In today's blog post we decided to take a different approach. You always hear from us, today we wanted our readers to hear from our clients! We recently interviewed two of our friends and clients, Evan and Julie. Evan recently retired and we thought he might have some good advice to share with our readers from his perspective as a new retiree. Our hope is to provide those on the path towards retirement with some nuggets of wisdom from someone actually living it.
Evan and Julie, thanks for being willing to contribute to this article. Please tell us a little about yourselves so we can get to know you!
I spent virtually all my life as a government employee. So I guess it’s fair to say I never had a real job. All kidding aside, I spent about 40 years in law enforcement. I was fortunate to have varied assignments from traditional patrol work (events you see on TV customarily) to working with police service dogs for most of my career. In the last few years of my career I was transferred to our aviation support section conducting law enforcement operations in a helicopter. This last assignment motivated me to seek a new career during retirement as a flight instructor.
My wife Julie started as a flight attendant for Continental Airlines. Once we married, as the years progressed and children entered our lives she decided to be a stay at home mom, which is clearly the most difficult and most demanding occupation a spouse can have. As the kids, two girls, got older and a little more self-sufficient, Julie started an internet used book business. Her hard work provided us with much needed supplemental income. She still operates the book business today from our home and it helps provide us with a steady income during retirement. We first started our relationship with Summit Wealth Group because of the book business in 2006. Since we both came from traditional occupations where you are provided with a W-2 and you file your taxes, neither of us had any idea how to track and account for the finances associated with the book business.
We understand you recently entered the retirement phase of life, how has the transition been?
My transition to retirement has been seamless for many reasons. I can’t say that for everyone I've seen retire though. I certainly identified myself with my previous career. I’m enjoying my new identification as a pilot. The ease of transition really was a byproduct of being forced to plan for retirement by our HR department.
Putting money away for retirement savings is understandably difficult at the start of any career. You’re faced with buying a home, college savings, replacing vehicles, etc. We were fortunate to have many pre-tax retirement savings plans to select from at the very beginning that saved a lot of money in the end. There was always an emphasis on putting every penny you could into your retirement plan. The HR department would hound you until you did. It was a very good thing in the end, for sure.
How have you been filling your time?
I started planning on being a flight instructor about a year before retirement. I’ve just about completed all my ratings to contract myself out for hire as an instructor. The flight hours and book work have really filled my time. My family and I took the time to celebrate retirement with a cruise, and I can be more involved in helping Julie with her book business without the rush of having to leave for work at night. The cruise, and the costly transition to my new career wouldn’t have been possible without a financial plan in place.
What is your biggest surprise in retirement so far?
My biggest surprise personally is how busy I seem to keep myself. For me there is still somewhere for me to be, and something to learn. That’s a good thing because it keeps me from “rusting” away. Retirement, for me, seems to be like getting your life back. I clearly have a vote in what and when I want to do from day to day. It’s a new start to living all over again. Every day is a weekend!
One of the most common challenges for many retirees is the fear of losing their identity or losing their sense of self-worth. What are you doing to find meaning and fulfillment?
This is a great question! A retirement class I went to included a psychological assessment that focused on the issue of losing your identity and the consequences. What happens to many of my colleagues as they enter retirement without a good understanding of this issue is sadly devastating. If it’s not a substance abuse problem, domestic issues rise to the surface. My agency was very helpful in preparing us for this change. It isn’t something that can be accomplished overnight. It really takes a year of baby steps to be prepared for the day you “pull the pin” and retire. In the last year, I made an emphasis to develop new relationships from law enforcement to aviation. Don’t get me wrong, I still have many dear friends both still on the job and retired that I cherish dearly. But once you retire, you’re not “on the team” anymore, so there is a void that has to be filled. I’m thankful and at peace with my new direction.
What is the best decision you made in your working years to prepare you for now?
This is easy! When Julie left Continental Airlines and we started our family I started a college savings plan. It started off small and I put every spare penny I could into it. It grew over the years to the point where I never had to make an “out of pocket” college payment for my girls. One of my girls has graduated and I’m still investing into it for her children. My youngest has two more years and is studying in Europe for a semester.
What is a recommendation you would make to people getting close to retirement?
When you get two years out from retirement, yes two years, start going to retirement seminars. Some may be provided for you by your employer, and there are many private financial firms that host seminars. You have to go to these seminars repeatedly because you’ll never digest the information you need to make the best decisions unless you already have a financial background. I didn’t know a thing about finances, taxes, insurance, or retirement. I worked, got paid, saved, paid my taxes from year to year. Forty years can sneak up on you quickly. I was more confused than not. I did learn to ask questions, but when you’re getting the information back from bankers, investor’s and retirement planners, be prepared. They have a totally different language and it’s easy to get lost or left behind. “Money” is not a simple thing. I was lucky. I had an aggressive HR department that forced me to save and, because of Julie’s book business, we already had formed a relationship with Summit Wealth Group. Really, the rest was on auto-pilot.
Our thanks to Evan and Julie for contributing to this blog post. We hope you've found it enlightening on your own path to retirement. Evan and Julie's example of hard work, dedication, and commitment to their long term goals is inspiring and relatable. They didn't get rich quick, win the lottery, or strike gold, they simply worked hard, planned well and made sound financial decisions along the way. And it seems they've already discovered a key to a successful retirement beyond the finances -- filling their time with a renewed sense of purpose and fulfillment while chasing their passions with enthusiasm. Well done, Evan and Julie. Congrats on your retirement!