Avoiding a Tax Hit in Retirement

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

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

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

Listen in to find out…

  • The questions you must ask now about your retirement plan

  • The biggest myth about money when you retire

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

  • Ways to take your medical coverage around the world

  • And more

Listen now…

Episode Transcript:

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

Kay Harris: Thank you, glad to be here.

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

Kay Harris: More than 20.

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

Kay Harris: Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kay Harris: Sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kay Harris: Exactly.

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

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

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

Kay Harris: Absolutely they do.

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

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

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

Kay Harris: Exactly. Exactly.

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

Kay Harris: To the state.

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

Kay Harris: Sure, absolutely.

John Curry: And that's what we want.

Kay Harris: Yep.

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

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

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

John Curry: Can you give me an example?

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

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

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

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

Kay Harris: Sure.

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

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

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

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

Kay Harris: Absolutely.

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

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

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

Kay Harris: That's right.

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

Kay Harris: That's right.

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Do you remember what it was?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kay Harris: Yes, we did.

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

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

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

Kay Harris: I do not.

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

Kay Harris: 12 years.

John Curry: 12 years?

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

John Curry: 13 years.

Kay Harris: Yes, yes, yeah.

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

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

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

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

Kay Harris: 300 books.

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

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

John Curry: Right. I want to hold it.

Kay Harris: I want to dog ear those pages.

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

Kay Harris: Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kay Harris: Yes you will.

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

Kay Harris: Exactly.

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

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

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

Kay Harris: David Fraser.

John Curry: Awesome guy.

Kay Harris: Awesome chiropractor.

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

Kay Harris: Exactly. You're exactly right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kay Harris: That's right.

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

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Because of Part B-

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

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

Kay Harris: An IRMAA letter.

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

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

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

Kay Harris: Sure.

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

Kay Harris: Sure.

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

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

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

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

Kay Harris: They forget about it.

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

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

Kay Harris: Understand that too, right.

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

Kay Harris: Basically about tax planning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kay Harris: Yes.

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

Kay Harris: Yes, exactly.

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

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

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

Kay Harris: Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kay Harris: Exactly, exactly.

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

Kay Harris: Yes, exactly.

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

Kay Harris: Absolutely. Absolutely.

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

Kay Harris: Exactly.

John Curry: Every administration.

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

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

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

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

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

Kay Harris: Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kay Harris: Sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kay Harris: Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kay Harris: Uh-huh.

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

Kay Harris: Yes, I am.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kay Harris: Wow, okay.

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

Kay Harris: Right.

John Curry: I wanted to understand it.

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

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Say that again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kay Harris: Soon. Soon, very soon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaker 3: If you would like to know more about John Curry's services, you can request a complimentary information package by visiting JohnHCurry.com/podcast. Again, that is JohnHCurry.com/podcast, or you can call his office at 805-562-3000. Again, that is 805-562-3000. John H. Curry, chartered life underwriter, chartered financial consultant, accredited estate planner, master's in science and financial services, certified in long-term care. Registered representative and financial advisor of Park Avenue Securities LLC. Securities products and services, and advisory services are offered through Park Avenue Securities, a registered broker dealer and investment advisor. 

Financial representative of the Guardian Life Insurance company of America, New York, New York. Park Avenue Securities is an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian. North Florida Financial Corporation is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Park Avenue Securities. Park Avenue Securities is a member of FINRA and SIPC. This material is intended for general public use, by providing this material, we are not undertaking to provide investment advice for any specific individual, or situation, or to otherwise act in a fiduciary capacity. 

Please contact one of our financial professionals for guidance and information specific to your individual situation. All investments contain risk, and may lose value. Past performances not a guarantee of future results. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents or employees do not provide legal, tax, or accounting advice. Please consult with your attorney, accountant, and/or tax advisor for advice concerning your particular circumstances. Not affiliated with the Florida Retirement System.

The living balance sheet, and the living balance sheet logo are registered service marks at the Guardian Life Insurance company of America, New York, New York. Copyright 2005 through 2018. This podcast is for informational purposes only. Guest speakers and their firms are not affiliated with, or endorsed by Park Avenue Securities, or Guadiana and opinions stated are their own.

2019-77163, Exp 3/27/2021 

The Emotional Side of Retirement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • And more

Listen now…

Episode Transcript:

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

Terry Lewis: My pleasure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Curry: That's right.

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

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

Terry Lewis: Chose not to do it.

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Right, dark humor.

Terry Lewis: Yes.

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

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

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

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

John Curry: You're not doing that.

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Right.

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

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

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

John Curry: We're very limited, sure. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Everybody knew him.

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Really? It's that simple?

Terry Lewis: It's that simple.

John Curry: I never knew that.

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

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

John Curry: And expensive.

Terry Lewis: And expensive-

John Curry: Experimental.

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

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

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

Terry Lewis: Right.

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

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

John Curry: It's reversed.

Terry Lewis: Yeah, crazy.

John Curry: It's confusing.

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

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

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

Terry Lewis: Sentencing Guidelines.

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

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

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

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

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

John Curry: No.

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

“I robbed a Minute Market.” 

“What'd you get?”

“Thirty years.”

“Damn, I only got three.” 

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

John Curry: I don't like my judge.

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

John Curry: What do you mean by depart?

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

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

John Curry: Yep.

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

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

Terry Lewis: It-

John Curry: It's complicated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terry Lewis: Yep.

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terry Lewis: Yes, I did.

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

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

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

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

“Oh, I'm writing a novel.” 

“Okay fine, dear.” 

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

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

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

“No problem. We'll get you in.”

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

“I don't know. I just signed up.” 

John Curry: I have a friend here.

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

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

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

Terry Lewis: Conflict of Interest.

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

Terry Lewis: Okay.

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Right.

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

John Curry: You might be the next John Grisham. 

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

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

Terry Lewis: 67.

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

Terry Lewis: Yes.

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Sure.

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

John Curry: That'd be awesome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Hospice programs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Nope, I agree.

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

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

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

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

Terry Lewis: You're right.

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

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

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

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

John Curry: That's a different issue.

Terry Lewis: Yeah.

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

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

John Curry: That's right.

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

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

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

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

Terry Lewis: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Governor, or whatever.

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

John Curry: Maybe some that's not repeatable. 

Terry Lewis: Yeah, right, right, truly.

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

Terry Lewis: Certainly.

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

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

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

Terry Lewis: Sure.

John Curry: As our parting shot?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Yeah, it was.

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

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

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

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

John Curry: Lucky Terry.

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

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

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

John Curry: Yeah, the compulsive liar?

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

John Curry: Right.

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

John Curry: No, you don't.

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

John Curry: Sure.

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

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

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

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

Terry Lewis: Yes.

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

Terry Lewis: My pleasure.

John Curry: It was good seeing you again.

Terry Lewis: Yeah, thanks for lunch.

John Curry: You're welcome.

Announcer: If you would like to know more about John Curry's services, you can request a complimentary information package by visiting johnhcurry.com/podcast. Again, that is johnhcurry.com/podcast, or you can call his office at 850-562-3000. Again, that is 850-562-3000. John H. Curry, Chartered Life Underwriter, Chartered Financial Consultant, Accredited Estate Planner, Master's in Science in Financial Services, Certified in Longterm Care, Registered Representative and Financial Advisor of Park Avenue Securities, LLC. Securities products and services and advisory services are offered through Park Avenue Securities, a registered broker-dealer and investment advisor, financial representative of the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, New York. Park Avenue Securities is an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian. North Florida Financial Corporation is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Park Avenue Securities. Park Avenue Securities is a member of FINRA and SIPC. 

This material is intended for general public use. By providing this material, we are not undertaking to provide investment advice for any specific individual or situation, or to otherwise act in a fiduciary capacity. Please contact one of our financial professionals for guidance and information specific to your individual situation. All investments contain risk and may lose value. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents, or employees do not provide legal tax or accounting advice. Please consult with your attorney, accountant, and/or tax advisor for advice concerning your particular circumstances. Not affiliated with the Florida Retirement System. The Living Balance Sheet, and the Living Balance Sheet logo are registered service marks of the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, New York, copyright 2005 through 2018. This podcast is for informational purposes only Guest speakers and their firms are not affiliated with or endorsed by Park Avenue Securities or Guardian, and opinions stated are their own.

2019-75824 EXP 3/5/2021

How Life Changes Impact Your Social Security

There’s so much misinformation about Social Security (and Medicare) out there. Even worse, people are basing their retirement planning on this misinformation.

John Curry and April Schoen clear the air and get to the heart of the best way to take full advantage of this benefit you’ve been paying into your whole life.

Every situation is different. And you shouldn’t make a move until you look at your complete financial situation. But John and April give you the facts so you can make an informed decision.

Tune in to find out if you qualify for benefits you didn’t realize, as well as…

  • How your Social Security income is taxed

  • How to decipher your confusing Social Security statement

  • What will change in Social Security and what never will

  • Why taking Social Security too early can drastically reduce your benefit

  • And more

Listen now…

Episode Transcript:

April Schoen: Hi, this is April Schoen, and on this week's episode of The Secure Retirement Podcast, we'd like to share a webinar we recently recorded on the topic of social security. We think you'll find it impactful and hope you enjoy it.

Good afternoon everyone, and welcome. This is April Schoen, and I want to first say thank you for taking time out of your day to join us. I've got John Curry, author of Preparing for a Secure Retirement, here with us today. We're going to be going through social security. Kind of funny that we're doing this today. John has been doing this ... Is it 43 or 44 years?

John Curry: 44 years now.

April Schoen: Okay, he's been doing this 44 years. He turned 66 in December, so get this. Today, he got his first social security check deposited. So it's very funny I think that we're doing a webinar on social security and he just started collecting his benefits. So I'm sure he'll have plenty to tell us about his experience of going through the process of collecting his benefits.

All right. I want to first just start. I'm going to give a couple minutes for a couple other people to join us and while we're doing that, I'll just start and tell you a little bit about what we're going to be talking about today. We're going to talk about how social security works, what you should know, what you maybe don't know about social security and some of the delayed retirement credits. We're going to talk about different payment scenarios and then lastly, we're going to talk about some issues around the program and just some things that you need to be aware of as you're planning for your retirement.

I know John and I, when we meet with clients at our seminars, we find that retirement planning, it's much more complicated than you may think it is. So hopefully today we'll at least tackle some of these complicated issues around social security and give you some insight about the program. 

If you have any questions as you're going through, feel free to type them in the chat box and we'll try to get to those as we can. All right, I think we're ready to get started, John.

John Curry: All right. Let's go.

April Schoen: Okay.

John Curry: You made a comment, April, about how social security and retirement planning is complicated. I want to share with the group for a minute what I went through, my experience with social security and Medicare.

As you get close to 65, you're going to be bombarded with one piece of junk mail it looks like after another trying to get you to enroll in some type of Medicare supplement policy. Many of you on this call have already experienced that and you're already on Medicare. Many of you are not. 

The issue is becoming more and more complicated because we're concerned about social security and Medicare, and when do you take it? In my case, I did not take Medicare until 66 because I was under a group plan. Well, what's that got to do with social security? Well, Medicare and social security are tied together. So when you're 65, you automatically go on Medicare part A. The part B, you don't have to do it automatically. You can enroll or not. If you don't enroll, there's some penalties if you don't do it properly. 

So social security and Medicare, even though we get a lot of questions on it, over the past year with me doing the homework I've been doing has made me have another level of awareness about how complicated it is and also the amount of misinformation that's out there.

Some of what I'm going to cover today is a little different than I might do face-to-face, but not a whole lot different. On the screen you'll see some background information. The average monthly benefit as of this month, January 2019, is $1461. Let that sink in for just a minute. That's the average monthly benefit from social security, and you'll see on the left hand side all these people. You have beneficiaries at the top and workers at the bottom. Well, that visual would make you think that there's an equal number of workers for beneficiaries. That's not the case, as you'll learn as we go through this. There are fewer and fewer workers that are supporting the beneficiaries, beneficiary meaning those of us, and I'm now one of those, who's collecting the benefit.

In the past, I thought, "Eh, people don't need to hear this." But I think you do need to know this because the average benefit is not a big number. There are a lot of people out there that are living on 5 and $600 a month from social security. As you'll see in a few minutes, there are some numbers that reflect the maximum benefits depending upon your age when you retire.

This next visual, how does social security work? I find there's a lot confusion still on this. When you get 40 credits, you are fully covered, you and your spouse, for social security and for Medicare. What is a credit? A credit is $1360 of earnings, so if you earn $1360 that's deemed to be one credit. So basically if you have 10 years of work, you probably have your full 40 credits. It used to be just based on 10 years and not a dollar amount. That was changed a few years back.

And by the way, we all hear the phrase FICA. Just make sure you know what it stands for. That stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act Tax. So they're taking our money but sometimes we forget what it stands for. I have to remind myself occasionally and just look at it. Federal Insurance Contributions Act. So what does that mean? The name says it all. Social security is a form of insurance, so we're all paying into an insurance program, and the name says it all, April.

April Schoen: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It's funny. I just had a conversation with a client yesterday and they said, "I don't think they do credits anymore." And I said, "No, they actually still do. Most people don't know how those credit things work but they still go by the 40 credits."

John Curry: That's correct. And by the way, while we're doing this today, we're going to be going back and forth so you may hear April jump in occasionally and you may hear me ask her to cover something that might apply based on our activity with clients. 

And by the way, April, I need to cover this since we're talking about my social security benefit. People are asking me am I retired. The answer is no. I'm not retired. I'm collecting my social security and also my pension with Guardian, but I'm still working. What I am doing, I'm not working as much. I have some property over in Jefferson County. I was over there with my son and my grandson earlier this week. I'll be doing that more, but I will still be seeing clients for as long as clients want me and as long as I'm healthy and I am healthy and ready to go.

April Schoen: Good.

John Curry: I just want to make sure people know that you're not putting me out to pasture yet.

April Schoen: I'm not putting you out to pasture just yet.

John Curry: Tell the people your attitude about my retirement.

April Schoen: I usually tell him on his birthday he can go enjoy his retirement birthday weekend and I'll see him on Monday morning. That's usually my joke about his retirement.

John Curry: She's a slave driver. 

Okay, how is your benefit determined? It's based by averaging your highest 35 years of salary. A lot of misinformation on this. People say, "Well, if I worked for 50 years it's an average of all of it." That's not true. It's the highest of 35 years. What if you don't have 35 years? So for example, you had 25 years of work? Well they will fill in zeroes to fill in the other 10 years. So, it's importing those 35 highest years of salary.

This is something that many people do not know about. Paper statements are no longer mailed. They mailed them, then they quit, and then they started sending them to certain age groups. Now you have to go online if you want a statement, and we would encourage you to do that. Every time when I see clients, we encourage them to go to socialsecurity.gov or you go to ssa.gov, but you really should go in and set up your own personal record.

April Schoen: Yes. I remember we actually heard from someone at social security a couple years ago. They were actually having issues with identity theft. They were having issues with other people going in and trying to set up an account for you so that they could get information about your social security benefits. So, we highly encourage everyone to go on to social security's website and set up your own login.

John Curry: And those where Medicare's an issue, same thing. Medicare no longer puts your social security number on your Medicare card. It's just your account number, and I call it because of the fraud. It's become a big issue. There's some people out there who are pretty bold going after social security and Medicare, so they're not even fearful of dealing with the federal government from taking money.

Okay, let's switch over a little bit to what you should know, if I can get this mouse to work, April. Here we go. The year you were born determines your full retirement age. We still see people who think that once they're 65, they start collecting full retirement age benefits. That's not the case. If you're born between 1943 and 1954, then full retirement age is 66. And then each year thereafter, you add, so for example, 1955 you add 2 months, so it's 66 and 2 months, then 66 and 4 months, 6 months, 8 months, 10 months up to age 67. So if you were born 1960 or later, full retirement age is 67.

Why was this done? It was done as a way to delay people retiring and collecting as much money. It was a way the actuaries came up with to hopefully extend the life of the social security trust fund. I'm of the opinion that they never should've allowed us to take social security at 62 anyway and you'll see that coming up in a couple slides, and they should probably not have done it this way, that's to say either 66 or 67, but what do I know? I'm just out here advising clients every day.

On this next visual, you'll see taking benefits at age 62, 66, and 70. So in this example, we're going to assume that you were born between 1943 and 1954, so that your full retirement age is 66. In a program we use called the living balance sheet, we're able to help you do some projections when you can see what your benefit would be at each of these three ages. So, if that's something you'd like to see, come in and meet with us. We'll walk you through how social security ties into any benefits you have with a pension like the with the state of Florida or the city or county, how it applies to your 401K, and how to coordinate this to get the maximum benefits.

At age 62 if you start your benefits, you're getting 75% of what you could've gotten had you waited 'til age 66. Age 66, you get 100%. If you waited 'til 70, you get 132% of the benefit. In other words, you're getting a delayed benefit by waiting, and we'll get into that in a little bit more detail on the next page. But these are the maximum numbers. At full retirement age, the maximum benefit is $2861. If you wait until age 70, your benefit is 3739, $3739. Pretty big jump.

So there's a big debate. We have people who come in, they insist that they're going to take their benefit at 62, April, "Because the system's going bust. I don't trust those people up in there in Washington. They're going to steal my money, so I'm going to take mine at 62." Then you have others who say, "I'm going to wait all the way to age 70 because I want that additional 32% increase." Then you have people like me who decided to take it at full retirement age. So you want to share with the group what we have been discovering talking back and forth to clients on that?

April Schoen: Yeah. I think one of the things I'll say is that every situation is different and every client situation is different. We try to shy away from blanket statements and we do look at everyone's individual situation to see what makes sense. Again, for you John, you're taking it at 66. Makes sense. I had a client right before Christmas. I was talking to her and she's 68 and her plan was to wait 'til 70, and then we looked at the numbers and it didn't make sense and so in her case, it made sense for her to go ahead and start taking her benefit now. And then we do have others who may wait until age 70, and there's a time and a place for that as well.

John Curry: Right, and people ask me why I decided to take it at 66 even though I'm still working. For me, it's the time value of money. I decided I'd rather have the money in my hands now and take that money and do things with my children, my grandchildren, and my great grandchildren now instead of waiting. Plus, I'm healthy, but I did have open heart surgery July 10th, 2008, so I do have some heart disease and none of us are promised tomorrow. So, after looking at all the numbers, I decided to take the benefit now and do other things with the money.

Now, let's talk about when it might make sense to delay. Some people have not done a very good job of having life insurance or saving of their money. If that is the case, the longer they can delay, then they may want to consider that because ultimately when you pass away, your benefit that you're collecting will determine what the spouse will get. The widow or widowers we'll cover later. So for some people, they delay even longer because they want to make sure their benefit is greater for the person they're leaving behind, and we'll touch on that briefly in a few minutes.

At 62, 66, or 70, and a lot of that will come down to the type of planning you've done, your liquidity, how much savings you have, how much you have in stake deferred comp and IRA, 401K, profit sharing plans. All of this has to be looked at together, not just in a vacuum.

This will show you year by year between 66 to 70 what happens, and I'll stick with the age 66 for now. Full retirement, 100%. If you wait until 68, is 116%, 124, and at age 70, 132%, so that's how these numbers are derived. It's an 8% increase for each year you delay. That works out to be .67% per month. It is pro rata so if you delayed one year, if I waited to age 67 for example, it would be up by 8%, that benefit, the 116.

Now, let's talk a little bit about this statement. On this statement, you'll see a lot of numbers and we're not going to try to cover all this, but this will show you what your benefit is at age 67 for this person assuming full retirement age, 70 and 62. So your statement that you would get online and some of you have gotten some of these in the mail before, probably everybody actually on this call, but it gets into what the disability benefit would be, family survivors, and also Medicare.

So, we encourage you if you've not done it yet, go to social security's website, log on, and set up your personal account and start reading and studying some. For those of you that don't want to do that, just come see us every now and then and we'll help you and we'll give you our best thinking and what we have learned along the way. April and I both are studying this constantly. I don't know when yet but at some point this year I'll be attending an intensive two day workshop on social security and Medicare. I love going to those because I'm around other people who do similar type work and we share ideas and we always come back and share that with our clients.

Okay, cost of living adjustments. This is I think a little trivia that you should see. In 2009, the coda was 5.8%, then nothing in 2010 and '11. 2012, 3.6%, then in '13, 1.7, 2014, 1.5, 2015, 1.7%, 2016, 0, and 2017, people were complaining to us and saying, "That was an insult. I only got three tenths of a percent increase." 2018 was pretty good, 2%, and 2019, 2.8.

Let's talk about what this is tied to. You'll see it's tied to the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers. This is not what you see published by the media when they talk about the consumer price index. This is a specific index, so when you hear somebody, one of the talking heads say, "Inflation is 4%," you cannot just assume that you're going to get a 4% increase in your benefit and that's where people get disappointed, April, is they hear something on CNN or Fox News or Business News or something and they go, "Well, wait a minute. They say inflation's 4% but I didn't get that." It's because it's based on this particular index.

April Schoen: There's a correlation, right, with what happens with Medicare. When you needed a cost of living increase in social security, then you could also see your Medicare premiums go up too, correct?

John Curry: That is correct, and even though we're not talking about Medicare today, we will be ... Is it okay to get into the details of our seminar we're going to be doing?

April Schoen: Sure.

John Curry: On January 31st, we're going to be doing a seminar and we'll be talking about social security and Medicare. So I'm not sure when you'll be hearing this because some people will hear a replay of this later but on January 31st we're doing a seminar and we'll be doing some throughout the year.

April Schoen: Yeah. We'll also do another webinar on Medicare basics as well sometime this year for sure.

John Curry: Very good. We will do them as long as people want them, and we have a lot of people on this call today. In fact, we were surprised because we didn't know how many people would respond this early in the month of January, so we were surprised at the number of people who registered.

Let's talk about taxes. I'm going to do this briefly because I know sometimes April will get bogged down on this and we'll keep it simple. It depends on if you're filing an individual or a joint return. Here's the bottom line. Part of your benefit, up to 50% of it, could be taxed or on the high side as an individual, 85%. And it's based on your income, so if you earn between 25 and 34000, then 50% of your benefit could be taxed of your combined income.

I'll do this briefly because we can get bogged down. How do you get combined income? It's based on your adjusted gross income plus any non-taxable interest. Let's say you had money in muni bonds plus one half of your social security benefit. Add this up and that equals your combined income. So if your combined income is in this range of 25 and 34, then 50% of your benefit would be taxed. The maximum that would be taxed would be 85% of your benefit if you earned over 34000. 

If you're filing a joint return, then the 50% kicks in at 32000 to 44 and 85% if you earn over 44000. A lot of people out there who think these numbers are way too low, that the income should be raised so that less of the benefit is taxed. Fat chance of that happening when congress is saying they're worried about how to make this thing work, so I don't think you'll see that happen. Probably should, but it's not likely. 

Now, I like this visual because in our seminars we have some fun with this and we actually have a trick question. Don't have time today to play the trick on you so I'll just give you the bottom line. If you are 62 years old and you're going to take your benefit, any income you earn over $17640 in 2019 will cause you a bit of a reduction. What it means is your benefit is reduced $1 for every $2 above this limit. That's why you hear some people say, "Well, I can't earn more than $18000 because I'll lose some social security benefit." That's what they're referring to.

In the year that you attain full retirement age, anything over $46920 earnings results in $1 reduction for every $3 above this limit. But here's the trick question part. Once you are in the month of full retirement, in my case December, then there is no earnings limit. You could literally own a million dollars and not have your benefit reduced. Tax issues but not a reduction of the benefit, and that's another reason why it's important to know what your income looks like from retirement accounts because every dollar you take out of a retirement account is taxable income and it does impact the taxation of your social security benefits and it also impacts your Medicare premium because if you earn a certain income and above that income, 85000 is the number this year, over the 85000, your Medicare premium is not 134, it's 134 plus a surcharge. It could be as high as $420 a month I think it is, but these are some of the things we'll be covering in the future with our combined social security and Medicare.

All right, so let's jump ahead to different payments and areas. The most common one is spouse A. Let's just pretend for a moment that April and I are married. I'm spouse A. This is my benefit, and let's say mine is 1000 a month to make the math easy, and April's benefit is $250. The system would give her enough to where her benefit is half of mine, so I get my 1000 and she'd be collecting $500 per month. Anything you want to add there, April?

April Schoen: No. I'm just confirming that again. I'll say that one more time, is that the way the spousal benefit works is one spouse, you can claim up to 50% of the higher earner's record or your own, whichever is higher. So in this case, we're pretending that me, the wife, has a lower social security benefit than the husband and so their benefit would be up to 50% of the spouse's but it'll be the option of either your spousal benefit or your own benefit, whichever is higher.

John Curry: Very good. Thank you. Pardon me. And let's talk about widow or widowers benefit. You want to cover this?

April Schoen: Sure. So for the widow or widowers benefit, if the surviving spouse's benefit is less than the benefit of the decedent, the surviving spouse will get the higher earning records benefit. So let me give kind of that example again. So let's say that spouse A's social security benefit was $1000 per month and spouse B was getting the spousal at 500. Well, if spouse A passes away, spouse B's benefit now is $1000 per month but they don't get both. They don't get their own plus the second spouse. They only get one of the two. They'll get the higher of the two benefits. That's how the widow and widowers works.

John Curry: Very good. Thank you for covering that. Also you'll see if you remarry, benefits continue if you're remarried when you're 60 or older. The key is age 60 or older. 

Let's take a look at a little bit different scenario. I'm not going to take time to cover all of these, but there are different benefits for survivors also. So, widow or widowers would get 100% as April just said. If you are age 60 to full retirement age, it's reduced, where this benefit is assuming full retirement age and there's benefits for disabled widow, even a child. We could get so bogged down here. I don't want to get stuck on this, but just be aware that there's benefits also as far as payout scenarios.

Okay, what about divorces? If the marriage lasted for at least 10 years or longer and the lower record spouse remains unmarried, each spouse is entitled to a benefit, and each spouse is 62 or older. If the higher record spouse remarries, the new spouse's benefit is not affected.

So what does this mean? I'll pick on me again. So I'm spouse A and I'm divorced and I have an ex-wife that I was married to for 10 years or longer and she has not remarried. Then, she'd be entitled to 50% of my benefit as if we were still married. We find so many people who do not know about this. We've found situations where we've had to ask people, "Are you aware that you qualify for his benefit?" They say, "I did not know that." So, this is something that is overlooked. 

What if I had three wives and I happened to be married to each one of them for 10 years and one day? Well, all three would qualify. Some people say, "Well, that's a weakness in the system that our social security program would pay out that much money potentially," but that's where the law is. So just be aware of that.

We find that a lot of benefits are left on the table and sometimes we have to refer people back to social security office and say, "Look, we think you might be entitled to a benefit. Go talk to them," and they come back and say, "Oh, I got more money than I thought."

April Schoen: And just know, too, that whenever you receive a spousal benefit on your ex-spouse's record, just know it does not affect their record at all. It doesn't affect their benefit at all. As John said, if they got remarried, their current spouse could also claim under their record, so we get that question sometimes about will it affect their benefits or anything along those lines, and it does not affect them at all.

John Curry: Very good. Now this is something we're going to cover next that we find that most people have never heard of and hadn't thought of, and we have fun with this in meetings and also in seminars but we're going to talk a little bit about it today and give you kind of a big picture view. It's a little different.

Now we're going to assume that the lower record spouse starts collecting and they get their 50%, okay, 50% of what the higher record spouse was getting, and they have to be full retirement age to do this now. So let's stick with the 66. So they're both 66 and they decide to do this. The higher record spouse could actually file what we call a delay that could collect on the lower record's income. So let's just say this is $500 per month and this benefit would be 250 per month. Doesn't sound like a lot of money but that's money coming in that would not have been collected.

There at age 70, the higher record spouse says, "Okay, I'm now going to switch to my benefit and collect the full benefit." So this is what is called spousal benefit and delayed retirement credits. So, lower income person takes their benefit, higher income person says, "Okay, I'm going to take my benefit based on my spouse. I'm going to delay mine until I'm 70." 

It used to be more attractive but that was taken away in 2015. Some changes were made in the social security laws and it was the first time that congress actually did something very fast with social security.

April Schoen: It was within a matter of weeks.

John Curry: Weeks. That's correct. Okay, let's talk a little bit about issues around the program. We'll have some fun with this because this is something that as I'm sitting here across the table from you, that's going to impact you and your generation big time.

April Schoen: That's right.

John Curry: So, you want to jump in and talk about this one just a little bit?

April Schoen: Sure. One of the major issues for social security is that the number of workers in the fields or the beneficiaries, it's projected to shrink over time. It's projected there's going to be more people collecting social security than actually paying into it, and so you can see why that would be a problem down the line. They're projecting that by 2035, there will be about two workers for each beneficiary.

John Curry: Say that again.

April Schoen: Social Security Administration estimates that by 2035, there's going to be two workers for each beneficiary. So, you're not going to have as many people that are paying their taxes today to benefit the beneficiaries who are actually receiving benefits from social security.

John Curry: And let me give you a little history. In 1945, there were about 40 workers for every beneficiary. When I came in this business in 1975, it was around 16 or 17 per beneficiary. So, as April's pointing out, fewer and fewer workers. 

So what does that mean to the system? It has more and more pressure and as we talk about some issues in a few minutes, what is that going to do as far as the wage base, taxation, will we see an increase in the social security tax for both the employer and the employee? There's a lot of issues there, a lot of moving parts that unless you're somewhat of a geek about this like I am, you would probably care about, but I'm to the point in my career where this is a very important topic not only for me but also clients of my age and older, so I keep up on this. I want to know more about it, and also longevity. The longer we live the more of a burden there is, April, on the system on people your age coming behind the baby boomers to fund this thing.

April Schoen: That's right. So you've got less people that are paying into it, we're all living longer, just puts more pressure on the system. Social security, they've been very open about this that by 2034, they project that the trust fund will be exhausted. So, we know that there's going to have to be changes between now and then.

John Curry: Yes, and I would encourage you when you go to the social security website, go to the retirement estimator section and you'll find that they even go further. They say that in 2033, the payroll taxes collected would be enough to pay only about 77 cents for each dollar of scheduled benefits. And it was projected to be longer than that, but the revised numbers from the trustee's report says 2033.

In fact, this is something that is a good time to bring up. Subject to political agendas. And what I want to say there is no duh. I mean, as we're sitting here today, we are in a government shutdown, and it's the 16th day, I think it is, 15th, 16th day. It's tied to consumer price index and there's something called the chained consumer price index and I would encourage you just to go Google that and then form your own opinion on that. 

But, what we're seeing more and more with all government programs, whether it be social security, Medicare, Medicaid, they're under pressure. I think we're going to see going forward that congress is going to have no choice but start making changes. What will they do? I don't know. Will they make it a higher age for full retirement? Will it someday be 70? Will they take away being able to take the benefits at 62? I don't know.

I can tell you what I would do. It wouldn't be very popular, but if I had my way about it, no one would've ever been able to collect social security at 62. It was never designed for that. I would've made it be at least 65 or 66 or even 70. Age 70 is what you have to use as mandatory distributions. It's called required minimum distributions for retirement accounts, April, with age 70 now even. 

So, it is subject to political agendas. There's a lot of debate about, "The system's going to go bust, give me my money now," and April and I believe that a lot of this is fear-based and we try to get our clients just to take a deep breath, let's look at what you have, what have you done as far as your savings, your investments, your retirement plans, let's look at everything and then determine what needs to be done. Don't let some well-meaning friend scare you into taking your benefit at 62 or even someone convince you to wait 'til 70 if you really want the money now. It's your money. If you want it now and can use it now, take it. Take it.

April Schoen: That's right. And social security, it's not going anywhere. It's still going to be around, especially like John, you're starting social security or if someone's near retirement, this is still going to be of benefit for you. I think for someone my generation, I'm 35, I'm going to see a lot of changes over my lifetime around social security. Do I think it'll still be there? I do, but I think it'll be different 30 years from now, but we know that they're going to have to make some changes.

John Curry: Right. I agree with you. I don't think it's going to go away. I think we're going to see changes in it. My plan is to live to be at least 100 years old.

April Schoen: That's right.

John Curry: So, I'm going to be seeing these changes along the way and still advising people. But I think we're to a point in our nation of where longevity, taxation, inflation, savings, rate of return, investments, all of this has to be tied together and anyone who is not looking at all of those when they're doing their retirement planning, they're going to be in for a rude awakening because most people have very short memories, they forget about how high inflation was back in the late '70s and early '80s. I remember an interest rate on a mortgage that I got on a house was 12%. 

April Schoen: Jeez.

John Curry: When it dropped down to 10, I refinanced. When it dropped down to 8, I refinanced. It went to 6, I refinanced. People my age know that. But we also forget about what the stock market did, what the real estate market did in 2008. You and I talk about this a lot, April. We're seeing people already making the same mistakes that got them in trouble in 2008. You want to elaborate on some of the things that you've noticed?

April Schoen: Yeah. I think you kind of said it earlier too, that we have short memories. So, we forget the pain of 2008 and 2009. We forget the pain of the recession. I was talking to some friends the other day and back in 2010, I had two friends who were out of work for 12 months to a year because there were no jobs available. We're seeing people today kind of getting back in the same boat where they're not paying attention to how much liquidity do they have. So, can they weather a storm if there's another recession? If we see a drop in the stock market, can they weather that storm? We're seeing people kind of set themselves up for failure in that way.

John Curry: We're also seeing people going out refinancing their homes.

April Schoen: That's right.

John Curry: We're seeing ads on television where people are being encouraged to go out and refinance and get 100% mortgage. A lot of people out there use the home equity like an ATM machine, and it got them in trouble. 

You might be sitting there going, "Okay, why in the world is John Curry and April Schoen talking about this regarding social security?" Because it all comes together to create streams of income in retirement. We believe in giving you multiple streams of income, whether it be social security, pension, property insuring plans, 401K, IRAs. How do you create streams of income that you can never outlive and that's not subject to political agendas? Taxation, we can't change that, but we can design programs where you don't really care who's in office. And the funny thing, I don't care if it's Democrats or Republicans as it comes down to my planning because of things I have in place where I know it'll be there no matter what.

Let's talk a little bit about something that, April, on this one, I know in seminars we'll cover it in detail. I'm going to hit this quickly. The key point I want to make is it's not meant to replace all of your income. Social security was never designed in the '30s to replace all of your income. It truthfully was designed to keep people off of poverty rolls.

Low income earners, defined as people making $22000 of pre-retirement income, social security replaces roughly 52% of their income. Max earners is only 25%. Some people say, "Well, wait a minute. If you're a max earner or a high earner, less of your retirement income will come from social security," and you'll hear someone say, "Well, for someone who makes a high income or max earners, social security's kind of like reverse discrimination because those people are being discriminated against because they're paying in more taxes and they're getting less benefit." Well, that is correct. That's not some made up number. I mean, social security shows you yes, if you are a max earner then only 25% in your retirement is coming from social security, and yes you did pay in more because that's what our tax system is, that the more money you make, the more you pay in. 

April Schoen: Right, so the more pressure then, if you are a high earner or a max earner, there's more pressure for you to put on your other retirement savings, your assets, to continue with the same income that you have pre-retirement or more. So you have to put more pressure on your assets to create the same amount of income.

John Curry: Yes, and if you've now tied that to high inflation rates, high taxation, and you're living longer, what does that do to your pot of money? 

April Schoen: Right.

John Curry: It makes it dwindle faster, and that's not good. It's one of the saddest things that April and I see with clients is somebody will come see us that heard about us from a seminar or a friend referred them, they come in, and they lost a bunch of money in 2008, 2009, moved everything from stock market into money market accounts, and then pulling money out and they're still sitting there getting less than one quarter, 1%, and they're worried about running out of money. 

That's a sad situation and what do you do? Sometimes people say, "Well, I want to get back in the market now." Are you kidding me? As volatile as it is today, you want to put all of your money back in the market? We can't do that. We've got to be diligent with the money. It can't all be high risk. 

Let's recap. Let's talk a little bit about what we've covered so far, and then April, before we end up today, I want us to talk a little bit about making sure people on this webinar understand our relationship, what to expect if they come sit with us, and you're taking over more and more. You've developed a clientele yourself, so I want us to talk about that some.

April Schoen: Okay.

John Curry: Okay, so let's just do a recap. Social security is funded by taxation. Why is that important to know? Well, if we have fewer and fewer workers that are paying social security taxes, that tells me that the fewer we have, there has to be some conversation about increasing the rate of the tax or if I don't increase the tax rate, I increase the amount of money on which that tax is applied. That's why you see the annual income limit go up. It's roughly 120000. So, up to 120000 is taxed. Over that is not. Now, Medicare, however, there is no cap. If you earn $10 million, then you're going to pay Medicare tax on that. 

We talked about it averages your highest 35 years of wages. We talked about once you have 40 credits, you and your spouse qualify for a benefit, and we see read your statement. Read your statement, and if you need help with it, give us a call. We've had people that would email it to us and we'd have a telephone appointment. We've had people come in face-to-face. We'd be happy to help you with that if we can.

April Schoen: We can run different scenarios too, especially if there's a married couple and we have a copy of your social security statements, we can run some different scenarios. Okay, what if this one takes it early? What if this one delays? We kind of look at some different scenarios there.

John Curry: Correct, and it's important for us to say this, so just as a disclaimer here, disclosure, we don't represent Social Security Administration. We don't claim to have all the answers, but what we can do is help you begin to see what the possibilities are. On a regular basis, we refer people back over to social security. We say call them and get in there and let them explain how this works, but some of it we can help you with, at least help you determine the right questions to be asking.

Okay, let's continue with the summary. Full retirement age depends on what year you were born. We talked about that, if you take your benefits at 62, full retirement age, or wait until 70. Cost of living adjustment, we've talked about that. There's been three, four years I think with zero and then this year's 2.8. I was surprised it was increased that much. We had to say the word may, but it's not may. Taxes will reduce your benefits some. Working may reduce it. We talked about that $17620 income limit, at age 62. So keep that in mind if you're thinking about retiring early and still doing some work. Just be aware that it could impact your benefit. We talked about the spousal benefit and widowers benefit. So, all of these we covered.

Today was designed to give you kind of a big picture and hopefully to get you thinking more about your own planning to where you want to explore and learn more. Whether you do that by seeing us or reading, studying on your own, is up to you. We tell people that when we do the planning with you, there are only four things you can do with the information that we give you. You can ignore it, do nothing. You can take the information and do it all by yourself. You can take it to someone else who does financial planning, retirement planning, tax planning, let them do it for you, or work with us and let Team Curry, the four of us here that there's April, Jay, Bonnie, and me, that help our clients.

We'll wrap up on this last visual here, April, so we can take a minute to talk about what we see with clients. We talked about the funding issues for the future. What's going to happen? Will benefits be reduced, taxes increased? Will benefit age be changed? I don't know. It's going to be exciting to see where that goes in the future. 

It's part of the political agendas. Both sides are going to be arguing and debating it, and it's not meant to replace all of your income. You have to take personal responsibility, save, invest, and protect what you've got. 

That's a good place to start to talk a little bit about what ... We got a few minutes left here ... Let's talk a little bit about what we do for clients when somebody comes in here. So let's suppose somebody's on this call. They don't know us. They've never been in here. Just give them kind of an overview of what to expect.

April Schoen: Sure. So sitting down with someone for the first time, I'd say especially if we're having this conversation on retirement planning. One of the things that we like to do is take them through what we call a retirement rehearsal. 

So what does that mean? One of the first things we do during a retirement rehearsal is we look at everything in your financial world, and I usually say we cover all the bases from A to Z. So, we want to look at something as mundane as your car insurance and homeowner's insurance, and we want to look at do you have legal documents, are they updated. You want to look through what you have as far as your assets, your liabilities, and kind of take you through our planning process and really just kind of cover everything from A to Z. 

Part of that too, especially when we're doing a retirement rehearsal, is to go through and look at your social security benefits. Do you have a pension? If you have pension options, what pension options do you choose or what may be the best pension option for you and your family? And we walk through all the different retirement income sources that you have and we project you forward. So what does retirement look like today and what does it look like 10 years from now, 20 years from now?

John Curry: Very good. I think it's important for people to know also, April, that we don't charge for an initial meeting. We sit down and we visit. If there's a fit, we'll know it at the end of 45 minutes to an hour, and then if we move forward we'll charge a planning fee. I go back to what I said earlier about once the plan is developed for you, there are only four things you can do. You can ignore it, do everything yourself, take it to someone else, or have us help you. 

Now, what you get by paying a fee for the planning, there's no pressure for you to have to buy a financial product. There's no pressure for us to have to sell a financial product. You'll get our time, our best thinking, our knowledge, and hopefully some expertise in there and hopefully a little bit of wisdom mixed in. But more importantly, you get someone who would challenge your thinking. We have people come in and say, "I want to buy X, Y, Z mutual fund," or, "I want to buy this particular insurance product," and we start having conversations with them, "Those products are not appropriate." We're not stupid. If you come in and you want to buy something, we're in business to make money, but we're not going to do it at your expense. One of the nice things about being in my position of semi-retired, if you will, we don't have to do any business.

April Schoen: That's right.

John Curry: We don't have to. There's zero pressure. If you walk in the door, I don't care if you're an existing client or somebody new, we're going to have a conversation and if you're not a fit, I'm going to tell you. I'm going to say, "I don't think we're a good fit," because I don't want you to be unhappy.

This week I experienced on three occasions where people told me they would do something regarding doing some work on my property, on my house there, and all three let me down. They disappointed me, just because they didn't do what they said they would do. So we don't want to be guilty of that.

April Schoen: That's right. We don't. 

John Curry: All right. April, talk a little bit about if somebody's on this call and they said, "Wow, I'd like to know more, but I don't really want to come in for an appointment," walk them through what we do regarding our telephone appointment procedure.

April Schoen: Sure. I usually say that the first step is just to schedule a phone appointment. It'll take 25, 30 minutes. You can have a phone appointment with John, have a phone appointment with myself, and we'll just kind of start the conversation and talk a little bit about what your goals are and your plans and we can tell you some more about our planning process and see if it makes sense to move forward.

On that note, one thing too to say is I'm here in Tallahassee today with John. John's based out of Tallahassee and I'm over in Jacksonville. So any of you guys on the call in Jacksonville, I do live and work out of our Jacksonville office, but then I do come to Tallahassee for meetings a couple times a month.

John Curry: Tell them how we work together long distance with clients.

April Schoen: Sure. Long distance is we do a lot of remote meetings, kind of similar to this, where we'll share our screen, phone calls, web calls, so we do a lot of remote meetings as well with clients.

John Curry: We had one yesterday with some clients who've been clients of mine for about 40 years.

April Schoen: That's right.

John Curry: They were sitting in Charlotte, North Carolina. April was over in Jacksonville and I was sitting at the little island in my kitchen or my property over in the woods, as my grandson calls it. It's pretty cool.

April Schoen: That is cool. Technology.

John Curry: That's right.

April Schoen: It works.

John Curry: That's right.

April Schoen: Allowed us all to be on this call today.

John Curry: Correct. All right. April, let's do this. Let's wrap up by sharing with the folks on the call what we're going to be doing later this month for the seminar.

April Schoen: Sure. So, we are going to have a seminar here in Tallahassee on social security and Medicare. It's going to be on January 31st. That's a Thursday. It'll be from 6 to 7:30. So we're going to go into some more details about social security. We're also going to go through Medicare as well, so that'll be a good event to attend and we'll go through some of the items that we have. We can share with you our living balance sheet, which is our planning software as well.

John Curry: So you'll be getting emails on that and also a postcard, so keep your eye open for that. We hope you'll join us, and if you have anything that is pressing that you want to discuss with us, give us a call, 562-3000, 562-3000, and schedule a telephone appointment and we'll go from there. April, anything else?

April Schoen: I realized on our slide, I forgot to put my Jacksonville office phone number, but it's 904-296-1944 and I'm at extension 1029 or you can just email me. I get that in both places.

John Curry: Thanks. Okay, anything else that we want to cover before we wrap up, April?

April Schoen: Nope, I think that takes care of us going through social security. Perfect. Great. Thanks so much again for joining us today. We really appreciate you taking the time and we hope to speak with you soon.


Mapping Out Your Dream Retirement

What are you looking for in retirement?

For retired pharmacist – and lifelong boater - John Dunwoody, it meant adventure on the high seas in a 36-foot Grand Banks.

Most people retire and get bored, says John, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Explore your own interests to figure out what’s going to give you your dream retirement… and make a plan to get it.

We explore how to apply that philosophy to the real world – and how to make it work financially – as well as…

  • The joys of slow travel

  • Where to find little-visited but very interesting historic sites

  • Finding the value in the journey

  • The culture of boat cards

  • And more

Listen now…

Episode Transcript:

John Curry: Hi folks, John Curry here for another episode of John Curry's Secure Retirement podcast. I am excited about today's interview because I'm sitting across the table from a friend I've known since Rotary days back in the 90s. 1992, I think, we both joined Sunrise Rotary Club, John. I'm sitting here with a guy named John Dunwoody, and I'm going to ask him to tell you his background in a moment.

Today we're going to talk about adventures in travel from the standpoint of you work hard, you have goals, you retire, what do you do with your time? I think you're going to find today's interview to be fascinating just because of the things that this man has done and has talked about over the years that I found to be intriguing.

So first of all, John, welcome.

John Dunwoody: Thank you, sir.

John Curry: Glad you're with us. Take a moment and tell our listeners who the heck John Dunwoody is.

John Dunwoody: My name's John Dunwoody. I grew up in Miami, went to college as a pharmacist and ran my own business for 10 years, and then went to work for the big guys. Basically been in boating my whole life. I did get my captain's license in '81, I believe, and have had a dream of doing the America's Great Loop since high school.

John Curry: Tell us what the Great Loop is, because when you first started telling me about this, I was fascinated. Just tell us, what does that encompass? Where is that?

John Dunwoody: The Great Loop, it's a passage that you can do around the eastern United States going up the eastern seaboard, going through the Erie Canal over to Canada, going through the Trent–Severn Waterway, down Lake Michigan to Chicago, through the canal system there into the Illinois River, down the Mississippi, up the Ohio, and get on the Tennessee River, which then connects to the Tombigbee Waterway, and you end up coming out in Mobile Bay. From there you can go back to Florida and complete the Loop.

John Curry: Amazing. And how long does it take to do this thing?

John Dunwoody: Most people break it up into two seasons. You could do it in a year if your timing is real good. Since I grew up in Florida, I kind of sped through the Florida timeline, so I did it in nine months.

John Curry: Nine months.

John Dunwoody: Roughly nine months.

John Curry: Okay. Tell us why this was so important for you. Because you set goals that "when I retire, these are things I'm going to do," and this was at the top of the list.

John Dunwoody: Well, it seemed to me when you retire, most of the people that I've known that retire, a lot of them get bored or can't find things to do. This has just been a dream to complete this mission as something I could check off on my bucket list, as something as an accomplishment to ... It's like sailing around the world. It's just something that I thought would be an adventure and something interesting and see new places.

John Curry: Well, let's start back at the beginning. So once you determined to do this, and you told me earlier you'd been thinking about it since you were a kid, but as an adult, once you decided to do this, walk us through a little bit about what you had to do. Obviously first you had to get a boat big enough to do what you do, so tell us about your boat and how that came to be.

John Dunwoody: Well, I ended up with a 36-foot boat. It's a Grand Banks 36. I picked that size, that particular model also, just because it was as small of a boat as I could get that had the space that I required. I wanted to have enough to have two couples on board. Needed to have the range of at least 300 miles in order to do this. It needed to be seaworthy enough, and we're going to be going at a slow rate. Most of the time we're doing six miles to eight miles an hour, so speed was not an issue. I also checked my pocketbook so see how much money I had, and so I ended up with a boat that I'm very happy with.

John Curry: Very good. And what you'll do, you'll use this for a period of time, and then when you accomplish your traveling, your boating, that's an asset you'll sell. 

John Dunwoody: Yeah. When I get tired of the boating thing, I'll probably go back to the RV lifestyle, but I did the Great Loop, and then the following summer I went down to the Keys. I went to Dry Tortugas, and I spent a month in the Keys. Brought the boat back up to Mobile, went on to Chattanooga and up to Knoxville to go to a football game on the river. So I brought the boat back down to Mobile, and it's getting some work on, and hopefully go to the Bahamas this summer.

When I run out of places to go or physically can't move around as much, then I'll sell it and go to the next thing.

John Curry: How much of this did you do while you were still working, or were you totally retired before you started?

John Dunwoody: I totally retired before I did this. I'd always had boats, I'd had sailboats and motorboats and things like that, but when the day came to retire, I knew obviously a few months ahead of time that the time was there. I started looking for boats, narrowed it down to five, and picked this one.

John Curry: I remember meeting with you a few times and you talking about selecting the boat. Talk a little bit about that because that wasn't an easy decision. You had to narrow it down as to what worked best for you.

John Dunwoody: Well, picking out the boat, first you got to decide how much you can spend so you don't waste time looking on things that are just outside your budget. But things that were important to me was I wanted a full keel to protect the prop and the rudder. I wanted it to be relatively shallow draft, so I have a four-foot draft. That was the high end of what I wanted so I could get into more places.

Like I said before, I also had to have at least two state rooms so that I could have two couples on the boat without bumping into each other. And the outside area, because a lot of the trip I'm by myself, I had to have a boat that I could walk around the boat quickly and get from side to side. So I had to have a walkaround boat that I could feel comfortable docking and handling by myself. 

And this particular boat met all those requirements. It has a range of about 800 miles, so plenty of fuel, and it's got everything you want. It's air conditioned, showers, and it's got everything you need.

John Curry: Sounds exciting. What's going through my mind as you're explaining is that you had to pay attention to what you really wanted and needed. Can't just be what I want; it's got to be need and want because you may want something, but it's not appropriate once you get out there. 

So what struck me was you better have a clear picture of what you want in retirement. If you want to sit on the front porch and rock all day, that's one thing, but if you want to travel and do things, what does that look like? We call that what is your vision of retirement? What is your vision. So you had to visualize the boat that you wanted, and then you went looking for it.

John Dunwoody: Yeah. Yeah, like I said, I've been around boats my whole life, and I had a fairly good idea. I did look for probably two months and made several trips with brokers and went on different boats. I just liked the Grand Banks. It seemed to meet all the requirements. You can fish off it a little bit. It was what I wanted. 

In a life as a pharmacist, I see a lot of people when they get older and they retire, and oftentimes their health goes downhill rapidly. So I figured I wasn't going to let that happen. I was going to get out and just keep moving and doing the things I could do while it was still within my skillset.

John Curry: What would you say was your primary motivator or motivators to retire when you did, because you could have kept working longer.

John Dunwoody: I think I'm not unlike a lot of people. The world of pharmacy had changed dramatically during my career. It was not like it was when I got out of school and when I had my own business. Just healthcare had changed in general, and I did not enjoy my job at all. In fact, I regretted going to work every morning, and when you have that kind of an attitude it's really time to move onto something else if you can afford to do it.

John Curry: Makes sense. What advice would you offer anyone who just heard that, and they say, "Damn, I hate my job, but I don't know that I'm ready to retire"? What advice would you offer that person who is thinking that way?

John Dunwoody: Well, do the same thing I did. I went down and spoke with a financial advisor and gave them a general outlook of my lifestyle, what it cost me to live, and asked questions: if I had enough resources to retire now, or did I need to stick it out for a few more years? And if that was the case, what would I have to do in those years to make it as short a time as possible so that I could move on with my life?

John Curry: There's a lesson there too, folks. Any time that John and I are talking about his stuff, he's always asking questions. He doesn't just come in and say, "Everything's just fine. That's great. Thank you very much." He's questioning, how about this? How about that? And that's the key, isn't it, John? 

John Dunwoody: Yeah.

John Curry: Constantly review it.

John Dunwoody: Yeah. I'm sure I'm like a lot of y'all. The last thing I want to do is run out of money before I run out of days, so I'm checking with him to make sure I'm on track for a successful retirement.

John Curry: What are some of the lessons you've learned since you embarked on this traveling, I'm calling it traveling America's Great Loop. I'm not sure how we'll title this eventually, but that was such a big deal. There was a lot of unknowns. There's got to be lessons you've learned along the way. Share some of those with us.

John Dunwoody: Well, you've heard this from other folks, the biggest thing is don't get so focused on the end goal, like in my case was completing the Loop, and I had certain dates I had to be in certain places so that I could complete this task. It was on the way to completing that task, it's these little things that were unexpected, the people you meet, that make it a lot more enjoyable. 

It took me a long time to figure out to quit being so goal-oriented or destination-oriented and learn to understand that if I got to a town that I enjoyed and the people were nice, I might be there three or four days or a week versus the one day that I had penciled out as my time to get fuel and water. It took me probably four, five, six months to figure that out, but really it's so many good things happen on the way there during your trip if you just slow down and do that. It's not the end of the world if you don't get to your destination on time. There's always another day.

John Curry: That's valuable information because not just with a vacation or a trip like you did, I find that going to conferences, I may go for one particular reason, but a side conversation that I have with someone is more valuable to me than the entire conference. It's being willing and flexible to listen and learn from other people.

John Dunwoody: Yeah. Yeah. Kevin, my son, was with me for a large part of the trip, and we went to a little anchorage that wasn't much to the anchorage, and there was four other boats there. We had to ex-DEAs, we had a bank executive, and a CEO for a very, had to have been a large company. He had an extremely expensive boat. But we were there for about four days because the weather was bad, and had an outstanding job. And we were all different backgrounds. Outstanding time.

John Curry: Describe what you mean by an anchorage.

John Dunwoody: Well, this one was in the ... I'm trying to remember. I think it was called the Berry Islands there in Georgian Bay. It's just a protected area. The winds were coming up and we knew a front was coming through and it was going to be ugly for about four days. 

So several boats pulled into this little deep water harbor and just anchored out. You're not far apart from each other, so you're going to see each other in the dinghies, and we ended up going out there every night about 5 o'clock. We'd all get in our little dinghies and meet up in the middle and have drinks. One night we had a little cookout of hotdogs on the beach. We were all running out of food because we were all planning like me to be at next place on a certain day. So we were scrapping what we could from each boat, but turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip those four days we spent there.

John Curry: Have you kept in touch with some of these folks that you've met along the way?

John Dunwoody: Many of them. I joined a group that gave me some hints about how to do this and prepare. They said get some boat cards made up, so we did that. I probably have 300 boat cards that I met from people on the way, and the ones that I spent more time with and enjoyed, we do talk. We send emails back and forth. I did this, what, two years ago, and when I was in Mobile here I had a couple of boats come by. They saw mine, they called me up, we went to dinner. I hadn't seen them since we were up in Canada.

John Curry: Wow.

John Dunwoody: Yeah, so we'll run into each other. You go into seeing each other at different places, but it's kind of a small community.

John Curry: Is a boat card just like a business card?

John Dunwoody: Yeah, just a business card.

John Curry: Okay.

John Dunwoody: But everybody's got them, and it's kind of helpful. Nobody can remember anyone's name, but everyone remembers what boat you had and what the boat name is. We're pretty good about that, not so good on the names.

John Curry: That's cool. So instead of your name, well actually the name's there too I'm sure, but it's the boat name primarily, then your name below it or something?

John Dunwoody: Yeah. Like, my boat is called Gump Stump, but everyone just calls me Stump. No one calls me John or Dunwoody. They just call me Stump.

John Curry: Hey, Stump.

John Dunwoody: Yeah. Some of the names are clever. It's a fun time. Fun time.

John Curry: The closest I can relate to that is a few trips I took with my motor home. You'd pull into that RV park, if you raise the hood checking the oil, half a dozen people would come and check on you making sure you're okay. Everybody looked out for each other.

John Dunwoody: Yeah. Very, very helpful. Everyone was great. I never had any really bad experiences with anybody. Some folks you get along with better than others, but I didn't have a negative experience on the trip. 

John Curry: Tell us about some of the challenges you've had along the way. I know something had to break down at an inopportune time, things like that. That's just mechanics.

John Dunwoody: The first thing that happened, when my son and I left and went to St. Mark's and went to Tampa, that's the longest crossing in the entire loop. It's 140 miles, and that's the longest open water you've got in the entire journey. I had a, alternator must not have been working correctly, and all my electronics went out. Battery, everything's dead, and we're out there in the middle of the Gulf. So that was unpleasant. We did manage to get into Clearwater and figure out the problem, but that was ugly.

The other thing that happened that was bad is I had a water pump belt break in a channel. So I ended up anchoring in the channel, and that was not a pleasant time. Got a lot of horns honked at me at that.

John Curry: Get out of the way!

Did you ever have anything happen where you were worried about your safety along the way?

John Dunwoody: No. John, this trip, like I just said, the only open water you have is from basically Dog Island in the panhandle to Clearwater, and it's roughly 140 miles. Other than that, you're always in the sight of land. I could basically swim to shore from wherever we were the rest of the trip. So it's not like you're going across an ocean or you're out in the Bahamas in the middle of nowhere. You're close to shore. Coming down Lake Michigan, which can get very rough, you're only 30 miles to a harbor. If each harbor's 30 miles, and you can see shore, but each harbor's only 30 miles, you're only 15 miles from getting back. So you just pick your weather.

But no, I really didn't have that big dinghy You're always close enough to get towed in. You can get towing services and all that. It's a lot safer than making an ocean crossing. Even a short one to the Bahamas is much more dangerous than this trip.

John Curry: While we were having lunch, you mentioned some things about seeing so much of our country by doing this because you would take time and go into smaller towns and visit. Tell us a little bit more about that. What stands out as some of the memorable places that you've seen. You told us about the people, what about some of the places?

John Dunwoody: Well, almost every town in early America was built on a river. So during this journey you would pull into a little town you've never heard of or didn't remember the name, and invariably walking through those towns you would find out that Lewis and Clark was there, or there was a Revolutionary war fought there. Once you hit the Tennessee River, there was many Civil War battles and stuff. 

Just about every town you went in, there was something that you remember from your elementary and junior high school history books. In Alabama there was the Helen Keller house. It's just amazing how much history you'll see. The Trail of Tears was all through Alabama. There was several things about that, and I learned quite a bit more about that than what I had known from the school books.

It's very interesting. The riverboats that first would come down from the Chattanooga area and stuff, when they would load them on the boats, they would go down the Tennessee River to the Ohio and down the Mississippi out to New Orleans. And all those crews would walk back to Chattanooga. It's called the Natchez ... I don't say that word right, but the Trace, the ...

John Curry: Natchez Trace?

John Dunwoody: Yes. But they would walk back, and they had just gotten paid in New Orleans. I found out that was a very dangerous trip from there back up to take the next boat down because all the bandits and Indians that knew that that's when they had the monies because they had just gotten paid, and they're all working their way back up to take the next boat down.

John Curry: That's interesting. See, I never thought of that, and I've been on a couple of riverboat cruises, and I love it, the paddle boats. It's just fascinating. But I never thought of that, because they had to, didn't they? They had to come down, and walk back. 

John Dunwoody: And a lot of those boats, these were not the powered ones. They were just a bunch of logs thrown together. They'd load the carry on it and float down the river. They'd get to the end, and they'd walk back home.

John Curry: Wow. You mentioned earlier, and I can't remember the details now. You said something about someone in your family that was a general-

John Dunwoody: Yes.

John Curry: In the Civil War.

John Dunwoody: Yes.

John Curry: And then you went to visit this cool place. Tell us about that. 

John Dunwoody: Well, I'd gone to this town where I'd followed several of his battles. He was at Shiloh and up at Chattanooga and some other battles. At the end of the war when Lee surrendered, he gathered his troops in I think the small town of Gainesville, I believe that is the name of it, in Alabama, and surrendered. 

And I could never figure out why he surrendered in such a podunk town when I went there to visit it. I mean, it just had a stop sign. Started reading the little plaque they had there just about the town, not about his speech, but at the time it was the third largest city in Alabama because that's as far up the Mobile River that the steam ships could get, so all the cotton and everything else that they were trying to ship out either before the War or just after would have to go through this town. They'd load it up and ship it out. 

But when the rail systems and all that came about, the town just basically disappeared.

John Curry: Just died.

John Dunwoody: Yeah. And also when they put the dams in, when they started locking the Black River, they could farther up closer to Tuscaloosa, and that probably hurt it also.

John Curry: Yeah. What other stories or places were floating around in your mind that you'll share with us? I just find this fascinating.

John Dunwoody: The easy ones, when I was in Alton, Illinois, they had a statue about the Lincoln Douglas debates, and I had forgotten all about that. Several of the towns, Lewis and Clark had been there. 

Up in New York on the Erie Canal there was a lot of references to the Revolutionary War when they were trying to come down from up north where they had to cross different rivers. And at that time, it obviously wasn't a canal, but the canal replaced the river in certain parts and they had all these "this is where General so and such crossed the river," and they had the different forts that were there that had to be conquered. They were all ones that I vaguely remembered, but had forgotten about.

John Curry: So you got to really live a lot of our American history, didn't you?

John Dunwoody: I think so. Went by West Point, which was very, very moving to me. I thought that was impressive. I anchored two days by the Statue of Liberty.

John Curry: Wow.

John Dunwoody: Just had a great time.

John Curry: So you literally anchored right there in the harbor.

John Dunwoody: You could've hit a golf ball from my boat to the statue.

John Curry: I was there in October, and the hotel I was at had a beautiful view of the Statue of Liberty. Every time I go I'm just fascinated by that. That's amazing.

John Dunwoody: Yeah. It was interesting. New York harbor's an interesting place. A lot of traffic, very busy place. Very busy place. 

My son and I went up and we stayed at the 79th Street marina and walked around Central Park for two days. Had a great time. It was very interesting.

John Curry: What's next on the agenda? You mentioned Bahamas.

John Dunwoody: I hope to go to the Bahamas this year if I can get some work completed on the boat in time. My insurance makes me be north of North Carolina during hurricane season. So if I get the boat done in time, then I'll go to the Bahamas, take the boat up north.

John Curry: Wait a minute. Say that again. Your insurance does what?

John Dunwoody: Makes me be north of North Carolina during hurricane season.

John Curry: Interesting.

John Dunwoody: If I'm south of that and I get any damage to a named storm, they won't cover it.

John Curry: I never heard of that. So, you got to haul butt north if it gets bad weather.

John Dunwoody: It cuts your insurance about in half. So if you don't do that and you stay down, then your premiums will about double.

John Curry: The risk you take is if you don't do it, then you're not covered. 

John Dunwoody: Right.

John Curry: So you just plan ahead.

John Dunwoody: And when people do the Great Loop, the general guideline is you want to be in New York on June 1st to start that trip so you can spend all the time up in Canada and all that kind of stuff, and they don't open Erie Canal until about that time.

John Curry: Is that because of weather, or because of the season of hurricanes?

John Dunwoody: Well, the Erie Canal has to do with snow melt and everything when it rains and their wet seasons up there or whatever. But they don't even open the Erie Canal until late May/June. It's their timeframe. But I want to be in June because of my insurance policy, I need to be at least in Virginia. But if you're going to do this trip, you don't really want to get up there much before June because it's cold.

John Curry: It's cold.

John Dunwoody: June, that seems to be the time when everyone starts gathering around in Norfolk or New York and starts getting ready to migrate through the Erie Canal and through Canada. We just kind of go in groups. You'll see a person for a couple of weeks. You might see them every night, and then you might not see them for a month, and then you'll see them back in Chicago. And everyone ends up in Chicago by the end of August, certainly by the end of September, everyone has gone through Chicago and you're on your way down the Illinois. It starts getting nippy.

John Curry: Yeah. Because the cold weather coming.

John Dunwoody: They start heading south. Really if you did it and you wanted the best weather days and the best everything, by December you want to be moving out of Mobile and heading south because more and more fronts come through closer together, and your days to make that crossing from Dog Island to Clearwater start shortening.

Just the other day I read they're supposed to have 12-foot seas out there.

John Curry: Oh! That'd be rough.

John Dunwoody: Yeah, so you just have to watch that.

John Curry: Tell us about that. What was the worst weather you had on your journey?

John Dunwoody: My son and I, we left the Intracoastal Waterway in St. Simon's, Georgia, and went outside all the way up to Cape Fear. We got caught in a bad storm off Cape Fear. Tornadoes and all that stuff. My son had never been in a bad storm out there, and it was a new experience for him, but it was kind of scary. It was bad.

I guess what else I left out is this trip, there is the Intracoastal Waterway all the way up the East Coast. So on the East Coast to Florida to New York, you never have to go outside into the ocean. You can do that whole trip inside, and when you come out Mobile, and Mobile to Dog Island you can be inside on bays and canals the entire time and never have to go in the ocean. It's just from Dog Island to Clearwater, and from Clearwater all the way down to Fort Myers you can go inside, never have to go outside. 

And then they go cross the canal from Fort Myers to Stuart to Lake Okeechobee. They did this during World War II because the German subs could sink our stuff, and the army wanted to have a way to move barges up and down. So they dug this thing, it's supposed to be eight feet deep and so wide. It's rundown now, but basically that's why it was built. Panhandle of Florida's so shallow you can't get subs in there, so they don't worry about this.

John Curry: Fascinating.

John Dunwoody: Didn't know that, did you?

John Curry: I did not. Every time I'm with you I learn something. A while back, I said we've got to interview you for the podcast.

Now, let's talk about some takeaways here. Because we're at about 28 minutes.

John Dunwoody: I'm sorry.

John Curry: We like to keep these around 30 to 35 minutes. We have plenty of time. 

Some of the things that went through my mind that I think I can apply in my world is I'm not a boater. I don't really care so much about boating, but some of the takeaways are no matter what I want to do, maybe it's going fishing or hunting or spending time on vacation, is you had to, number one, determine what you wanted, you had a passion for it. Big time passion, obsessed with it. 

Then you started putting all the pieces together. Everything from, okay, when do I retire? Do I have the money in the right places to support me for cash if I need this, income for that? You had a roadmap, if you will, and you started planning and thinking it through. Then you had certain things that had to be done at a certain time like being at a certain location because of either insurance or weather.

For me, the takeaway is how do you coordinate all these pieces of the puzzle when it comes to retirement? I say over and over, it's not just about the money. You can have all the money in the world, but if you don't have time to spend the money and do the things you want to do, what good is the money. Likewise, if you have plenty of time but no money, what good is that? So you got to have time freedom and money freedom, but you got to have something in mind that you want to do. And instead of sitting on your butt watching TV all day, that's what you've done. You found things to do. You're living the life you want to live on your terms, and that's the key.

John Dunwoody: Yeah. The financial net worth on the people I met in the boat range from not very much to people that had a lot, and it didn't matter. We're all anchored out there and we're just having a good time. We had several people that were on small sailboats with outboard motors doing this thing. It's a little more roughing it than I want to do, but they were fine. 

There was a couple of couples, an elderly gentleman, he had to be 85, and his wife, and they had a little outboard boat. They were perfectly content. The bigger boats, it's just bigger problems, and if you don't have the resources to maintain all that stuff, you'll spend every cent you've got just doing that.

So, it doesn't matter. Cover the safety needs, get something that can do it. You might have to rough it a little more than what you want, but that's a small part of the whole deal. Very small. My boat is certainly not one of the best that are on it, but it more than suits my needs. Just pick something you can afford to keep up, maintain, and use so you're not worried about "oh, it's going to cost this much." Make sure you get something small enough that you can afford to journey instead of being stuck at the dock.

John Curry: Right. And also remember early on, you shared with me, I'm going to use this for two or three years. Then I'll sell it and recoup some of the cost. So you planned ahead that way.

John Dunwoody: Yeah, yeah. Hopefully. Like I said, getting down in the engine room sometimes is a little tough and stuff like this, and I can't see doing this when I'm 75, not with this boat. So I would have to downsize again and go that route if I want to keep doing it. But at that time, I'll worry about that when the time comes.

John Curry: John, closing thoughts. Anything that you would offer as advice on any topic, whether it be planning a retirement or anything at all, to our listeners? Anything at all?

John Dunwoody: No, except like I said, being a pharmacist, I saw so many people that they quit work, their motivation would stop, and you'd just see them deteriorate rapidly because they seemed not to have anything else in their life that they enjoyed. Work was everything. 

If that's your case, you need to keep working, but if you're going to retire and you're going to want to enjoy your retirement, you need to have something you can be involved in. It can volunteer work, it can be working in your garden. It doesn't matter what it is, but you better have something that you can do that occupies your time and you enjoy, or you're going to go downhill rapidly. Rapidly.

John Curry: Talk about the mental and the physical side of being retired. You got the financial side that you're retired, but the mind and the body need to be kept active. Do you feel like the things that you've been doing has done that for you as far as keeping the mind active and the body?

John Dunwoody: I do, because every day on the boat, believe me, something breaks. Every day something breaks, or you have a navigation issue, or you have ... docking, or going up and down the rivers, you have the barges coming at you and you need to get on this side or that. You need to think. So there was never any ... Always having to come up with solutions when you're out there anchored and something breaks, if you don't have a backup, you got to come up with something.

John Curry: I'm going to call you MacGyver.

John Dunwoody: Yeah. There was always something. As far as physical, at least on my boat, I'm going up and down the stairs a lot. Going up the East Coast I actually lost weight on this trip because I did go out in the ocean often, and it was rough, and you'd walk. It's amazing how many calories you can burn if you're out there in the waves and you're going back and forth. When I got out the lakes, I gained a little because there wasn't any waves to fight. 

But you stay active. We had our dinghy. You're launching a dinghy, you're hiking, you're taking short excursions. I did not really find where lack of physical activity or mental activity was ever an issue. You're always trying to think and plan something. It wasn't like you're at home and you're just watching TV. There's always something that's got to be done. Always.

John Curry: Part of what I study and work on in retirement planning has nothing to do with money. It's about longevity. I just turned 66 on December 9th, but what if I live to be 86, 96? What if I live to be 100? I need to make sure that the brain is sharp and I have the flexibility, the strength to do things. 

So I'm experimenting with things and have semi-retirement. I hope I never fully retire. As long as I'm healthy and work with people and people want me, I don't want to fully retire. However, I want more time off. I want to do things that I want to go do. Whether it be martial arts, dance lessons, whatever. Do things I want to do. And the way you have to do that is determine what it is you want, plan for it, because if you say, "Well, I'm going to wait till I retire and do it," hell, most people don't do it.

John Dunwoody: That's true.

John Curry: They don't do it, and then they wait until they're unable to do things physically, they're worn out. So many people come in here, talk with us, that have retired and do nothing. They're the most miserable people that we see. The ones that are busy doing things like you talked about, they're happy, they're fun to be around, they're not sour.

John Dunwoody: I have friends that ... all mine stay pretty active, but the ones that don't ... like you said, they just have no interest. Everything is negative. I'll bitch and moan about the boat, but at the end of the day, I enjoy it.

John Curry: Yeah. It's a project for you.

John Dunwoody: It is.

John Curry: Folks, I hope you've enjoyed this as much as I have. I always enjoy visiting with my friend

John Dunwoody. John, thank you so much for being with us today.

John Dunwoody: You're welcome.

John Curry: Thank you for sharing.


Retirement...Don't Sit on the Front Porch and Rock Your Life Away!

In retirement, Fran Buie is busier than ever… and having the time of her life.

After a 33-year career working in state government, Fran was ready for a change.

She found fulfillment by embracing lifelong interests and hobbies she had set aside for years… and helping others in her community.

As Fran says, we have limited time on earth, let’s do something worthwhile. We discuss that philosophy and also get into…

  • How to discover what you really want out of life – now

  • Ways to stay engaged and active in retirement

  • The unexpected value of your past experiences

  • The importance of having a Plan A – and a contingency plan

  • And more

Listen now…

Episode Transcript:

John Curry: Hey, folks. This is John Curry. Welcome to another episode of John Curry's Secure Retirement podcast. Today I'm sitting across the table from my friend, Fran Buie. I've been excited about interviewing her because she's an interesting lady. She's had a career with the state government and she teaches, she does artwork, she understands project management. Fran, welcome and I'm looking forward to hearing your insights today.

Fran Buie: Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me. 

John Curry: You're welcome. Thanks for coming. Tell our listeners who you are. Who is the real Fran Buie and what makes you tick?

Fran Buie: Oh, dear. I worked for the state government. Department of Revenue was my last state agency that I worked for. I worked for state for 33 years. I retired in 2007 from state government, but I still had interest in doing something besides just sitting on the front porch and rocking my life away, so I had a plan and I had a contingency plan. My plan A was to think about the things that interested me, what I wanted to do as far as hobbies, what I wanted to do to give back to the community that has been very generous in supporting me for many a year, and also what could I do that would be a contribution to the community as well as other people. 

When I retired I was looking at project management. That was my last job. I was working with the Department of Revenue on the CAMS project, which was the Child Support Enforcement Management System. It was the first automated system in the United States for child support enforcement. We successfully launched that program and I was very honored and thrilled to be the manager for that when we started launching it. It is in complexity and breadth second only to American Express Worldwide, so it's quite a large program, quite complex, and has been successfully operated for several years now. 

I also had been teaching off and on for years at college/university level as well as teaching adults in outside things like the senior center. I work as an art teacher there. I have several galleries and I will teach different kinds of workshops at the art galleries and also volunteer with AARP. We do tax aid, we do income tax filing for senior citizens as well as others who walk in and would like us to do their taxes. I work doing volunteer work. I'm the art curator for the North Florida Fair each year. We just successfully completed that as well. 

John Curry: I'm worn out just listening to what you're doing. So much for being retired. 

Fran Buie: Well, when you retire I think you need to have a plan and a contingency plan even. My plan A was, I looked at the things that interested me. I had been working in art prior to going to work for the state and I wanted to go back to that. I started taking lessons just to kind of brush up my skills that I had kind of let lay while I was working for the state and I also was thinking of the things that I wanted to do to give back to the community, which is the tax aid program. Giving back to the community through people coming in wanting to have their taxes done as well as teaching. 

I worked with Bainbridge State College. I've worked at the College of Pharmacy at FAMU and at the College of Medicine at FSU teaching prerequisite courses and advanced life support systems, things of that nature. 

John Curry: What words would you share with people who hear you saying what you've done? 33 years of work. Some people hearing this are thinking, "Wow. You've done enough. Slow down. Just go sit on that front porch and rock." And then others would say, "I would love to be more like Fran to learn what my plan A is." We were talking over lunch, most people don't have a plan A. They don't have a plan, period, much less a contingency plan. That's been my experience of 44 years in business. When it comes to retirement planning, most people don't have a clue. It's kind of like, "I'm going to show up and all of a sudden magically Social Security will come in, my 401k, my pension fund with the state," or whatever. So what would you say to the people, two different groups here. One's saying, "Hey, you've done enough. It's okay to go sit on that porch and rock."

Fran Buie: No, it's not. 

John Curry: Why not? Expand on that?

Fran Buie: Why not?

John Curry: I know you enough to know I know the answer, but I want to hear this. I want to hear it out of your mouth. 

Fran Buie: I want to be active. I want to be able to contribute. Sitting on the front porch and rocking your life away, to me it's time wasted. We have such a limited amount of time on this earth, let's do something that is worthwhile that gives us some kind of value to ourselves.

John Curry: Significance. 

Fran Buie: So that whenever we're not here anymore, at least we have left some kind of legacy. That's pretty much it in a nutshell. I can't see not doing something that contributes to society and it helps yourself. It keeps your mind sharp, keeps your body in tune, keeps you active and viable, and gives you pleasure in living. What kind of pleasure can you derive from just rocking your life away?

John Curry: All right, let's take it to the extreme now. If the other person who's listening who says, "Wow. I like that. I like the fact that you're doing so many things where you're bringing value to yourself as well as community. How do I get started?" If you were sitting in front of 50 people who are thinking that way, what would be some of the things you would encourage them to do, their own little project management if you would, to start working on finding these interests like you did? How do they discover what they really want and who they are?

Fran Buie: What are you interested in? Are you interested in reading? Are you interested in photography? If you're interested in photography, can you take classes or have you developed that skill well enough that you could share it with other people? Are you interested in music? What are your interests and then find the community of other people that have the same interests and get involved.

Are you interested in healthcare? Hospitals and healthcare facilities are begging for volunteers to come in and just be there to help people who come in who need a kind word, somebody to pay attention.

John Curry: A smile. 

Fran Buie: Somebody to look at them. Yes, say hello. If you're interested in teaching, there's numerous agencies out there that are looking for people who have experience, life experiences. I can go to a college or I can even go to an adult education class and if they want to talk about business management, how to be a supervisor, some of the criteria that's needed so that you can get credentials to teach. You can go there and provide that kind of a service. It is asked, it's sought after all the time. 

Senior center, you can go into there. They have a whole array of different kinds of classes. Long-term learning opportunities that you can go in, and in fact, you can go into things like the senior center and other like-minded facilities and do long-term learning classes and sometimes you can find out, "Oh, well, I would like to pursue that particular realm of information or do that kind of activity." There's art classes, there's different kinds of crafts, there's photography. There's travel. Get in a group and go traveling if you want to see the world or see other states, other pieces of the country. That's always available to you. 

There's different associations. There's the AARP. Red Cross loves to have people come. Recent hurricane, the Red Cross was seeking volunteers. You could go out and help provide care for those victims of the hurricane. There's things like that that's always available and you come to these agencies and these opportunities with a world of experience because you have been in the work world and you can provide that to the agencies. You can continue to contribute. You'd be valuable. 

John Curry: I remember a trip I was on. I was riding with two people that are like a brother and a sister to me and I made this comment that I've never fully retired because I don't have enough other interests outside of my work. It's Steve and Marjorie and they were there with me when I had my heart attack and had heart surgery back in 2008. They shuttled me around, picked me up, and we'd drive and have lunch and talk, and I've never heard her be so harsh, but she just screamed at me. She says, "Are you kidding me? You like martial arts, you like to work out, you like the time with your grandson. You like to fish, you enjoy hunting, you enjoy just sitting around reading a good book. Are you kidding me? You've got plenty of things to do. All you've got to do is be willing to do it."

Fran Buie: Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

John Curry: There are other interests that I have, but for me, I don't want to ever fully retire. I'm in a business where nobody can force me to retire. They can't say, "Okay, you're 66 now, you've got to retire." They can't do that. I can work ‘til I'm 86 or 106 if I want to, as long as clients want me. But I am to the point where I'm pursuing other things. We were talking about this morning, as we're getting this time of year, taking more time off to go hunting and fishing and things like that with my son and grandson and my brother. 

I sometimes struggle with, okay, I do what I do for a living, but what are the things I really want to do? I have no desire to travel a lot anymore. I hate getting on airplanes now. I will take a trip to conferences, but for me to get on a plane and fly to Europe again, I have no desire to go to Europe. I'm trying to reevaluate what I want. I'm working on my plan A, so I'm getting just as much value from this as other people. 

Fran Buie: That's good. For example, the last couple of weeks have been fairly busy because, like I say-

John Curry: You're always busy. 

Fran Buie: Well, that's true.

John Curry: Hey, when we first started trying to schedule this thing, we started this back in October. You remember that, right?

Fran Buie: Yeah, it's been a while. 

John Curry: Yeah, and you said, "That won't work. That won't work. That won't work. That won't work. This'll work." That's how busy she's been. 

Fran Buie: Yeah, this is like in the first part of November, like I say, I did the fine arts division at the North Florida Fair and we took in over 400 pieces of art in two days and those had to be displayed, hung, and everything so that we could prepare for judging to come in. It was a juried show. That kept me fairly busy putting that together. Also, during the time, I am with the Tallahassee Community Chorus and we had our fall concert in November as well. Then we released the art the 19th of November and I went straight in to, I also teach art, continue teaching the art classes and then we just finished the Seasonal Celebration and we had two concerts back to back, one Saturday and one yesterday, down at Ruby Diamond Auditorium there on the FSU campus. 

It's a matter of just finding what interests you and pursuing it. It sounds simple, it's not. You have to really think fairly long and carefully as what really interests you. What's your passion? What is it that you always thought? When you were working, "Wow, if I had time I would like to do ... " Fill in the blank. Now you can. You don't have to work anymore, so now you can. Fill in that blank and do it. 

John Curry: Let's talk a little bit about your artwork for a minute. You love doing art and you said you went back to school yourself to start taking classes to get better. But you also sell your art now too, so you are doing something you enjoy doing and you make money doing that. 

Fran Buie: Yeah, I do. 

John Curry: Did you intend to do that or was that just, happened? How did that come about?

Fran Buie: It came about, really I went back to brush up my skills, didn't have any kind of thought about what I was going to do once I started getting a room full of paintings stacked one on top of the other. 

John Curry: You had to do something with them, right?

Fran Buie: And started teaching and during the time, I contacted a couple of galleries and they says, "Well, we would like your art." I says, "Great." So I started taking my art to some galleries and I let them sell it, but then I thought, "Hmm." And I will have occasional dues and sell the art myself. It supports my hobby because art, the canvases, the oil paints, can be kind of expensive and by selling my art, I am supporting that habit, if you will.

John Curry: Yeah, but you also get to see your art in other places. 

Fran Buie: I do.

John Curry: It's like, I have a piece of your artwork here and every day I see it, especially when I come back from getting water from the kitchen, it's just right there in that hallway, it just stands out. That has to give you a lot of sense of accomplishment and pride, I would think.

Fran Buie: It does.

John Curry: That when you see your work, you say, "Okay, I did that."

Fran Buie: It does.

John Curry: A visible representation of that work.

Fran Buie: In a juried show, I recently submitted some artwork that won second place and I'm really good friends with the person that won the first place. I told her she cheated me out of my first place ribbon, but that's okay. The challenge is on now and the two of us are kind of friendly competition. Let's see who wins first next year. 

John Curry: I can see you doing that. "You beat me this year, but I'm coming after you."

Fran Buie: Well, when she brought in her artwork, I looked at her and I says, "Well, there goes my first place. Okay, next year."

John Curry: Talk about the teaching. Is there someone who's listening to this that might go, "Wow. I have a lot of knowledge. There are things that I could ... " Because all of us have acquired knowledge.

Fran Buie: Right. 

John Curry: The question comes, how do you teach in today's world with social media and the internet, it is so easy to create information products. Whether you sell on eBay, Amazon. My book was published in 2009. It's also available on Kindle. There's no limit today to being able to teach what you know. Talk a little bit about that.

Fran Buie: No. A lot of people will go back, they'll get their education or teacher's certificate so that they can teach. You don't need to do that. A lot of times you can go to different organizations, the Red Cross, you can go to senior center. There's other agencies where you can teach a class and share your knowledge because a lot of the things that you share, your life experiences cannot be gotten in classroom, cannot be incorporated into textbooks. It's things that you pick up through working and those work experiences can sometimes be way more valuable than that college degree or that credential that you get by taking classes or passing exams. 

You can teach and it can be very rewarding. I love it whenever I am teaching a management class and I see the lights go on and the students start interacting. To me, then I know that I have done what I need to do. 

John Curry: I agree. Life experiences are more important than many times what you get in the classroom. You mentioned earlier while we were having lunch leading up to our podcast, talking about teaching a course to help people prepare for a certain exam. 

Fran Buie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: Are you studying just to pass an exam, or are you truly acquiring information and knowledge?

Fran Buie: Well, we have a couple of different ways that we go about it. I am the former president of the Tallahassee chapter of PMI, which is the Project Management Institute. What we do is, we teach a P and P prep class and it is simply, and we tell everybody, "You can take this class so that you can sit for the P and P exam," and that's what we're doing. We are teaching them how to pass the P and P exam. Now, my data is somewhat dated, but nationally the P and P exam, people sitting for it, there's a 60% pass rate, which means 40% of the people sitting for that exam are not going to pass the first time. So we're teaching you the skills to pass that exam.

However, a lot of times what you have are people who just want to be able to manage a project or understand the structure of a project and how they can be an asset in that project. And so right now I am developing the curriculum so that our local chapter can teach what we call Project Management Fundamentals. It gives you the structure and codifies the procedures that you go through in order to manage a project and increase the probability of that project completing on time and on budget. 

We do that. It is available to anyone interested in project management and how projects work and how you put them together, how you set up the sequencing of a project so that you can go from beginning to end and be successful. What you can do, what your contingency plans are, what your risk exposure is, and how you address these kind of issues whenever you've got a project. 

John Curry: Tell people how to learn more about that. So, when a class is available, if they're interested, they can attend it. 

Fran Buie: If you're interested, you would go to our website. It's PMITLH, it's the Tallahassee chapter of Project Management Institute, and look at the events calendar. Also, you can contact, there's going to be a listing of the board members with their contact information. You can contact them and you ask about signing up for classes and come in and attend the classes. 

John Curry: Tell us what project management is. What is managing a project?

Fran Buie: Project management is, well, let me back up a little bit. The state of Florida as well as approximately 27 or 37 other states in the U.S. have implemented statutory language that provides for projects. Now, a project can be any kind of unique product or service that is offered. For example, if you are wanting to develop a specific kind of system, software system, to monitor some kind of a function or a program, that would be considered a project. If a project is valued over a certain amount, say $1 million or $2 million, statutory language in many of the states in the U.S. require that there be a certified project manager both on the state side and on the vendor side. The P and P credential is quite valuable for that reason because there is a demand for project managers. 

However, a lot of people will not necessarily want to sit for that credential. It is a fairly tough test to pass and they may not have the number of hours required as a prerequisite for being able to sit for the exam, or they may just simply not have that kind of an interest. They maybe are an accountant, but they need to work with these project managers and be able to talk their language and so they want to have the project fundamentals. Taking that, they can learn what it is when we talk about risk exposure, what it is when we talk about contingency plans or want to mitigate something. We talk about different project management plans and how we sequence different things and project life cycles. 

The fundamentals course gives you all of this, kind of gives you an overview of what a project is, how it is operated by a project manager, what the steps are that they go through, the different things that they contemplate whenever they have situations occur. You go over budget, you go over your schedule, behind schedule, or you have an opportunity that comes in that would be good, but it's going to impact the project. How do the project managers deal with that? The fundamentals or the overview course gives you that kind of an insight as to the thought processes that go on. 

John Curry: I want to take that course myself. We say project, but project could be something as simple as, okay, we're going to, as a family, do this project in the backyard. We're going to build a tree house. That's a project. I'm thinking of some projects we've done with Boy Scouts where the adults and the kids go, "We've got this job to do over here," so somebody had to take over and become the leader. 

Fran Buie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: Somebody had to take control and our job was to get the boys to do it, not us do it. Get somebody involved and get going and manage this project. That's what becoming an Eagle Scout's all about. They'd have a project and work toward that. 

Fran Buie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: So that's what went through my mind when you first used the phrase project management, because it could be something as simple as you doing it at home, or it could be a big complex multi-million dollar enterprise in the business world.

Fran Buie: Well, I have a friend who belongs to a group that go camping every year, or glamping they call it because they have these motor homes, gorgeous. She will sit down and map out where they're going to go. One year they decided they were going to tour the west and they had all the states that they were going. It is a project to sit down and figure out where the parks are that will support the particular kind of array of motor homes that they have, and dates, they'll sequence it and you've got to figure out what the cost is going to be for both the maintenance, the gas, the food, the campsites.

John Curry: And then the unplanned things that pop up. 

Fran Buie: And the unplanned things that pop up. Every year she's the P and P. I tease her. She says, "I don't want to manage a project." No, you do it every year. Because sometimes it's just nothing more than that tour during the summer, it's a project because you have to plan that. It just doesn't happen. You can't just kind of meander around and think, "Oh, that campsite looks great."

John Curry: Let's just pull in. 

Fran Buie: Yeah. Doesn't work that way. And sometimes it could be nothing more than a church bizarre or going to the Alternative Christmas that was held this last weekend. That's got to be planned. It just does not happen. Those are projects. 

John Curry: Right. Planning for a seminar, That's a project.

Fran Buie: Planning for a seminar is a project. It has a definite beginning, a definite end, and it's a unique service for that particular thing. That's a project. 

John Curry: I like to think in terms of managing your team. What are we trying to accomplish when it comes to anything? Your time, your energy, your attitude, your mission. What's your mission? Sometimes people will come in and say, "What would you like to accomplish?" "I have no idea." "What do you mean you have no idea? You drove across town to be here, you're going to be in an hour and a half meeting with me and my team. So what would you like to accomplish?" "I don't know. I haven't give a thought to my retirement or whatever to plan. 

Let's back up, because if we don't know what the mission is, we don't need to waste our time and energy. All it's going to do is screw up your attitude because you're going to get frustrated and I'll get frustrated, so let's work on your mission. Let's focus there. Let's determine what it is you want to accomplish and then we'll work backwards into it and in just a few minutes you can see them, all of a sudden they're like, "Wow. Okay, now that I have some idea of at least where I want to go, now I have a better attitude about it, I'm more open. Now I'm willing to invest the energy and the time to get the result.

Fran Buie: Retirement planning is a project.

John Curry: It's a big time project and it's a never-ending project because just about the time you think you've got it figured out, Congress will change the tax laws or they'll change Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid. So if some law changes that just all of a sudden blindsides all the work you did.

Fran Buie: Or you have some kind of life event that impacts that plan.

John Curry: Right. Unplanned life events we call those. 

Fran Buie: Mm-hmm (affirmative). We call them known unknowns. 

John Curry: Known unknowns, I like that. 

Fran Buie: Or unknown knowns. 

John Curry: Unknown knowns. Something's coming that you're not going to like, right?

Fran Buie: Yeah.

John Curry: What advice would you offer people who are still working that are listening to this and they're thinking, "Wow. I'm five, maybe even as far as 10 years, away from retirement." Talk to us a little bit about when did you start thinking about retirement to take on these other activities. You didn't just do it all of sudden when you retired.

Fran Buie: No. I knew that I was going to be retiring at a certain point in time and I had started thinking about what it was that I wanted to do, what kind of goals I wanted to achieve, what was on my bucket list. 

John Curry: Wait a minute, goals? What are goals?

Fran Buie: Goals. 

John Curry: Why would goals be important, Fran. You're retired. You don't need to worry about goals.

Fran Buie: Of course you do. If you don't have a goal, then what's your purpose? If you don't have any kind of objective, what kind of guidance are you going to give yourself? Again, if you don't have any goals, if you don't have an objective, you don't have what the end is going to be. How much money do I want, how much do I need to retire and be able to do X, Y, and Z, and how do I get there with that? 

My husband and I started planning our retirement fairly late, I think, because we were almost 40 when we started planning what we wanted to do when we reached 65 or whatever. Then whenever I was about 30 years into state government, I started thinking, well, what do I want to do, because in about three to five years I'm going to be getting out and I don't want to just fade away.

John Curry: Sit on that front porch and rock away. 

Fran Buie: Sit on that rocking chair. I literally started making lists. Project managers are really bad about making lists. I started making a list of the things that I wanted to do, the things that I was interested in. I was interested in art. I wanted to take that back up because I kind of let it languish. I have a degree in voice performance in music. I wanted to get back in to that. 

I had been teaching classes off and on all through my career because I had started out looking in the medical field, was going to become a surgeon, and there were things that happened in my life that had a pretty big impact on that, but I was already pretty much in to the health field so I wanted to carry on with that, which is partly why I was teaching advanced life support at the different colleges, and I wanted to go back to that. 

I had somebody approach me with tax aid because I work with numbers. As a project manager, you've got budgets. I had a lot of numbers and statistical experience and I thought, "Hmm. Well, that could be interesting," and so got added to my list. So whenever I started thinking about what I was going to do when I retired, I went to my list and I says, "Okay, this is what I want to do. Now, how do I go about accomplishing that?" 

That's when I started reaching out to the different agencies and I still remained active with the local PMI chapter, so I teach classes there for them. I had, actually, Bainbridge State College reached out to me asking if I would teach a project management class up there, which is why I started teaching that, although I teach life support at FAMU and FSU. 

John Curry: Interesting. It's interesting to me that you just said that some things you went looking for and some found you because somebody would say, "Hey, we need help with this. Take a look at it." That would imply you would have to be somewhat open and listen and attentive when things come our way, right?

Fran Buie: We do. Don't shut something down because maybe it's not exactly what you had in mind, but then that may not be the final thing either on a product.

John Curry: True, but do you have trouble saying no to projects you really don't want to spend your time and energy doing? Do you have difficulty saying, "No, thank you. That's not for me"?

Fran Buie: No. 

John Curry: Well, I guess not because you're so busy, it's easy for you to say no. But I know a lot of people who have retired and they get caught up in volunteering, doing things that they really don't like doing, but they feel like they can't say no and they can't say, "Excuse me, it's time to settle down."

Fran Buie: No. I mean, yes, I want to contribute, I want to be active, I want to be engaged, but at the same time I recognize that I need downtime too. You have to renew and regenerate yourself, so you have to take care of yourself. Part of taking care of yourself is also recognizing what's available to you, what kind of opportunities there are. 

John Curry: I just had a thought pop in my head. I think the title of this podcast is going to be, Don't Sit on the Front Porch and Rock Your Life Away.

Fran Buie: Good. 

John Curry: I love that line. That's a great line. Anything you want to share in our final three or four minutes to our audience? Carte blanche, anything you want to share.

Fran Buie: Embrace life. Don't waste it. Your time is precious. Use it the way that makes you happy, but also can give value to those around you, those that you care about, and the community in general. 

John Curry: I use to say, life's too short to not do what you want to do. Now I have a different view. Life's too long. I keep that heart-shaped pillow there to remind me of my heart surgery July 10, 2008. It reminds me that any given moment, my heart could stop, your heart could stop sitting here, but the bigger reason it's there is to remind me to have the heart big enough to challenge people and get them to think about some of the things we're talking about now and that's why I want to do the podcast, because we get a lot of good information out there. 

I had a lady call me yesterday, she said, "I was just listening to your podcast and it was awesome." It was Dr. Kubiak, Larry Kubiak, and if just one person hears this and they benefit from it, it's worth the time, and more than one will hear it because people, they do tune in and listen to it. I thank you so much for taking your time and sharing with us today and I think we should do this again. Somewhere in the future we'll pick another topic or do an update. 

Fran Buie: Well, thank you for inviting me. 

John Curry: Thank you, Fran. Thank you so much.

2018-71422 Exp 12/20

The Right Type of Working Vacation

The average American gets only 10 days of vacation per year. Even worse, a recent study found that 24% didn’t use any of their vacation days, and more than half didn’t use all of their days off.

Larry Simmons is bucking that trend. After 40 years of working an 8 to 5 job this consulting engineer decided to “slack off.”

He and his wife, Carol, travel around the country in their RV when and where they want to. Thanks to the Internet, Larry is able to take his work on the road.

We discuss how to set up a “mobile office,” as well as…

  • The unique community you find in RV parks

  • How to get into national parks for free

  • Ways to try out the RV lifestyle without a huge commitment

  • The best-kept secret in the American West

  • And more

Listen now…

Episode Transcript:

John Curry: Hi, this is John Curry. Welcome to another episode of John Curry's Secure Retirement Podcast. I'm sitting here today with my friend, Larry Simmons. Welcome, Larry.

Larry Simmons: Welcome, John.

John Curry: I've been wanting to interview you for a long time, Larry. Because every time we get together, I'd hear you tell the stories between you and Carol talking about your travels with your motor home. So, I want to get into some of that, because as you know, we focus on retirement planning. And it's not just about the numbers, it's not just about money. It's what the heck will you do with your time when you retire? And sadly, too many people wait until some magic age to retire to do things, then they're sick, they're hurt, they can't do it, or worse, either the husband or wife dies.

And I've been fascinated by the fact that you and Carol didn't do it that way. You planned along the way, and you really engineered your work life to where you could do things and travel, and not have to wait until some magic retirement age. So, would you take a moment, Larry, and just share with our listeners a little bit about your background, Carol's background, and how you were able to make all this work, from the standpoint of doing the work you do, and doing the travel you do?

Larry Simmons: Well, John, I worked full-time for I guess, almost 40 years. Going to work every morning, 8-5. Then I began slacking off. I'm a consulting engineer, so when I decided that we were going to travel, I just did not take on as much work as I normally would. I now work with another company and I have the ability to do that when our workload gets kind of low. And then the most important thing that enabled me to do that, ironically, was the Internet.

John Curry: Yes.

Larry Simmons: The company I work for now, all my clients could email job information, auto cad drawings, and I would do the design in the RV, sitting there sometimes all day long on weekends, or at night, and crank out their drawings, and then email them back to them. 

John Curry: So, you had a mobile office?

Larry Simmons: That's what I had, yeah. And we have friends that we travel a lot, kind of caravan, they call it. He is a specialty advertiser salesman, so he can do all his work over the phone, similar to the way I do over the Internet.

John Curry: Nice. 

Larry Simmons: And he works at night. Sometimes we stop and stay a whole weekend at a campsite so we can do this work, you know. So, it worked out pretty good that way. I'm not fully retired. I still work. And we still have a home. A lot of people decide they're going to travel in an RV, they sell their home. But we maintain ours here in Tallahassee, and we go travel. Just recently, we had our longest trip, which was five weeks, going up north to Michigan and over to the west. We didn't get out too far west, because of the fires out there. So, we went down, visited Colorado, and then came back around, and came home. So anyway, we do enjoy our trips, weekend trips, are two or three nights. 

We go up into Georgia, we go down to go south. During the wintertime, there's still plenty of camps available because they're not full-time RV places. You pay 30 or 40 bucks a night. But they have them for people that are there for all during the winter. So, we're going to do some of that here, probably in January, just go South, maybe all the way down to Key West.

John Curry: Wow. Let's break this up in little pieces. You just covered a whole lot.

Larry Simmons: Yeah.

John Curry: You jumped from going on a five-week trip, I could just imagine people sitting there listening to this going five weeks? Are you kidding me? You're on the road for five weeks? And then you made a comment about weekend trips.

Larry Simmons: Yeah.

John Curry: So, let's back up just a little bit. Tell us how you and Carol got interested in even taking trips in a motor home. How did that come about?

Larry Simmons: Well, we had friends that bought one, and had it quite a few years before we decided to get one. They encouraged us to do it. And we traveled with them on a trip, and we saw the things that you can do, rather than go stay in motels everywhere. It's just the, stay in the parks, which are very nice. And it just kind of caught on, you might say. We just started enjoying the outdoors. And it's very good exercise.

John Curry: Yes.

Larry Simmons: You're always active.

John Curry: When you go to the parks, you and Carol do a lot of getting out walking, exploring the nature trails and things?

Larry Simmons: Yes, we do.

John Curry: That's what Pat and I did. When we first got a motor home, we bought what I call an old clunker. Very, very old one. But it satisfied our need to find out number one, would we like doing it, and then later we upgraded. But I was fascinated, matter of fact, every time I go to an RV park, if you had the hood open or it looked like you are working on something, you would have three or four people come over and offer to help. Is it still like that?

Larry Simmons: Oh, yeah. We just had a recent experience. We were in Monument Valley, and one side of our Coach was facing towards the southern sky, which we had the sun directly. Well, I let out the awning, and it malfunctioned, it wouldn't come back in. So, they were very nice there at the camp. We were there for only one night, and it was full the next night. So, they sent a crew over there, and they got a ladder, and they got up there and screwed it back together for me, and off I went.

John Curry: Nice. You mentioned Monument Valley. While we were having lunch you mentioned that. Tell the folks a little bit about Monument Valley. It's a pretty well-kept secret, from what you were saying. So, share a little bit about that.

Larry Simmons: Well, it's an area, and part of it is in the northeastern Arizona and southeastern Utah. Most of it is in Utah. And it's just an area of the country that's not a lot of hotels, and not a lot of shops. It's just small-town areas there. And we traveled through there. And they've shot a lot of movies out there. It's a beautiful place to go. And they do have ... there at one of the towns, they do have a hotel. You have to make reservations in advance. I see a lot of tour buses out there. So, it's just a place that is just not on the way to go anywhere. If you were going to the Grand Canyon, you normally wouldn't go by Monument Valley, because you've got to go across a lot of back roads, you might say. So, it's really nice. We've been there three times.

John Curry: And you were telling us earlier, it's not a national park.

Larry Simmons: No, it's not. It's all private owned. But it's just south of all of the national parks in southern Utah. There's five of them, I think, and we've been all five of them. 

John Curry: That's good. Talk a little bit about, you were talking earlier something about a golden pass, or something that's available-

Larry Simmons: Yeah, if you're 62 and above, you can get what's called a Golden Age pass from the National Park Service. I got mine at the gate of Yosemite National Park. We were driving up the gate and-

John Curry: Memorable.

Larry Simmons: Yep. And I just told guy I wanted to pass, and you fill out a little slip or form and hand it to them. And I think they mail it to you. You have to show them a driver’s license. But anyway, the National Park's free, most of them. Some of them are not, and I don't know why. But, and all the national monuments.

John Curry: And let's be clear, this is not because of having a motor home, this is anybody can do it?

Larry Simmons: No, that had nothing to do with it. No, you can drive in the car. You have to go through them in a car, anyway-

John Curry: Right.

Larry Simmons: ... most of the time.

John Curry: Right.

Larry Simmons: But it also gives you access to the Corps of Engineers Parks. And they built quite a few of them around the country. There are four of them, I think, up the Chattahoochee River in Georgia, you can go up to. And there's one in, north of Atlanta, and there's ... I don't think Florida has but one. But most of these parks were built by the CCCs in the 30s. But with that pass, you can get into them and stay a couple of nights for like, $15.

John Curry: Pretty cheap trip.

Larry Simmons: Yeah, it is.

John Curry: Pretty cheap. I asked you earlier to think back and be prepared to talk about one of your most memorable trips. You started to cover it, and I wanted you to hold it a little bit, but you said something about possibly, the first trip you took out West in an RV, because it reminded you of when you were a little boy. Tell us about that.

Larry Simmons: Yeah, I had an uncle that lived in Washington State, and my grandmother lived in Bellflower, California, outside of Los Angeles. So, we took a trip out there, and went across the northern United States in a car. And then we went through Yellowstone, we went out to, by Grand Coulee Dam, and Rocky Mountain National Park, and went to Washington State, and then went down the West Coast, Los Angeles. And then kind of made a circle and came back around through Arizona, through Texas, and back home.

John Curry: You were how old, then?

Larry Simmons: I was seven.

John Curry: Seven?

Larry Simmons: Yeah.

John Curry: That's a big trip for a seven-year-old.

Larry Simmons: Well, it is. I think that whole trip took about three weeks. But anyway, we did that. And of course, since then, I did not have the opportunity to go back and do it again. But we did take, before the RV, we would take vacation trips flying. We flew to Colorado and then went to Steamboat Springs, and places like that. But I would be flying in a plane, looking out the window, thinking of all these things we can see between here and there. 

John Curry: And you were missing it, because you're in the air.

Larry Simmons: Yeah. And there it is. Even though some people say no, I don't want to go in an RV because I can go in the car just as easy. Well, you wouldn't normally go there if you were flying and renting a car. You would have a certain radius that you'd go. And I know people that have flown into Denver and gone all the way up into Wyoming to Yellowstone and back, and around. But you travel all the way across the United States, you see things that you don't normally know that, you don't even know they're there until you come upon them. 

John Curry: I haven't traveled near as much as you have by motor home, but the trips I have taken, what I love the best about it was the spontaneity. You're driving down the road, all of a sudden you see something, you say, "Wow, let's stop and explore that. Let's do this, let's do that." So sometimes, the things that just happened were more fun for us than the things we had planned.

Larry Simmons: Yeah, that's true. You have to ... First of all, if you're travelling in RV, you have to know where you're going. Because you can't get on a road that won't support 15 tons.

John Curry: You got any stories you can tell us about that, about taking the wrong turn or something?

Larry Simmons: Oh, yeah. It happens quite frequently, especially when you're using a GPS.

John Curry: Yes. Tell us about that.

Larry Simmons: Well, the second trip we ever went on in an RV, we went down to Crystal River. And they had a park that was not on US 19, it was back off of that, I'd say a mile or so. And the GPS took us back in there, and went around, and we wound up in the very rear of the shopping center. It says, "You are here now."

John Curry: Shopping center.

Larry Simmons: Yeah. So, we figured it out fast, that wasn't where we were going to stay. So anyway, it also finds roads that have been closed. We went into a private residential country club type place, and pulled through the gate. And the guy said, "You can't go through here." Well, I was pulling a car, which I couldn't back up. So, I had to get out and cut the car loose, and my wife had to drive it. And I had to turn it around in there. That took, with a 35-foot RV, it took some room to do that, and some time. So, you'll have those kinds of experiences.

John Curry: Let's pause here for a second and ask this question. For someone who's listening to this, and they're like, "Wow, that's fascinating. I've considered it," what are some of the things that you would advise them to consider before they just make a big leap and go buy an expensive motor home? Should they rent one first, go with some friends like you did? What thoughts do you have?

Larry Simmons: Yeah, there are rental places. Most of them that I have seen in the RV camps are this Cruise America rents them. But they rent what's called a Class C, which looks like a truck. It's actually a truck frame, which has an RV section on the back of it. And they're not very big. And so, sometimes people will go in these, and they're not comfortable, so they don't want to go back. But I guess you'd have to go to a dealership or something, and go in and look at one, and see all the features they have and that, to see just what size you think you want. Because you're going to have basically, the same problems with all of them. If you get anything over 25 feet, you're going to have, you can't just park anywhere.

John Curry: Right.

Larry Simmons: You got to have a place to pull over if you want to stop and get out. And mainly for me, we stop in a rest area. We stay, in towns we go into shopping centers. And we can't park on the street, but if we want to go around a particular town, we have to stop at a shopping center, cut the car loose, and drive around. So, that's kind of how you'd work that. And then, of course, we have gone into town, cut the car loose, and went out and stayed all day, down at a national park or something. Driving through it. And so, we try to plan the trip to where we spend the night as close as we can, and then drive the rest of the way.

John Curry: Walk us through a little bit on how you and Carol determine when to take trips, and where to go. I know you have children, you go visit them. So, tell us a bit about that. But then, go beyond that and, do you just, you see something on television, say, "Let's go there"? Or do you read about some of them?

Larry Simmons: Well, I have to look at my schedule, because I still have work to do. And we kind of plan it in advance now that ... For instance, if you're going to Glacier Park, we've scheduled to go up there twice and we haven't made it yet. Of course, you have to get your reservations ahead of time, because it's way out in the middle of nowhere. And they have several RV camps there, so you kind of had to find out the time of year that you could go, and not be overrun by crowds of people. We always thought in traveling, we'd go after school starts so there's not as many people traveling. But September and October are two of the busiest times of year for all these RVs.

John Curry: Why do you think that is?

Larry Simmons: People got more time.

John Curry: Interesting.

Larry Simmons: Yeah.

John Curry: So, you'd think that kids are back in school, so there back with the kids. But they're not, taking time off.

Larry Simmons: I don't know.

John Curry: Interesting.

Larry Simmons: We went several years ago to Grand Canyon, and we couldn't even park. We drove up there from Flagstaff, little town to the east of Flagstaff where we were staying in an RV park, and we drove up there. And there wasn't a place in the parking lot. I found a place and pulled up off the curb on some rocks. We had to walk down. 

John Curry: You just made me think of something that you mentioned while we were having lunch, and that is, and I'm going to throw it out and then I want you to explain what you meant by it. You said, "You have to learn what your Coach is capable of doing." Expand on that.

Larry Simmons: Well, you have to know first of all, weight. I have to be concerned about the weight. There are weight restrictions on, especially when you get off the interstate highways or off the US highways. And then, my Coach is 12' 6". And my rule of thumb is, don't go under, try to go under anything less than 13'. 

John Curry: So, 12' 6", meaning the height of it?

Larry Simmons: The height of it, yeah. And in several cases, the width, if they have an obstruction in the road or working on the road, you got to be ... But I always look at it like, you got kind of three-dimensional. You got to look both ways, and then you have to be aware of what's overhead. And so, that's one restriction. The other thing is that, you go into someplace and you don't have turnaround space. And some places do have signs, that says there's no turnaround for RVs. And I have been down a road and had to cut loose and back up the road. 

John Curry: Because you weren't paying attention to the sign?

Larry Simmons: No, because they just didn't tell you.

John Curry: Didn't tell you?

Larry Simmons: No, they didn't tell you anything about it. And so, you don't want to travel off the road to go see some site. The road may be okay, but you get up there and there's just absolutely no way you can get it off the road into the parking lot.

John Curry: You have to back up 30 miles.

Larry Simmons: Yeah. So, things of that nature. Just know what it can, if you purchase one, you'll find that out fairly quickly.

John Curry: Yes.

Larry Simmons: You say, "Well, I want to stop at this restaurant in a little town, but all they have is street parking." Well, I parked and took up three or four parking spaces.

John Curry: I remember the first time I did that. I forget the little town I was in, now. It was in Texas, because I bought a motor home so I could take my mother and my son. My son was about eight years old at the time. We were going to take her back to Texas. I almost had the name of the town. Granville, I think it was. There was no place to park, so I ended up parking on the street, and I took up two parking spots. And a local police officer came over, and he said, "Sir, I'm going to give you 10 minutes to move that. I know it's hard to find a place, but that is your problem, not mine." And I said, "Well, what's the price of the ticket?" 

And he looked at me and he goes, "Oh, so we're going to negotiate now?" I said, "No, sir, I'm just curious as to what it's going to cost me for the ticket." He said, "Well, we're a small town. It's only going to be $20." And I said, "Well, once you give me the ticket, is there any limit on how long it sits there?" He looked at me, he goes, "You know what, sir, just leave the damn thing where it is." So, no ticket. He walked off. And my mom started laughing. She goes, "Son, I can't believe you did that." I said, "Well, think about it, Mom, where am I going to park at?"

Larry Simmons: Yeah, where are you going to park, yeah.

John Curry: So, my mindset was, "Okay, if it's up to 50 bucks and he's not going to tow it, hey, I'll pay the ticket." But he didn't, he ended up not giving me a ticket. And he walked away and left it be. And we saw the little town, got back in the motor home, and drove off. That just popped in my head, remembering that. My son thought that was hilarious. "My daddy almost got arrested over parking a motor home." But that's the fun stuff, too, the stuff that you get to do. You meet people that you would not have met otherwise.

Larry Simmons: Yeah.

John Curry: And most of my RV experience was buying a motor home to go to the FSU football games and tailgate. Then I would travel some, but not much.

Larry Simmons: Well, you know, I was asked that question 10 years ago, "Bring your RV out here." I said, "All right. That sounds real good. One question. Where are you going to park it?" All those RV places they have off of Jackson Bluff Road, and they're all taken up. There are people that rent those, and has probably got a reservation for a long time.

John Curry: Yes.

Larry Simmons: You can't park on the street, and you can't park at these apartments. Where are you going to park it?

John Curry: One time, you could have. But you can't do it now. I know years ago, when I was going to the games regularly, I had a reserve spot. And you had to reserve it well in advance, for the season.

Larry Simmons: Oh, yeah.

John Curry: But I had a season pass, so I could just drive up there to the same spot each time. I don't know how it is now. I haven't done that in probably, eight years, so I don't even know. But I know they were in high demand. I do know that. 

Larry Simmons: Yeah.

John Curry: So, let's go back to some of the trips. Talk a little bit about your children. I think you have some in Oklahoma, and some in Maryland?

Larry Simmons: Yeah, I have-

John Curry: So, talk a little bit about how you plan trips to go see the family.

Larry Simmons: Well, if I'm going west, I go out and see my son. He's in Tulsa. We schedule it ahead of time. And I'm fortunate, I can stay in his driveway.

John Curry: Your own private lot.

Larry Simmons: All I’ve got to do is plug it in. He doesn't have sewer connection, but I don't need it. But if I go north to Maryland, my daughter's in Westminster, Maryland. And the closest RV park is 15 miles south of her, so, right off of I-70. We have to park there, and go up there and plan a day and visit, and then go back. And then her daughter lives over there north of Baltimore, my granddaughter, on the north peak of the Chesapeake Bay. So, it's quite a trip. That's about an hour and-a-half trip up there, to see her. So anyway, we plan these trips, and go by there and see them. 

John Curry: Talk a little bit about some of these weekend trips coming up in the future. It sounds to me like you got some of those in mind. Tell us a little bit about that.

Larry Simmons: Yeah, we just go and relax. We walk, and we have kayaks. If we decide to take them, we can put them on the car. And we just have a relaxing weekend at the Corps of Engineers Park, or some other park. But if you're going to someplace like Orlando, my son and his family are going to be down there in January. We are going to go down and see them. But as close as we can get to them is about 20 miles. I don't know the exact name of the town. Carol made the reservation. But that's about as close as you can get to Orlando.

John Curry: That's still better than driving four and-a-half hours one way.

Larry Simmons: Oh, it is. Yeah, it is.

John Curry: That's good.

Larry Simmons: We can go down and visit a day, and come back and spend the night. 

John Curry: Larry, we'll wrap in just a few minutes, here. But talk a little bit about what advice you would offer anyone who, they're still working, they're looking for something to kind of do when they slow down some. Just go back and recap a little bit about what your advice would be for someone who wants to explore the idea of possibly becoming an RV'er.

Larry Simmons: Well, you're going to have to get in one, and go out and try it yourself. There's different options. You can get a used one. But it's just like buying a car, you've got a lot of different options on it, and you have to decide what you want and go look at them. I don't know what else to say. There's a lot of people buy them and get in that day, and they take off. They don't ask anybody anything.

John Curry: Right, I've seen that. And I also have some friends who bought one, and they realized, "Oh, my God, we made a mistake," and didn't like it. But because they were having difficulty selling it, they started using it and getting into it, and got comfortable with. And they took a lot and did some traveling and then later sold it. They said, "We've done all the traveling, and we sold it." And I've seen people who will buy one that's too small, or someone who'll buy one that's way too big for them and then they're stuck with it, over they're trying to find some happy medium. But I think you're totally correct, you just have to go look good at the lot, look at different ones.

Larry Simmons: Yeah.

John Curry: You can have friends who have one. Sit in it, check it out.

Larry Simmons: Well, I see ads on the Internet. I'm on there looking for maybe, some accessory or something about the RV. And they'll advertise it, and they may let you take it off for a few days and use it, see how you like it.

John Curry: Right.

Larry Simmons: But you have to realize, you're really driving a truck.

John Curry: That's right. Big truck. 

Larry Simmons: Yeah.

John Curry: With a big box around it. That's right, that's right. Larry, anything else you'd like to share with our listeners today? Just anything that's popped into your mind since we started? Any thoughts at all?

Larry Simmons: No, it's just a different type of traveling than most people are used to. Even if you're traveling in the car, you're still limited by having to get reservations in places. And to me, it's less stressful, in a way. Carol can get up and walk around, go to the back if she wants to, and do what she wants to. So, it's handy that way. But other than that, somebody's just going to have to get it and try it.

John Curry: You know, you just reminded me of something. I have a little motor home, now. It's a small one, that we just use for hunting. But I remember, I would get in the motor home, and just before we would go out the back gate, the minute I turned that key on, I would just feel relaxed.

Larry Simmons: Yes.

John Curry: And even now, just moving the motor home from the house out to the hunting property, I find that getting on the interstate, just driving that motor home just from here over in Leon County to park it what, 20-something miles away, 30 miles. But I had forgotten about that, because I haven't driven that thing since February. My son drives it occasionally.

Larry Simmons: Yeah.

John Curry: But just the fact that you're behind the wheel, you're driving, it's almost like there's no care in the world. Until something breaks, of course. Then you're like, "Why did I buy this thing?" Before we go, share with us, because we can't have it all be a pipe dream.

Larry Simmons: Yes.

John Curry: So, tell us about maybe, one or two challenges you had, either a breakdown or something along the way, that was a little frustrating. Give us a little tidbit.

Larry Simmons: Well, I haven't had a lot of that.

John Curry: Good.

Larry Simmons: Most people have road insurance similar to AAA, only it's through an outfit called Good Sam's. And if you have a problem with it, which I did one time with a tire north of Atlanta, you just have to, you had to get off the road and you called the company, and they supposed to send somebody out. But it's just not quite that easy for them. They shop it around. So, we stood out there all day long while they shopped it around to find the best price for them, not us, which is kind of irritating.

John Curry: Right.

Larry Simmons: So, they have to pull it off the highway if you're going to change a tire, because there's just no room to get to it safely on the shoulder of the road. So, things like that, that you got to be aware of. But I've only had two, in 10 years, I've only had two problems, two problems with tires. One of them was the last trip. I was up to 66,000 miles on the rear tires and I blew one of them. And I was within a mile of the RV park, and I was able to pull on in there.

John Curry: Nice.

Larry Simmons: And they came out there and changed it in the park. 

John Curry: You were lucky on that one.

Larry Simmons: Yeah, I was. Because I could've been in the middle of a busy interstate, and then something like that, and it was very dangerous.

John Curry: That's a lot of miles, too, for the tires.

Larry Simmons: You don't ever want to try to change one yourself. Well, the one I've got, you don't even carry a tire with you. You got to tell them what you've got, and they've got to bring it out there to you.

John Curry: Makes sense.

Larry Simmons: Yeah. So then, I've had some problems with ... Well, I had a belt go, and they had to come pull it into the dealer. You'll have maintenance problems. Maintenance ... It's a house on wheels, so, you've got maintenance-

John Curry: That's funny.

Larry Simmons: ... just about everything. 

John Curry: That's funny. I appreciate your taking the time we've shared today.

Larry Simmons: Yeah.

John Curry: And folks, I hope you enjoy these type of broadcasts. Because we enjoy doing them, because we love hearing stories of people that are planning ahead. They're not just work, work, work, and then what do I do when I retire, sit in front of the television. They're taking action. They're driving, seeing things, seeing our country. And I hope that some of the things that Larry Simmons has shared today will inspire you to do the same thing. Larry, thank you so much.

Larry Simmons: All right, thank you, John.

John Curry: Thank you, thank you.

Announcer: If you would like to know more about John Curry's services, you can request a complementary information package by visiting johnhcurry.com/podcast. Again, that is johnhcurry.com/podcast. Or, you can call his office at (850) 562-3000. Again, that is (850) 562-3000. 

John H. Curry, Chartered Life Underwriter, Charter Financial Consultant, Accredited Estate Planner, Master's in Science and Financial Services, Certified in Long-term Care, Registered Representative and Financial Advisor of Park Avenue Securities, LLC. Securities, products, and services and advisory services are offered through Park Avenue Securities, a registered broker-dealer and investment advisor. Financial representative of the Guardian Life insurance Company of America, New York, New York. 

Park Avenue Securities is an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Guardian. North Florida Financial Corporation is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Park Avenue Securities. Park Avenue Securities is a member of FINRA and SIPC. This material is intended for general public use. By providing this material, we are not undertaking to provide investment advice for any specific individual or situation, or to otherwise act in a fiduciary capacity. Please contact one of our financial professionals for guidance and information specific to your individual situation.

All investments contain risk and may lose value. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents, or employees do not provide legal, tax, or accounting advice. Please consult with your attorney, accountant, and/or tax advisor for advice concerning your particular circumstances. Not affiliated with the Florida Retirement System. The Living Balance Sheet and The Living Balance Sheet logo are registered service marks of the Guardian Life insurance Company of America, New York, New York. Copyright 2005-2018. This podcast is for informational purposes only. Guests speakers and their firms are not affiliated with or endorsed by Park Avenue Securities or Guardian, and opinions stated are their own.

2018-71424 EXP 12/20

The Top 5 Questions About Health - Answered

With all the misinformation out there about health and nutrition, it’s hard to know what you can do keep your body and mind in tip-top shape.

Dr. Sam Graber specializes in helping people stay healthy and looking great now… and for years to come.

This retired chiropractor turned health coach is a big advocate for “real food” that hasn’t had the nutrition processed out of it. And she doesn’t believe in dieting.

We talk about how you can get started on a more healthy lifestyle and maintain it in the long term.

  • Listen in to find out…

  • The trusted advisor you need for your health – it’s not your doctor

  • The unexpected factors that increase your chances of dementia

  • The better alternative to dieting

  • How you should exercise (it’s easier than you think)

  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in This Episode: www.drsamgraber.com

Episode Transcript:

John Curry: Hi folks. John Curry here with another episode of John Curry's Secure Retirement Podcast. You know, I talk all the time about retirement is not just about money. You can have all the money in the world but if you're not healthy, so what? It would be a lousy retirement. I've been looking forward to this interview today because I'm sitting across the table from a lady named Sam Graber, Dr. Sam, they call her. And she's going to talk with us today about some of the crazy things that people have never asked her in her 25-year career. So, Sam, welcome.

Dr. Sam Graber: Thank you. I'm happy to be here. 

John Curry: I'm glad you're here and I'm looking forward to learning more about your topic. But first, would you please tell our audience who you are, what your background is, and why in the world you're sitting here sharing information to help people have a better health and retirement?

Dr. Sam Graber: Sure. The last part, why I'm here sharing it, this information, is because it is an absolute passion of mine. I've always been one of those people that feels like I want to be helping. And so, years, and years, and years ago I decided to go to chiropractic school because I thought that would be such a good way for me to be able to help people really improve, not only their health but the way their body feels, the way they look, all these great things. Over time, I practiced for 25 years, and I enjoyed every minute of it. But I felt like I was kind of being restricted by just being within that specific profession because people just see you as a back and neck and headache doctor. But really my passion was so much more. So, I have been obsessed with nutrition for practically 30 years because I really know that that's where everything's at.

So, what brings us across the table from each other today is we met last month at one of our business masterminds and it was instant, where it's like, "Wow, you do the wealth, I do the health. They are so intertwined." So, after a 25-year career in chiropractic, I retired two years ago to do online coaching 100% of the time. So now I take care of people in a different way. I mostly help them take care of themselves. I teach them what to do. I give them the exact steps to take. I help hold them accountable because that's a big part of it is you know, we've all learned things, and I heard someone the other day call it shelf-esteem. You know you take a class, you take all these notes, you put it in the book, and it goes on your shelf, and you don't do anything with it.

John Curry: I like that, shelf-esteem.

Dr. Sam Graber: Don't you like that? Now I'm remembering, it was Jack Canfield. And he is, you know, he's the Chicken Soup for the Soul guy. But it's a thing where we sometimes know what we need to do, and just when we think we know what we need to do, as far as our health, we read some report or some headlines that say, "That's bad for you now."

John Curry: Well, let's address that for a moment.

Dr. Sam Graber: Let's do it.

John Curry: Because I guarantee you, people that listen to this are in the same boat that I've been in.

Dr. Sam Graber: Sure.

John Curry: Okay, caffeine is not good for you. Don't drink coffee. Then you see another article or a research, they say coffee is great. Don't do this. Don't do that. You know what I came up with after my heart surgery 10 years ago?

Dr. Sam Graber: What's that?

John Curry: The hell with it. I'm going to do what I want. But I'm going to do it in moderation.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah. Yeah.

John Curry: I'm going to eat what I want. If I want a bowl of ice cream right now, I'm going to go find a bowl of ice cream. I'm just not going to eat the whole box of ice cream. 

Dr. Sam Graber: There you go.

John Curry: Like I did when I weighed 282 pounds.

Dr. Sam Graber: There you go.

John Curry: ... that?

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah.

John Curry: So, I'm just totally convinced that, 65 soon to be 66, that we don't know how long we're going to live. I teach my clients assume you're going to live to be age 100 so we know that you don't outlive your financial resources. But you could die today. You could die of a heart attack now. 

Dr. Sam Graber: Absolutely.

John Curry: I could.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah.

John Curry: You know? So, we've got to have a balance there between I could die today, not likely, or I could live to be 100 years old, not like either, but it's somewhere in there, maybe 80s or 90s. But if I don't take care of myself, with the nutrition, and the exercise, then I'm in trouble.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yes.

John Curry: And you made a comment about health and wealth.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yes.

John Curry: I think it was Benjamin Franklin who gets credit for saying, "Healthy, wealthy, and wise."

Dr. Sam Graber: Absolutely.

John Curry: So, we've got to be wise with both of those, with our wealth and our health. We don't have to. You know, the choice is ours.

Dr. Sam Graber: It is. And in this day where you really can get any bit of information you want, and you can find a "diet" that will accomplish whatever your goals are. But most people, when they go on a diet, they're just grumpy. And they don't like it. And it's something to rebel against. And it makes them feel just like they're having to do something they don't want to do. I work with people and help them figure out, well, what really makes you happy? Like what is the exercise you enjoy? Because the best kind of exercise is the one you're going to do.

John Curry: Absolutely. And if you enjoy it, you're going to do it.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yes, exactly.

John Curry: I want to come back to that in a moment when we'll get into some of your specifics.

Dr. Sam Graber: Sure.

John Curry: But right now, we're going to address this for a moment. From the standpoint of dieting, I don't believe in diets.

Dr. Sam Graber: Me neither.

John Curry: I think they are a waste. I'm thinking of one of my dear friends right now, I know at least on four occasions, he's lost 50 pounds or more. He'll lose it and he'll gain more back than what he was.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yes.

John Curry: And he and I talk about it all the time. He said, "John, you have dropped ..." Firstly he said, "You have lost over 60 pounds." I said, "Nope, haven't lost any weight at all." He said, "Yes, you have." I said, "No, I have released 60 pounds."

Dr. Sam Graber: I like it.

John Curry: Because if you lose something, you go looking for it. 

Dr. Sam Graber: Oh, yeah.

John Curry: I'm damned sure not looking for it. Okay? It's released, be gone. 

Dr. Sam Graber: Be gone with you.

John Curry: That's right. So, I think this also comes down to words have power. Okay? It's how we talk to ourselves. The self-talk in our heads. And how we see ourselves. You talked about shelf-esteem.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah.

John Curry: Well, there's the self-esteem and we are our biggest enemies. And that's why what you do is so important. See, I'm a financial coach, you're a nutrition coach and a fitness coach, in a lot of ways.

Dr. Sam Graber: Absolutely.

John Curry: And we'll circle back on that for a minute.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah.

John Curry: But tell us a little bit about what you want to get covered today because I was intrigued because folks, I don't know what all she's going to cover. This is going to be interesting.

Dr. Sam Graber: You can never know with me.

John Curry: That's true. But I do know this is going to some things that you said that people have never asked you. And I think you have your own top five list.

Dr. Sam Graber: I do. I do.

John Curry: So, can we just launch into that and just go back and forth?

Dr. Sam Graber: Sure. Imagine us here on the night show when David Letterman used to do his top 10? Where here's my top five.

John Curry: All right.

Dr. Sam Graber: And these are the five things that nobody has ever asked me in 25 years of practice. 

John Curry: Ok

Dr. Sam Graber: Number five, I can't wait to retire and move into a nursing home. I want to have to follow the rules of some corporation the rest of my life. Independence is so 2013. 

And number four, I can't wait to spend my retirement in doctor's offices. Those waiting rooms, they're my favorite place to hang. No one has ever said that. 

Number three, walking on my own, who needs that trivial ability? I'd rather rely on others for everything I need, even a trip to the loo.

And number two, I want to invest wisely so I can blow it all on medical costs that could have been prevented, and easily at that.

And, drumroll. Number one, I want to forget my kids. No one has ever said that. And that one is the most serious to me because there is such a fear of that. And it's a valid fear. But unfortunately, we've been kind of misled to think that it's a flip of the coin. You're either going to get dementia or you're not. And if you get it, oh, I am so sorry. I am just so sorry. There is nothing you can do about it. That's all false. There are a lot of things you can do to stack the deck in your favor. And 99.999% of it comes from what you eat and what you don't eat. And not as well, just what you eat, or don't eat, but when you eat and don't eat.

John Curry: Okay, let's talk about that in more detail.

Dr. Sam Graber: Let's do, yes.

John Curry: Do you mind if we just start there? I don't know what your order is on your list.

Dr. Sam Graber: No.

John Curry: Let's start there because most people that are listening to this, and most people that I meet with, when I'm in the office working, I see four, sometimes five people per day. 

Dr. Sam Graber: Sure.

John Curry: And then, on Mondays, I'll have five or six, sometimes seven telephone appointments.

Dr. Sam Graber: Okay.

John Curry: It's amazing to me the topics that will come up. It's never just about the money. And if it is just about the money, I always circle back and say, "Wait a minute, if we get you to where you have zero financial pressure, zero, life's good. You got the money, you got the time. So, you got money, you got time, will you have the health to be able to travel and do the things you want to do?"

Dr. Sam Graber: Right, yes.

John Curry: It comes back every time. So, talk about some of this ... One more thing first.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yes, absolutely. 

John Curry: The two things I hear all the time in people's fears about retirement, it's either running out of money, income, or not being able to afford their health insurance premiums or health care, or fear of going in a nursing home. That's why I want us to come back to what you just said. You said, "If somebody starts taking care of themselves now with what they eat and fitness." Take that thread and run with that for a few minutes.

Dr. Sam Graber: Sure. Sure. And it comes down to also having a trusted advisor because I know everyone who's under your tutelage and your mentorship for their finances has a trusted advisor. We think of having a financial advisor. We have maybe an investment advisor and retirement advisor, I know that's all you. And we have these people out in our outer world advising us on these tangibles I should say. But then we don't have people advising us on the intangibles which in essence can be tangible. Things like our health. You know, we don't have someone looking at us holistically.

We've got our doctor we go to for a problem, a check-up, et cetera, et cetera. Get your blood work. Okay, looks good, no Hs, no Ls, boom, you're fine. But really, there's patterns that are always being revealed. And there are behaviors that we do that we know based on nerdy science stuff that, I am 100% geek. I am always researching. I'm always learning. What is the validity of this data? And how does that data apply to people, my people? But when you really drill down about it, there are a few things that you can do on a consistent basis, that can clean out the gunk that gets built up, especially in our brain. 

And one thing I often remind people is that your body is a brain transport system. That's what it's designed for. All those muscles, they generate energy for your brain. Everything that happens in your life happens on a brain level, for memory, for being able to coordinate things, everything is in your brain. So, I am ... It's a little different approach. I don't really do a lot of this weight-loss stuff because to me that's not important. And I'll get back to that if we can. It's more about feeding your body what it needs, how it needs to be nourished. And when you do that, with the focus on your brain, it's amazing what your body does with that.

So, it basically comes down to the science of it has been there for decades. The science of how to truly feed the human system is there. But we've monkeyed it around with all these different programs and diets, and you know, eat this, don't eat this. We've processed the real out of our food. 

John Curry: We're killing ourselves.

Dr. Sam Graber: Oh, my goodness. I mean, this processed food, John, is off the charts.

John Curry: Killing.

Dr. Sam Graber: And so many people, they don't eat any real food. Everything comes from a box. It's been processed in some way, shape, or form, whether it's been chemically added, or chemically extracted, or heated to the point that what would be naturally available, whatever would nourish them, is dead now because it's been heated.

John Curry: Or a bag.

Dr. Sam Graber: Or a bag. Yes. And it's just, it's amazing. So, when I help people get back into eating real food. And you can be a foodie or not. I'm a total foodie. I love food. I love to cook. It's not necessary to be healthy. You can find different ways to get real food, simple recipes. When I have a client, I give them, you should see what I give them, it's amazing, recipe books. They get taught how to cook. You know, because they need to know how to cook. You do need a little of that. 

John Curry: Okay, I'm sitting here looking at you, watching the passion here, but I'm also realizing there's some people on this podcast that are probably like me, some man, especially, in his 60s or 70s, maybe even their 50s, saying, "Ah, hell, here we go again. So, now I've got to learn how to cook this or do that."

Dr. Sam Graber: Sure.

John Curry: So, break this down for the people who, number one, don't want to do it. Or don't know how to do it. 

Dr. Sam Graber: Sure.

John Curry: Because I've learned, I prefer to cook my own meals. I don't like going out. I will, but when I cook it, I know what I've got.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yes.

John Curry: And I know what's in it. And I know what's not in it.

Dr. Sam Graber: It's very important.

John Curry: So, break this down real simple for us. And then I'm going to jump into you going into more details on these top five.

Dr. Sam Graber: Sure. Sure. You know, the key is really having, on average, people have a few different meals that they make, especially when they cook their own selves. Or even when they grocery shop, they kind of are attracted to five to seven meals on a regular basis. 

John Curry: That's me.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah. Yeah. So, I teach people how to make that the most real version of something. Like if they love steak and vegetable or they like steak and potato, there are ways to augment your food and make it more of something that has nourishment on every level. There isn't just fillers. Like your pastas, and your breads and your potatoes, those are more fillers. And there's not a lot of nutrition necessarily from them. So, I teach them how to make alternatives to those that are actually nutrient dense and give you nourishment. And I have worked with everybody. 

I've worked with people who, again, love to cook, like major chefs who've shared some recipes with me, which I really love. And I've worked with folks that have just always heated up something in the microwave. And I just teach them little things along the way. Or if you're going to do that, here, you want to go with the frozen veg because that's pretty much the freshest you're going to get. Or you want to go with these certain choices. And I lay it all out for them at first because sometimes the hardest thing is taking that first step. So I give them a meal plan for the first two weeks that they can change a couple things here and there, but it's mostly a way to kick start the program. Kick start their body to allow it to start making the changes they need.

And it's really, everything is laid out. And that's what my clients, whenever they look back at the beginning of working together, and they say, "You really held my hand the whole time. And I didn't realize it because I was all caught up in what I needed to change and I was overcomplicating it." My clients always say, "You know, I was overcomplicating it. You made it so simple that I was able to radically change my life."

John Curry: Well, what you gave them was a plan of action. 

Dr. Sam Graber: Correct. 

John Curry: See, people are seeking.

Dr. Sam Graber: Everything.

John Curry: Whether it be in your world or my world, they're seeking someone, number one, they can trust.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah.

John Curry: Okay. And let's be candid, folks, there's got to be a mutual self-interest. Obviously, you get paid for what you do, and I get paid for what I do. People listening, they get paid, they go to work, they have a job, they get paid. We all want to earn money. 

Dr. Sam Graber: Yes.

John Curry: But it comes down to purity of intent. What is it you're trying to accomplish? And I know from sitting in meetings with you, you're a lot like I, in the sense that you have a flock. And you're like a shepherd protecting that flock.

Dr. Sam Graber: I love that.

John Curry: And I think that's what we have to do. We have to protect the people that are under our care. Now, sometimes those people don't want to hear what they need to hear.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yes.

John Curry: And my deal is, I'm strong enough, I'll say, "Excuse me, I know you don't want to hear this now, but here's the deal. Okay, and then do with the information as you please." And people need that.

Dr. Sam Graber: They do.

John Curry: But they don't need people pointing their fingers at them, you know, "You're stupid. You don't do this. You don't do that. You got to do this."

Dr. Sam Graber: Correct.

John Curry: Because we all resent that.

Dr. Sam Graber: Absolutely.

John Curry: And we won't do it.

Dr. Sam Graber: Oh, yes. 

John Curry: So it's got to be, we got to be a coach, we got to be a leader, a guide if you will.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yes. And I love that. And that's a great visual because it is. And folks know enough to kind of, I think maybe kind of get started, but you get kind of stuck. You know? And doing it yourself, you probably have seen people who've invested on their own and they've done an okay job.

John Curry: Sure.

Dr. Sam Graber: They know enough. I always say, "I know enough to be dangerous in certain situations." But, you can't really bridge that gap between where you are and where you ultimately want to be. Having an advisor, having a coach is a way to just bring that gap, close the gap quickly. You know, and you're spot on where there has to be that trust. And there has to be that tough love, I call it. I'll tell people, you know, I give you simple tools. I give you an excellent strategy, a proven strategy, and a little dose of tough love here and there. 

John Curry: Correct.

Dr. Sam Graber: Because that's what we all need. 

John Curry: By the way, my next book is going to be real short and sweet.

Dr. Sam Graber: Uh-oh.

John Curry: How to release 60 pounds. Okay?

Dr. Sam Graber: I like it.

John Curry: And it's real simple, there's only two chapters.

Dr. Sam Graber: Okay.

John Curry: Chapter one ... Oh, and there's only one page ... There's only one paragraph per chapter. And I think I've narrowed it down to only one sentence per chapter.

Dr. Sam Graber: Okay.

John Curry: So it's going to be a real short book. You could put it on a business card. Are you ready for it?

Dr. Sam Graber: I'm ready.

John Curry: Okay. Chapter one, eat less. 

Dr. Sam Graber: Okay.

John Curry: Chapter two, move more. If we just do that, we'd be in good shape.

Dr. Sam Graber: Mostly. But I will tell you, you know, and I'm going to buck that just a little bit.

John Curry: I need to add chapter three, eat better.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yes. Yeah, eat better, definitely. But I'll tell you, one of the things, and there's something I always say, I'm one of these people that is bucking conventional wisdom. And I call it unconventional wisdom. That's one of my books that I'm working on. Because conventional wisdom has told us, yes, you must eat less and move more. But I will tell you this, if you do that, you know, we've all seen that show, what is it? The Biggest Loser. 

John Curry: Right.

Dr. Sam Graber: You know, these people, they work out like 19 hours a day and they eat four peas and a stick of carrots or something. Like their diets are ridiculous. And you're going to lose the weight, but I'll tell you, you are going to wreck your metabolism. So, I actually teach people, eat more and move less. And I'm going to tell you why.

John Curry: Good. Sign me up.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah. Well, and this is the thing, it's about nourishing your system. It's about healing your metabolism. It's about getting all your cells on board because we have this really amazing hormone called insulin. And I know at this point everyone's eyes kind of start to glaze over because I go into biochemistry a little bit with my folks. But I want to teach them why their body is doing these things. You know, we've taught that we must be doing it wrong. And the way I got into this current way of eating and thinking, and I do a lot of mindset work with my folks because it's critical, but I got into it because I was at the point, I hit about 42, 43. 

And what I was doing was not working anymore to keep my figure. And I was so ... I decided well, I must need to eat less, even less and move even more. So, Ms. Smarty-pants over here joined CrossFit Gym, holy good night. I almost killed myself 19 times. Loved it. Loved the passion. Love all those things. But I was wearing myself out. And my metabolism was getting more and more wrecked. So, I just started researching because that's what I do. And I found a way of feeding my system that I'm never hungry. I mean, I feel like food is my friend now. 

John Curry: Share, give people a sample. Just kind of walk through a little bit of the changes that you made. What you're thinking about here. And then we'll get back on track with these five things if you want to spend a little bit more time on them.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah. Yeah. Well, it's about nutrient composition, nutrient timing, and restorative motion training. The restorative motion training comes from my 25-year career as a chiropractor. I've worked with people, I give them stretches, exercises to help rebuild their system. And so, for me, that's about healing your frame. Healing your body. Healing your relationship with your body because so many, especially women, we've been taught to be at war with our body. You know, we can never like it. You can never be satisfied, God forbid, because the obesity profiteers, where would they make their money?

John Curry: Right.

Dr. Sam Graber: If we're all of a sudden feeling good about the way we look and the way we feel and all these things. How are they make their millions? So, we've been basically, conditioned to be at war with our bodies. 

John Curry: Yep.

Dr. Sam Graber: So, that's something I handle in every program I do because without that, yeah, sure, we can lose the weight. You can do the things I tell you. You cannot do the things I tell you. But if you don't change that mindset, that's why your friend continues to regain the weight. That's why people do that. And you hit it earlier when you said, I release it because you're changing your words. You're changing the way you think about that weight. And you're realizing that that's not mine. That is not me. That's not my identity. I don't claim that.

John Curry: That's another person.

Dr. Sam Graber: That is.

John Curry: That's a person from my past.

Dr. Sam Graber: Absolutely.

John Curry: I don't know that person anymore.

Dr. Sam Graber: Exactly. Exactly. And I teach people about that. And that's something that they're always really floored about because you know, they come to me for weight loss. And as I mentioned a little earlier, like I really, literally, could care less about that part because that's going to happen if you change the behavior. And it's not necessarily eating less and moving more because we've been taught that. But what happens over time is your body will just reset your metabolism lower. 

John Curry: Right.

Dr. Sam Graber: And healing that is very tough.

John Curry: I discovered six, seven years ago now, I hired a coach, a strength coach.

Dr. Sam Graber: Excellent.

John Curry: In the last three weeks, I've not been doing any weightlifting because of some other health issues.

Dr. Sam Graber: Sure.

John Curry: Some veins issue, arteries. But, three days a week, we'd work out. When I first started, second trainer now, first guy, for five years I worked out. And I was shocked that we only had forty minute sessions. I said, "I was thinking we'd do an hour." He said, "We don't need an hour. In forty minutes we can do everything we need to do." He said, "The others days, do 20, 30, 40 minutes maximum of cardio."

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah.

John Curry: He said, "You don't need to do crazy stuff." He said, "Occasionally if you want to go on long hikes or something."

Dr. Sam Graber: Sure.

John Curry: He said, "You don't need to do all that nonsense." And that was my first introduction, I'd say seven years ago now, to you don't have to do as much, but the quality of what you do is more important. This morning, I was on the treadmill early. I only spend 17 minutes but those 17 minutes were pretty intense. You know, going up and down on the incline.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yes, perfect.

John Curry: And we're all busy. And none of us really want to work out anyway. I don't want to go workout, for just "workout". Now, I must also admit that the adrenaline kicks in and I love doing it. Endorphins and all. But most of us don't want to go to the gym to work out. But the results from doing that.

Dr. Sam Graber: Right. And since they haven't invented a pill yet, we still got to do some stuff.

John Curry: So, why don't we just invent the pill and get wealthy and be done with it?

Dr. Sam Graber: I know. Well, they're working on it. Let me tell you. The side effects will be immediate death though so I'm not sure that I really want that.

John Curry: I don't want that either.

Dr. Sam Graber: No, but you're right on. And that's another thing that I do with my restorative motion training, it's all about high-intensity interval training because the key is you need to have the restore, the recovery time, that's where the magic happens. And then I time that with that's when you eat. You want to be sure that you're fasted and you're exercising without food in your system because then you have to tap into all these really cool hormones that your body's just like waiting for you to tap into. Come on man, let's do it. And then we never allow it to because we're eating all the time because we're following this conventional wisdom which is really conventional stupidity. 

When we really look at what the research shows us, we don't need to eat two to three times a day. Good Lord. Or two to three times. Excuse me, every two to three hours. We really only need to eat a couple meals. Even one meal can do it if that meal has what your body needs, has the nutrients. There's a certain amount of protein we need to have. And I help people calculate that. That's based on your frame. That's based on what your digestive system can do. Because some folks don't have enough acidity in their stomach to digest the protein. 

John Curry: I'm sure some people listening are out there saying, "Wow, I need to know more about this." So, let's do this. 

Dr. Sam Graber: Yes.

John Curry: Let's give people the opportunity to know how to find you. Let's share your website with them.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yes. My website's super easy. If you're seeing my name here on the podcast, you'll see how it's spelled. It's Doctor, D-R S-A-M, Graber, G-R-A-B-E-R. So that's D-R S-A-M G-R-A-B-E-R dot com.

John Curry: Perfect.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah.

John Curry: Because I didn't want to miss that because I know we're going to cover it at the end.

Dr. Sam Graber: I appreciate that.

John Curry: But people ... I get frustrated now, I'm listening to something and I have to wait all the way to the end to get something. I think I'm going to change it. I think I'm going to start doing that at the very beginning.

Dr. Sam Graber: That's a great idea.

John Curry: And say, "Look, just in case you want to contact this person."

Dr. Sam Graber: Sure. Sure.

John Curry: But let's go back to your top five for a minute. And just, are there any other things you want to add to any of those?

Dr. Sam Graber: To the top five? When I look back at them and many people they say, "You know, I don't want to end up in a home." You know, a nursing home. I guess there's probably more technical, correct terms now, but these facilities. Folks want to be independent. They want to be at their own home. Here you've spent all these years refining your home, decorating, picking colors, and really making it a home. Having to leave that because you're not capable of taking care of yourself, that's a tragedy. 

John Curry: Well, there's another issue too that I get frustrated with. People are being, I don't want to use the word pressured, but they're getting more and more sales pitches as to why they shouldn't be in their home. And from assisted living facilities, retirement communities, whatever. I was at one yesterday, in fact, that goes, I'm in involved in something called Honor Flight, Tallahassee. Where we fly World War II, Korean, and now Vietnam Veterans to D.C. to see the memorials. And at Westminster Oaks, there are 37 veterans that have gone on these flights. Sadly, several of them have died in the past two years. So, yesterday, they were being recognized and those as us who served as a guardian were asked to attend. So, I'm sitting there with my veteran. A good friend of mine of 40 years-

Dr. Sam Graber: Oh, wow.

John Curry: ... Charles [Namathack 00:26:19]. And we were talking about how if you are in the right "place", facility, that's good. But what if you're in the wrong place, where you're not getting the encouragement to do the things you want to do? This is the oldest retirement community in Tallahassee. And they've done a great job. Constantly adding programs and people love it. So, I was just thinking as you were saying that, some people should go to a community like that. Others should stay where they are.

Dr. Sam Graber: Right. And I'm sure it, let's say, it comes down to such a personal decision and what kind of family support you might have. Now, if you're alone and feeling lonely in your home, loneliness, I mean, that takes the joy out of life and that can be very dangerous.

John Curry: That can kill you.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yes.

John Curry: But it comes down, not only ... It comes down to the money side of it. It comes down to the emotional side. I'm a people person.

Dr. Sam Graber: Me too.

John Curry: If I had to be by myself all the time, I wouldn't like it.

Dr. Sam Graber: But I do like a little alone time. I need that.

John Curry: Oh, well, I definitely want my me time.

Dr. Sam Graber: That's what's good for the rest of the world. Give me my alone time a little bit here and there.

John Curry: Right.

Dr. Sam Graber: But yeah, I hear what you're saying. And if it's a community, and if it's a place where it's just you're independent in your own little place, and someone comes in and cleans it, I mean, hey, sign me up. What's the age limit? I'll be there. You know, like I dig that part. But it's the typical nursing home where we see someone laying in their bed all day, that's the heartbreaking stuff.

John Curry: Well, you hit a nerve there because my grandmother was in a nursing home for 11 years. 11 years. And I saw her just wilt.

Dr. Sam Graber: Me too. I've had that same experience.

John Curry: And she died two years shy of being 95 years old.

Dr. Sam Graber: Wow.

John Curry: My grandfather died 27 years before she did. He retired thinking he had a long life ahead of him. Died probably five, five and a half years into retirement. Took a pension option where he got all the money, the day he died, she got nothing. She just got social security from then on. So, not only did she have health issues for a long time, there were financial issues. So, my dad and my uncle pitched, we all helped out actually, on the financial side. So, over the years, because of seeing those experiences and the thousands of people I've interviewed, for some reason, somehow, I gravitated more toward, well, okay, what about the retirement planning side? What about the once you're in your 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s? My oldest client's 101.

Dr. Sam Graber: Oh, that's awesome.

John Curry: So what do you do later in life? See, as a financial advisor, I was not taught anything about that. I was not taught anything about gerontology. I was none of that.

Dr. Sam Graber: Sure.

John Curry: So, I had to do like you did, go out and research it and learn. And a lot of my peers thought I was nuts. They said, "Why do you care about that? You know, you're a financial guy." Well, it's not just about finance.

Dr. Sam Graber: Right. Absolutely not. And when you're a real advisor, you look at the person holistically. You know, you do that with the finances and taking care of them, their life. What is their life like? What's their marriage like? What's their relationship with their children? All these things factor in. And I do the same when I'm across the, usually it's across the screen now, I'm not doing a lot of my work in person. I do it on the phone or through something like Skype or Zoom. 

But I like ... It's all about connecting that person to what they really want and what's really in their best interest. And helping them find that with a roadmap. Or you know, sometimes, like I mentioned earlier, I tell them exactly what they need to do to get started. And then we tweak it from there. You know, it's like, okay, let's do this first, see how you resonate with it, see how you're jiving. And then we're going to find out what your body likes and what your body's not jiving with. And then you can tweak it.

John Curry: I get the impression that you have multiple ways where people can benefit from your services. So let's talk about that because there are some people who are listening to this, Sam, and they're going to say, "You know, I don't think I need a coach. I just think I just need somebody to get me started." Because I have that with clients who'll come in, "I don't really want to pay a fee and do the planning. I don't want to buy a product. I just want some information."

Dr. Sam Graber: Sure.

John Curry: So, if you would, walk through a little bit about the different levels of service, and education, and information you provide. 

Dr. Sam Graber: Absolutely. I'd be thrilled.

John Curry: And then, for those who want a bit more they can dig into it. But just, I think it's important to understand how it is that you deliver this knowledge.

Dr. Sam Graber: And I appreciate you clarifying that and allowing me to clarify that because it can seem like well, what is going on? Do I just read some books? Do I just find this information? Is there a website where I download something? And it's like, yes, yes, and yes, all those things. But it depends what your goal is. If you want to just know what to eat and how to move and do some basics, I have a 12-week program that I do with clients. And it's all done through email and online. And then we have calls once a week where you can ask questions, get some refinement for things. That's usually the starting point for folks.

John Curry: This is one on one coaching.

Dr. Sam Graber: It's a small group coaching.

John Curry: Small group.

Dr. Sam Graber: But really, it ends up being one on one because you can ... I send you what you need. Every week there's a module that comes across via email. And then you set it up for what your body needs. You know, what your goals are. What your limits are, timewise, et cetera. It's a roadmap, so it's all listed. This what you do Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. And they tailor it to themselves. So, what kind of food they're going to eat, all these things are tailored. So, it's individualized, but it's a proven system. You just do A, and then you do B, and then you do C. And it's delivered via email so it can be anybody, anywhere. 

Now, you can get a little more personalized. Some folks, they have some health issues. And so, I might have to go, dive in a little bit deeper. And because of my background in the medical profession, I'm really skilled at helping look at the blood work, look at those patterns. So, if somebody needs a little more TLC and a little more one on one time that is available. But the way I usually start it is with that 12-week program because that's kind of like a foundation for them to get the knowledge because if I just send you out and say, "Hey, read this book." Or, "Read this document." Or, "Watch these videos." It's just a smattering.

So, I kind of take it from the baseline levels. Kind of like, imagine training wheels, learning to ride a bike. You start with training wheels and someone's right there with you. And then, eventually, you're riding on your own, but you've still got your training wheels. And you're just cruising along. And then eventually you're ready for the training wheels to come off. And that's what I like in my work too is I start out and I give you everything you need. And then I teach how to make decisions and choose foods, and find the right exercises for you, find the right everything that you need to maintain your health. And then we work on nutrient timing which is, there's a terminology called intermittent fasting. But I like to call it more of a nutrient timing, knowing when to eat and when to let your body rest so it can regenerate and heal.

So, I go through all of those patterns with people. They can find me through Facebook. They can join my Facebook group. That's a real low level of coaching because I share vetted information in that group. So, you can just go to Facebook and find Dr. Sam Graber. My business is called the ROXOlution. And so, it's basically a solution for you to get through all the confusing information out there.

John Curry: Say again what the business is called.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah, R-O-X-Olution, ROXOlution. So kind of like a revolution, but R-O-X-O and people always ask me what does that stand for? It really doesn't stand for anything. It's Portuguese for purple. Because I was trying to think, what is something that I would love forever. And purple's my favorite color. And everybody that knows me knows that. So, it's just a name that I came up with. And plus, it's something that when you know how to spell it, there's nothing else, no one else using that name. So, it's great for people to be able to find me.

John Curry: That's funny.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah. But, as far as being able to have access to me, the clients who really engage in the process, they get a lot of one on one time because like I mentioned, we do a once a week call. You can call in and ask any question. Email me questions. I'm available via email. I do take a little personal time on the weekend because I think we all need that. But I get back with folks because I really want to be there to help them make the changes and then release them into the wild when they're done. 

And they are fully capable of anything that they need when they read health information, they can vet through that. And they can say, "This is written by so and so." This is definitely, you know, follow the money trail. I teach them how to do that. I teach them about their body because I know the better you understand how this whole amazing entity works, the better care you can take of it. And the less vulnerable you're going to be to all these guys out there trying to sell you a bunch of junk.

John Curry: I'm going to make a little plug for my trainer again, his name is Jason Harville

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah. Awesome.

John Curry: And he is a, let me see if I can get this right, certified ... I can't get it right now. But anyway, the bottom line is I have rotator cuff [inaudible 00:35:37] in both shoulders. And surgeon just said, "John, if you don't do something about this you're going to have to have surgery." Certified exercise specialist, I think what it's called.

Dr. Sam Graber: Okay.

John Curry: But what happened with working with him, I said, "I need help. I've got to work on my flexibility in these shoulders." And instead of having surgery then having rehab, we're going to create a prehab program. So we sat down and determined the things to do. Now, excuse me, corrected exercise specialist, that's his title.

Dr. Sam Graber: Oh, I love it. Very good.

John Curry: So, by working with him, I have not had to have surgery. I can pick up two 50-pound kettlebells and do like a farmers walk with them.

Dr. Sam Graber: Awesome.

John Curry: You know?

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah.

John Curry: As I used to do. Walk 100 yards, put them down, walk back, pick them up, and walk back. But so what you're saying is so important in the sense that I've learned more about my body because he really works on the explaining why we're something, the anatomy of it. I don't fully understand everything, don't get me wrong. It's not my world. I'm a financial guy. You know?

Dr. Sam Graber: Yes.

John Curry: I'm not an anatomy guy or a doctor or chiropractor like you are.

Dr. Sam Graber: Sure.

John Curry: But it's important to at least know part of it.

Dr. Sam Graber: It is.

John Curry: The basics. The fundamentals. The fundamentals.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yes, I agree. I agree. Yeah, the fundamentals. And that's a perfect terminology for it. That's what I just, I teach people enough, you know? I simplify it. I wade through all the confusing stuff. I decipher research for them. And show them, this is the valid stuff. The rest of this is just marketing hype. 

John Curry: Yes.

Dr. Sam Graber: A lot of it's marketing hype.

John Curry: We've got a few minutes left here.

Dr. Sam Graber: Sure.

John Curry: So, in the few minutes we have left, I would like for you to kind of summarize and maybe give people an idea of what they would see when they go to your website. And how would they best start the process of learning more about you, getting to know you, and learning and maybe engaging with you?

Dr. Sam Graber: Oh, that's a great question.

John Curry: So, walk us through that.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah. And I would love for anybody, if you come to my website, there's going to be a little box that'll either, depending on what my website designer's doing at the moment, we'll either have a box that's popping up or it's somewhere at the top of the website. Just share with me your email address and your first name. And then I have a nurturing kind of education system that I do via email to help you start to understand your body better, learn a little bit more about what I do. Instead of just kind of throwing it all at someone because it's a little overwhelming.

John Curry: So there's no cost for that?

Dr. Sam Graber: Oh, no. No, none at all. I'm really key on educating. I give everything away. I let you know ... In fact, I'm doing some webinars these next few weeks. And I'm not sure when this will go live, but more than likely, at any point in time, I'll be having a webinar coming up. And I let all the people know on my email list when I'm doing a webinar. 

John Curry: Good.

Dr. Sam Graber: I think the one coming up now is how to shed stubborn fat because sometimes that ... You're doing all these things. You're eating right. And you're exercising in the way, the high intensity.

John Curry: But you're stuck.

Dr. Sam Graber: But that won't go.

John Curry: But you're stuck.

Dr. Sam Graber: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Curry: So, let's be clear on something.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yes. Yes.

John Curry: Because there's a lot of hype out there.

Dr. Sam Graber: Oh, so much.

John Curry: In my world and yours. So, let's be clear, if someone goes to your website and they want to receive this email information, there's no sales pitch. It says, hey, here's what I'm doing, partake or not partake.

Dr. Sam Graber: Exactly. Yeah. It's almost, it's like being in a restaurant, you either want it or you don't.

John Curry: I love that.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah.

John Curry: See I tell people when I'm working with them, I meet with somebody new, even existing clients, I say, "Look, there's only four things you can do with the information I provide you. You can totally ignore it, do nothing. You can take the information and do it all by yourself. You can take it to another advisor, perhaps a competitor. Or you can hire team Curry to help you. It's your choice."

Dr. Sam Graber: I love that. I'm going to start using that.

John Curry: Hey, you're welcome to.

Dr. Sam Graber: Because that's great.

John Curry: Because I think everyone should use it because there's no pressure.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah.

John Curry: And I'm to the point in my life of where if you don't want me, I don't want you.

Dr. Sam Graber: Right.

John Curry: I'm not going to chase you down. I'm not going beg you.

Dr. Sam Graber: Right. Same.

John Curry: Damn it, it's your financial world. It's your health. Either you want help or you don't.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah, and it took me a good decade in practice to come to that kind of realization. And I call it loving detachment now because, as you know, you can tell I'm very passionate. I get connected to people. And I cannot want it more than they do. And that's the one thing on every time that I chat with folks, your commitment comes from you. That's the only thing I can't do for you. I can show you ... Heck, I can come cook for you. Not everybody. But, there's things that everyone can do for you, but that commitment, that decision has to come from you.

John Curry: Absolutely.

Dr. Sam Graber: So, it has to be attached to ... It has to have meaning. And that's why we go into the mindset stuff because if it's just about losing 10, 15 pounds, I mean, shoot, I can teach you how to do that in lickety split, no problem. But it's doing it healthfully. It's maintaining that. And it's teaching your body how to be stronger from the inside out because as we age, I mean, let's face it, we're hopefully going to be blessed to be able to age. You know everyone talks about this anti-aging, I'm like no, heck, pro-aging. I want to get older. I can't wait. I hope I am blessed to live to 110. And I'm literally working with my body to make sure I am in incredible shape and healthy for that entire 110 years. I do not want to get to age 80 and live another 30 years falling apart. Thank you, no. Not on my watch. And that's what I tell my folks all the time, "Listen, not on my watch. But I can't want it more than you do."

John Curry: That's right.

Dr. Sam Graber: "Maybe this just isn't the right timing. And that's okay." I tell them, "You know, your options are yes and no." And they'll think it over. Yes, it's great, let's dive in. A no is your decision at the moment, but you know I'm here. You know?

John Curry: Come back when you're ready.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah, just because you choose no doesn't mean we're breaking up. It's just you know where to come for the true answers. And if I don't know them, I'll call in the big brains to help me. I've got a great group that I work with.

John Curry: Well, the key is that you're not applying pressure.

Dr. Sam Graber: Never. Never, never, never.

John Curry: It's up to you. I've had people say, "I'm feeling some pressure." And I say, "Well, is it because you think I'm pressuring you or because the situation is pressuring you?"

Dr. Sam Graber: Great call.

John Curry: They go, "Holy cow, you're right."

Dr. Sam Graber: Yes.

John Curry: I say, "Because I'm not going to pressure you."

Dr. Sam Graber: No. No. No. And my programs are all really very reasonable. You know and I tell them there's no ... Oh, and people always think because we're constantly being bombarded by our nephew or aunt or someone who just joined some multi-level marketing club that has these potions and these pills and these supplements and this gel and all this stuff, I don't do any of those. I have used them in the past thinking okay maybe this one's going to be the answer for folks. But what I have decided after 30 years of working with my own body, none of that stuff works. It's about real food.

John Curry: I'm glad you shared that. So, this is not something where someone's thinking, "Okay, I'm going to engage with Dr. Sam here, but it's going to be 'Oh, you've got to buy this supplement, this supplement.'" So, it's none of that?

Dr. Sam Graber: None of that.

John Curry: That's great. I think that's good.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah. Because I feel like if you get your health really firing on all cylinders, then you're going to know what things are really, truly deficient. Like you might literally, actually have a thyroid problem, but if you mask it with all these supplements and injections and all these things, and these shakes and these energy drinks, you're going to be going further and further into the tank, not knowing what your real symptoms are.

John Curry: You mess up your system.

Dr. Sam Graber: Absolutely.

John Curry: We've got to wind down here.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah.

John Curry: Any final thoughts that you want to share with the folks?

Dr. Sam Graber: Well, I think, you know, you can tell I've got a lot to offer. And it can seem overwhelming but really the best thing is, is just connect with me. If you find me on my website, there's always a contact us kind of thing. You can fill in your information. I'm the only one that gets that. Or my marketing assistant. It doesn't go anywhere. We don't provide your information to anyone. I would flip out if someone did that to me. I would never do that to people. So, just contact me.

You know you can find me on Facebook. Send me one of the private messages. I answer all my own messages. So it's important just to reach out. We may be a fit and we may not be. Some folks are really looking to just like some little magic. There's never ... There is no magic. The magic resides within you. We just need to tap into it.

John Curry: Absolutely.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yeah.

John Curry: Tell everyone again, your website. 

Dr. Sam Graber: Sure. Website is my name D-R Sam Graber, G-R-A-B-E-R, so drsamgraber.com.

John Curry: Dr. Sam, it's been a pleasure.

Dr. Sam Graber: Absolutely, John.

John Curry: Thank you.

Dr. Sam Graber: Thanks for having me. You bet.

John Curry: You're welcome. Thank you for sharing with my audience for this podcast.

Dr. Sam Graber: Yes. Thank you so much.

John Curry: Folks, we'll talk to you in the next episode. Be healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Dr. Sam Graber: Love it.

2018-70198 Exp 11/20

Next Level Retirement Planning

As a longtime and committed journalist in Florida, WFSU’s program director for news Tom Flanigan has seen his share of political controversy but also plenty of uplifting news from everyday people.

He has a commitment to the truth, something he passes on to the up-and-coming journalists he mentors.

Tom doesn’t think he’s ever going to retire. It’s a sentiment that many share – traditional retirement isn’t for everybody.

We talk about the alternatives, as well as…

  • Why a healthy savings doesn’t guarantee a happy retirement

  • The impact of longer lifespans

  • Making sure there are no surprises with your retirement accounts

  • The rejuvenating power of lifelong learning

  • And more

Listen now..

Mentioned in This Episode:


Episode Transcript:

John Curry: Hi folks, John curry here, Welcome to another episode of John Curry’s Secure Retirement podcast. I've been looking forward to today because I'm sitting across the table from my friend Tom Flanigan. Many of you know Tom because of his work at WFU radio. I know Tom because I see him working at places like The Economic Club, Capital Tiger Bay. And sitting at the table Tom, we discovered and we met each other a long, long time ago back in your Centel telephone days. But, Tom, welcome.

Tom Flanigan: Well, thank you John. It's so great to meet with you here today.

John Curry: I would like for you to, instead of me trying to tell people what you do, please take a few minutes and just tell folks what it is you do at WFSU radio, and how did you get started there, and why you keep on doing it?

Tom Flanigan: Well, what happened was serendipity for sure, John, 2006 out of a job, impoverished, destitute, and not altogether happy with life. I stumbled across a reporter position at WFSU radio, and this picked up a career thread that I had started between 1973 and roughly, I guess 1987 when I had been full time in the broadcast business on the commercial side of the Radio Ledger. Then stepped away for several years to do corporate communications, as you mentioned back in the Centel days. I did public relations work for those guys, and then also a stint with Visit Florida. But having lost the Visit Florida job, finding myself at loose ends for approximately 18 months as far as a full time job was concerned. I stumbled upon a reporter's position at WFSU prior to the 2016 legislative session, went back in as a reporter, and then became the news director. And ultimately wound up with the position I have today, which is program director for news.

I'm not still really sure what it means, but a practical day-to-day basis, what it entails is to provide general oversight to the news department that we have on the radio side. Also, I work with the folks on TV and just like your podcast, we are now multi-platform. We are online on all of our news stories and other content that we provide. And I try to be an internal consultant for some of the, shall we say, less seasoned folks within the news department who may not remember that a guy named Hurley Rudd used to be a city commissioner here in Tallahassee or the fact that there was actually a governor before Charlie Crist in Florida. I try to help those folks out as much as I can.

John Curry: What you're telling me is you're taking advantage of your being a more senior in age and sharing that wisdom with people?

Tom Flanigan: Yeah, we all go down the same road, John. I am just maybe a couple of paces farther along than most.

John Curry: I understand that. As I'm getting more mature myself, I'm realizing that's the case. You made a comment earlier when we were having lunch, getting ready for this podcast about an advisory council. I found that to be intriguing, would you share with our listeners what's happening there?

Tom Flanigan: Sure. Because in public broadcasting, it is really critical that you connect to a wider audience than perhaps just your programming might warrant. And let me just elaborate on that for a second. You're going to have a natural audience depending on what kind of programming you put on the air or online. If you're really, really into current events, news of the day, all that sort of thing, you may gravitate towards WFSU radio because that's essentially all that we have on the air, both from NPR and also from our local kinds of sources that we provide like our news that we do here locally. But you also want to find out where else can we take this? And John, it's important to have a direct connection to the community beyond what you had said, running around shoving microphones up people's noses at all kinds of venues around town and local government meetings and that sort of thing.

A couple years ago, our management, who is David Mullins, our general manager, and Kim Kelling, my immediate boss, who's our content director, revisited the idea of bringing in a community advisory council, a group of people from all walks of life, all political backgrounds, all that sort of thing to at least give us as a station some additional community input as to where we need to go, what we need to be talking about, what sort of programming and other community involvement we can get into. We just had our meeting, as of today, which is the 19th of September, we got some good feedback on that. 

John Curry: That's good. I thought it was fascinating because instead of just limiting what you're doing to what the, quote, natural market is, you expanded.

Tom Flanigan: And we try to find where new audiences are. And all, I think talk radio, whether it's WFLA and my good friend, Preston Scott who I have known for years or what we do on WFSU, we gravitate towards an older target demographic, if we want to use a real technical media term there, which is older folks, generally 35, 45, even 55 years and up. And that's wonderful, and it's great, but the problem is it's self-limiting. These folks have a tendency to, shall we say, exit the mortal coil at some point, and you need to bring in younger audiences. How do you do that without alienating your core older audience? That's the secret. And no one has really figured out that secret yet, but we're working on it. And we're going to try to get as close to cracking that code as we can. 

John Curry: Yeah. I feel a parallel in what we're doing because we don't just talk about people's money for retirement, and that's why we came up with a secure retirement podcast and focusing in all different issues. I've interviewed physicians, I've interviewed, retirees, we talk about health issues, emotional issues. It's not just about your money, and it's the same thing with what you're doing. If you stick to just the one topic, it gets old too, but there's more than just that one topic. In our case, it's not just about how much money do you have in your IRA or your 401k or deferred comp or whatever retirement plan do got, what are you going to do with the money when you're ready to retire and how are you going to manage your health or are you emotionally prepared to retire?

I'm thinking of our interview just a week ago with a psychiatrist who spent a lot of time talking about ... It was Larry Kubiak, in fact, a psychologist, I guess, what are you going to do when you retire if you're not prepared emotionally? You may have all the money in the world, but if you're not ready to retire, what do you do? I'm seeing a corollary in the sense that for you is not just one topic, is not just the well-known people, if you will. What about the person that people don't know who they are, but they have a story to tell?

Tom Flanigan: Or people who, John, by the same token, and Larry could be actually a great guy. I've talked to him so much.

John Curry: He's a great guy.

Tom Flanigan: We have so many commonalities, it's crazy. But the psychology of retirement being something that we are kind of programmed to aspire to for all of our working lives. Oh, I can't wait till I get away from the day-to-day grind. My sweetie and I are going to fly off to Bermuda or Israel or someplace, and it's going to be great. And I have seen particularly from my days at the phone company when I did all the retirement parties, I took pictures of these people where in the middle of their retirement party with all of their coworkers and even their family gathered around and there's cake and balloons and party favors and all. You can almost see the realization hits them, tomorrow morning, all this goes away. My reason for being, the expression of my existence, which was this job and all of my networking connections, my friends, everything I have to live for is gone.

Often, those people would not last six months. I saw it over and over again. What you're doing here with the podcast and with your day-to-day consulting work with folks as they try to get a handle on, "Well, gee, how do I want these resources to work for me and my family and provide us with not only security, but maybe even a little bit of direction once we get out of the work a day world?" is so valuable, and I really applaud you and all your colleagues over here for that.

John Curry: Well, thank you for that. We take it very seriously that it's not just about your money. Now, you got to have money. let's be candid. If you don't plan and save properly, retirement won't be fun. But it's not just the money, it's the are you healthy? And we'll come back that in a moment because as one of my good friends says, you're looking pretty good for a guy your age. So we talk about what are you doing to maintain your health here in a minute. But let's go back to this advisory council from that. For anyone who's listening to this, if they have a topic that they think would be appropriate, is it okay for them to contact you so we have those topics? What's the procedure for that?

Tom Flanigan: Oh, my gosh, by all means, John. And thank you for the opportunity to get this word out. We're always looking for good stories, since we were little kids, daddy, tell me a story. And that desire holds true throughout our entire lives. If you are aware of something particularly, I put it in this category, good people doing good things. We need more of those kinds of stories today because we focus on all of the chaos here on the national political scene. Now, regardless of where you're coming from politically, it can be difficult. It can be heart wrenching, it can be frustrating, all those other things. But really, what takes place in Washington DC does not have an immediate and profound impact on most of us, really. We've concentrate therefore, and my newsroom on things that are going on kind of in our own backyard.

And we want to hear about people that are doing those positive things in their community, inspiring young lives or helping senior citizens get a better handle on what they're doing after retirement. Taking care of animals, whatever. And here's how you do that. You can go to wfsu.org, that's our website. And we do have a contact list down at the bottom of our homepage. And you can hit that, and the entire staff listing comes up. And just look for Tom Flanigan, you can click on my email. I think there's also a telephone number there. You can leave me a message. And I'm obsessive about this stuff, I'll get back to you for sure, I want to talk to you.

John Curry: There's no doubt about that. Tom does return phone calls. But also those who know me personally, who want to call me or my office, we can also get you in touch with Tom. Thank you for that. You talked about community, let's talk about Honor Flight for a moment. We were talking about that over lunch. I'm sure that you have interviewed people on your show talking about Honor Flight, and you've been involved from the standpoint of knowing what it is. Give me your perspective on Honor Flight, what it means to you and what your involvement has been?

Tom Flanigan: Well, the only great regret I have, John, is the fact that my dad, who served in World War Two, he did not land on Iwo Jima, but he was aboard of one of the huge tank size landing craft that were anchored right off the beach head there and offloading all of the war material and vehicles and troops and all that. And under unrelenting fire from Mount Suribachi, did not get an opportunity to take part in Honor Flight. He never got a chance, even though he was living in western Maryland and only 150 miles away from Washington, he did not get a chance to see the World War Two memorial in Washington. And that would've been so much fun to be on the Honor Flight with my dad. But I think as an ongoing tribute to these gentlemen, and in the vast majority of cases, it was men who served during World War two in Korea now heading into the Vietnam era and all, to show that, uh, they still have a reason to be proud.

And they are receiving in many cases for the first time, the honor to them, I think is just a remarkable thing. And I applaud this so much.

John Curry: It's amazing to hear the stories. I've had the privilege of being in all three of those lights. Two is a guardian for a veteran looking out for them for the day. And then another where I was helping Mark Kemp who is a local chairman of one of the [flight 00:14:08] with operations. And just hearing the stories and watching the interaction between the veterans with each other is just amazing. And I've had people say, "Well, why don't you do that? What's that got to do with your business or with retirement planning?" I said, "Are you kidding me? These are people, many of them were on that plane, late 80s, some of them are 90s still going strong." I'm thinking of my friend Charles now who had the honor of being with, I think Charlie now is 92, still going strong, retired professor, great guy. And my friend Harry Grant, Harry is either 89 or 90.

They're driven to keep doing things. They don't want to just sit in front of a television and do nothing. And what if we lived to be 95 or 100 years old? You want to be physically and mentally sharp. And to me, being around people involved with Honor Flight, I'm getting an opportunity to talk with people that you love and you care about because you have so many common interests. I was fortunate, I served in the Air Force, didn't have to do any battle. I worked on the airplanes, the B-52 bombers as a mechanic. But I feel like I did a small part, but I didn't do what these guys did. And they should be recognized and honored. And we're seeing more and more women by the way, on these flights too.

Tom Flanigan: That is true. I noticed the last group that went, there were more and more women. And we'll see that too because we had more gender equity, if not full equality in the services now for the past couple of generations. That's happening.

John Curry: That's true, true. You said something earlier that caught my attention, and I want to get you to share what you told me. When I asked you why do you do what you do? Tell our listeners what you told me.

Tom Flanigan: Why do I do what I do? Well, for two reasons. I am nosy, that's why probably growing up around adults, a small town in western Maryland. Not a lot of kids my own age in the neighborhood. I grew up with my mom and dad and their friends, and I always wanted to know what the grown-ups were doing. It was time to go to bed and mom would shuffle me off into my room, but it was only right down the hall from the living room and I'd sneak back in my jammies and peek around the corner and see what all the grownups were up to and listen to the gossip and try to ascertain just what they were talking about. But I'm also a gossip, so I would want to report that. And I didn't have anyone to report it to, so I had to sit on that.

And maybe that's it, all this repressed desire on my part to just blab to the world is why I got into the news business, John.

John Curry: That's why you got in, what keeps you there?

Tom Flanigan: Pretty much the same, it is fun. You were talking about the Advisory Council this morning, we have a member of the Leon County Commissioner who sits on our council. And this individual, I'm not mentioning names, I'm not mentioning gender. There will be no identification here, we must protect our sources. This is an old journalistic tradition as well as a point of ethics for us. But this individual took me aside and opened up an iPad and said, "Okay, here's a project that's going to be pitched to a particular intergovernmental agency over the next several days," first time I'd ever heard of it. But it was one of these, "Okay, you didn't hear it from me, but this is coming, be on the lookout for it."

And luckily, I know some people to ask about it. I can pull up the details on it, and I can do a story before anyone else can. And that to me is a major accomplishment. But in this era of fake news, let me hasten to add for the benefit of people who don't know how we do what we do. In the legitimate news media business, I am not going to take anyone's word for anything.

John Curry: You go to verify.

Tom Flanigan: We are going to check double and usually triple source any kind of information before it gets out on the air or online or on TV or anything else. We want to make sure we have the facts nailed down and we have confirmation before we move forward. Just because I know this stuff doesn't mean that you're going to hear about it. I have to go through the process of confirming, clarifying, making sure that when the information does get to you, it's solid.

John Curry: I appreciate you sharing that because more and more people that we talk with, they're more untrusting now than ever. They don't think they can trust politicians, the government in general, corporations. They feel like, who I can trust, who can I trust? And I love what Ronald Reagan always said, trust but verify. Trust, but verify. If you came to me and you said, I've got X amount of money in my IRA, I'm always like, "That's very nice, let's look at the statement. We're going to verify." And I'm not kidding you, daily, we'll have someone tell us emphatically, this is what I have, but you look at the statement, guess what? That's not what they have.

They have more or less or something totally different. It's the same thing for us, we want to verify because what we do, well, it's not life or death, it's about your money, and it's about making sure you have the money you need to have a good life later. It's pretty serious stuff. I share the same philosophy there. I don't have to be as detailed about some things as you do, other things I got to be more detailed because of the financial regulators that watch us to make sure we're doing it correctly.

Tom Flanigan: Yes. In your business, John, as you just elucidated, there are facts. There are incontrovertible, one plus one equals two. And no matter where you're coming from on the political or the emotional or any other spectrum, that is still going to hold water. And it's got to be a touchstone that you can rely on. Otherwise, how can you make decisions about people's financial future and how they're going to be able to get through life after retirement and all of that if you don't have all the facts from which to make these decisions?

John Curry: That's correct. And one of the things that harp on big time with our clients, what we called team Curry here is let's do our planning based on math and science. Don't do it based on what you think. We use some actuarial science here, how long are you going to live? Look at mortality tables. You probably are going to live 20 or 30 years in retirement. For some people, they'll live longer in retirement than they actually had in their career. What do you do now? I said, let's be scientific about this. Let's not just say, "Well, my dad died at age 70, I'm going to die at 70." What if you lived to be 100? We've got to do some planning.

Tom Flanigan: Yeah. What is that old disclaimer that we see in all of that, past performance is no indicator of future results?

John Curry: That's right, that's right. The attorneys and the regulators make you say that, but it's true, but it's true. I like to use the analogy, if you're driving down the road, do you want to use your big windshield in front of you or the small rear view mirror? I'd rather use the big windshield to look forward.

Tom Flanigan: But you'll never know where you've been.

John Curry: That is true, that's why the little mirror is smaller. You can look at where you've been, remember it, but don't get hung up on it. Look into the future. look at the future. Tell us what you like best about your work.

Tom Flanigan: I really enjoy the people that I work with. You talk about diversity, it covers not only racial diversity but also age background. If you believe in the Myers-Briggs' philosophy of the world, you have some folks who are intuitive, some who are just as hard-nosed when it comes to, I have to have everything laid out in front of me before I'll even have an opinion. And we have that kind of diversity throughout our organization. And I love working, especially with younger folks who come in as interns. They bring a freshness, a talk about a new approach. Sometimes a little unrealistic approach, and you have to say, "Well, let's sit down and have a chat about this before we take off in this direction or that."

But they also bring a refreshing difference to our operation because, no, this may be their very first legislative session they've ever covered. And to them, it's exciting, and it's new. And someone who's been around the block for maybe 30 of them, like I have, you think, "I've seen it all, the speaker is going to say this, the Senate president is going to move in this direction or whatever." Sometimes they may be more on the button than the more experienced folks are. And that's always interesting. It's fun to work together with folks who don't share your viewpoint, your perspective, your particular history. And I enjoy the heck out of that, I really do.

John Curry: I would guess that it keeps you feeling young too, doesn't it?

Tom Flanigan: Oh, it really does. And that's the other great thing about being in a university town like this, John, is that for the same reason that many people through this new initiative that's out there right now, the Choose Tallahassee thing where we're trying to bring in more retirees to this community, particularly should we say more affluent retirees. I know that's part of the chamber's deal and the real estate community and all. As they say, you can't do business with people who don't have any money. But by the same token, this is something that brings them to us, is the opportunity to be in a dynamic growing young community. We keep forgetting, we and Gainesville keep going back and forth as the youngest metropolitan areas in Florida year after year. That's changing slowly, but we're still younger than the average Florida City.

John Curry: It's exciting to. Everybody around me is, well, not even half my age. And it keeps me going, and I have people around to support what we do. They know far more about technology than I do, but that's great. We're a good match.

Tom Flanigan: Synergy.

John Curry: Good fit. That's right, that's right. Talk a little bit about, with the experience you have, we talked earlier, so I'm not speaking out of school here, but as a soon to be 69. You're at an age of when a lot of people would expect you and me, I'll be 66 in December to quote retire. Talk a little bit about why you're not ready to retire and likely probably won't retire from what I have seen about you, but talk about your perspective of what retirement is.

Tom Flanigan: Retirement is the unrestrained ability to do whatever the heck you want to do. That is the holy Grail, I'm sure in most people's minds, whether it's to travel the world, whether it's to, "Oh, I always wanted to mentor young people," and you jumped into a Big Brothers Big Sisters program or whatever it might happen to be. It might be a total reinvention. Good buddy of mine retired from the legendary channel 10, WPLG in Miami, Art Carlson, legendary anchor down there for many, many years. And great journalist, awards out the Ying Yang, what a guy. And nobody's doing right now, but when he retired after a little stint in Tallahassee working for a nonprofit advocacy group. He moved to North Georgia by the Tennessee border, and he got involved with a consortium of potters. And we're not talking medical marijuana here, we are talking pottery, wheel thrown pottery.

And this is what the mighty Mr. Art Carlson does right now, he sits at that wheel and he cranks out bowls and jugs and coffee cups, and just about everything day in and day out. And does magnificent work, and he is as happy as can be. That is retirement for him. He's probably working harder there than he ever did at channel 10, but is he a happy guy? And if I go to envision retirement, that's what I would do. I can't think of anything I enjoy doing more than what I'm doing right now. That kind of puts the Kibosh on this for me.

John Curry: Yes, I'm in the same boat. I love what I do, I don't want to retire. The day will come probably because of health issues. I told a class, if you get tired of me, you don't want to deal with me, I guess you've retired me. If enough people retire me, then I'm retired. But as long as they want to come in and meet, then I'm not retiring. But what I have been doing, and the people that I know that are happiest are doing something comparable, instead of , quote, retiring and then dying like you talked about your colleagues six months or a year later because they have no interest, start looking for interest today. Do those things today, travel, do something. I take more time off.

Last week, I didn't work Monday or Friday. I'm trying to do more weeks like that work three days, then maybe work every day for a while, then take two or three days off. And I find that if I can have a three or four-day weekend, I'm refreshed and ready to go. But the key is for people to find what's working for them. Now, for your friend, leaving the world he was in and just working with his hands was a way to go. I know people who retire, and they don't do any more work on their computer. I know people who don't even have a computer anymore. They'll just use their smartphone, but they'll work with their hands. They do other things, gardening, whatever that is fun.

Tom Flanigan: Or it can be something like, and this is another great advantage of this town, John, when you have something like the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, the ALLI folks, because how many folks get to retirement age and think, "Oh, when I was back in college," or perhaps you didn't go to college at all, and this had been an aspiration somewhere in the back of your cranium. I always wanted to learn about philosophy, what the name of God can you do with that? But if you have that luxury of being able to take the time to study philosophy without having tests and quizzes and grade point averages hanging over your head, just for the sheer love of learning, how neat is that?

John Curry: Or art. I love going to different art museums. Matter of fact, I'm pretty sure at the TCC foundation, that evening when they had the art show too, it was just fun to be there. Just looking around seeing stuff. Again, no test, no quiz, just enjoying, just enjoying. You made a comment earlier, again, while we were having lunch about the retirement advice your dad gave you. I would like you to share that because one of the things we try to teach people is the importance of saving, planning and not just hoping for retirement. Would you share what he shared with you?

Tom Flanigan: Oh, I'd be happy to John. And I'm sure dad's watching down right now and going, "Okay, now I get it right." My dad is small businessman in western Maryland, had a little store, totally under-capitalized. He never made much of anything out of it, but that was his life for a long time. But even though, he didn't have much-

John Curry: Excuse me, what kind of store? What did he do?

Tom Flanigan: It was a combination of school and office supply store in this little community of fewer than 6,000 people. But we had a small college, ultimately a university branch of the University of Maryland. You had students, and they always needed loose leaf paper, pens or whatever. And he also sold office furniture. Someone needs a file cabinet or a desk, they go and check out dad. He had some stuff there, or greeting cards. He got into the greeting card business too. But even though cash flow was not an overwhelming attribute of that enterprise, he advised always have a little something put away.

And with him, I know it was little, damn little. But it was still something. When he'd have business reversals, there was a little something stashed away that would get him through the bad times. And I kind of took that to heart. From the time I could work, I always had a bank account, and then later on, a retirement savings account. And I would usually opt for the 401k when that became available through the employer because in most instances where I was, boy, was I fortunate and still am. The employer would kick in, it's not exactly doubling your money, but it's still nice to have that additional that's coming in. When I had a job reversal, which I alluded to earlier in our discussion and lost a full time income for 18 months, we had to live off of that retirement savings plan, and it got us through.

Without it, I don't know what we would've done. We would've lost the house, the car, everything. And now, we're building back up again. If and when we do decide to retire, there will be something there. But I always made that there was something. And that was, I think the best advice, among the best pieces of advice my dad left me.

John Curry: And it's still great advice. I think it's more important today in the world we live in than ever before. You can look at what happened in 2008, the number of people who just lost their careers overnight, the mortgage business, mortgage lending, the realtors, it may just like overnight. And some people like to say they saw it coming, but most of them are bull, they didn't see it coming. It's great to look back on it and predict something that happened. But the people who had that reserve, took your dad's advice, had some savings, didn't spend everything. Didn't overbuy too big of a house or too expensive a car and overload themselves with payments they did just fine, and they're doing fine now. But the ones who really got in trouble, some of them are still hurting. I think that was great advice your dad gave you then, it's great advice today. I appreciate you sharing that.

Tom Flanigan: And also what you do, if I can give an applaud, your advocation, John, is this mantra that you keep preaching when it comes to financial diversity because when something goes down, something else is usually going up. And if you don't have all of your fiscal eggs in one basket, you're much more likely to withstand whatever the [vagarities 00:34:06] of fate throw at you. Then if everything's all in that 401 or, I don't know, all these people who buy gold and then you see the volatility in the precious metals market, you go, "Are you insane?"

John Curry: Well, people have different opinions. We have people who would argue with us about different things. I say, "Look, if that's working for you, by all means do it." But that doesn't mean just because you like it, it should be for everyone. I happen to love butter pecan ice cream, but that doesn't mean that you like butter pecan ice cream, you might want just plain old vanilla.

Tom Flanigan: And it doesn't mean that you have to sit there and eat butter pecan ice cream by the gallon every night.

John Curry: When I learned that I didn't have to eat it all at one time, that's when I started releasing weight and went from a high of 282 down to most of the time, about 223, 225. But I had a bad habit of thinking that just because it was in the freezer, Tom, I had to eat it.

Tom Flanigan: It's calling to you, John.

John Curry: John, I'm here, come get it. We got to close here in just a moment, but what are some of the things you'd like to make sure that people in our community know about Tom Flanigan, they can go to the website and read a little bit about you, but what are some of the things you'd like to end with and making sure they either know about you or WFSU? You got a blank canvas, anything you want to share.

Tom Flanigan: Oh, thank you, John. Oh, biggest thing would probably be if we could get more people involved in the community where they live. This is one of my, another great western Maryland term, Bugaboo, take that mom. That was one of her favorite phrases or aggravations, if you will. Because we do get so hung up on national politics or even state, "Oh, who's going to win the governor's race. Oh, my God." And we agonize and we fuss and fight and fume and get all upset about this stuff. Another very wise man, my acquaintance said, if you are totally focused on yourself, you will be very unhappy because you will never live up to your own expectations. You will always let yourself down.

Every time I'm feeling depressed, out of sorts, upset, I try to think of somebody else that maybe I can, if not help them at least interact with them in some way, shape, form or fashion just to get outside of myself or we can get outside of ourselves, especially in the community where you can make a difference, a tangible difference, whether it's mentoring a child, maybe it's volunteering at the animal shelter. Whatever you're interested in that is outside of you. Get involved in local political race, not national. Understand, not even statewide. A city or a county commissioner race, or join the league of women voters. Do something that is outside of that little 18 inch periphery that we call our personal space. And I think that's what makes me happy. And if I could just pass that along, I think there may be a few less really miserable people.

John Curry: I agree with you.

Tom Flanigan: If you do that.

John Curry: I keep that heart shaped pillow over there to remind me that 10 years ago, July 10th, 2008 because I had an open heart surgery. And I went through a period, when I'm honest about it, I was going through a period of depression. And I would sit around the house and kind of like whine and moan, poor little me, I could sense this downward spiral. But when I got plugged back into going into my rotary club, going to some of the, that's where I see you, Economic Club, Tiger Bay, Boy Scouts, especially with my son and grandsons. Then it wasn't about me, I didn't think about me. Then when I was sitting there, and it's the same thing with television. A few days ago, sitting and watching television was [inaudible 00:38:20] to be exact. And I was watching some of the news channels because I watch everything. I don't just pick one, I watch Fox, CNN, MSNBC. I go back and forth.

My friends think I'm crazy for that. I say, "Well, I want to hear what other people say." I don't want to hear the same thing over and over from the same people, I want diversity. But when I focus on my little problems, I felt like I got more boxed in and depressed during that period of time. I totally get what you're saying and I would encourage anybody and everybody listening to this, if you feel like you're not living life the way you want it, find one or two organizations that you care about to help. For me, it's Honor Flight, Boy Scouts and my rotary club because I think those are organizations that do a lot of good. And I don't want to just work all the time, I could. I could stay here 24 hours a day if I was just brought a bed, there's always something to do. But in your world, would you mind sharing with our audience some of the things that you do, how you're participating?

Tom Flanigan: Oh, one of the things that I do is to help my wife every way I can. Right now, I'm becoming close to being almost a full time caregiver on top of everything else because my wife who is now a double cancer survivor and pretty well incapacitated with arthritis, needs a great deal of care every day. And that is a focus, and I would do it anyway, but I get so much satisfaction from helping her. I really can't discount that as being an overall part of how I see myself in this big thing. But she's not so incapacitated that she doesn't say, "Look, I know you have to go to that meeting tonight. Anyway, before you go, could you rub my feet?" And, "Sure honey. We'll take care of that, and I'll see you in a couple hours."

And then I'll sneak back to the side room where I have a little studio. I'm also fortunate in that regard, I can remote produce a lot of the material that folks hear on the radio side of the world from the house. I don't have to be away from her any more than I absolutely have to. That is a focus right there that keeps me grounded. And then the rest, what we just talked about, John, is to find some other things you're interested in doing and that you feel connected to and get you outside of yourself. Take time for yourself. I'm not saying become a monk, become some type of a martyr that, "Oh, it's all for the world and nothing for me," because that isn't a good way to live either. That's not a good balance. But it's important that we kind of see where we fit into this larger picture. And I think that's what I'm all about.

John Curry: Well, those of us who know you understand that you have a lot of love for what you do in this community. And it's just been a joy sitting here across the table from you. I can't believe we talked, I'm looking at that clock, 41 minutes. It seems like this has been five minutes sitting here. And I wish we had the whole day, but I know you got things to do too. Tom, thank you so much.

Tom Flanigan: John, thank you for the opportunity to chat with you. It's been a joy.

John Curry: Let's do it again sometimes.

Tom Flanigan: Sounds good.

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