Secrets of the Happiest Retirees

It’s tempting to think of retirement only from the financial side of things. Yes, it’s important that you save enough to be comfortable in your golden years.

But, says Dr. Larry Kubiak, you can’t forget the emotional and psychological side. As Director of Psychological Services at Behavioral Health Center Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare, Larry knows that better than most.

With our identities so wrapped up in our jobs, retirement can bring your whole life crashing down if you’re not careful. And your mental health can suffer.

Retirement can – and should – be your biggest adventure yet! Larry and I talk all about how to make it happen.

Tune in to discover…

  • What you should do now to ensure a fulfilling retirement

  • The best way to react to bad situations

  • A strategy for staying young, no matter what your age

  • How to earn a “psychic income”

  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this Episode:

Episode Transcript:

John Curry: This is John Curry. Welcome again to another episode of our Secure Retirement podcast. 

Today, I'm sitting across the table from a guy I've known a long time. We're both grinning at each other here. Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Larry Kubiak. He's a PhD. He's Director of Psychological Services at the Behavioral Health Center at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare. Did I say that right?

Larry Kubiak: Yes, you did. Very good, John.

John Curry: Well, Larry, thank you for being here. This is going to be an exciting interview today, folks. While we were having lunch, getting ready, we were talking about some of the topics, and Larry, I have to tell you, I'm impressed that you took time to think through some of the issues that people who are getting close to retirement or are in retirement are facing. I know you have a wealth of information, so thank you for being here.

Larry Kubiak: Certainly. My pleasure, John.

John Curry: Let's start off by you just kind of sharing with our audience what you do, how you go about the process. Just tell them who you are, a little bit about your background, but also make sure you tell them that you're Rotarian and Vice President of your club. So, jump in. 

Larry Kubiak: Okay. Well, I have my doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Florida, and I have been a professional in the field for 42 years. I have been the Director of Psychological Services at Tallahassee Memorial Behavioral Health Center for the last 27 years.

I specialize there in psychological and neuropsychological testing. When people come into the hospital, it used to be that they were there for up to three weeks, and now it's about three days. One of the implications of that, it is very critical to have the most accurate diagnosis so that they can get the most appropriate treatment. Psychological testing is a very important component in helping to identify what's really going on as quickly as possible so that they're put on the right medication, that they're involved in the right therapy from the very outside, so that when they go back to their home community, that they've gotten started off on the right foot and that can be continued.

I have a lot of doctoral students from Florida State that do placements with me, to help learn how to do this kind of thing. We help make decisions about our people suffering from bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, dementia, Alzheimer's, all kinds of things, because those have very important implications in peoples' lives. We work with the psychiatrist and the rest of the treatment team to help make sure that people get the most appropriate treatment they possibly can. 

Also very involved with Boy Scouts. John and I have some ties through that. I was a Scout Master. I had 12 young men become Eagle Scout while I was serving in that capacity. I'm currently on the National Health & Safety Committee for Boy Scouts. I'm the chair of the Mental Health Subcommittee. I'll be on staff and have a major role at the World Jamboree this next year. John mentioned Rotary. I was the president of the Tallahassee Rotary Club, which is the largest club in our 50 club district in 6940, here in North Florida. I currently serve as Assistant District Governor, and will be interviewed in October for the possibility of serving as District Governor on down the road. So, we'll see how that goes.

John Curry: You'd make a great governor. I hope that happens. People listening to this might be asking the question, "Why in the world is John Curry interviewing a psychologist?" based on what they just heard. We were talking earlier over lunch, that it's not just about having money. Over the years, 43 years I've been doing this, we try to give good information to help people make better decisions, not just about money, but about life.

Larry Kubiak: Well, and John, one of the things that has always impressed me about you is, certainly, you do an outstanding job helping people be as financially secure as they possibly can be. Unfortunately, many of your colleagues, that may be as far as they go, but you have always impressed me as being someone who goes beyond that and wants to look at the total person. What can we do to help their total experience in retirement be as positive as possible? 

So, to me, it's certainly very natural that you would ask me, a psychologist, because we know that just being financially secure doesn't mean you're going to have the kind of retirement that you want to have. If you haven't prepared emotionally and psychologically, then you're probably going to be missing out. You have got to have a reason for getting up in the morning. Especially for us guys, maybe sometimes women too. Especially for us guys, a lot of who we are, a lot of our self-worth, a lot of our social connections, are tied to work. 

John Curry: Would you say probably the majority?

Larry Kubiak: Well, exactly.

John Curry: The majority.

Larry Kubiak: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. Because, a lot of guys haven't made those social connections through things like Rotary or Boy Scouts, or the church and so on, and they've relied so much on their job or their family. So, when they retire, they go from having all of those needs met by their job, all of a sudden, to retiring and not having those needs met anymore. 

Unless they have adequately prepared ... And just as you must prepare financially, you really need to prepare emotionally. What is going to give you satisfaction? What's going to make you feel fulfilled in retirement? Now, is that going to be playing golf every single day of your retirement? Well, that might be okay for the first month, but I think you're probably going to get tired of that after a while.

John Curry: Let me jump in on that one.

Larry Kubiak: Please.

John Curry: I had the pleasure a few years back - haven't played in two years because of shoulder problems - of getting to play golf five days in a row. I discovered very quickly that I would not be able to retire and play golf every day. I didn't like it. That's tough. I was worn out. I can't even imagine how these pro players do that the way they do it. If I-

Larry Kubiak: Well, they're paid pretty well for it.

John Curry: Well, they are, but ... Some of them are anyway. 

Larry Kubiak: Yeah, well, some are and some aren't. So, yeah, I mean, if that is what gives you ... And that's fine to do that, and it's fine to travel. I know a lot of people want to travel and so on, and that's fine too. You've got to continue to learn, you've got to continue to grow. When we stop learning and growing, when we stop feeling like we're contributing to life, then that's when we start to die.

I think there are a lot of ways that people can deal with that. Now, some people, unfortunately, for financial reasons, they may be forced to continue to work, but, if you're in a position where you can continue to work because you really enjoy working ... And there's a term that we refer to as "psychic income", that if you're fortunate enough to be in a position where you work not just for the pay check, but because of the satisfaction that you get for working in something that contributes to peoples' welfare, then you get some benefit from that that you just can't put a price tag on. So, it's just very important.

Sometimes people can continue to work, maybe in that same field. Sometimes they may have had another kind of line of work that they might want to pursue. A good friend of my wife, she was a psychologist, and found that she really liked doing craft things. She has completely switched from that major career to something else, because she found that she got more enjoyment out of that. So, whatever that is for you, find that, pursue that, and it will go a long way toward helping you be more psychologically healthy and get more out of your retirement. 

John Curry: All right. Well, let's help the people that are listening to this [inaudible 00:08:06], okay, that's great, but how do I do that? Let's talk with someone, let's say in their fifties, [crosstalk 00:08:12] retirement. Say maybe they're 55, 60 years old. What advice would you offer them as far as beginning to start seeking out things so they have a purpose beyond work? What are some of the things you would suggest?

I know what I've told people to do. Explore things today, experiment, see if you like it. What do you think?

Larry Kubiak: Well, I think it's important for people to try a variety of things and really begin to identify where their passion is. I know, for me, I really enjoy being involved with Boy Scouts. I really enjoy being involved with the Rotary because of the multiple ways that we can give back. What's very unique to me about Rotary is that I have some unique skills, as a psychologist, that allows me to continue to give back through that. Now, for some people it might be church. 

What I'm saying is, don't just sit around watching television all day. I think you were saying earlier, John, that you had to do that for a while, and you realized that sitting around watching television all day would not be how you would want to spend your retirement.

John Curry: That would not be a happy retirement for me.

Larry Kubiak: Exactly. Exactly. So, get away from that. Get out there. Try giving back. Try getting involved ... [Olly 00:09:32]. You know, the Florida State, the classes? Use that as an opportunity to continue to expand yourself, to see if there's a real passion for you. You've probably gained a lot of experience in whatever you do, maybe you could be a teacher. Maybe you could do seminars, learn a new skill, learn a language. Whatever that might be-

John Curry: All good advice.

Larry Kubiak: Yeah. 

John Curry: All good. Part of it comes down to just taking the time to discover for yourself what you enjoy doing.

Larry Kubiak: Exactly.

John Curry: I'm afraid that many people, I think most of us frankly, I know I'm guilty of it at times too, are just getting in this routine where you get out, you do this, you do this, you do this, but my experience has been clients ... My oldest client's 101. Clients that are in their late nineties, late eighties, the ones that seem to be the happiest are the ones who, they've taken care of their financial issues, so the bills are paid. They're not worried about paying their bills. But, they're not sitting home doing nothing. 

Larry Kubiak: Right.

John Curry: They are socially involved.

Larry Kubiak: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: I'm thinking of a guy right now that I had the pleasure ... I'll just call his name, Dr. Charles [Nam 00:10:40]. I had the pleasure of being his guardian on one of the Honor Flights. 

Larry Kubiak: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Oh, yeah. Wonderful.

John Curry: Charlie's in his nineties. He's still going strong. We're constantly sharing ideas back and forth, and every time I'm around him, I have to remind myself that he's in his nineties, because he's got so much energy. He feels like I want to explore more, so now he's acting.

Larry Kubiak: Well, you want to continually be curious about life. You always want to keep learning and growing. So, identify what engages that curiosity. Kids are very curious. I've got three grandkids, and we go for a walk in the woods, and everything is just exciting. Everything is new, and there's something to learn about. We kind of get away from that as we get older. So, try to get back to that, to what really engages your curiosity, whether it be about yourself, or relationships, or getting back in a certain way. 

So, identify that passion, that enthusiasm, those kinds of things that really give you meaning in life, and pursue those. They're not going to come to you. You're not going to get them from watching television. So, force yourself to get out there. Maybe your spouse has to force you. Maybe a friend invites you to a Rotary meeting, or [Kiwanis 00:12:12], or Lions, or something like that. Give it a chance. See, see what you think.

John Curry: Get out of your comfort zone-

Larry Kubiak: Yeah, exactly.

John Curry: ... and try something new. Talk a little bit about ... because I know you experience this in your counseling, you have to, of where one person, one spouse, feels like, well, I can't do anything. I can't go do a because my spouse doesn't like a, and I have to please him or her because they always get their way.

Larry Kubiak: Well, you know, that's-

John Curry: Can you talk about that for a minute?

Larry Kubiak: I think that's a very important point. When we made those marriage vows, they didn't say that we have to enjoy everything together, we must spend all of our time together. I guarantee you, my wife has some interests that I don't have, I have some interests she doesn't have. She loves to go to yard sales on Saturday. That would drive me nuts. I have no interest in going to yard sales, so she can go. I like to, on a Saturday morning, I might like to go for a hike in the woods. I'll go by myself. I'll go with my daughter. But, my wife doesn't go with me.

My wife loves to go to plays in New York with our daughter. That's okay. We don't have to do ... Give yourself permission to not have to do everything together. In fact, that can, in many respects, make your relationship even better. If one of you goes out and does some things, and the other one goes out and does some different things, then you've got so many more things to talk about than if you always did exactly the same things. I mean, I don't mind, and I really enjoy hearing what kind of amazing bargain she got at a yard sale. So-

John Curry: You just don't want to be there in the process.

Larry Kubiak: Well, that's right. That's right. It would be very boring to me. But, give yourself permission to spend time away from each other, and don't feel like it's going to detract from the relationship. It actually will enhance the relationship. 

John Curry: Let's circle back on something you said earlier about, particularly men, so much of their self-worth is wrapped up in their careers. I'm seeing more and more of that with women now that are in the professional fields, where they have similar situations. Are you seeing that, or [crosstalk 00:14:36]?

Larry Kubiak: Well, certainly. Certainly. At the risk of sounding sexist, and I would apologize if it comes across this way, but in my professional experience, generally speaking, women do a much better job of forming relationships, friendships with other women, talking with them about their feelings and so on. Us guys, we don't want to talk about our feelings. We're the strong, silent type, like John Wayne, so it's not okay to talk about your feelings. But, that's probably why women live longer than we do, because they've learned how to do that. 

We were talking earlier about, well, what happens if a couple's been married for 50 years, and if the husband dies first, how long with the wife live? Well, she'll probably live a long time, because she's got all kinds of social support. If it's the other way around, a lot of times that guy will die fairly quickly, unless he has taken proactive steps to develop social relationships, to get involved with other men, to learn to express his feelings, to learn to go through the grieving process. We talked about that earlier.

One of the things that we see ... Well, life is filled with loss. I mean, you lose your pet, you lose a girlfriend, you lose a job, but the longer you live, the more losses that you've had in your life. It's normal to go through a grieving process when it comes to losses. It's not normal to get stuck in them, and to never work through, and to stay depressed, and become suicidal and so on. So, it's important to give yourself permission to experience the stages of grief. Kübler-Ross has talked a lot about the five stages of grief - the denial, the anger, the depression, the acceptance and so on. It would be nice to say that people go through those at the same time, in the same way, very quickly, but everybody's different. 

I think when it comes to retirement, a lot of the enjoyment you might get of retirement can be lost if you are going through a severe grieving process. Don't be afraid to seek some help. I don't mean drugs, drugs are not going to help the process, but giving yourself permission to talk to people that can really help you through that. For many of us, it might be family, it might be friends. It doesn't necessarily have to be professionals. It may be a support group. But, give yourself the permission to do that and work through that grieving process, and I think that the more effectively you're able to do that, the more enjoyment you can get out of life, out of your retirement, and much better things will be for you.

John Curry: That's true if you're 20 years away from retirement.

Larry Kubiak: Oh, yeah. Exactly. Exactly.

John Curry: Because, we're going to experience losses no matter what we think or say or do. I mean, I think back to [three 00:17:44] years ago, my dad died. He was battling cancer for several years. I look at the quality of my mother's life now, and in a lot of ways she hasn't gotten over his loss and is still grieving, and it's taken its toll on her health. 

Larry Kubiak: Sure.

John Curry: Frankly, her sister's around her. You're right, we handle it differently. 

What would you suggest as a way to learn more about dealing with these losses? Because, it's true, we lose friends. In today's politically charged environment, I witnessed at a Rotary club, not mine, but a club I was visiting, two guys arguing so loudly, and the profanity over political issues right now, that they stomped away angry. I'm told that, even now, they won't even speak to each other, and this happened two months ago. Two months ago. 

We're becoming so polarized in different areas. What advice would you have to, I don't want to say "protect ourselves", but to put ourselves in a way where we don't become guilty of being the cause of that, or if we receive that, we can get over it fairly quickly and not worry about it?

Larry Kubiak: Well, I think several things come to mind. I think one is the whole notion of empathy. Empathy is so critical in everything that we do in life, and being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes. Again, without getting political, before you speak, before you yell at somebody for being whatever you want to call them, try to understand where they're coming from. A lot of times, it comes from fear. 

People might be afraid of immigrants, for instance, because they're afraid that their way of life, their income, is threatened. So, a lot of times, people react perhaps through prejudice and so on out of the fear. I would say really work to try to hear what is behind those words, really try to understand the other person rather than just yelling at them. I think that's one of the things that's most missing in the discourse and why we see the issues being so apart. 

Because, I think ... Well, again, I'm very involved with the Rotary, Rotary Youth Exchange, and we have so many international high school students that come to Florida and the United States from other countries, and we send them overseas and everything. I think one of the things that we learn from having exchange programs and so on, or traveling internationally, is we learn that there is a lot more that's similar among us than there are differences. 

John Curry: Right. No matter where you travel.

Larry Kubiak: That's right. Exactly. That deep down, while the governments may be at loggerheads with each other, if you relate to the people in that country, the parents there are interested in the same things that we are. They want their kids to grow up into healthy, productive citizens, just like we do. Once you begin to empathize and identify and understand things from their perspective, it's harder to encapsulate them in being this kind of person and so on. You begin to see them as more of a whole human, and that's what we're after, is to foster those kind of ties. 

I think empathy and taking the time to really understand and really listen ... I mean, I always like to say, God gave us two ears and one mouth because he wants us to listen twice as much as we talk. Unfortunately, in today's society, it's a matter of not just I want to talk, but I want to out-yell you, and whoever's the loudest yeller is who gets paid attention to. To me, a much greater characteristic that I'd like to see for everybody is that we take a lot more time to slow down and really listen to what the other person is saying.

John Curry: Good advice. I want to share something that happened back in 1992. Pat and I were going to take a trip to Paris, and we were told how everybody in France are going to be so rude and righteous and all this to Americans. 

Larry Kubiak: Exactly.

John Curry: We experienced none of that.

Larry Kubiak: Exactly.

John Curry: None.

Larry Kubiak: Exactly.

John Curry: In fact, we had people going out of their way to guide us when we were on the wrong train one day. 

I've thought about another experience back in the 70s, going to New York City for the first time. Back in '78 I think it was, '78 or '79. Same thing. "Oh, they're going to be so rude." I was so lost. I was on the wrong subway. This guy looks at me, and he says, "Sir, where are you trying to go?" I told him. I said, "I'm trying to go to [inaudible 00:22:56] Broadway, near City Hall." He said, "You're on the wrong train." So, he's trying to explain to me [crosstalk 00:23:01], and here's what he said. He said, "I got time. Come with me." We get off the train, he takes me over to the proper turnstile, he drops in two tokens, goes with me. He goes, he gets on the next train, takes me back to City Hall. He said, "At City Hall, your building will be to the left somewhere." He said, "Enjoy your time in New York City."

I only remember the first name was Bob. I wish I had ... So many times, I wish I'd gotten his name and address and kept in touch. But, there is an example of not only empathy, but also expectation. If I expect you to be angry, that's probably what I'm going to get. 

Larry Kubiak: Exactly.

John Curry: Because I'm going to send off vibes that I'm expecting that.

Larry Kubiak: That's right. That's right. That's right.

John Curry: But, if I'm expecting that you're going to be nice and friendly, and you're going to be my new friend ... And I'm reminded of a quote that's attributed to Abraham Lincoln. He said, "I do not like that man. I should get to know him." 

Larry Kubiak: Yes. A lot of wisdom in that. I think, to help diffuse that kind of escalation and tension and so on, really try to listen to the person. If you can reflect to that person what you hear them saying, "Boy, you sound like you're really afraid that dah dah dah dah dah," or you ... And the more we can identify the feeling word behind what the person's saying, the more they feel understood, the more that lowers their tension. Because, so many of us feel like nobody hears us, nobody understands us, and that's really critical in any relationship in life. 

Certainly, when we're talking about retirement, and we're talking about men having difficulty when they lose their job, lose those relationships they have at work, begin to form those elsewhere. The more you're able to do that, when you get away from work, then the more successful your retirement's going to be. So, use those skills that you developed over all those years in work to develop new ones, and that's one of the exciting things about retirement. You get a chance to try some different things, to develop some skills that you may not have had, to form some new relationships.

The friendships that I've developed through scouting, and through Rotary, and through my church and so on, have been extremely enriching to me. I would not want to trade them for anything else. That can be the same thing for someone looking forward to retirement. You can't start too soon to begin to develop those kinds of things.

John Curry: In fact, I would argue that if you waited until retirement to pursue those, you're going to be very unhappy in retirement.

Larry Kubiak: Exactly. Certainly. No question.

John Curry: But, if you start pursuing those well before ... I keep three books on my shelf. One is [Kurt Douglas' 00:25:53] book. He's 101. [George Burns' 00:25:56] book, he died at age 100. And Betty White, she's still working at 96 years old. I keep those as role models, because when people say, "When are you going to retire?" I hope I never retire. 

Now, I want to do more of the things that I want to do, and not feel like I have to come to work every day-

Larry Kubiak: Exactly.

John Curry: ... but I don't want to stop doing what I'm doing. It's like you said earlier, no plans, no desire to retire, as long as you're bringing value and helping people.

Larry Kubiak: Yeah. 

John Curry: We're both doing counseling work. Mine's counseling regarding ... Well, it's not just financial. A lot of times I feel like I am a psychologist, psychiatrist, lawyer, accountant, all bundled into one.

Larry Kubiak: Sure. Exactly. Exactly.

John Curry: It's funny. When I was a kid, I always thought I wanted to be first a school teacher, then a preacher, then a trial lawyer. 

Larry Kubiak: Oh, my.

John Curry: I'm convinced that I'm in the right profession, because I get to do all of those.

Larry Kubiak: You do all of ...

John Curry: I'm teaching, I'm preaching, and I'm trying to persuade. 

Larry Kubiak: Yeah. Very good. Very good. [crosstalk 00:26:58].

John Curry: Let's address something that we haven't talked about, but I think is very important, and that is trust. Having trust in ourselves, in the people around us. We live in a world today that's become more and more untrusting, and frankly, rightfully so. When you look at what's happening in the political world, the corporate world.

Larry Kubiak: Sure. Sure.

John Curry: Address the importance of trust for a minute, especially entrusting yourself and seeking help with people that can guide you, that you have confidence in.

Larry Kubiak: Well, trust is very critical in anything that we do in life. If we don't ... When we're born, going as early as we possibly can, when we're born into this world, we have zero ability to take care of ourselves, and we are 100% dependent on our parents. [crosstalk 00:27:48]-

John Curry: [crosstalk 00:27:48].

Larry Kubiak: Yeah, that's right. But, let's say you cry when you're a baby, and your parents come to you and they attend you. If you need to be changed, they change you, and if you need to be fed, they feed you, and so on. If that is the consistent pattern that happens, then you start to learn that I can trust this world. Obviously, as we get older, we have to decide, well, who can we trust and who we can't. But, we're born and we are totally dependent on our parents. If they meet our needs, then we realize that we can trust, and we can begin to trust.

On the other hand, let's say that you're a baby and you cry, and nobody comes. You cry, and nobody comes. You cry, and nobody comes. Or somebody comes and slaps you. So, what is your image of the world starting out there?

John Curry: [crosstalk 00:28:45].

Larry Kubiak: I need things, but nobody is going to meet those needs. Then that's replicated in other things in your life, and so on. 

So, trust is something that is very critical from our very beginnings in life, and the more it's replicated, that we can trust people and they will meet our needs, the more likely we are to trust other people. Now, again, it's a lifelong process of learning to trust, and sometimes we're going to get burned, and sometimes we get burned and we may not want to trust anybody for a while. But, hopefully, we learn that, well, the only way to go through life like that is to be a rock, and it's not much fun being a rock, that we've got to get out there and we've got to take some risks and so on. 

What our parents and people who care about us need to help us to is to help advise us on who to trust and who not to trust. Sometimes we'll listen to them, sometimes we won't. Sometimes we're going to be headstrong and we're just going to rush ahead, and we're going to make some bad decisions, and we hope that that helps us to learn what to look for more carefully in the future. That's true in any relationship. Employers. 

John Curry: True.

Larry Kubiak: Spouses. I mean, Jeez, one of the most important decisions you make in your lifetime is who you want to marry, and who you want to be friends with. 

At the Behavioral Health Center, one of the things that ... We see a lot of young people in our adolescent unit there, because they have ... Maybe a girl trusted a guy, then he runs around with her best friend. That's very serious trust, and just imagine how hard it's going to be for her to trust another guy in a relationship. Or if she's been abused in a relationship, it's going to take that much more effort to ever be able to trust again. So, trust is very, very critical. I mean, it's set in place from our initial relationship with our parents, but it's a lifelong endeavor. 

We can never get to the point of saying that, well, I can always trust these people and so on. It's unfortunate that there are people who will take advantage of you, with all the identity theft, and people just have so many more creative ways to take advantage of you. Certainly those who are retired, who may have saved a lot of money and so on, they're going to be a target, a magnet, for people who are going to try to take advantage of them. Maybe when they need some care ... I mean, you read about it in the newspaper all the time. Somebody who offers to help take care of them, to be a friend for them, to handle duties for them, and they take advantage of that, they take them for thousands of dollars. 

John Curry: Would you believe that in our world, the training we get, we actually are trained by some of the financial regulatory bodies on what to look for, so that if we see or suspect that somebody's being taken advantage of ... And, sadly, it's usually, as you just pointed out, either a family member or a close friend who's doing it. It's not some total stranger. 

So, we have to take classes each year to be on the alert, if you will. Or if we see somebody who, maybe they're not able to make a decision, you contact a family member, I'm concerned about your mother or your father, whatever. That's a tough call.

Larry Kubiak: Well, it's interesting that you bring that up, because I mentioned that I am a neuropsychologist, and so part of what I do is neuropsychological testing to help identify whether or not someone may be experiencing dementia. The greatest risk factor for dementia is getting older. Well, getting older still beats the alternative of not getting older-

John Curry: Yes, [crosstalk 00:32:42].

Larry Kubiak: ... but, the older you live ... Now, it's not inevitable that everybody will have Alzheimer's or anything like that, but certainly the risk increases. Fortunately, we know more about that whole process than we did 20 years ago, and 20 years from now we will know even more. I'm hopeful that, within our lifetime, there will be a cure for Alzheimer's. Actually, I'm going to be part of a drug study that's looking at a very positive possibility there's- 

John Curry: Are you going to be taking drugs, is that what you're saying?

Larry Kubiak: Well, no. I'm going to be testing people who are, but ... 

John Curry: [crosstalk 00:33:19].

Larry Kubiak: I think one of the important things for your listeners to be aware of is that whether it be them, a spouse, a family member as they get older, if you start to see some cognitive issues, have them checked out. Certainly, first of all, I would have them alert their physician. Go to their physician. There are some kind of screening things that the physician could do to help begin to identify if there were some cognitive decline there. There also are neuropsychologists and neurologists that can do assessments that can begin to identify how severely impaired someone might be, and whether or not there may be areas in their life that they should not be making decisions. Maybe there needs to be a power of attorney to help them make certain decisions, and so on.

So, all I'm saying is that, certainly, if you see in yourself or someone else some cognitive decline, check it out, and make sure that a person is not going to be taken advantage of otherwise.

John Curry: I'm glad you discussed that, because we've had several cases in the last few years where it was almost like divine intervention in that we were able to get people to go see an attorney, get their legal documents done, get the [inaudible 00:34:45] power of attorney in place, before a stroke occurred or some other health issue. 

We've thought about it several times as a team. We go, "Wow." That, we can't take credit for that, because there was the timing issue of getting people motivated, who for years wouldn't do it. I'm thinking of a couple now, where every time I would discuss it with him, he would get angry. I mean, angry. One day he was just cussing at me, and said, "I don't want to deal with these blank blank lawyers." But, when he was ready, he was ready. We took advantage of it, got him in front of the attorney, got it all done. 90 days later, the man suffered a stroke.

Larry Kubiak: Yeah. 

John Curry: And everything was in order. Everything was in order. He since has passed away, but this lady has been able to carry on.

Larry Kubiak: I think it gets back to what you were talking about with the whole issue of trust, what we were talking about earlier. I think, when you have developed a relationship with your clients, and they have seen that you have worked very hard to help prepare them for their financial future in retirement and so on, if you develop that level of trust, you might be in a very important position to advise them about those kinds of things, or their spouse, or whatever. 

Certainly there may be some initial pushback, but don't be afraid of that, and don't be afraid to encourage them to do what's needed in getting that identified. If there's nothing, well that's fine. It may be a temporary thing. But, if it's something that's going to be more serious and more long lasting, then it's best to prepare for it and take the proper steps to deal with it.

John Curry: Good advice. As we wind down here, let's talk about this for a moment. You made a comment earlier about the importance of goal setting, and the image. I don't want to leave that, because we both have talked about the importance of visualizing and imaging. Spend a moment on that please.

Larry Kubiak: Okay. All of us need to set ... We don't want to just wait until New Year’s Eve to set a goal for our life. We should be continually setting goals. Financial goals, employment goals, relationship goals, whatever. We always need to be setting goals. Half the battle in accomplishing a goal is to actually be able to visualize yourself accomplishing that goal. 

Before I've used the analogy of a golfer. If you're having to hit a ball over all water, if it's me, I'm going to imagine the ball going in the water. A professional is going to imagine it landing on the green and going in the hole. So, if you can't form an image of yourself successfully accomplishing your goal, you're doomed not to meet it. So, imagine that. Imagine what life is going to be like when you're retired and you're free to do the kinds of things that give you the most satisfaction in life.

So, picture that. What's that going to be like? What’s your day going to be like? What are your relationships going to be like? Who are you going to be spending time with? Where are you going to be spending time? The more you can visualize that and you can describe that to someone else, the more likely that it is to happen. So, forming that image is very important in any goal setting, whether it be ... 

I remember working with a woman one time who was going to have a bariatric bypass surgery. She was morbidly obese. Her goal was to be able to walk around Lake Ella with her child, just without being in pain, the pain that she had so much weight on her knees, it was so painful. So, being able to form that image of what it was going to be like walking around there, and the look on her daughter's face and everything, is what helped her get the motivation to actually make that happen.

John Curry: When I had heart surgery 10 years ago, there was a guy in the room next to me who had the same procedure, a triple bypass. He was so angry, throwing things at the nurses and the other staff. The doctor, same doctor, he asked me, "Would you please, when you're taking a walk, invite this guy to join you?" I said, "Sure. What's up?" and he told me. And he did. Finally, he got out of bed, took a walk.

But, the first time we were taking a walk, he was focusing on all the problems. There was nothing to look forward to. He was like, "Why are you so happy?" I said, "Because I'm not dead." I mean, the surgery worked.

Larry Kubiak: Exactly. [inaudible 00:39:28] exactly.

John Curry: I'm able to [crosstalk 00:39:30]. I'm white as a sheet. I walked 10 feet, I thought I was going to pass out. But, at least I'm moving.

Larry Kubiak: Exactly.

John Curry: I finally got the guy laughing, and we're talking, and then he looked forward to walking three or four times a day.

Larry Kubiak: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: As you were talking about the importance of goals and imaging, that popped in my head. Because, I think about ... There are times when I'll dwell on the negative side, and I've gotten pretty good at quickly saying "stop". Just stop. Don't go there, and then get out. I'm convinced that people who are happiest and most successful in life, they have the ability ... Like a pro golfer. A ball goes into water, they don't dwell on that shot. It's over. 

Larry Kubiak: That's right.

John Curry: That's behind you.

Larry Kubiak: Can't change that.

John Curry: What's coming forward next?

Larry Kubiak: Exactly. 

John Curry: And I think that helps also a lot with the loss and the grieving. Now, there's also a line, you have to understand, where you could become so callus and become arrogant about it, but the longer we dwell on stuff, I call it the "downward spiral". I'm sure there must be merit to that from the psychological training standpoint and counseling, because some people just want to dwell on the negatives.

Larry Kubiak: Well-

John Curry: Some people can't help it.

Larry Kubiak: Yeah. Bad things are going to happen in life. Bad things are going to happen. That's just part of life. Some things will be much more traumatic than others. But, we all can make decisions. We can't decide if something bad is going to happen to us. I mean, a lot of times things just happen, not for any fault of our own. We have an accident because somebody else was drunk and ran into us. But, what we can make decisions on is do we want to continue to be a victim, or do we want to move on with our life? 

There are people who make decisions to be ... They've had bad things happen in their life, they were abused, they were molested and so on, and certainly they didn't deserve that, but the longer you make the decision to be a victim, the longer you keep putting your life on hold. When you make the decision to not be a victim, to make the best out of a situation, to move forward with your life positively, then the sooner you're able to move on and accomplish the things that you really do need to accomplish and want to accomplish and deserve to accomplish. 

John Curry: Let me tell you, Larry, we see that a lot. We see people who lost money in 2008, when the market crashed, and they've made good decisions since then. Some have made poor decisions, like parking their money out of fear. Because fear's a big, big, powerful issue. But, the people that seem to be doing well now are those who say, "Okay, yes, I lost money. The market's very high now, I could lose money again, so I'm going to protect some of that money. I'm not going to live in fear with it." Whereas, others, no matter where they are, if the market's high, they worry about it crashing. If the market's low, they're worried about when is it going to come back up. 

So, what you just said about ... That's somewhat being a victim, isn't it? I'm allowing my loss from before, of 2008, to keep me from doing the things I need to do today, to be able to make better decisions. I never thought of it that way, but that is being a victim, isn't it?

Larry Kubiak: Yeah, it is. It is. There are a lot of things in life to be afraid of, but if we live our life based on all of those fears then we never move forward.

John Curry: We have no life.

Larry Kubiak: We have no life. That's right. Exactly.

John Curry: Wow.

Larry Kubiak: So, we have to make a decision to step forward. Not recklessly, obviously, but to listen to the advice around us. Obviously, those who didn't listen to your advice and took all of their money out of stocks are regretting it now. 

John Curry: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Larry Kubiak: And you can always say, "I told you so," but you would not do that.

John Curry: I would not do that. That would not be very empathetic.

Larry Kubiak: No, it wouldn't. It would definitely not be empathetic.

John Curry: Or sympathetic either.

Larry Kubiak: Right.

John Curry: I'm looking at that computer screen. We've been talking for 43 minutes. 

Larry Kubiak: Oh, my.

John Curry: This has been a fantastic interview. I'm hoping we can do this again some time-

Larry Kubiak: Certainly.

John Curry: ... and expand a little bit deeper. 

Larry Kubiak: Sure.

John Curry: Larry Kubiak, I thank you so much.

Larry Kubiak: Well, my pleasure. 

John Curry: Thank you.

Larry Kubiak: All right. Thank you.

Outro: 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, chartered financial consultant, accredited estate planner, master's in science and financial services, certified in long-term care, registered representative and financial advisor of Park Avenue Securities LLC. 

Securities products and services and advisory services are offered through Park Avenue Securities, a registered broker-dealer and investment advisor. Financial representative of the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, New York. Park Avenue Securities is an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian. [inaudible 00:44:38] Financial Corporation is not an affiliate of 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 they lose value. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents or employees do not provide legal, tax or accounting advice. Please consult with your attorney, accountant and/or tax advisor for advice concerning your particular circumstances. Not affiliated with the Florida Retirement System. The Living Balance Sheet and the Living Balance Sheet logo are registered service marks of the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, New York. Copyright 2005 through 2018.

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

2018-68854 Exp 10/20

Following Doctor’s Orders in More Ways Than One

As the Chief Medical Officer at a nonprofit organization and long-time internal medicine specialist, Dr. Nancy Van Vessem is in prime position to see how certain habits can severely impact a person’s long-term health.

She’s also seen the way healthcare issues are impacting everyday people.

One of the major concerns is rising costs. In our chat, we highlighted strategies to account for that, especially in retirement. We also spoke about the importance of discussing end of life care with your family – so your wishes are followed.

Tune in now to discover…

  • Things you can do now to live a long and healthy life

  • What accounts for 50% of the impact on your health

  • How to tweak your retirement plan to account for increasing lifespans

  • The very real consequences of not listening to your doctor 

  • The #1 health risk in the United States – and how to avoid it

  • And more

Listen now…

Episode Transcript:

John Curry: This is John Curry. Welcome to another episode of John Curry's Secure Retirement Podcast. I'm excited about today's guest, because Dr. Nancy Van Vessem is with me today. Welcome, Nancy.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Thank you.

John Curry: Every time we get together, we have, I call them dynamic conversations. We talk about healthcare, we talk about financial planning, retirement planning. I'm always amazed at how much you know when it comes to tax planning, retirement planning and financial planning. But first let's talk about your career.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Okay.

John Curry: You're a medical doctor. Tell our audience about your background. When did you decide to become a physician and what you're doing today.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Well, that goes way back. I actually graduated from medical school in 1983. So, if you do the math there, that was 35 years ago. And as to why I became a physician, I think it was a little unusual for women back then. I think when I went to medical school, there's was only 10% women and that's changed a lot. Now it's over 50% women. But I think a lot of it was that, like most people that go to medical school, I was very good in science and at some point I had to make a decision about, am I going to be somebody that stands at a bench and does chemistry and that sort of thing or am I going to be out among people and using my skills to help people and I decided to go that route. And then one thing led to another after that and I became an internal medicine physician and the internal medicine physician is a physician for adults with complex medical problems, typically, and that's sort of what happened.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: I moved here to Tallahassee 24 years ago and I've been at Capital Health Plan since then, first as a practicing physician, but gradually I have morphed into more administrative roles and I'm now the Chief Medical Officer.

John Curry: Very good, very good. Tell us about your day-to-day work at Capital Health Plan. So you're not doing practice anymore, is that correct?

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: I'm not doing direct patient care, no.

John Curry: Okay, so none at all now. So you see a lot of the issues that impact the public from the standpoint of healthcare issues or lack thereof and also the money side of it.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Yes.

John Curry: So tell us a little bit about what you're seeing and what concerns you or just whatever pops into your head regarding the future of healthcare in our country.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Well, first of all, CHP is a nonprofit organization and we serve the seven counties up here in the panhandle, so we're a small health plan. We're a small, nonprofit HMO and the only product that we have is HMO product, which is platinum coverage and so what it means is that the people in our area have more access to platinum coverage which means insurance pays 90% or so of the medical costs and I think one of the things that we're seeing is that there's now been more of a switch to high deductible products where people have like $2,000, $5,000 deductibles, that sort of thing, and that's actually one of the requests that we get a fair amount from employers, but that's not really what we do.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: We're an HMO and we take it serious in terms of trying to manage the care for patients and so I'm involved with the disease management programs, for instance. You know, how do we get diabetics the appropriate care across the community, no matter who their primary care doctor is, if they're seeing an endocrinologist, so we actually have worked on those types of things for many, many years and that has paid off in terms of high quality and those types of things.  I work on a day-to-day basis a lot with the disease management programs, the pharmacy benefit, the physicians in the community, so all of those things.

John Curry: To take a minute for those who are listening and may not know what an HMO is, explain the different levels of that, HMO's, PPO's, individual plans, just educate the audience, please.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Well, HMO is Health Maintenance Organization and there used to be a lot more of them than there are now, but generally the trade-off is that you have comprehensive coverage, so most patients will have a copayment of let's say $15 or $40 or something like that. They're not paying a percentage of the actual bill, so it's that type of cost-sharing which is relatively low, but the trade-off, you usually have a network of physicians and the idea is to try to manage the care so, like for instance, when people have high blood pressure, we try to work with the physicians to manage that high blood pressure because we know that high blood pressure leads to stroke which isn't good for anybody.

John Curry: Nope.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: It's that type of thing, so managed care and there's something called the Triple Aim, which is from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and something we pay attention to. It's to try to improve the service to our patients to improve the quality of what the patients get and to try to keep costs in an affordable range.

John Curry: How did HMO's come about?

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Oh, I think it was really an evolution from a long ... I mean, there's HMO's that were from the turn of the century, you know, the early 1900's, but I think the government got very interested in them back in the 70's and made it possible for more to start up and I think, though, that the more recent wave is to go away from that, is to say, "Here's higher cost-share and you can do whatever you want, but it's just going to cost you more money" sort of thing.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: And you asked about PPO's, Preferred Provider Organizations, and they typically will be like 20% cost-share within the network and then maybe 30 or 40% cost share outside of the network so if you decide to go outside the network, you have higher costs and they rely on that sort of mechanism to reign things in.

John Curry: From my perspective over the years of working with clients on the retirement planning side, it seems like what you do at Capital Health Plan is help people prepare for what's coming down the road, instead of all of a sudden, I've had the heart attack or the stroke or high blood pressure. It's almost like you're helping manage the care.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: We try to because we don't think those things are good for anybody, really. So, for instance, statins are a drug that most diabetics should be on so we actually try to see, are they on it, are they taking it, that sort of thing. If somebody prescribed it and what is the glucose control? Are they being followed to get that measured at least annually, so we try to follow all those things. And our patients are typically in the state of Florida, city, counties, the school teachers. You know, a lot of our members are from those groups.

John Curry: What do you see is the biggest challenge for healthcare going forward? We know it's getting more and more expensive. We've talked about that several times. We just did a webinar yesterday on Medicare and the costs for Medicare is going up, it seems like every year.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Right.

John Curry: We know Medicare has issues, financial issues, Social Security, Medicaid. From a physician standpoint and having the advantage of seeing it from an administrative role, based on being the Chief Medical Officer, what are your concerns going forward?

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Well, I think everyone agrees it's affordability. I think Milliman, they do an index every year and the average family insurance across the U.S. now is $28,000 a year which, of course, exceeds people's ... many times their income, so that's the biggest problem and that's the biggest problem in Medicare, Medicaid and every other program and there's some estimates that about 30% of that money is wasted on unnecessary care, elective procedures that don't need to be done, et cetera, so that's the thing. We can't afford what we have and yet we know there's significant waste in that and how can we ratchet that back, so.

John Curry: What do you say to the people who argue ... 'cause you hear it a lot, we're spending too much money trying to prolong life beyond a certain point. Where's the ethical side of that? If we can help somebody live longer by giving good care, I have the sense that we should do that, but I hear other people, physicians say, "You know, there's a line. How much more life can we squeeze out of that and is it worth the cost?"

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Well, I think it's a good question. It's a really deeply personal question. I think part of the problem is that people don't ask themselves that question because they let things happen and physicians have a view of it because they know reasonably what can be done and what can't be done. And so, for instance, physicians many times won't sign themselves up for the same therapies that patients will sign themselves up for because if you're talking about living, it becomes a quality of life issue. It doesn't become just more days, months, whatever. There's actually a couple articles that are interesting that are called, Why Doctors Die Differently and they actually talk about how physicians don't sign themselves up for some of the care that is available and it's because of, of course, knowing more about it.

John Curry: Right. I learned a lot from my dad. My dad died August 15, 2015 and when he was diagnosed with kidney cancer, he told the doctor, he said, "I'm not taking chemotherapy and no surgery. I'm going to just live the best I can with what I have," and all of us were against that at first and my dad was adamant, he said, "Son, I'm not going to do that. My quality of life is important to me," and right up to the day he died, he insisted on that and his physician, once I told him, he said, "John, your dad's right. This is his choice, not yours, it's not mine."

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Right.

John Curry: "He has the information he needs. You should respect that."

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Right.

John Curry: I was very impressed with that.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: I agree and I think the main thing is for people to kind of think about what do I want for myself, no matter what that is, but then it's very important to communicate with the family and make sure the family agrees to go along with your personal wishes. There is a program at Big Bend Hospice called the Peace Program where they try to get everyone ... you know, the patient will say to get the family there. They'll say, "No, this is what I want, this is what I don't want," and one of the things that we hear, I mean we've seen over time, some family member comes in from out of town and says, "No, no, no, don't ... I don't like that idea that mom wants this and doesn't want that. I don't like that idea," and the whole idea then is to make sure everybody is on the same page and, in fact, if you choose a surrogate ... like if you can't talk or you're not aware, you choose a person that can express your wishes and a lot of times it can't be a family member because many times family members can't do what you want them to do.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: And I know of married couples where the spouse is not the surrogate because they can't do that. So, I know of people who've chosen their business partner to be their surrogate because that person is more likely to actually do and uphold your wishes and that's what this is about.

John Curry: Because they're not as emotionally involved.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Or maybe they have more information.

John Curry: True.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Because it's one thing to say, "Oh, do everything." And you don't even know what do everything is.

John Curry: What is everything, right?

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: From a cost standpoint, if the average cost is $28,000 a year and we know it's going up and then we have things such as long-term care situations, okay, chronic care. So, how do we, as a nation, continue to pay for all of this.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Well, that's the problem. What it's doing is crowding out other things that people are social goods, like education and highways and all of these other ... if you look at the federal budget, all of those things are getting crowded out. So if we think education is a good idea, but we're crowding it out with healthcare, then you either have to raise taxes or cut back ... something has to happen.  And, in fact, in North Carolina ... just this week, North Carolina said we need more money for education and highways and infrastructure. We don't want these bridges falling down and so, therefore, the healthcare providers just need to start cutting their costs. And so I think we'll see more of that and of course, there's a lot of talk now about single payer, which is basically government payment and moving in that direction to control those costs.

John Curry: Well, we have the best healthcare in the world, we're told, but yet it's the most expensive.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Well, I guess it depends on which metric you're looking at. I think we have the best rescue care in the world, but if you actually look at-

John Curry: Wait a minute, back up, say that again. We have the best what?

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Rescue care.

John Curry: Rescue care, compared to what? Preventive care?

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative). So, I think France is number one. The U.S. is pretty well down in the double digits if you look at some of the worldwide metrics, but that's where we put all the effort, like you're saying, end of life care. You know, once something happens, cancer care, that sort of thing and so yeah, the U.S. is focused on that and does that very well.

John Curry: Well, I know this. When I'm talking with people about planning for retirement, one of the first things they tell us they're worried about is the cost of healthcare, whether it be the premiums they've got to pay or the out-of-pocket cost and that's before you even get into such things, "What if I need to go into some type of long-term care situation?" And we're spending a lot of our time helping clients understand you may not know how to pay for everything, but you better be thinking about it, because if all of a sudden, you don't have care and you go back to the expenses of Medicare, almost unlimited what happens, so we're trying to help people plan for that, but it's difficult because it's a moving target.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: It is a moving target, but let me tell you, you and I and anybody listening cannot control the cost of healthcare, per se.

John Curry: Correct.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: What people need to do is start focusing on the things they can control.

John Curry: I've heard you say this a dozen times over the years.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Yeah, and so that's basically doing what your mother told you you should do, which is eat a healthy diet, get some exercise, proper sleep, but some of those things just aren't that much fun. So I think that's the biggest problem so the effort should be put into how do I stop eating highly processed sugary foods? That's probably the number one thing to do ... stop buying stuff in a box. And if you can't get yourself around that, then you better start saving for healthcare.

John Curry: It comes down to personal behavior.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Yeah, basically health is at least 50% personal behavior on a day-to-day basis. The access to healthcare is only like 15%. We have some genetics in there. We have social stuff, where if you live in a neighborhood where bullets are whizzing around, you know, that's not very safe but over 50% of what happens to you, you've done it yourself.

John Curry: That's interesting, 50% or over.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Yeah, if you just look at what are the components of health, yeah, 50% is lifestyle.

John Curry: Over the years, I've accepted the fact that sometimes people refer to us as being money managers.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: We're more of behavior managers.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: Because if we can get people to monitor their behavior and pay attention to what they're doing, they make fewer mistakes.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: And that's a good segue to talk about some of the conversations we've had over the years. How is it you have been so interested in learning and reading as much as you do about financial planning, retirement planning, tax planning? Talk about that for a minute.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Because it's a reality and you know, that if you don't take responsibility for those things, you're just going to let them happen to you. So I think that the way I approached it years ago was being a physician, you know the ultimate outcome. You're going to die. 100% chance of that.

John Curry: Well, you just popped my bubble.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: No, really, you're going to die.

John Curry: Yes, that's right, the question is when, right?

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: So if you ... right, the question is when, so if you accept that, think out to there and then work your way back. So, actually if you kind of know your family history or you know your current health status and you can even go online and put in information about your gender and age and whether you smoke or not and come out with a life expectancy. So, if you say okay, my life expectancy ... mine comes out to be like 92 years, which is probably pretty good because of my parents' longevity and whatnot. Then you say, if I'm going to live to 92, let's work my way back from there. And if you start thinking about that, then you start ... all of a sudden you realize that retirement planning isn't what if I need to do it, it's how do I cover this segment of my life? And you had that tape measure example.

John Curry: Right.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: And so, but if you start at the end and then try to work your way back, you start at the end and say, "Okay, I live to 92. I'm going to be an old lady. What are old ladies like?"  I've had decades of taking care of old ladies. Well, I can tell you they get frail, all these things and like, what can you do to ameliorate that risk? Well, exercise pretty much helps, you know, those types of things. So how do you actually work your way back from that so that you can get more of what you want, so to speak, as you age. You know, if you say, well, being independent is very important to me to be independent, well then you better get some exercise under your belt on a regular basis. It's good to avoid the classic health risks like smoking and eating the wrong foods or eating too much food, that's the biggest problem we have around here. So, you start working your way back to figure out what you should do now to ensure a better future for yourself.

John Curry: It comes back to the quality of life.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Exactly.

John Curry: The choices you make today, and we see people that have been retired 25, 30 years in retirement. In some cases, actually retired longer than they worked in their careers.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. And that's sort of a new phenomenon and not everybody knows quite how to handle that and we know, for instance, that pensions and those types of things are becoming increasingly common, so how do you fund all of that?

John Curry: Like the dinosaur, becoming instinct, 401K's, IRA's, but the fine benefit pension plans falling by the wayside, so it's all up to you and if you've done a good job of saving the money, now you've got to make it last for 25, 30 years. In your case, I'm convinced you'll live to be 100.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Oh, really? Hopefully I'm not too whoopsie in the last five years of that.

John Curry: Over the years, you and I have exchanged books or talked about books we've read. I have a number of professional people like yourself who will say things such as this, "I don't have time to read those things. I have a hard enough time to keep up with my career, my profession." So, how is it over time that you have made yourself or motivated yourself to take the time to read and study because you're one of the sharpest people I know when it comes to the financial side, especially in the medical profession.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: I just make it a priority.

John Curry: Okay. So, no big secret. It's just I'm going to take the time, read and study.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: And that comes down to anything that we want to have some level of mastery in.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Mm-hmm (affirmative), and I think too, and I know you've heard me say this before that some people are willing to fly by the seat of their pants, you know, and take a risk here, take a risk there, it doesn't ... where, I like that solid floor.  I want to ... whether it's for me and my children, you know I want to have a solid floor beneath my feet and so the thing is, is what do you have to do to get there?

John Curry: Right. And you're very disciplined.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Yeah, well apparently.

John Curry: You take the time to learn what needs to be done and then you act on the information when you get it.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: You have shared stories with me over the years about working with patients who did not do the things they needed to do and you shared some interesting stories about how you encourage people or motivate them to take action. Can any of those pop into your head right now you could share?

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Well, actually, sometimes people will say, "I remember when you told me" and I'll say, "I did say that?" Or like somebody told me the other day, "I remember Dr. Van Vessem, when you told me that if I didn't lose this weight, my knees would never stop hurting."

John Curry: And you were right, huh?

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Well, she actually lost the weight. That was great. She and her mom went to the gym and she was like ... and she goes, "You're right, my knees stopped hurting." But I think that's it. The idea is knowing at the end of the day the consequences don't fall to the physician, the consequences fall to the person who didn't stop smoking, et cetera, and I think a lot of people, they vaguely feel betrayed if they're the one that gets lung cancer or even though they knew it was a possibility, they know people that it didn't happen to and those types of things and so I think the main thing is to try to impart what you already know to be the case because you've seen it happen over and over again. But it's up to people to take those risks to say, "Well, you know ..." I've had patients tell me, "I really love to smoke. Smoking is the best thing in my life and I just can't give it up," and so that's okay; however-

John Curry: Consequences.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: -there are ... just like every other decision you make in life, there's consequences, mm-hmm (affirmative), and maybe you'll get lucky and maybe you won't.

John Curry: How do you deal with that as a physician? I know when I'm trying to help someone with financial advice and they choose to ignore it or they Google something that's contrary, it's frustrating and I had to learn early on. I've been doing this 43 years now. I had to understand, all I can do is guide and coach to a certain point. If somebody won't follow through, then it's on them. Is that the way you have to deal with it as a physician, also?

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Sure. If you believe in free choice. And I think one of the things that people don't quite understand, though, is a lot of times when they fall ill, it doesn't just fall to them, it falls to their family. So if somebody doesn't want to use glaucoma drops and they go blind, that becomes a much more difficult situation for whoever is taking care of them, their spouse or kids, whatnot. And so, I think just understanding that these things can happen. And I think people need the resources to try to do what they need to do, but again, having the resources and doing it are two different things. I mean, we see a lot of people that just choose to not be bothered by things.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: I remember this one diabetic patient telling me ... he was a type one diabetic and he was coming in for a shunt because he needed to go on renal dialysis and he was in his 30's I would say and he said, "The first 20 years weren't bad," so it's that type of thing where you think like, "Well, I'm getting along pretty well," but now all of a sudden, when you fall off a cliff, you fall fast and hard and so then it was like, "Uh oh." And the idea is not to get religion too late and a lot of the chronic disease we see is avoidable. Now, some isn't. Some people are just very unlucky, but a lot of the chronic disease we see in the U.S. has to do with obesity is a big one in terms of being sedentary. I think now that's crossed over smoking as the biggest health risk and so I think we have to say, "Well, if I'm going to protect myself and my family from these chronic health problems, I need to start putting a little effort into it."

John Curry: What advice would you offer people listening to this who say, "Okay, I hear this physician who is telling me I've got to make better choices, I have to deal with the consequences." So, if you were just going to give a blanket type advice to anyone when it comes to exercise, eating, healthcare in general, what would it be?

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Well, I think the number one problem we have here in the U.S. is obesity, really, in terms of the contributions of various cancers like breast, colon. I mean, it just really ... we used to think fat just kind of sat there as a white lump, inactive, but as it turns out it's very active and produces all these bad things that affect your health and so for that, I would suggest people buy this book called The Obesity Code. It's written by Jason Fung. He's a nephrologist actually from Canada and he sort of got disheartened by all the patients showing up for dialysis, many of whom are diabetic, and he wrote this whole book about why people can't lose weight, really, and it has to do with your native insulin levels and those types of things and so the idea of changing the way you eat. You know, just eating healthier and eating less, that's a big part of it.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: And to try to get down to ... those extra pounds are really harmful, particularly as you age. It's a really major contributor to arthritis of the knee that leads to knee replacement because you have all that pounds per square inch on your knees, so a lot of these things-

John Curry: And your back.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: -that cause pain and disability, which nobody wants to have pain and disability, are related to all of that. But it's not easy and it's not fun, but I think what it is is like everything else in life. You get used to things. Got to get used to eating less or eating healthier or not eating the dessert, you get used to it, mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: I keep that heart-shaped pillow over there to remind me of my heart surgery. July 10th will be 10 years ago and when I got serious about exercising and eating, eating the right foods and the right quantities, I went from 284 pounds, now I bump around 230, 232 sometimes, that now if I don't go walk 30-40 minutes or go to the gym, now it's like, "Oh, I don't feel good because I didn't do it." Whereas, in the past, I didn't want to go do it. I just sat on the couch, you know? So, it is a matter of making some of these things a habit-

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Right.

John Curry: -and just getting used to it and enjoying it.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Right, and I think that's it, because once you start doing it, then you realize you feel a whole lot better than you used to feel, so it's not even for the long-term health effects, you're doing it because you'll feel better today.

John Curry: Absolutely.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Mentally and physically.

John Curry: What went through my head, though, when you're talking about the knees earlier, what I remember having the most improvement in, I mean almost instantly, within 30 days, I could tell a difference not only in my knees, but also in my ankles and my lower back because I had back surgery in 2006 and I was amazed when I started dropping the pounds that all the joints were just better.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Right.

John Curry: Even the elbows, because I was doing martial arts, so I mean everything was better because I was moving.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Well, the thing is, your body was only meant to handle so much, you know? Like your heart ... I read this. They say there's a mile of blood vessels for every extra pound you have.

John Curry: Say that again.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Yeah, what I've read is that there's a mile of blood vessels, because you you know, all those little capillaries have to be right up against every cell or it dies, of blood vessels per extra pound and-

John Curry: A mile of blood vessels.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: -you heart has to pump to it. So that's why when people get overweight or really overweight, their heart gets enlarged and gets really muscular, just like your muscles would if you're working hard.

John Curry: They wear out.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: But then it's hard because it starts wearing out. Yeah, you're really stressing your whole system and most of weight loss is what you eat, like 75%. Everyone thinks, oh, my knees hurt so I can't exercise. Really, in terms of putting fat on and keeping it on, 75% is what you eat. And then in terms of exercise, you don't have to become a marathoner. Pretty much it's go walk for a half an hour, you know, 3, 4, 5 times a week and keep moving. That movement is very important for your joints. That's what they were meant to do.

John Curry: So true. Tell us the name of the book again? The Obesity Code?

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: The Obesity Code by Jason Fung. And there's a lot of good stuff out there. I mean, you don't have to look far, but that's just the more recent one I've seen and I think that what he tries to explain to people that if you eat carbs all the time and keep your insulin levels up, the high insulin levels are what make you [inaudible 00:32:25] ... you know it's meant to save calories onto your body for hard times that never come. So you've got to stop stimulating your insulin level, if your insulin level is high and it'll be high for 20-30 years before you get more and more insulin-resistant. You've probably heard that term.

John Curry: Yes.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Until you flip into type 2 diabetes.

John Curry: Okay, if I tuned in and I'm listening to this, I might be the kind of person to say, "You know, I hear about all these different diets." You've got a low carb diet, you've got a high protein diet, you've got all this ... what in the world should we be eating?

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Well, I think the problem is that general advice ... and you know, the stuff that comes out of the government, for instance, that's for your average, healthy 30-year-old. If you've got a problem already ... let's say you're pre-diabetic or your diabetic, you've already got a problem and your problem is you've got to lose that weight and a lot of that, it has to do with ... and low carb Mediterranean is the diet that's been gelling, like for men to lose more belly fat and all of that sort of thing because you don't want to keep stimulating your insulin levels. You want to get that down so you can actually burn some of that fat.

John Curry: Right.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: And so the other thing is, you can't be eating all the time. You know, this whole idea of six meals a day or whatever? That might work for somebody who's hypoglycemic and age 25, but for your average adult in America, uh-uh (negative), not good advice. And a lot of the countries where people don't gain as much weight. You know, we talk about the French, "Oh, the French, they have all these rich sauces." Well, they eat three times a day and the eating is, they call it a restricted eating window, that you're only eating maybe over a 12-hour period, where in the U.S., people have started pushing that out, you know.

John Curry: Eat all day.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: And all night and then wonder what's going on, yeah. And so that's it. It's sort of like in the life care planning, who are you? And so the advice for a healthy 25-year-old is going to be different for a 60-year-old that insulin resistant.

John Curry: Well, let me challenge you on something here. A lot of people listening to this because this is the Secure Retirement Podcast, are in their 60's, 70's, some in their 80's and 90's. Let's just say mid-60's. What would the advice look like or sound like for someone mid-60's, maybe 70 years old, that they're doing the exercise, but you said a moment ago and I wrote this down, because every time I'm with you I learn something, 75% of weight loss is what you eat, so in their situation, would you say anything differently that's ... me, I'm 65 years old, so-

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: But see, what's the gender, what's the weight, what's the chronic health problems? So, the thing is that you can't really just, in general ... you know, in general, the general things are stay away from processed foods, stay away from sugar. If you are trying to lose weight, you're going to have to knock down your calories some and then the studies show carbs or just fats, that sort of thing. But a lot of it has to do with, let's say you have kidney disease already, well all of a sudden you need to be watching your protein intake, so it really depends on-

John Curry: As in having more protein?

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Less.

John Curry: Less.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: So, that's why I want to say it depends, because it does depend. That's why one size doesn't fit all, really because there's plenty of 60 and 70-year-olds that are bopping around out there that are doing perfectly fine, just what they're doing.  

John Curry: True.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: They don't need to change anything.

John Curry: I see them in the gym. There's nine of us that work out together and there are people there half our age that can't keep up.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Right, so there's a wide diversity and that has to do with what they've done their whole life. Your lifestyle starts catching up with you definitely by that age. You know, I used to see it about age 50, you'd have 50-year-old patients that look 60 and ones that look 40 and some of that's genetics, but a lot of it has to do with, "What were you doing for the previous 30 years?"

John Curry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).  We've got about five minutes left.  I know you've got a schedule today. Talk a little bit about the next step for you and your training and your knowledge. You love what you do. You are reading and studying constantly. We're not going to reveal your age, but from the standpoint of a professional woman, it seems like you're not slowing down. It seems like that you're doing things other things you want to do, but you're constantly learning and growing and it's contagious.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Well, there's just so much to know and the thing is, is that the more I learn, it benefits me personally, too.

John Curry: Sure, it benefits you personally and you get to help other people.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Right.

John Curry: That's why I love doing these podcasts. People are calling us and, "Hey, thank you so much. I'm learning about things that had nothing to do with money."  You know, this doesn't have anything to do with money per se, but if you retire and you've got a lot of money, folks, but you're in poor health, what good is the money?

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Not very much.  

John Curry: You can't enjoy it. You're going to leave it behind for someone else.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Right, exactly. But it's not only me. I think there's a lot of this. I see it more in the young doctors, too. You know, we talked about the American healthcare system is a rescue system. You know, you sort of waltz around doing whatever you want to do and then when the bad thing happens and bad things happen fast, you know, you're like, "Help, help!" And so I think this idea of saying like, "Wait a minute, let's try to ratchet this back and what's it going to take to kind of change what ... they call the Standard American Diet the SAD diet, you know, for instance.  So, what's it going to take to have people eat a healthier diet? But a lot of times it's just eating less. We get too much. We get too many calories. Or to stop eating out as much because that's a huge thing because you don't have any idea many times how much, what you're getting.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: And of course, restaurants need to make that food taste good so you keep coming back, so I think people should look over and say, "If I really want to age and be healthy and be able to pick up my grandkids when I'm 75 years old, then what do I need to do right now to get there?"  And the thing is, is that it's been shown that even people in nursing homes in bed with physical therapy can get stronger and so at some point in time in life, there's going to be a time where it's too late, but it's amazing how resilient the body is, if you just do a modicum of the right things on a regular basis.

John Curry: I remember one time, you were sitting here and you were talking about ... I don't know if it was an experiment or if it was scientific research, what it was, on cutting back on the calories and the dramatic improvement it had in people who already were sick. Do you remember that study you mentioned?

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Well, I don't know about people who are sick, but it's been shown to improve longevity.

John Curry: That might have been the issue. But I just remember you talking about just changing the amount of food. Not necessarily of what, but the amount of food improved the longevity and then when you start working on the quality of the food, it made even better improvement.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: And then if you read Dr. Fung's book, it's also about when you eat. You know, you can't be eating at midnight and going to bed and stuff like that. I mean, basically our bodies are pre-primitive. They're not a whole lot different than they were 100 years ago, but some of what we have, which is shear luxury in our current way that we live, that we have all of this great food, too rich, but food that wasn't really available to everybody even 100 years ago, but what we have to do is to say, "Wait a minute, our bodies were designed for X and we're giving them Y and that's why we're going to have more problems." So, I think that he talks about this idea of not eating as much, of giving your body time to reset, all of those types of things and I think there's a lot of good information in there.

John Curry: I'll be getting that book. I'm going to read that. Okay, closing thoughts. What would you like to end with and just share with our audience, just any thoughts that you have, whether it be from the world of healthcare, financial planning, retirement planning, money management, whatever you'd like to share?

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: I think the thing is, is that a lot of these things, if you apply yourself, whether it's about your own personal health and what you should do or about financial aspects or how do I get what I want at the end of life, you can do that, but you do have to apply a little effort, but anybody who has access to the internet has a wealth of information at their fingertips. But, again, you have to sort of say, "Well, I really need to do this, not only for myself, but for my family and get my affairs in order," so to speak. And if you get them in order a lot, like when you're my age, then it's not a big old scramble when you're 20 years older than me, so I think that's it, is to just sort of take a measured approach like that and in things like health and lifestyle choices. It pays you just like you were saying, your joints stopped hurting within 30 days. It doesn't only pay off 20 years down the road, but it pays off right now.

John Curry: It does.  But you know, when you start doing the research and the studying, there's such a misery of choice, too. There's so many different opinions.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Well, I really think that ... and I would say this because I was a primary care doctor for years and years, that you should have a primary care doctor and you should go ask them to say, "Okay, I'm a type 2 diabetic." They should have an understanding of your health problems and so some of the things are the same. Don't eat processed foods, limit your sugars, that's true for everybody across the board. But then, to just say, "Really, what should I be doing?" And some doctor is going to say, "I think you should be on a plant-based diet. Go eat some plants." You may not like that advice, but that's pretty good advice. So, I think that's what I would do and that's basically your expert, so to speak. And don't get all wound up into this supplement, that supplement, the other thing. That's kind of an excuse for confusion because at the end of the day, the basic building blocks are hard to do, but they're simple to understand.

John Curry: Stick with the basics.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: Very good. Great session. Nancy Van Vessem, thank you so much.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem: You're welcome.

John Curry: Thank you.

2018-65720 Exp 9/20

Enjoying Travel in Retirement

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

  • And more

Listen now…

Episode Transcript:

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. 

Betty: Yeah.

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-

Betty: Haywood. 

Phil: Yeah.

Betty: Recently.

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.

Betty: Unbelievable. 

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-

Betty: 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.

Betty: Unbelievable. 

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. 

Betty: Yeah.

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.

Betty: Yeah.

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. 

Phil: Okay.

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-

Betty: Excellent.

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-

Betty: Yes.

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-

Betty: Okay.

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?

Betty: Yes. 

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-

Betty: Reflected.

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. 

Betty: No.

John Curry: They just did what they had to do. 

Betty: Exactly.

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. 

Betty: No.

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

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

complimentary information package by visiting Again, that is Or you can call his office at 850-562-3000.

Again, that is 850-562-3000.

John H. Curry, CLU, ChFC, AEP, MSFS, CLTC, registered representative and financial advisor

 of Park Avenue Securities, LLC (PAS). Securities products and services and advisory services 

are offered through PAS, a registered broker dealer and investment advisor. Financial 

representative of the Guardian Life Insurance company of America, New York, New York. PAS is 

an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian. North Florida Financial Corporation is not an 

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#2018-61422 Exp 6/20

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 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 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, 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 That should be out may 1st I believe.

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

Ron Insana: Thank you for having me.

John Curry: It's been a pleasure.

Ron Insana: Appreciate it.

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

complimentary information package by visiting Again, that is Or you can call his office at 850-562-3000.

Again, that is 850-562-3000.

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Stahl: I've enjoyed it as well.



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

complimentary information package by visiting Again, that is Or you can call his office at 850-562-3000.

Again, that is 850-562-3000.







#2018-61433 Exp 6/20

Achieving Simplicity in All Areas of Your Life

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

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

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

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

Listen now…

Episode Transcript: 

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

Steve, it's good to see you again. 

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

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

Steve Harvill: That's quite an honor. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John: Absolutely. 

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

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

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

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

John: Right. 

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

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

John: Yes. 

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

John: Yes. 

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

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

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

John: Yes. 

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

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

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

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

John: Okay. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Harvill: Yeah, creative restriction. 

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

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

John: Oh, you would not? 

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

John: Oh, got it. 

Steve Harville: Yeah. 

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

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

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

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

John: Yes. 

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

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

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

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

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

John: Yes. 

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

John: Yes. 

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

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

Steve Harvill: Really good idea. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Harvill: Yeah, broken down. 

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

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

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

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

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

John: Yes. 

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

John: And allow your brain to rest. 

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

John: Okay. 

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

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

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

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

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

John: Yes. 

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

John: Because now you have a visual representation. 

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

John: Just that quickly. 

Steve Harvill: Just that quickly because they see it.

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

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

John: Yeah. 

Steve Harvill: It's a big issue. 

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Harvill: Mine does too. 

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

Steve Harvill: Until they look up at you. 

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

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

John: It is important. 

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

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

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

John: Thank you so much. 

Steve Harvill: Thank you so much. 

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

Steve Harville: Sure. 

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

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

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

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

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

complimentary information package by visiting Again, that is Or you can call his office at 850-562-3000.

Again, that is 850-562-3000.

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

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

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








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