that you can take and you can, and of course, or advice is, we're fairly active people. I'm, we're in our early 70s, at least at that time, and we took all the excursions they offered pretty much. There's many selections each one, but one of them was a jet boat trip up the Snake River, and you just go down, and the topography is amazing in this land. You go from desert, to barren mountains, to places that are. Anyway, they had one place that the jet boat went into, and you just, I don't know. Oh, they had a person there to meet you with hot tea or coffee, and a cross, a bun, a hot cross bun.
Phil: They had a lot of animals. Turkey and things like that.
Betty: Yeah, they did. I forgot about that.
Phil: I guess they would feed. But the unusual thing there're no roads.
Betty: There are no roads.
Phil: The houses are brought in by helicopter and assembled, or brought up on a boat.
Betty: It's really-
Phil: And those, you might see a little road between two houses.
John Curry: So you're out in the wilderness?
Phil: You're out in the wilderness.
Betty: Yeah. Yeah, you are. This is along the Snake River. You'd have to look at the map again. It's very mountainous through there. You're literally, the boat has to go at a pretty high speed to get up above the rocks, just enough to escape above that.
John Curry: Interesting.
Betty: And it's high canyons on either side.
Phil: But you would see people coming down in canoes, and kayaks.
Betty: And they tell you about the history of the area, and what we were doing the purpose of that trip, was to follow the trip that Lewis and Clark took, and the little Indian girl that went with them, Sacagawea. You just go, ah! How did they do that!?
Phil: You end up in the fort.
Betty: Most of us can hardly walk down to the corner grocery.
John Curry: You're right.
Betty: But how did they do that!?
Phil: You end up in the fort at the end of Columbia River.
John Curry: Let me jump in for a second. I'm listening to this, and I'm so fascinated that I'm asking myself, "Okay-
Phil: We'll have you signed up next week.
John Curry: ... I want to do it myself."
Betty: Yeah, you do.
John Curry: But also, I'm wondering is this something that, for those of us who have grandchildren, like my 12 year-old grandson, is that something for a youngster like that, or not?
Betty: I would not-
Phil: Portions of it.
John Curry: Portions of it.
Betty: Portions of it, yeah.
Phil: I think the boat trip would be great for them to see the animals, and things like that. And I guess-
Betty: It's an older-
Phil: It's more of an older [crosstalk 00:29:59]
John Curry: Okay, I get it.
Betty: I wouldn't necessarily-
Phil: I don't remember seeing any children.
John Curry: Okay.
Betty: We didn't see children on this one.
Phil: There were maybe some teenagers that were-
Betty: Not so much.
Phil: ... taking care of grandparents or something.
Betty: It's more of an older-
Phil: But I'm not sure if they take children.
John Curry: I'll check on that.
John Curry: But for me, another take away. You mentioned Mark Twain. I'm a big fan of reading Mark Twain. I'm reading a book about him right now. I'm just fascinated by what you're saying, because that just popped in my mind, of all the stories about the Mississippi River.
Then, the other thing that popped in my head, Betty, is I've been to Europe several times. If I go again, great. But there are so many things I want to do in this country. I hear so many people say that. I'm sure people listening to this are like, "I had no idea that you could do this type of trip."
Betty: You can. You absolutely can.
John Curry: And you learn so much about our history, and our nation.
Betty: It's patterned on the, it seems to me, the American version of the Viking, which is up and down the Mississippi, which is, of course, the main waterway there-
Phil: We took the American Queen, and then the American Empress, is the one that's on the Columbia-
Betty: That's their western name on the-
Phil: They're expanding. In fact, they just, what, six or eight months ago?
Betty: The have a Duchess, their-
Phil: The Duchess, which is a brand new-
Betty: It's top of the line.
Phil: What they do is they take some of the old paddle wheelers, and refurbish them. That's the Queen and the-
Betty: And they're just beautiful. Absolutely.
Phil: But there's a brand new one, that I think might have been constructed. But it's the elite version going up.
John Curry: I've been on one riverboat cruise that started in New Orleans, and it was fantastic. It was awesome.
Betty: The entertainment is very professional. It's very retro. You were mentioning Mark Twain, and actually, we stopped at Hannibal, and went through all of that.
Phil: All the museums.
Betty: The gentleman on our boat was definitely, they had of course employed him as a professional to do this but, he gave a talk one evening. Dead-ringer for Mark Twain. You would have loved it. It was just, I mean he, it's almost like you want to follow him around the rest of the trip. The poor man.
John Curry: Yeah, saying, "Mr. Twain! Mr. Twain!"
Phil: Looks like him.
Betty: Mr. Twain. I mean, he has it down pat. He was just so the part-
Phil: Looks like him.
Betty: ... and to really know it from what you've read.
John Curry: Good old Samuel Clemens.
Betty: Yes. You would, oh, you would enjoy that.
Phil: It's like a Broadway show. It's a full program.
Betty: It really is.
John Curry: Nice.
Betty: These people, the young people that travel, in fact, this one young couple, that was in this professional entertainment group, they did, we just happened to get the tour boat for the, what was it? The band.
Phil: It was the big band era.
Betty: The big band era. And at first, I thought, "Oh, I don't know if we'd like that." Oh! It was fabulous! The young couple that was dancing, had gone to school with Ansley. Linda and Tom's daughter.
John Curry: I'll be darned.
Betty: They all knew each other.
John Curry: I wish people could see the expression on your face right now. The two of you just sharing this experience. It's just like your eyes are bright, and big smile. Just fond memories, isn't it?
Betty: Fond memories. You plan for that. You do plan for that, yeah.
Phil: The last trip we took was last Fall. Our son and his wife had just gone up to a conference in New York City. They said, "You know, you ought to get up there." So Betty got on the Internet, and started going through, and said, "Okay, we can do this, we can do this, we can do this." She actually had all the arrangements before we left. We took those up to AAA, and sat down, they made all the arrangements for us.
Betty: It was a family genealogy trip.
Phil: It was a family genealogy, because my grandparents lived in Brooklyn. That's where my dad grew up. We hadn't been up probably 30, 35 years, to New York. I think that's when we drove our van up and did camping all the way. Then went on into Canada.
Betty: This was one-
John Curry: You're talking about the 35 years ago. Not the one-
Betty: No, no, no.
Phil: But the-
John Curry: I don't think Betty would want to camp in the van.
Betty: No, no.
Phil: We decided let's go back to New York. So Betty made our itinerary for about five days. And then she said one night, we were eating dinner and she said, "You know, you haven't seen your cousins in a long time." I hadn't seen my cousins. Some of them in almost 50 years. She said, "Why don't we just take a side trip out of New York when we get through, and go up to Canada?" So we went to AAA, and they said, "Yeah, you can do this, this, and this." They had a car waiting for us in Syracuse. But we flew into New York, and got a fairly modest hotel room.
Betty: Let's talk about Manhattan first.
Phil: Yup. So we were talking to one of the ladies, and she said, "You know, we like to see a lot of things." And she said, "Well, the easiest thing is go out here, grab a taxi, and let them take you to wherever you want to go." Then Betty said, "Well, also, some time, we'd like to go visit a couple of the cemeteries." Well, where the cemeteries are in Brooklyn, you're not going to find very many taxis. She said, "I can get a driver for you, and he would take you wherever you want to go at so much an hour."
Betty: It was the best thing we ever did.
Phil: We said, "Well, that sounds good." And it was very inexpensive compared with a couple of taxi rides, it was about the same thing.
John Curry: Sure. And you have somebody there waiting to take care of you.
Betty: Right. Because this cemetery, and this is a very special cemetery to know about. Not everybody is interested in cemeteries on every trip, but if, this is Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn. Bill had already done the research on the Ashler family, and found a couple of graves back there. With it being a 500 acre cemetery, it was important to work quickly, and efficiently, because hiring a private driver it, you know, it was well worth the money. It really was.
But the way the cemetery. Let me show John how this looked. You feel like you were back in Europe. And if you look up the history on this particular cemetery, you felt like you were back in Europe.
John Curry: Wow. That's the actual-
Betty: And then there was 500 acres-
Phil: That's the entrance.
Betty: Yes. All behind that.
John Curry: That's the main building.
Betty: That's the big, that's the, this is the others on-
John Curry: Folks, what I'm seeing here is just this beautiful building, that you would never think you were at a cemetery.
Betty: Never. No.
John Curry: It looks like it's a church or something-
Betty: And their chapel-
John Curry: ... in Europe.
Betty: ... inside, looks just like a cathedral in Europe. It is beautiful. It's a very well-known cemetery. Once we got to doing the research on that, it actually was a Revolutionary War battlefield.
Phil: The Battle of Brooklyn.
Betty: When you look at it, it's up high, it's located quite high. It's around the Hudson and East Rivers. And it's up quite high. Geographically, it's a perfect battlefield, for the ships that were coming in to New York harbor.
And then after all those days were over, they turned it into a cemetery. The cemeteries in the churchyards in New York were beginning to fill up, and they were not very nice. So New York citizens got together, and this of course, they have many other beautiful cemeteries as well. A lot of times, we think of New York, we all think of Manhattan, and Broadway, and we did all of that too, but a cemetery, if you're interested in history, and in our case it was more personal, because of the family members that Phil was looking for.
Phil: We found one of the graves.
Betty: We did.
Phil: One, they think might have sunk already. But I got, I've got five different spellings of my last name on my dad's side.
Betty: Don't go into all that now.
Phil: I've got pictures, and I've sent, took a picture and sent it to my brother on the phone. He said, "Oh, I didn't even know that."
Betty: Well, the driver got very involved.
Phil: The driver was very interested in what we were doing.
Betty: He, actually, was very helpful.
Phil: He's the one that actually got somebody to show us where the grave was.
Betty: He got out and helped us find the superintendent for the particular section of the cemetery that we were looking at for the Ashler graves, and he said, "This is how you do it. You go over and talk to the man who's mowing the grass."
John Curry: Right.
Betty: And so we did that-
Phil: Then we walked up the hill.
Betty: ... and found it right away.
Phil: Just a little bit, and got to the top. And there were a lot of, I guess, Leonard Bernstein, has his monument up there, and then there's a lot of-
Betty: When we turned around, he said, "Look at this." They had actually manicured the trees in a certain way. And they said, "This is going to be something special for you to see," and you turn around, and you could see right, straight through the trees, the way they had manicured the trees, and you could see the Statue of Liberty from way high up in the cemetery-
Phil: That's why he wanted that particular place.
Betty: It was only a couple of blocks from the family grave site that Phil was, so that was a special time.
Phil: That was one, pretty much one day, and then the rest of it-
Betty: The rest of it was typical tourist more things, yeah.
Phil: Took the Circle Line tour. We took the-
John Curry: Hang on a second. Let's tell people what that is, because I've done that. I go to New York City about once a year.
John Curry: So tell people what the Circle Line tour is, Phil.
Phil: Okay. Circle Line is actually going around Manhattan.
John Curry: Well worth doing.
Betty: It is. You see a lot of stuff.
Phil: You get on the boat, though. I forget how many hours the trip is, but they're telling you stories all the way around. We were asking some of the people, "I remember this." "Oh, yeah, that's over here." And then they'd talk about the Palisades, as you're coming around. Document all the buildings. Then another time, we went to the 9/11 Memorial.
Betty: Very powerful.
Phil: That was very moving.
Betty: Very, very powerful. Yeah.
Phil: We took all the tours that they had for that. We went through, the museum's kind of in a basement area-
John Curry: Yes.
Phil: And they actually have some of the recordings of the pilots.
Betty: One thing I want to point out too, Phil. On every place that we went, wherever it was in Manhattan or New York, there are different companies that have guides. We used a particular company. But the young people there that were trained. You know, sometimes we hear, "Oh, the young people are not doing this, in the contract, they're not doing that." We were just absolutely amazed at the knowledge-
Phil: That was the Statue of Liberty one.
Betty: ... and the professionalism of our particular guides that we got. They were all different nationalities. One even was from what? Germany maybe, and had a green card. He knows more about our American history, and all the things. Fabulous people. Of course, you never know who is going to be in your particular group of 10 or 12 people.
John Curry: Right.
Betty: They would limit the number of groups. If you really want to know about your American places. Your special, historic places, icon places, these people, I think, are well worth the money.
Phil: Because the nice thing is-
John Curry: I totally agree.
Betty: It is-
Phil: ... not only in Europe, but on all the trips we've taken. In fact, the one in New York City, you have the little earphones-
Betty: Earphones, yeah.
Phil: So you can walk 50, 100 feet away, and still-
John Curry: Hear everything.
Phil: ... hear what the people are saying.
John Curry: I will-
Phil: But we had a very good-
Phil: ... guide for the Statue of Liberty trip.
John Curry: Let's hold that. I want to go back to about Ellis Island for a second. The, when I went, right after 9/11, the January after it occurred, I was in New York City. That was just overwhelming to see that. Then every time I'd go, I'd go back. But you made a comment about the new museum. That is overwhelming.
Betty: Oh, it's wonderful.
John Curry: When you walk through there, you'll see people that are just, they're so reverent, so quiet. And then you'll see people weeping. And just, you talking about it just gave me chill bumps again, about that experience. Talk about, did you do the Ellis Island tour?
Phil: That was the next thing I was going to mention.
Betty: We did.
Phil: We went to that.
Betty: Oh! Unbelievable.
John Curry: Isn't it great?
Phil: And I'm not sure exactly whether my family came in through that or not. Because, like I said, there's five different spellings of the last, just on one side. Then there's some other people on the other side. But the guide we had there was another, he was the same one that we had for the Statue of Liberty. He had pictures of some of the historic things that had happened. And just the stories of what the people had to put up with.
Betty: It was the-
Phil: One of the historians-
Betty: The eyes.
Phil: ... that we had at Ellis, he said, "Let's go downstairs, and look at some of the other stuff." You went through, and there were three doors. They said, "Well which door?" "Well, you pick any door you want." So I picked one. I think I was in the right, I think Betty might have been in the middle one, and we all got down to the bottom, and he said, "Okay, how many of you went through the middle door?" Two or three people raised their hand. He said, "You guys can stay. The ones that went through the outside door, you're going back to the old country."
Betty: The reason being, well, I've almost forgotten the door story, but there were, they looked at the people very, very carefully, and they chose them according to their medical issues, or whether physical issues. They even had some of the older, they had the older immigrants, to see if they could climb the stairs with their heavy suitcases. Now that we're in our 70s, can you imagine having crossed the ocean, and then asked to go up a number of stairs with their heavy? And their baggage was certainly not light.
John Curry: Not in those days.
Betty: Not in those days.
John Curry: But some had no baggage to speak of too.
Betty: They had no baggage, but if they looked like they were struggling getting up the stairs, they did not necessarily, they were not necessarily allowed to enter.
Phil: Then another story they had was, what was?
Betty: The eyes.
Phil: Yeah, the eyes.
Betty: They had eye exams, and they had something that was almost like a button hook, and they would turn the eyelid up, and because they thought they might have seen some redness in the eyes, and it was, I forget, what is the eye condition that causes blindness? But any rate, they didn't know about sterilization back then.
John Curry: Oh, my.
Betty: And so the same instrument that was used for the person up there, that they might turn away, where they could see it visibly and all, then they'd use that same instrument on the person behind them.
Well, in a same family, some of the people that they had determined had this eye issue, had to go back to the old country. And then half of the family, maybe, didn't have it, according to what they had seen at that time. So then you would have to make a decision as a family, who was going to go, who was going to stay? Are you all going to go back? Or are you all going to, well, they couldn't all stay. And can you imagine, having crossed the ocean in the types of vessels that they had at that time, it was a very sad thing going on-
Phil: And one kind of unusual thing, since we've got grandchildren. Betty said, "Let's go into the store and get some stuff." And Betty found some nice books, and I think we got-
Betty: This you need to know from a business point of view.
Phil: But we got up there, and I think it was maybe $80 worth of books, and pamphlets, and things like that. Betty went up, and she said, "How much?," and put her card in. Declined! We said, "What's the story?"
Betty: Because we had just had our cards verified-
Phil: Verified for the trip to New York.
Betty: ... for the vacation packages, what states we were going to be in.
Phil: So I said, "Let me try mine." Declined.
Betty: We felt pretty bad.
Phil: So we thought, "Whoa." We had some cash with us. We went ahead and paid for it. We went out the back door and called the credit card company, and they said-
Betty: We're fine.
Phil: "We don't see any problems or anything on it."
Betty: We could not understand that.
Phil: Both of them got declined. We got back on the boat, Betty said, "Where are we?" I said, "We're in New Jersey."
Betty: Right in the middle of the river-
Phil: That's why it was declined.
Betty: ... there is a state line.
Phil: So I'm glad that the credit card company did that.
John Curry: Oh!
Betty: Everybody needs to remember this: Ellis Island is just a toehold over into New Jersey.
Phil: Or they're charging-
Betty: And my cards, our cards, I had never thought-
Phil: For New York.
Betty: We had only cleared it for New York.
John Curry: Let me see, just to make sure we're clear, because this is a extra tidbit-
John Curry: This is a bonus, ladies and gentlemen, listen to this. So what you did, is you let the credit card companies know where you were traveling-
Betty: Oh, yeah-
John Curry: To protect your-
Betty: You call ahead to protect.
John Curry: That's awesome. Now, see, I've never done it that way. When I travel, I'll let the bank know, where I do business, if I'm going to use my debit card-
John Curry: And I'll let them know where I'm traveling, because then I got a call, got a phone call at the same time, but Disney one time, they said, "Where are you?" I said, "Where are you?" I said, "We're in Orlando." We had charges, one was in Los Angeles, one was in Chicago, where somebody was trying to use our card. But that is fascinating. So when you're traveling-
Betty: We call ahead.
John Curry: You let them know.
Betty: We've been asked to do that through our credit union, is to call the vacation package. Therefore, we told them New York, and the different places we would be in Canada. So we were all clear.
John Curry: But not New Jersey.
Betty: However, in the middle of the, what is it? The Hudson River, or whatever-
Phil: Or it could have been the billing.
Betty: It's right there.
Phil: The billing company, and it could have been in New Jersey.
Betty: And Ellis Island is just a toehold over, where the state line comes to the middle of the river.
John Curry: That's true.
Betty: Do remember that, everyone.
John Curry: I love taking the ferry over there. I haven't done that in several years.
Betty: So. That was the reason, and we were very concerned.
John Curry: Since we're on this, I know we're way over time here, so if you'll indulge me just a few more minutes here, from the standpoint of, when you walk into that hall. Remember all the little desks?
John Curry: Where people were taken into customs? Tell me what your initial reaction is, when you walked and you saw all those, I'm going to call them little tables, for lack of a better term, but I was overwhelmed by that. What were you thinking?
Phil: Also, when you go outside, where we went out to call the company, they now have a monument that goes all the way around the courtyard, with all the names.
Betty: Have you seen that?
John Curry: No, I have not seen that.
Betty: Oh, John. It's so amazing.
Phil: I think it's fairly new.
John Curry: I'm going to be there in October. I'm going to see if I can get over to it.
Betty: Do go by and see that. It is just so amazing.
Phil: You can actually go online through the, what is it? The Liberty Foundation or?
Betty: I'm not sure now, Phil, but they have-
Phil: Ellis Island Foundation or something, but you can do some genealogy on that. There are a number of people around you can ask.
Betty: But they have, on this wall, they have the names of the-
Phil: Of the people that came there.
Betty: Of the different years that they came in.
Phil: That they came in.
Betty: And they have it on a-
Phil: I think I might have found-
Betty: I'm not sure, but I think you can look for your family's name.
Phil: I think I might have found one or two with the same last name.
Betty: And it's on a computer, but they're also building a brand new center-
Phil: They're rebuilding the hospital.
Betty: ... and it won't be open until the summer of 2019-
Phil: It's the hospital.
Betty: ... a year from now.
Phil: They're redoing the whole hospital.
Betty: They're redoing the hospital, but that's a bit down the road. But the Phil, the new, what do you call it? Entranceway? There's a brand new, they had a wall up there. You know how they keep everybody off right now
Phil: And then they have a-
Betty: But in a year-and-a-half, that would be maybe the summer of 2019, there's going to be a brand new-
Phil: There's a side tour you can take. That actually takes you down to the catacombs of Ellis Island. We didn't do that one, because we had to get back on the boat. But-
Betty: But it really walks you through the steps of what it was like to be an immigrant coming over.
Phil: I don't think the history that we had when we went through school-
Phil: ... is necessarily being taught today. Because I don't think a lot of people realize what people had to go through-
Betty: The hardships.
John Curry: Right.
Phil: ... when they came over.
Betty: The absolute hardships.
John Curry: This story is, I'm thinking of a gentleman who came here from Austria. Dear friend of mine. Passed away a few years ago. He came here with $20 in his pocket, could not speak English. He worked his butt off, became a psychologist, and was just an awesome man. But he always remembered that he had to work for everything that he had, and we had so many examples of people who endured so much to come to our country. You didn't hear them complain a whole lot.
John Curry: They just did what they had to do.
John Curry: Let me switch gears for just a moment and ask you. These are wonderful stories you've been sharing. We could stay here all day.
Phil: I'm glad I could remember them.
John Curry: I'm glad you did. And I'm going to pick on Betty a little bit, folks. When we first started this, Betty was saying, "Oh, I don't think that we'll, our interview will last more than 5 or 10 minutes," and we've been going at this for 52 minutes now, by the way.
Betty: Wow. That's amazing.
John Curry: But let me ask you this: Closing thoughts. What would your advice be to people that have retired, and they're not quite sure what the next chapter is. Because, see, you tired, but you haven't expired.
John Curry: You've kind of gotten rewired, and excited about life. So what, we'll start with you, Betty. What, actually I'll start with you, Phil. What advice would you offer the men out there, who they've been so consumed with their work over the years, didn't really pursue other activities necessarily, but what advice would you offer for someone with that, for post retirement?
Phil: I think you have to kind of look on two different sides. If you've got children or grandchildren, then naturally you want to spend a lot of time with them doing some things. If you've got elderly parents, you might have to spend some time with them.
John Curry: Or both, or both.
Betty: Or both.
Phil: Or both, yeah. And we actually have that. We had both sides, we had parents that lived a pretty good life, and like I said earlier, I retired a little bit earlier. Betty retired a little bit later. But, I think, to stay active. Get in, like Kiwanis or some of those clubs, so that you're interacting with other people in town. Then I think you need to get in some type of area that you're really interested in-
Betty: And give back to your community.
Phil: ... and give back to the community. I've got several things, I've been teaching the amateur radio classes in town for almost 30 years. And found out the other day they want another class coming up, so we're going to probably have a class in that. We do a lot of cemetery work.
Betty: And church work.
Phil: I've been doing that for about the last 10 years, helping keep the cemetery up. Betty's doing the genealogy of the people in the cemetery. And I think, like you said earlier, don't sit at home and watch TV all the time. We watch a little bit in the morning, we watch a little bit at night, and that's it, we're doing other things. And I think to keep yourself active. If you've got a trip you'd like to take, sit down and-
Betty: Plan for it.
Phil: ... look at your finances. Save some money for that, and then go ahead and take the trip.
John Curry: And do it while you're healthy, and can enjoy it.
Betty: And do it, exactly, because you're a more interesting person, and I think even for your children, and your grandchildren, it's setting a good model for them. America is a great country. It's not perfect, but it's a great American experiment, and you can look at it as a glass half empty, or full, and we're finding it very filled with wonderful things that we, still in our country, want to see.
John Curry: Absolutely.
Betty: And share with other people, and let them know that there is a good life out there.
Phil: Go and talk to other people that are taking trips, and say, "What did you see when you were on those trips?" And they say, "Wow, I didn't care for this, and I'm not interested in that," but let's get a trip that we want to take. So Betty and I will sit down, and we're trying to think where we want to go next.
John Curry: I love that. I love that.
Phil: We'll sit down and look at our finances, and maybe skimp a little bit someplace and see if we can't do it in the next couple of years.
Betty: But try to turn it into something that's positive for our family, and makes us more interesting people, enriches our lives, and I think in that way, you can pass it on to your own family, and maybe to others around you, and make you a better contributor for your community.
John Curry: Absolutely. That's why I put together the podcast series, because a friend challenged me with this, "You have so much knowledge yourself, but also access to other people that you work with. Why don't you start doing a podcast?" I'm embarrassed to say, I said, "What's a podcast?" He said, "It's a way for you to allow your clients, and other advisors, to share information, to all the people in your network. Your clients, and perspective clients. People who want access to knowledge." And you don't have to get on a plane and travel somewhere. They don't have to. They could listen to it in their car, listen to it on their iPhone or their iPad, and he's been right. And I just thank you so much, Betty and Phil Ashler-
Phil: Yeah, we enjoyed it.
Betty: We enjoyed it.
John Curry: ... for sharing. And most important, thank you so much for the relationship we have. It's been a pleasure working with you all these years. I hope we have another 30 years together.
Betty: We do too. Okay.
Phil: Yeah, Yeah. Okay.
John Curry: Well, thank you so much.
Phil: Well, thank you, John.
John Curry: And folks, I hope you've enjoyed this, and I'm going to try to have them come back another time, and talk about some other topics, but this has been great. Thank you, again.
Phil: And then tell us the trips that you take.
John Curry: I'll do that, but these podcasts are about you folks, not me. Thanks again.
Phil: Okay, thank you, John.
Disclosures: Includes Podcast & LBS Disclosure
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John H. Curry, CLU, ChFC, AEP, MSFS, CLTC, registered representative and financial advisor
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