Saturday, October 21, 2017

RETIREMENT; Are You Ready?

What Happens To You
AFTER You Have Made Other Plans
By Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, October 20, 2017

Before I write another word, please consider my Life’s Mission Statement:

To help people to do what they do to do it better. 
Got it?

What someone does for employment and even fun, they do for “most” of their lives.  Every little assistance, no matter from where it comes, helps people to do those things better than they otherwise would had they not received that little bit of assistance or piece of advice; sort of a leg up.  Retirement is no different.  How do I know?  I retired not only just once, but TWICE.  In fact I actually retired THREE times (twice from the same position).

Most people who might read this Nugget are probably NOT retired.  They are active and engaged; doing whatever it is they do.  It would be hard for me to believe that they have NOT thought about THEIR retirement.  It would so unusual think that could be the case yet it has been my experience that few people ever give the kind of serious thought that is required to insure that their retirement is as they hope it will become.

Here are some questions to get you started thinking:

  • When do you plan to retire?
  • Where will you be working when you actually retire?
  • How much money will you need to guarantee you that you have the income to sustain your desired lifestyle?
  • Where would you like to be living when you retire?
  • Do you know now, how much income would be required to live in your desire place of retirement?
  • Will you have adequate health insurance upon your retirement?
  • Will you be debt free upon your retirement?
  • When you retire, will it be your decision or the decision of someone else such as your employer, family member or a physical ailment preventing you from continuing to work?
  • What will you do with your time in retirement?

I retired from the U. S. Coast Guard after twenty years in 1985.  Knowing that I could no longer stay on active duty because of a physical issue with my knees, I began studying for a future career in real estate.  I was extremely fortunate that for the last 5 years I served on active duty with the Coast Guard I was also able to engage in real estate sales for four of those five years.  The one year that I could not was because I had been assigned out of the state in which I was licensed - Louisiana.

As a disclaimer to the third and sixth questions posed above, my retirement from the Coast Guard insured that I had an income throughout my retired years as well as health care for not only me but also my spouse.  In all honesty, the opportunity to insure my health care throughout my lifetime was a major consideration in my decision to make the Coast Guard a career. That was 1969, back when people did NOT think that healthcare had somehow become a “right” that everyone is automatically entitled to from the government. People had until the mid 1990s made career choices based on things like retirement pensions, healthcare coverage and employment opportunities just in case you are not old enough to remember the way it was.

In 1980, five years before I retired from the Coast Guard, I became a licensed real estate sales agent and in 1982 a license real estate broker both in the state of Louisiana and later to include Mississippi.  In real estate sales there are for the most part no retirement plans that real estate corporations provide to their agents and brokers.  Of course there are some exceptions if you are an “employee” with the real estate company versus an independent contractor working under the company name.  Therefore, most real estate agents and brokers MUST arrange for their own retirement funds and healthcare coverage for use in their retired years.  It has been my experience that in discussions with real estate agents, they have NOT set up such accounts.  I think the main reason for this is that most are relying upon the retirement/healthcare accounts of their spouse.  Keep in mind, we all must surely know, upwards of 50% of marriages end in divorce.  If that were to happen what happens to the retirement income of the people involved in their divorce.  Most are at least split in half.  Not a pretty picture for sure.

I retired from real estate primarily due to a physical ailment not related to my knee issues.  I simply felt that my physical condition was preventing me from doing the best.  I used my performance level prior to the ailment as my guide; I could no longer perform at that level and that was unacceptable; at least for me.  Still, circumstances called me back from retirement for another two years.  I fully retired in December of 2012.

Now for the real reason for writing this Nugget; THE LAST QUESTION!  What will you do with your time in your retirement?

I have not made retirement a study.  I know what I know based on what happened to me in my retirement.  At one time I envisioned my retired life to include playing a lot of golf, traveling, reading, working around the home and doing writing such as the Nuggets for the Noggin that I started over 20 years ago.  While I certainly would not be confused as an independently wealthy man, I had managed to insure a steady income through the retirement from the Coast Guard, a small disability payment from the Veterans Administration, and the monthly amount from Social Security.  Of course I also had access to my wife’s retirement from the Federal Government and her Social Security.  Being brutally honest with you the reader, I did not set up a retirement fund that I should have done beginning as far back as 1966.  The greatest one piece of advice I have for the reader is that you MUST START THAT ACCOUNT TODAY, NOT TOMORROW, NO MATTER WHAT AGE YOU ARE AT THIS VERY MOMENT – START THE ACCOUNT.  Don’t take the information from your family, your neighbor or your best friend or even me as a guide.  Seek out a good financial adviser and get the information from the one person that knows how to provide you with the financial support into your retirement years.  Every penny counts.

Even so, it is that last question that haunts me the most.  What will you do with your time in your retired years?  You may think it to be one thing years before you actually retire, but when you pull the cord and actually retire, you will probably be much older (and hopefully wiser) and have a plan that you intend to work.  Here is the rub: ‘Life is what happens while you have made other plans.”  While a lot of people have said this, I attribute it to Connie Podesta, a great motivational speaker, author and friend.  The same is true for retirement.  Retirement is what happens to you after you have made other plans.

What was the first thing that struck me that I had not prepared myself for or planned for in my retired years?

To answer that question we need to visit my time in the Coast Guard.  Twenty years service.  During that time I was fortunate to perform a vast verity of jobs such as personnel administration, Merchant Marine Safety, first as a Shipping Commissioner and later as a Safety Inspector on Offshore Oil Producing Platform (that involved flying time), and as an instructor.  During this time I had a lot of people counting on me to (1) do my job, (2) be on the job when I was supposed to be on the job, (3) my supervisors counted on my expertise and advice in order for them to make decisions, (4) the people for whom I was responsible counted on my expertise and advice for them in order to make their decisions, and (5), maybe the most important of all, MAKE DECISIONS that affected a great many people both up and down the organizational ladder and the public at large.  Another way of putting this: people counted on me and as a result, I felt a tremendous amount of responsibility towards them.  This all came to an abrupt halt in August 1985 when I retired.  Suddenly I was without this massive support system.  I was fortunate to foresee this coming and that is why I began working on attaining my real estate license while still in my 30s.

Then came a 33 plus year real estate career.  The first 7 years I was involved in listing and selling real estate.  Everyday someone was counting on me to know what I was doing in order for them to either buy a piece of real estate or to sell a piece of real estate.  The challenges were great but I found them to be the most rewarding of all.  Aside from being part of a team that pulled a drowning sailor from the North Atlantic, sliding the keys to a new home across the closing table, especially to a first time home buyer, was the best experience of all. 

It was during this seven year period that I found a secondary niche – computers.  Real estate agents, new and experienced alike, knew nothing about computers in the mid 1980s and that is what immediately separated me from most of my fellow agents.  As a result, though for the first five years I was considered a “part time agent” (a dirty word in the real estate business), the broker saw that I understood computers and then began using me to train my fellow agents.  My limited success (part time) in sales, my previous personnel management training in the Coast Guard and my computer skills eventually led to becoming a Real Estate Broker in charge of a company of about 25 agents.  That led to being a Broker/Owner and eventually Managing and Brokering a company of 105 real estate agents.

So why am I telling you, a future retiree, all this information?  The reason is veru simple.  During all those years, a great many people relied on me to do my job at the highest level possible.  They wanted to know what I thought.  What I would do in a given situation.  How I would handle something.  How I would handle difficult customers.  How I would handle legal issues.  How I would help insure the agents and the company were profitable.

December 31, 2012 – that is the day IT ALL STOPPED!  Was I ready for it to end so abruptly?  I thought so.  Did I receive any training in my 67 plus years until that date?  No!  Did anyone take me aside and consult with me to let me know that I would soon enter a vacuum? No! As we all know, if YOU don’t fill a vacuum, something or someone else WILL fill it for you.  No one ever wants to lose control.  Yet on December 31, 2012 that is exactly what happened.  I now found myself in a vacuum.  Sure there was golf – but due to a back injury that did not last very long.  Sure I could read and I have.  As for travel, not so much.  Not easy to travel when you have a household pet; something to give serious consideration to if you plan to travel in your retired years.  You are now pretty much on a fixed income. There is only so much work you can do around the house.  In just one minute, I went from being goal driven, to being goalless.  Having a goal to fix a broken window is not something that will keep you afloat in all of your retired years. 

There is one more question that needs to be answered and it is more important than all the others:


I hate to think what my retired years would look like had I not planned and arranged to at least have a steady income and health insurance for me and the family.  If you can’t answer all these questions, there is one more question:


Keep this one thought in mind at all times…


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