106: How to Set Meaningful Goals in Retirement with George Schofield
George is one of PBS’ Top 50 Influencers in Aging and has written on retirement and financial planning for Fox Business, Yahoo! Finance, Nasdaq, MarketWatch, and Credit.com, among many other outlets.
He’s also the author of How Do I Get There from Here: Planning for Retirement when the Old Rules No Longer Apply – a guidebook to help retirees navigate their golden years in a time when life expectancy is longer, savings are slimmer, and people rarely hold one job for life.
George has helped countless retirees get past the feeling of “I don’t know what to do” – and build a framework for life with change in mind.
Today, George joins the podcast to share his research from the cutting edge of retirement as we know it now, retirement in the future, and the psychology that goes into both. If you’ve already retired, or even if your retirement is decades away, there’s a good chance that his insights will prove highly valuable!
Please note: For this special giveaway of Job Optional*, we do not currently offer international shipping. Residents outside of the U.S. may obtain a copy of Job Optional* via eBook format upon request to email@example.com.
In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
- What George did when he realized he’d checked everything off of his to-do list and needed to create a future for himself – and how it led him to write this book.
- How to stop thinking solely in terms of goals and achievements – and how to ask the right questions to reframe and shift your mindset.
- Why having a singular purpose in retirement is a red flag – and why George doesn’t let a single project occupy all of his time and energy in retirement.
- The difference between an old 50 year old and a young 90 year old – and how to avoid getting stuck.
- Why “When can I retire” is the most bozo question of all time.
- The most important things new retirees should know.
- “We’re going to have to start thinking and acting more like the strategic and tactical CEO of our lives rather than as an employee.” – George Schofield
- “We are human beings, not human doings.” – Sachin Patel
Casey Weade: George, welcome to the podcast.
George Schofield: Thank you.
Casey Weade: And, George, I’m excited to have you here. I know we’re going to have a fantastic discussion. You are in just the cutting edge of retirement, the future retirement, retirement psychology, all the things that I am deeply interested in, our fans are deeply interested in. And I really enjoyed your book. This is one that, you know, I read a lot of books. I probably read five, six books a month, and they’re not all great. But this was a good one.
George Schofield: Thank you. And what’s to know about the title because it’s a longer than average title, How Do I Get There from Here when the Old Rules No Longer Apply? We worked really hard for a two or three-word title. And the truth is that’s where we are. Everything about how do I get there, there is different, and the rules are different too. So, I hope that’s part of our conversation.
Casey Weade: Oh, absolutely. And really, I want to kick this off with something you wrote in the book, which was that you actually wrote this book for yourself as much as the reader.
George Schofield: I did.
Casey Weade: And so, why did you write? Why do you feel like you had to do that and write for yourself?
George Schofield: I came to this very odd position in my life. And maybe your listeners can relate to this, where I pretty much checked everything off the list: education, kids, work, titles, whatever all those things were. And it was very different for me as someone who had been very a goal and achievement-oriented and forever checking the next thing off the list and climbing the next mountain to realize I had to create an entirely different menu for myself. There’s nothing wrong with me. I didn’t need a therapist. I wasn’t broken. There was nothing that had to change except I realized I had the responsibility for creating my future in a way that I’d never had it before because I no longer had a list of things that I had to work and check off. I was a free guy.
Casey Weade: Well, for me, I struggled with that myself, the whole setting goals. I mean, I had so many goals since I was in elementary school, writing those things down, sticking them on a mirror. And, you know, once I reach that place where it’s, well, I’ve checked off all those goals, things I was supposed to accomplish over a lifetime, all the way up to financial freedom. And then I go, “Well, what’s next?” And I really found in that moment, it didn’t reflect my goals that I’ve been setting throughout life. It didn’t really reflect the most important things in my life. So, it was just this next level, right?
George Schofield: Right. And part of the transition for me and part of the learning was, and I couldn’t find it out there so I had to create it for myself somehow, I was asking old questions, frequently asking old questions. What’s next? What am I going to do?
Casey Weade: Yes.
George Schofield: The question became who do I want to be? What do I want my life to be like? And what would it take to make that happen? That’s a very different question than what do I do? Or a series of questions in what do I do next? I really hadn’t asked who do I want to be and how do I want to be in the world? And what’s it going to take to make that happen? I had been so goal and achievement-oriented before. I didn’t know this new set of questions.
Casey Weade: And for me, that was a period of what I often refer to as I felt disillusioned. I didn’t know what to do next because it was always about what was next and it caused a lot of anxiety and stress. I used a process largely digging in my past to get through that. What did that moment feel like for you at that time?
George Schofield: I was blown away because I’ve always been responsible. I raised my kids by myself. I did a couple of master’s and Ph.D. I had a corporate thinking career. I’ve been an entrepreneur. I’ve taught at the university. I’ve done a whole lot of stuff. But I’d never ever been as personally responsible as I was in that moment of I’m going to create it. And if I’m not happy with it, nobody else is responsible for this. I’m not doing this for the kids and I’m not doing this for my wife. I need to figure out what it was. And my solution was to make a list of the words that no longer worked well for me. And the first word on the list was “do”. I had to go through “do” withdrawal.
Casey Weade: So, you had to tell me what’s “do” withdrawal.
George Schofield: I had to stop saying, “What am I going to do?” I actually literally wrote the word “do” down, and I put it in an envelope in the trunk of the car which is closest to a vault as I had, and I had a month where I wasn’t allowed by myself to use the word “do”. I had to figure out some smarter questions to ask about me and my wife which is who do I want to be and what would I like my life to be like and what will it take to make that happen? Those questions came out of sort of my cold turkey-ing on I wasn’t going to use the word “do” anymore and I literally had to lock it away in the dark in the trunk of the car.
Casey Weade: So, what do your goals look like at that stage in your life? How did they evolve? What do they look like before? And then what did they look like after?
George Schofield: My goals were much more about achieving specific things that I want a certain net worth, that I want to have a certain academic level in my life. I wanted to be able to spend a certain amount of time with my children and contribute to them and I did this very sort of early pioneering thing. I raised my sons from the ages three and seven by myself, which was not what the average guy did at the time. So, my goals were concrete and there was a due date kind of on them and I had a metric for each of them. I had to go to much more quality of life questions for myself and quality of life assumptions because the other big sacrifice I had to make in addition to “do” was frequently I couldn’t figure it out in advance.
So, I went through “figuring out in advance” withdrawal in addition to “do” withdrawal because I thought I was just supposed to have figured it out and move on to the next thing just like I used to do. That’s not how it worked for me. And in my doing life planning and my doing retirement coaching and all those kinds of things, frequently, people come in my door and say, “Okay. Give me a list of stuff I’m supposed to do.” That presumes that we know what we don’t know. Just give me a list. Tell me what to do. This period in our lives is actually more of a struggle because we proceed from, “I don’t know what I don’t know,” and I better go out and play around in life a bit, and have some lights go on first before I can actually come up what are the five things I need to do next. That’s not what this period is about, to begin with.
Casey Weade: And maybe I want to know if I’m hearing you correctly and if this relates back to another concept that I’ve heard a lot of different guests talk about that are in your sphere and that would be this idea of low-cost probes and that was something that Halftime Institute promotes which is going out. This is a time for you to go out and test things, test things for your past, test new things, just explore and really find what’s right for you and what feels good. Don’t just dive in and commit to it. Is that what you promote?
George Schofield: Yes, in a way, but there are two pieces to that. One is I may find something that’s right and two years later from now, it’s not going to be right anymore because I moved on. So, right comes frequently in our past with a very long-term sense to it all. I finally found what’s right for me. I’m on the path. I found my bliss. One, there may not be just one. Two, it may have a shelf life that’s shorter than what I imagined. And three, in terms of going out and testing, I discovered that it isn’t just about my testing. I can take friends to lunch or people that friends of friends. And if I have really good questions and somebody’s ten years ahead of me, I can actually say, “So, how did you go about finding your interests that you have now? What was the shelf life of them? What did you start out with that worked? What did you start out that turned out not to work? Did you have to change how you connect to people?
And by the way, were you paying more attention not just to who you’re connected to but who they’re connected to? Because they may be able to name some possibilities you might never have thought of. So, when people come to my door and we’re talking about it, I want them to have a research, period. I want to take the heavy monkey off their backs that say, “I need to find the answer,” and instead, give ourselves permission for 90 days, 120 days of research, and actually design that for them so they go out and find out what other people did not to find the answers but to realize how many possibilities are there or that they can sort through in addition to adding their own.
Casey Weade: So, prior to going out and exploring, I think this is an important element and one that’s maybe missing from this low-cost probes piece is because a lot of people, “Well, I don’t know what I want to do. I don’t know where I want to go. I don’t know what I should be trying.”
George Schofield: You did hear the word “do”, right?
Casey Weade: Yeah.
George Schofield: I don’t know what I want to do. That’s right. So, oftentimes, I’m working with people. They can hang on to the word “do” but they can’t hang on to that only onto what they want to do because that narrows it down to the point that they’re almost in advice. It isn’t framed in do. It isn’t on their menu. I want them to have the bigger menu. I want them to be able to find out what other people did, what worked, what didn’t, and come down to some experimenting with them which might come from a probe but also might come from doing some really good one-on-one research with people or have a listen to their process.
Casey Weade: Right. So, maybe we wrote down a list of some of the things that we’re going to explore. And then we brought up that list by starting to interview people we really expect that are further along in the process.
George Schofield: That’s right. And that’s one of the things I bring to the party is part of my job is upgrading the quality of the question. Because the quality of the question always drives the quality of the answer. So, if one of my clients is going to go out and take somebody to lunch, they’re likely to say, “What did you find that makes you happy?” That’s an okay question but it doesn’t inform them in the way that I want them to be informed. Where did you start? How did you get two steps beyond that? Where did you stumble? What lights went on that you didn’t even know there was a light there? How did you make the decisions that you made? How did you come to the conclusion that nothing might be forever? And if they can get into that much higher quality of question, the quality of their later life, Casey, is going to be enormously impacted.
Casey Weade: Yeah. Well, and I think it’s not always even just the quality of the initial question. It’s just diving deeper. It’s continually asking why or how and figuring out all the details along the way. That’s what makes a great conversation.
George Schofield: And asking for people’s experience and then being quiet while they tell you the story. Because frequently, if we come out of this do mode and we’ve been very achievement-oriented, we tend to ask questions in that way. Yes or no answers or shorter questions or, okay, you answered that one. Now, I’m on to the next question. Well, one of the questions I encourage my clients to ask is, “What am I not asking you about that I should be asking you about?” Because great interviews include great questions, but they also include great listening with space for the other person to say, “You know, I don’t think this is in your list, but here are three things I would think you would need to think about.”
Casey Weade: Well, that reminds me of the book I think it’s 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership and it is making sure you’re listening to learn, not listening to respond and providing some space before you make that response. It works really well in marriage as well.
George Schofield: Yes, and in friendships too.
Casey Weade: I want to ask when we talk about goals, I’m just curious, George, what’s at the top of your list? What’s number one right now?
George Schofield: I would like a high quality of life but my question is not when am I going to get to a high quality of life? My question is what would a high quality of life look like? And so, for me, a high quality of life has several things going on at the same time. And when you and I talked before, did I talk about my ponies on the track?
Casey Weade: I read about the ponies.
George Schofield: Okay. So, I’m an organizational psychologist. I do organizational consulting. I’m a developmental psychologist. I work with individuals and couples to develop the skills that they need and to move into their future. Actually, I speak, I write. I am an Ikebana sensei. I’m internationally ranked as a designer for Japanese floral arrangements. I don’t look very Japanese, but it’s something I’ve studied for years because it’s very meditative for me. I have seven grandchildren that I’m very engaged with. I like to ride my bike. I’m a project guy so I’ve got a new book, a business book that I’m working on. I refer to these as my ponies on the track. So, one thing to know about them is, one, there’s always more than one. If I don’t have several going and I haven’t learned to go back and forth among them, then I’m liable to go back to the narrow focus of, “This is my goal. I must achieve this. What did I do today?” So, I want several ponies on the track.
The other thing that’s true for me is and I learned this the hard way, I have acquired a number of ponies over the course of my life. You have young children. Great. As a pony metaphor, you buy a house. Now, you start a business, you have employees, whatever all those things are. I have a couple of masters and a Ph.D., all of these started out small, and these ponies got to be quite large to the point where I began to see them as Clydesdales. I want all the things that I’m doing, the multiple things I’m doing to stay as at pony size. “No more Clydesdales” is one of my bylaws or one of my sayings for myself. If it gets too big, I’ve made a mistake because I don’t want to be owned by my next goal or the next thing that I built. It’s not that I’m not sincere about all of them and it isn’t that I don’t work on all of them every week but one thing is liable to grow into a great big thing that ends up owning me and I have to be really careful about that because I can get pretty intense.
Casey Weade: Well, I think that’s the key really. And I think you referred to this in the book as I think I would make the parallel here, portfolio life or distributed life. And I like that. I mean, I guess, as a financial planner, I’m thinking about this as a portfolio and I see all these different places that have offered diversification. As life is going to change, you might today say, “This is the most important thing in my life,” and then that is no longer that five years down the road or 10 years down the road. But if you have all these ponies on the track, if you have all these different things you’re constantly involved in, then you can easily shift and not feel a total loss.
George Schofield: And they combine to represent quality of life for me. I have a personal commitment to go somewhere at least once a year where I don’t know the language, I’ve never been there before, I can’t read the signs, and the culture isn’t my own, because it’s a great reminder to me. So, going to the amulet market in Bangkok, it’s a great reminder to me that I live in a wonderful reality but it’s not the reality. And that really is a kind of a freshness I bring back to my ponies and my ponies give to me. Each of these things gives me energy to work on the other things. I’m starting research for a new business book in January. I’m getting all kinds of energy from my grandchildren and all kinds of other places to take into that project, but it has to stay pony size. I do not want it to be a Clydesdale.
Casey Weade: Otherwise, it becomes work all over again.
George Schofield: That’s right. And it owns me. Who needs it? Who needs it, right?
Casey Weade: I wonder how you would define purpose. If you were going to define what’s my purpose, would it be just to have this high quality of life? I mean, that to me is a perfectly defining purpose.
George Schofield: So, purpose is a red flag for me. I actually wrote purpose down and put in the trunk of the car with “do” and a couple of other things. Because in our culture, there’s this notion of, “I have some money now. I have some age. I have some patina like old silver, I must begin to give back and that becomes my purpose.” Well, there are two problems with that for me. One, the literature on purpose tends to say, “Find your purpose.” It doesn’t say purposes. It says purpose, and then there’s a lot of an artificial pressure on people to find one thing that’s lasting. The other thing is, “I might work on something for a while and I’ve done that enough, and I wanted to move to the next thing.”
So, purpose for me lives at two levels. At one level, it’s how am I contributing to the world in a way in which I’m using the best of me and showing up. Example, I read once a month to third graders in an impoverished school, elementary school in the town next to the town that I live in, and I sit on the floor and a lot of these kids have parents who probably haven’t known a book before and their first language certainly wasn’t English. I don’t have to have purpose, capital P, that owns my life. I can go and read to these kids once a month as part of a Rotary reading program, Books for Kids, and make a big difference. And then when Linda, my wife, and I travel, they know by now that a library has more than books. It has pictures, it has music, and all kinds of things.
So, if there are 20 kids in the class, Linda and I if we’re looking at the Eiffel Tower, buy 20 oversized postcards of pictures of the Eiffel Tower and we bring them back. And the next time I go to the school to read, I also have a picture for each of the kids to take home along with the books that Rotary gives away because we’re helping them build a home library and get interested in the notion of the many faces of understanding and the many faces of library. So, for me, that gives me a sense of purpose but it isn’t this singular large thing that it’s almost back to pass-fail again.
Casey Weade: Yeah. Well, we want to redefine the word retirement kind of like redefining the word purpose. There’s nothing wrong with the word purpose. You just need to make it less intimidating to redefine it.
George Schofield: That’s right.
Casey Weade: And we had a past guest, Ken Wimberly, and he defines his purpose as setting the best example for those around him every day. Well, that leads into a great deal diversification, which is I want to have a high quality of life every day that leads into a great deal of diversification of purpose.
George Schofield: That’s brilliant. So, I’m not trying to kill the word retirement or do or purpose or any of the other words. I don’t want them to be so big that they own it and we’re locked into something that we might have been able to be locked into earlier in our lives knowing it would end. That’s not what I want for me and that’s not what most of my clients want. Clydesdales are beautiful animals. I just don’t want activities that turn into one.
Casey Weade: Well, that’s gold to me. I love that. Now in your book, you know, I’m in my mid-30s. I think you’re roughly 70, right? And in the book…
George Schofield: Very roughly, I think.
Casey Weade: And in the book, you talk about life after 50. So, you’ve made this number 50 very pronounced. Why did you choose 50 and not 60 or 40?
George Schofield: So, in our society, age is still a big deal and we tend to if we’re not careful to define ourselves by our age, “I’m 35 therefore, this is what my life should look like or I’m 70 this is what my life should look like.” I think age is irrelevant. We have choices to make. We have decisions to make. I can have pretty much any life I wanted at this point but I don’t want to be passive and have it happened to me. I want to be open to what comes along like being a good listener and being available for what comes along. But it’s a big range. So, if I go back to the notion of 50, I think we chose 50 because societally, that’s a marker in the minds of many Americans. Fifty is kind of a turning point if you will.
I actually don’t think that’s true and I will give you an example of this. I know people at 50 who I think are old and I know people at 90 who I think are young. So, I don’t think age is a marker that it used to be, but we chose 50 because, after 50, it’s up to us. It’s a marker that most people in the audience could identify with.
Casey Weade: Sure. What’s the difference in your opinion between the person that’s 50 and old and 90 and young?
George Schofield: Well, let’s start with attitude. And let’s start with intention. There’s Linda and I going to a brunch on Saturday and the husband is 92. And I can only say he’s frisky. He got interested in the Ikebana that I do so I went over and gave him a private lesson. He gets around. He dreamed up this notion that he wanted to pay off all the overdue book fines for kids in this area. He’s done all these things that are really nontraditional, if you will, and the people who are old, at 50, of whom there are a few out there, although they’re more common, the old at 60, seem to have hunkered down on a role. I’m an older person, I’m a retiree. Whatever these roles are, they have hunkered down around the role and this guy chose not to be embedded in role or stuck. The 90-year-old chose not to be stuck in a role. And that certainly, back to goals, that’s a goal I have for me are certainly a metric. I’m a grandfather. I’m a whole lot of things but I don’t want to be defined by my roles the way I was when I was younger.
Casey Weade: Right. The differences to me, really, is just engagement, right? At 92, we’re engaged, we’re driven, we’re excited. We’re loving life at 50. We might not be and that makes…
George Schofield: And there’s one other level to that. And so, frequently it is what people don’t know when they come in my door what they want. And again, there’s nothing wrong with them. They’ve lived a life and they’ve been very good at what they learned to do. So, they mostly knew how to be a parent or a homeowner or an employee or a manager or a financial advisor or a psychologist, whatever these are, those labels and those roles. As we get much older, those roles begin to leave us because we can’t do as many of them and we can’t do them as well. So, part of this period and I’ve talked about it in the books is, who am I if I’m not a role?
This is developmental psychology at its best. How do I get to know myself and appreciate myself if I’m not predominantly 51% or more defined by the roles on it? Because if I just stick of being dependent on roles, I’ll be looking for one role after the other for the rest of my life, which is the worst form of do for me.
Casey Weade: Well, and this kind of is a point where we need to exercise caution not to think about just completely reinventing ourselves.
George Schofield: Absolutely.
Casey Weade: In your book, you talk about the risks of thinking about this stage in our life as a reinvention.
George Schofield: Right. So, the reinvention is one of those flag words. I believe in red flags words. I believe in partial reinvention. There are parts of me that maybe I want to take a weight off and become more athletic, which is certainly what’s happened for me, you know, 20 years ago because I’ve ridden my bike 15 or 20 miles without falling over. Probably not. But I can now. I also have the time and the space to do it. So, reinvention is important but trashing everything I was and starting from scratch isn’t my form of healthy or my idea of healthy reinvention. So, if I’m working with someone, I want to say, “Okay. What’s great about you in your life right now that we want to bring forward and what is even dominant in your life or certainly present in your life now, that isn’t going to serve you five or eight years from now?”
You don’t have to throw it in the garbage can and dishonor it because it served you really well until now or until not too long from now. But we need to pay attention to what you’re carrying forward and what you rely on because there are some things in your life, example, my kids are grown and gone. Your kids are young. There will come a day when your kids go off and start their own lives. And what it means to be a father will change whether you want it to or not. So, if you’re very dependent for your okayness on your role as a father, which is entirely appropriate for where you are now in your life, what the role of father means in your life will go away for a while and come back when you have grandchildren in a way. And now I’m going through loss again because my grandchildren are growing up. So, it’s none of us forever. It just isn’t. What has served me well, what do I want to bring forward, and what do I want to leave with gratitude in the past? It’s all part of high-class reinvention.
Casey Weade: Well, I think the most important thing to learn from you and your writing is having this portfolio life. I feel like that’s where we’re going back to. Right now to me, my children can be on my priority list but I need to have other things on that list that give me a sense of purpose, bring a sense of meaning into my life so that when that shifts, I’ve got other options and I’m not totally lost. You see this with divorce all the time. This is one of the reasons we see people get divorced is the kids are gone and that was the only focus.
George Schofield: Right. And it’s common and it’s less common now but it is historically been common for when the kids go away, for the woman if she wasn’t also working and had a career or had other interests or volunteered or whatever those other things were to experience a huge loss because the kids were the predominant part of where her energy went. As a single parent, I can tell you I’d drove right over that cliff because I was a single parent for four years and it was the number one definer of who I was. So, it was really an important learning lesson for me to again want to distribute my life across several ponies as opposed to being owned by one. I don’t regret it when I was a parent. That was what I was supposed to do and it’s what made the wheels turn but I really don’t want to be so dominated by one role now. And no matter what I pick, it may not be forever and that didn’t use to feel like it was true for me either.
Casey Weade: So, we need to exercise caution not to define ourselves by our roles. We don’t want to define ourselves by our age exclusively. We don’t want to define ourselves by our generational as well. You speak about the baby boomer generation that born between 1946-1964, a large demographic and most of the people listening in are in that demographic. So, what would you say to that baby boomer generation? What characterizes a baby boomer generation? And how can these generational labels limit our options and creativity in designing that future?
George Schofield: So, let me just say this. Since World War II, a lot of our success has been driven by problem-solving, and goal achievement, and performance reviews and all the pieces that go under that. One of which is metricizing and categorizing. You’re in this category. This is your metric. This is your category. This is your metric. Sorry, I forgot to unplug the phone.
Casey Weade: You’re alright.
George Schofield: What happens if we can only be in a category or think of ourselves in a category? Baby Boomer. We like to categorize. How much do you think in common somebody born in 1947 was somebody born in 1963, and yet we talk about baby boomer as if there is such a thing?
Casey Weade: They’re all the same.
George Schofield: Yeah. Like they were in the blender and, poof, we have up to the billion people who have, well, they do have some in common but they’re much more diverse than we give them credit for being so we have this enormous set of preferences, goal setting, achievement. We have metricization. We like categorizing. We like all these things because it helps us think it’s all manageable. So, for me, hello, baby boomer audience, you can call yourself a baby boomer all you want but when you sit down with yourself and you’re really paying attention, what’s important is who you are and what you want and nothing else.
Casey Weade: Well, there’s a quote that it just keeps coming back to me from your book. There’s a couple of them that I feel like we need to get to. It’s just a good time for it, I think. And one was, “We’re going to have to start thinking and acting more like the strategic and tactical CEO of our lives rather than as an employee.” And I feel like what you’re talking about here, you’re talking about tactical thinking. You’re talking about CEO level thinking and envisioning. And to me, that was just light bulb went off.
George Schofield: Well, and it’s true because in the old days, your parents’ era and probably mine, you can go to work for an employer. The job was stable, the organization was stable, you could outsource your financial future and your professional future to the stability of the company and the industry that you went to work for. And none of that’s true anymore. So, if I’m going to take responsibility for me, if I want to start a new career in 82, I know somebody who started a chocolate company at 82. She’s doing that because she and I sat down and literally did a plan. Not only an insurance plan, how she wanted to start it, but at 82, she needs an exit strategy too. And because she doesn’t want to saddle her kids with a chocolate company when she’s 92.
So, being responsible for yourself and the CEO is a metaphor, being the CEO of your own life is a metaphor, but it means sometimes you need somebody that’s going to think differently and give you some different options, whether some on your friends or you or me or any professional that we work with. The truth is that we can only do shorter-term planning now, not longer-term planning because it isn’t going to be forever. And we have to take a higher-level responsibility for ourselves than we have in the past. And that’s why I like the CEO metaphor so much.
Casey Weade: Yeah. It’s kind of like working for me, right? I have mentors that I work with. When I am struggling with something or if I want to learn something new, I reach out to them and start asking some really good questions to learn more about so I can make a better decision moving forward. And it’s just about being and bringing that same intentionality into your life so that you can have it today. You, you said, “Do we want to add more additional years to the middle of our lives or to the end of them?” So, if we can act like a CEO today, we can have more life today.”
George Schofield: Right. And back to developmental psychology, we’re acquiring the attitudes and the skills and the personas to be able to extend that way out in our lives as opposed to getting to a certain point at coasting.
Casey Weade: So, that brings me to the timing timeframes. You talk a lot in your book about timeframes and how we should be thinking about planning. You offer the three perspective approach. You talked about the 12 to 18-month goals, 18 to 48-month goals, 48 to 96-month goals. So, then a minute ago you talked about what are your five to eight years what do you see down the road? So, why these timeframes? How have you chosen these timeframes to become key elements of a great plan?
George Schofield: It’s by interviewing people in your age group and up to my age group, if you will, and I had some very simple questions. How far do you think you can plan effectively? The first answer I got was it depends on what you mean by plan. How concrete can it be? Because traditionally, since World War II, plan meant I’ve got a plan, it’s locked in, I can continue to execute in successes. I deliver on plan as defined. Well, hello. In a lot of cases that isn’t going to work now. So, when I went out and said, so what does your planning look like? What’s working for you? The answer was, depends on what the plan looks like. The majority of people told me, they thought they could plan out to 24, 36 months and that could look like a sort of the traditional plan, if you will. Actually, George…
Casey Weade: Can we define planning? What do you define as planning? Because some might be listening and thinking we’re building a financial plan, a life plan, a business plan.
George Schofield: Okay. So, in this case, let’s continue to life plan. Is that all right?
Casey Weade: Yes, perfect.
George Schofield: Okay. All right. So, if we’re going to talk about life planning, and I went and I interviewed people between your age and mine and I said, “So, what does your plan look like and what’s working and what isn’t and what are you learning from it?” The answer was it depends upon what you mean by plan. And to a person, they almost all said in a life plan, “I can define out maybe 36 months. I can have action steps. I can be pretty much assured.” We’re going to buy a bigger house or we’re going to downsize. We can lay out a timetable, we can have the financial resources in place, we can go through and sort out what we want to keep and what we don’t, what we want to bring from our past that’s useful and what we want to leave behind with appreciation. That looks much more like traditional planning.
The next period out, say 36, 48 months up a little ways it gets dicier or sloshier because I can no longer say, “Okay. In six years or in 72 months, I can ascribe the same kind of concrete outcomes and guaranteed stability and action steps,” because I don’t know enough about what’s going to happen after you’re forwarded to me or how I’m going to change my mind. So, I need some plan, but it’s not locked down. It’s much more I need to grow it as I go, as I learned about myself and what I want to, and what’s working, and what isn’t. Out beyond that, up to 98 months, I think of it as a set of intentions. The average person between your age and my age probably can’t say, “Gee, in 90 years, this is exactly what I would like my life to look like. And I know exactly the steps to take and I know a timetable to make that happen. People are going to live longer. People are going to die. Companies are going to come. Companies are going to go.
If you look at, I don’t know which one it was, one of the big stock exchanges recently announced, you know more about this than I do, that the average life expectancy for major companies was going to go down over the next few years to 12 years. You know, the top, you know the language, the top 500 companies. If I’m going to do career planning and I’m going to do financial planning, and I’m going to try to build an extended life regardless of how old I am and my company turns over 12 years, I’m every 12 years, or my job somehow changes or the way the reporting structure that I’m in, which changes every 12 years, now, what that leaves me with is the need to really be paying attention and the adaptability. And Darwin never said it. It was a survival of the fittest as I understood. He said it was the survival of the most adaptable.
So, that’s part of what we’re talking about here. You build a plan, you hope it doesn’t have to change too much but the further out it gets, the sloshier it gets because you don’t know what’s going to be true then. For you or in the economy or in the world, you certainly want to have a set of intentions but the two major pieces to succeeding of this are, one, paying attention to all the new incoming data. Whether it’s an employment or it’s in your neighborhood or it’s with your kids’ schools or travel or whatever, that’s the first thing is paying attention to incoming data. And the second piece is being adaptable. If I have new data that says X and therefore would cause me to need to update my plan, not only do I have to update the plan and adapt the plan, I have to update and adapt to me. And one of the real dangers for us, as we get older, is we want to have a plan and put it in a drawer and forget about it.
Boy, are those people likely to be in trouble over time, not just because of what happens to them but what happened to their kids and their grandkids. Because even if they have the money to buy their way out of everything, the chances are the kids and their grandkids are going to get smacked by this and they’re going to appreciate the life your kids and your grandkids are actually living. You’re going to have to understand taking into data and adaptability as essential ingredients of their lives.
Casey Weade: You know, one of the things I’ve been struggling with is we’ve called it our proprietary planning process is the purpose-based retirement plan. But when we think about a plan, we just put it in a drawer and we never look at it again. Really, there’s nothing wrong with planning but it needs to be more of a framework. I like to think of it as a framework to make decisions on a regular basis. So, now we have this framework that keeps us in check. We go back to it. We can adapt over time. It’s flexible. We have to realize things are going to change. What we say today is going to be different in five years so we need a framework to continue that adaption.
George Schofield: I think that’s really brilliant and your clients ought to be extremely grateful that you get that and you practice it in the way that you do your business because planning is no longer chiseled in marble or something hard. It actually is a set of intentions and we can make it as concrete as possible as close to today’s data as possible. The further out we get, the more we’re likely to have to really pay attention and adapt and it is truly a framework. And I change when the framework changes. So, we have friends who are going through a very surprising divorce quite late in their lives and if you look at the statistics, gray divorces, they’re predominantly growing form of stage of divorce, if you will. So, I’m actually working with a lady who has, once they divided up the money has enough money, but not as much as she wants to be able to do the extra things. And she hasn’t worked for a very long time.
So, she’s having to adapt and come to me as a career coach, saying, “How do I find a way to make some extra money without building a career and going to work full time and being consumed by the whole thing? How do I do that in a way that works for me? And by the way, I find this kind of appealing. It’s not as awful as I thought it would be. I would like to play with us and figure out what we can do with this.” So, she’s adapting. Her framework is adapting. We’ll see where it goes. We can’t know in advance. She has research to do and we have some building to do.
Casey Weade: Now, the timeframes, I just want to get clear on that. You talked about the one-year timeframe, the one to four years, and then four to eight years. Can you just offer some examples? Maybe somebody you’ve worked with or even a fictional example, just somebody that what would an example of different are the goals that you’d be setting up those different stages or…
George Schofield: So, let me just say those are artificial numbers. You might walk in the door at a certain age and you really only need a concrete plan for one year because you know that you’re coming up with a major life shift event, whatever that might be. Somebody else at your age or at my age might come in and say, “One year is too soon. I have all these things that I want to have happened,” but it’s going to take two or three years to make that happen. I want to force people into why pick the one year is, that’s what’s reasonably plannable in a way that’s really concrete. I don’t want to lock them into it because I’m afraid that they’ll go, “Oh, I only have a 12-month plan.” No, it’s a whole rolling piece. We have a one-year segment of this framework.
So, if somebody comes in and says, “Okay, I’m a year from retirement. I don’t think I want to not work but I don’t want to work the way I’ve been working. Hello. That’s the choice that I made. How am I going to do that?” Then we have one year in which to do a bunch of research, who’s out there doing this successfully. Who do you know succeeded? Who do you know who wasn’t happy with what they did and found in another avenue? What are some ideas that you hadn’t thought of because you don’t have to do it all on your own? Then the next timeframe out if we take…
Casey Weade: So, the one year, if I may, is setting some research goals. I’m going to go out and talk to five people or 10 people, something that is measurable.
George Schofield: Unless you absolutely know that you got a concrete result you wanted. Retiring is not a concrete result. So, what I’m struggling here is and this is a struggle I had when I wrote the book. Going back to age 50, go back to diversity, I never know who’s going to walk in my door. If somebody says a year from now I want to be living in Paris for six months and I want to study at the Sorbonne, this is a true story, because I’ve worked all these years and I want to learn French and I don’t want to just take French in one of my local institutions. I want to go live in Paris in an immersion program and I want to study at the Sorbonne. Okay. But my wife isn’t so crazy about doing this and she doesn’t want to sit around in a strange city for a year while I go off to class. Do they need a therapist? No. Do they need somebody to build reasonable action steps for one year? You betcha. And they probably can’t do it, the two of them. They need somebody like me or you or somebody who actually can really help them build it. So, that would be a very concrete example.
The second example would be, I have somebody who says, “I know my company is going to be acquired. I actually have been sitting on the team that’s ultimately going to sell the company to another company, but nobody knows it. I have this insider information, which says, I need to be finding my next step because I know I can go through the merger or the consolidation and be part of the transition team. But after that, I want to do something else and I don’t know what that looks like. So, let’s build a plan to figure that out. And I’ll go all the way through and be a member of the consolidation team and I will be honest with them and tell them that that’s what it’s going to look like but I need you, George, to help me figure out what follows.” So, I’ve laid out at least three or four paths to choose from by the time I get there.
Now, we get way out. I’m trying to think of a really, really good and interesting example. Okay. We have very good friends and the husband died last January. He’d been ill for quite a while. Her wife worked. He was not well enough to work and she worked to supplement the money that they had. But that’s really why she worked. She didn’t know how long he’d live. She had this plan that they were going to have a certain amount of structure. I went to see him just before I left on a trip. I came back, he was gone. So, she had to sit down and say I had a plan. I had a plan until he died a week ago. I was going to continue working and he was going to continue to live and we were going to do the best we could. That was our plan. And our kids who live elsewhere in the United States would come and see us and I would occasionally get somebody to come in and sit with him and I would go see the kids and the grandkids then it all worked brilliantly.
Now, it’s just me. I need to begin to look at what I want my life to look like over the next seven or eight years and they’re all these questions. Do I want to be moved to be near the kids? Do I want to continue with the work I’m doing? I’m a great writer. Do I just want to not do any of that and write the great American novel? It isn’t just one option. She cannot, literally, cannot have an ultimate goal for seven years from now. Because she’s – how old is she? 69 or 70 now. At 77 or 78, she’s going to be different. Her life’s going to be different. So, we can anticipate pathways and do some planning for each of those but that’s the ultimate in the framework that you were talking about. We have multiple paths through a framework and then she and I sit down once every four to six months ago. Okay, where are we? How do we want to adapt the pathways? What’s coming up that’s a priority for you? How are you coming along with the great American novel that you thought was your dream?
So, this isn’t therapy. I don’t want people to see me. I keep saying this isn’t therapy. I want to be really clear but I am not a therapist and I totally believe in therapy. Fine. Go get one. I’m a developmental psychologist. So, this lady comes and sits down with me and we have this extended framework, and we’re beginning to work on what she’s going to have to be good at down the road. And what’s served her well until now but isn’t going to serve her well and she needs to leave by the side of the road with great appreciation. I have a long series of examples. Am I being responsive to you?
Casey Weade: Well, if I were to summarize and just say that the examples just come less concrete as we go from one year to eight years. That first year might be, I’m going to have five discussions to explore new ideas. That one to four years might be actually building in and implementing some of those new ideas into my life to create that distributed life or portfolio life. And then those longer term might be the more I’m thinking high quality of life type of examples.
George Schofield: Right. So, when you build, you and I in our careers historically built a plan, we knew in advance where we’re trying to go. Later in life and in longer-term planning, we know what we think we might like to have characterized our lives, but it’s not concrete in the way in which we know in advance what the goal is normally. So, I have a client who’s building a new house, tore down her old house, is building a new house. This is a goal. But I’m sitting back waiting for her at the end of this time when the house is all done that’s consuming her at the moment for her to come back around and say to me, “Well, I’ve got a great time with that house. What’s next?” Because she hasn’t seized the opportunity yet to be a little more amorphous and build frameworks. It’s all been about building the stairs.
Casey Weade: There was something that you said there about planning that first year. I think you said, “At the end of the first year, I want to retire.” Well, that’s not a goal or that’s not a plan. And there’s something in your book that really stood out at me. You said that, I mean, the most often question I get, “When can I retire?” I mean, I would think that that’s probably a pretty popular question you’re getting as well and you call it a bozo question.
George Schofield: Thank you for saying that out loud because I was going to say it too. For me, when can I retire is the bozo question of all time, not because it isn’t a piece of data but that’s all it is. Normally, when somebody says to me, “When can I retire?” what’s going on underneath that is they’re going away from something. They want to get away from something that they no longer like or is uncomfortable, but they’re not necessarily going towards something. And why it’s a bozo question for me, I realized if you’re doing financial planning, when can I retire and how much money I have to make, that’s not in the bozo category for me because it comes down to actual financial planning, which you’re great at. If somebody comes in my door and says, “When can I retire?” the quality of the question always drives the quality of the answer. And if the question is, “When can I retire?” there’s no consideration for what am I going towards? Who do I want to be? What would I like my life to be like? What would it take to make that happen? And by the way, what has served me well all this time, but it probably shouldn’t take forward with me because it’ll just be baggage and what.
Casey Weade: Your focus here is largely on planning and I don’t see that a lot with families that, you know, I work with on the onset, right? They’re really just going how do I get out of this job or I’m going to retire right now. They’re all focused on the action and many times, they don’t even want to spend the time to go through the process of learning. And I think you said this in your books that you need to understand these concepts of a financial plan, what it is you’re actually investing in, you need to understand how that plan works. And I don’t see them.
George Schofield: A financial plan and a great advisor.
Casey Weade: And understand it most importantly. And I think most advisors, you know, I’ve been beaten up in the past where I’ve heard them say, “You know, I don’t know why, Casey, needs to spend six hours with you to get a plan implemented or eight hours with you to get a plan implemented. Why is the first visit two hours long?” Well, I want you to understand why we’re making the decisions we’re making rather than just filling out some forms, sending it in, and then all of a sudden, now we’ve got this investment plan that you don’t understand. That’s not going to serve you well because it won’t give you the confidence you need.
George Schofield: And equally bad that they don’t own it. It’s Casey’s plan if they don’t own it. And I say individuals really need to own their plans. And then my piece of this is I would like to have people work with me and get smarter about it before they’re out there and they’ve wasted time and money and they’re in pain and they’re feeling lost. It doesn’t have to work that way.
Casey Weade: Well, and I see it both ways. I see individuals that are coming in and these are typically engineers, which I actually worked really well with but they’re ones that are just, they spent so much time planning and not doing anything. They have delayed retirement. They’ve delayed their dreams and goals and things that they would like to accomplish, time with the people they love. And then there’s at the opposite end of the spectrum, we’ve got individuals that have just said, “All right. I quit. I retire.” Now, they’re miserable. So, how do you balance plan and action? Because I know you believe in both.
George Schofield: I do believe in both deeply. I have had clients that have over planned and never got to action. I’ve got clients that went pell-mell into action without a plan and they fell over and lost time and money and some self-confidence and had to loop back. So, I’ve said this to you before probably. The golden question is how much is enough? How much is enough planning? How much is enough adaptability? How much is enough money? And that isn’t for me, a question that has a finite permanent forever answer. Frequently at this stage of my life, I really enjoy being with people in my work and we have lots of friends, but a private piece of me has emerged that I didn’t even know about earlier in my life. So, how much is enough companionship for me was a question I wouldn’t have asked earlier in my life because there’s a portion of every day that I simply want to be quiet and alone. I’m not isolated. I’m not unhappy. It’s reflective time for me, which is almost the yin to the yang of action. Somebody find me some action. I need to get moving, which is a lot of how I live my life.
Casey Weade: Right. So, do it. And there’s Sachin Patel is a physician that I had the opportunity to meet and he said something that I think about all the time, “We are human beings, not human doings,” and we spend most of our time being human doings.
George Schofield: That’s right. And that’s how our vocabulary is built and that’s how our reward system is set up, and that’s how our identities are created, and that’s how our roles are built. Of course, we do it that way. As you get much older, those things will leave you. Your spouse might die. You might not have a job anymore. You might not be the president of a whole bunch of volunteer organizations. Those roles will leave you and there you are with you. So, I feel like I’m sort of organically pretty much on course. I’m just spending more time with me. He goes down the road. That’s something that will be important.
And I also encourage, for the record, couples to spend time and even take a little trip alone because eventually, somebody’s going to be alone. And if they never ever did it, my wife’s going to a conference in Toronto. I could go. No. I’m going to practice being home alone and she’s going to practice being in Toronto. It isn’t that we don’t care about each other but neither of us thinks we should wait until the zero hour to go, “Oh my god, I have no idea how to be alone,” when you could have practiced it for two days at a time occasionally across our later lives.
Casey Weade: That’s so insightful. You said that you don’t, you know, there’s not a set amount for planning, a set amount for action, for everyone or every decision. However, I noticed that you do follow a framework that you call the learning and decision-making loop. And you applied that to your relocation decision as you move down to Sarasota, Florida. And to me, I’ll just say this, Sarasota is my favorite place in Florida. And so, I think you made a good decision especially Siesta Key there.
George Schofield: Okay. I got it. Yes.
Casey Weade: But I am curious, if you could just share, a lot of the people listening in, you know, these are big decisions and they’re usually relocation is a big part of retirement planning. Where am I going to live? And I think you just had a great way that you applied that loop, that model to making that decision on that relocation. They gave you kind of I think an appropriate balance between planning and action. Some might say a little too much planning, but.
George Schofield: So, we lived in San Francisco for a very long time, which is a fabulous city but I’m a developmental psychologist and I think I have a high level of integrity. And I was worried that if that’s all we knew and we had the same friends pretty much in the same activities for a long time and we hadn’t tried anything new that uprooted us, if you will, that that could be a problem later in our lives. So, this didn’t have to do with retirement. This didn’t have to do with a conscious decision that we had come to a certain age and we thought it would be a good idea if we moved somewhere where we knew no one, literally, for five years.
We kept our condo in San Francisco. But if we could go somewhere and start a life for five years, both of us still working, we didn’t want to retire, buy a house, get into the community, the whole thing, at the end of that five years, we could go back to San Francisco or we could stay with well-chosen, wherever we had landed and we didn’t know in advance but we didn’t know if we took – and our friends in California thought we were just nuts and our friends in Sarasota thought the same thing, “You left California to come here? What? You’re going to Florida?” So, what happened was that what I hoped would happen for us happened that we got a chance to develop new skills and new attitudes and step out or what was familiar and build a life from scratch.
So, whether we went back to San Francisco or we stayed in Sarasota, nothing was going to happen to us in our later years that we couldn’t work with individually and as a couple because we’d already taken this quite large chance and I thought, “If I’m going to speak on this and write on this, I’ll have the courage to do it in my own life where I really ought not to be charging for it.” And so, we did it and we’ve been in Sarasota will be 12 years in March. We ultimately elected to stay here for a whole variety of reasons and we’re still electing not to retire.
Casey Weade: Not to retire in the traditional sense.
George Schofield: In the traditional sense. I have my ponies on the track and Linda has a job and works like crazy, which is her familiar mode.
Casey Weade: Well, I’ve got a couple more questions I’d love to throw at you just to wrap things up and there’s one that came from one of our fans. This came from Sue Rosenberg, and we asked all of those that have signed up for weekend reading for retirees, an email we send out every Friday. Those that have signed up at RetireWithPurpose.com, they get the opportunity to ask you questions, ask our guests questions. And Sue came in with a good question. And you don’t have to stay as finite. It might be difficult to say as finite as this, but she says, “I’d like you to ask him what he believes are the five most important things, from a psychological perspective, new retirees should be aware of going into retirement.” So, maybe it’s two, maybe it’s 10. What are the most important things from a psychological perspective that new retirees should be aware of going into retirement?
George Schofield: Okay. So, it depends on what you mean by psychology. First of all, I will say as a developmental psychologist, I would say that five, I don’t know if it’s five, you have to be aware of. There’s one, the need for adaptability, the need to be able to distinguish between what you should bring with you that’s still of value and what you need to leave behind that was wonderful for a long time but will no longer serve you well. You need to look at your networks of your human networks, your people networks. Who do you spend time with? And being with them serves you well, meaning are you challenged? Are you stimulated? Do you have a high level of trust? Are you introduced to new ideas? So, that’s the third one I really like and want people to take a look at their networks. I believe in long-term relationships and I believe in long-term friendships but it’s not an assumption that long-term friendships are necessarily good for you or for the other person across your entire lifespan. You have to sit down with it.
And that’s something that I do with clients is take a look at, “Well, wait a minute. You’re saying you want new ideas, but there’s no one new in your network.” Or conversely, you need more stability that people keep drifting in and out of your network. How can we work with that measure, you would love that, your network in a way in which we actually know what it is and how to manage it and how to change it and subtract from it and add to it? So, those are the first three. The fourth one is you will inevitably step out of role. You may not mean to. You’re the president of your church org and you’re the president of your community club and you are the past president of the chamber or whatever all these different things are that you do or the president of your company. If you relocate, retire and relocate, you will step away for a number of those roles.
The question is, which roles do you want to replace? Which roles you actually not want to replace? You want to just have some open space until you determine what you’re clearer about. Which roles by the way that you’re pretty burned out on and you just want to leave them behind? So, we have evaluating your people connections, we have evaluating the roles which have served to define you. I have a client who’s 52 who is a banker. He has to have a project. He’s very anxious if he doesn’t have a project, but he knows himself.
Casey Weade: I understand that feeling.
George Schofield: Oh, yeah. I mean, it’s almost like his wife wants to give him a woodshop in the basement and a board just so he’ll go downstairs and saw something in half. He only has a sense of himself in role. When he retires, if he hasn’t done the developmental work of having appreciation for himself outside of role, in addition to, not saying the roles have to go away, then he’s going to be three or four steps behind where he needs to be when the time comes. So, this is where I love the practice of developmental psychology. If you don’t have to run into a wall, we can see this happening in advance and we can probably actually help you build the skills and then the last one would be for me, your relationship to your health. In the New Yorker magazine, I think this week there’s an article by a young guy who lost 50 pounds for the first time in his life and it’s, “Okay. I got the weight off. What do I do now?” if you will.
I think the relationship to your health and what health looks like for you and the level of responsibility you’re willing to look, that you’re willing to accept is very different later in your life because most of us, me included, could just muscle my way through anything. Whether I was heavier, thin, or whatever I was, I had a full head of hair and get out of my way. And by the way, the best thing you could do for me was tell me you think I couldn’t do something because I would put my hands on my hips and go, “Watch me, Casey.”
Casey Weade: Yeah.
George Schofield: I was really a busy guy, raising kids by myself during graduate school and having a full-time career and having a house and doing the rest of these things. Later in life, I came face-to-face in the mirror and there was the word health kind of stapled across my forehead. So, I think we have to be real and we have to pay attention and stop not looking in the mirror, going, “Okay, I want to have a reasonable quality of life for an extended period of time.” What does that mean in terms of my health now? And it just doesn’t mean, what does my weight have to be? Or how many roles I have? How many miles can I ride? Or in my case, how many miles can I ride comfortably on my bike? What would a great health look like for me at a given age? And what do I have to do to make that happen now and ongoing? So those are my five.
Casey Weade: All right. I’ve got it down. I think adaptability bring with you, leave behind your health, your networks and your role. So, that might not be five. That might be one more than that. But it’s all good stuff.
George Schofield: We’d rather be close to this.
Casey Weade: So, I’ve got one question about women, one about grandkids. Something you wrote in your book you said women are deserving of special attention and information in your book. Why do you believe that women are especially deserving or special attention and information on this particular topic?
George Schofield: I think we have a history as a culture of not treating women as grown-up adults, giving them the information and having them participate in choices. This is not universally true, I realized. So, this is a very broad brush statement of the people who come in my door that I work with, if you will. So, a woman might come in my door, a couple might come in my door, and at some level, he’s dominating the financial decisions, for instance, and she has gone along with that and she doesn’t really get the finances or she’s been primarily responsible for homemaking, even though she worked. This is changing. I realized I want to give women a break. I think that if we’re coming into an era where marriages look much more like partnerships, I’m not saying that there aren’t certain things true of men that work and there aren’t certain things of women that may dominate.
But I’ll give you an example out of my own life. My wife is the most accomplished woman I know. And she may be the smartest person on the planet. What it took for her to become this accomplished was, in some ways, a lot more than what it took for me to become as accomplished as I am. Because I was a white guy and I just assumed I would always fit in and the doors would be open and it would work. That wasn’t true for her. One of the reasons our marriage works is in a way, I crossed over the gender line, I raised kids by myself. I did laundry, I got thrown up on by puppies, whatever it may be, I did it all. And so, the gift to me was I probably have a wider range of motion in terms of working with what I’ll call feminine situations and masculine situations, because my particular biography led me to have to do both.
If a 4-year-old comes into the house and you are a single parent, you don’t say, “What’s the matter with you?” like the old idea of what a guy would do? You stop what you’re doing and you sit down on the floor and you put him on your lap and you listen. For me, women have traditionally been much better at that than men have. So, one of the huge gifts to me out of all of this is I think I have an extraordinary ability to simply be with the one person who’s in front of me and my kids gave me that because I wasn’t allowed to have a gender. I was a parent. I had to sit down and simply be present with them. And the other big gift of all this, I think, is that I was lucky enough through my biography, to be early to the game of games and onwards. I was early to have the skills to be able to match and not feel like I had to be particularly dominant at one point or another in a traditional way.
Do we still have those issues? Of course. Do we disagree on them? Of course, but I have a wider range of mobility and I think younger men, many of them have what I have. I just got there earlier than a lot of men in my age group. Not their fault. It wasn’t how it was set up. Many of them got handed a to-do list and that was where they were supposed to go. They didn’t have time to do these other things. I just raised kids by myself, which blew up the list. And I will say one other thing in closing, which goes back to that the five things listed, that our listener asked. Here’s the question, “What was the hardest thing that ever happened to you as you got older, George?” I realized I had checked everything off the list that I was supposed to accomplish and it blew my life up for a little while because that was how I knew how to live. I was checking the next thing off the list. I didn’t have to be responsible. I had the list. I’d be responsible for checking things off the list, but I didn’t have to be responsible for creating the list. So, if I get out of sixth or seventh thing to go answer to the lady is to take more responsibility for creating your own list as opposed to moving at the one you were handed.
Casey Weade: That’s really good stuff. I know we’re running out of time. I just have to get to this question because to me and you, I know children are so important. And as a grandfather, I know for me my grandparents were extremely influential in my life and you had mentioned in your book, you know, some of the concepts you apply to spending time with your grandchildren, raising them. What do you think’s really working for you when it comes to spending time with your grandkids? What are you doing that you think you’re doing a really good job at?
George Schofield: Well, first of all, let me say that I’m really lucky, fortunate. There isn’t much doubt in my daughters-in-law about my ability with kids because I raised their husbands by myself. So, hello, in some way, I already have the brass ring. I have had to find a way to be present in their lives while remembering I’m not their parent. I had my turn. I had my chance. This is not my chance. This is my sons’ and my daughters-in-law’s chance. So, we worked it out so that I could have time with especially my older son’s four girls. So, they might come to our house in the summer for a month without their parents. Now, they had to be six to be able to do that. And my wife did hair and dishes and laundry. And I did short-order cook and driving and enrollment and day camps and all those other things. So, we had a high level of quality time. I can go for four or six weeks and not talk to my granddaughters now and I don’t feel any sense of being disconnected from them because we had so much. We’re lucky enough to have so much high-quality time.
I live in Florida. They live in California. I would fly to California. I would get this passel of girls. We would fly back to Florida. There are endless stories about doing goofy playful stuff. The granddaughter number three who’s now 14 when she was maybe six, we were delayed flying through Newark because there was a storm from San Francisco to Newark to Tampa. We got home and it’s like three o’clock in the morning and Holly wanted to and I’ve gotten them hamburgers in an all-night hamburger place which is something I don’t usually do. And Holly’s question was, “Can we swim at three o’clock in the morning?” “Of course, you can swim.” So, all the girls are in the pool and then by the way you have to deal with as you know having a daughter I think spray hair detangler and drying hair out and brushing it out and all that stuff because I had boys. What did I know about girls? Now, I know.
So, I’d rather have, for me, less frequent but longer high-quality time in which I’m able to be with them and experience them and have them experience me all the while remembering these are not my children. These are my grandchildren. I had my turn and that’s a hard one to do. That’s a hard one to do sometimes, but my granddaughters have been extraordinarily adaptable. And part of it it’s the gift that we intended to give them. What I would have liked my gift to the girls to be is that when they’re 35, they don’t have to associate this with me and they’re in the workplace, for instance, they can walk into a conference room in a building they’ve never been in, in a city that they’ve never been in, in a company that they’ve never been in and be very much at home because when they were six, they flew to papa and Linda’s and lived in a state they didn’t live in and went to day camp and were in theater camp or any other camps they’ve been in. And this is the story of their lives. They were always very safe. They were always very well taken care of.
But we expected them, their parents, and Linda, and me to be able to go and find their way with people that they don’t know for periods of time. And I watched that grow in terms of their competencies, and I really like that to ultimately be my legacy to my granddaughters. They don’t have to associate that with me. But when they walk into a room and they’re 40, and they’ve never been there before, and they’re at ease and know how to do this, I will be on some cloud floating around smiling down going, “You may not remember this, but you didn’t want to go to Circus Camp the first time and we went anyway.” So, there’s my answer to your question.
Casey Weade: The key element there I think is a concept you talk about in your book, which is introducing discontinuous change, is it? Discontinuous experiences.
George Schofield: Yeah. Ask them to do things they’ve never done before.
Casey Weade: Just regular, abrupt change that’s created quality time via that but for me, I think that’s one of the greatest opportunities I had that my parents introduced me to was sending me to boarding school for a while. Now, I am in a totally foreign element. I’ve got to figure out how to adapt. And that goes straight back to adaptability as you step into retirement or non-traditional retirement.
George Schofield: And I had to set with their parents’ permission. I had to set the girls up to be sort of parachuted into these situations. But I also had to be really clear that I was always available and I could always be trusted. And we actually formed the habit at the end of the day of sitting in a circle, what we call the cocktail hour, and everybody, my wife and me included, had to talk about what was the most interesting part of his or her day because I didn’t want to focus on problems. What didn’t you like? What did you like? That was beside the point. I wanted to be able to do sort of a dipstick test of what their day was like. And for me, the quality of the question drives the quality of the answer. The question was, what was the most interesting part of your day and why?
Casey Weade: Yeah. That’s good. Well, I know we’re running out of time. Thank you so much for that.
George Schofield: Thank you.
Casey Weade: If someone wanted to engage with you or spend more time reading your material or getting to know you a little bit better, how would they go about that?
George Schofield: Well, one way is to buy the book, which you just held up, How Do I Get There from Here When the Old Rules No Longer Apply? That’s one way. Another way is to go to GeorgeSchofield.com or they can just call my office 941-388-8108. I’m happy to talk to people and find out what’s really going on. Sometimes I can help. Sometimes I can’t.
Casey Weade: And you’ve got a new tool on your website as well.
George Schofield: Thank you for asking. Yes. I designed a new very contemporary life planning tool, if you will, which is free downloadable on my website. And as part of what I’m calling the Modern Life Toolkit. It’s very different than traditional planning. I’m finding people are working with it and then calling me up and saying, “Hey, can you help me with this piece of it? Can we work with you for an hour or whatever?” So, there are lots of ways to connect with me. I would welcome people doing that.
Casey Weade: Well, and George has been so gracious as to actually provide us with a box of his book, How Do I Get There from Here?: Planning for Retirement When the Old Rules No Longer Apply. And we’ve got a whole box of these down here in the office, in the basement, and we’re going to hand them out for free with no charge to you, no obligation. We’re going to get these out to whoever wants to take advantage of that until they’re all gone. If you want to take advantage of that, all that we ask is that you leave an honest review for the podcast. And you can do that by scrolling down on your podcast app to the bottom, leaving a review there or go to RetireWithPurpose.com, click on the Podcast link and right there, it’ll say Leave A Review. Just click Leave A Review and that’ll take you right to the place you need to do that.
Then just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your iTunes username. We will match that up and get that book out to you at no cost. For those of you that are international listeners, just know we really appreciate you listening in from Australia and Canada and all over the world. However, due to the cost of shipping, we won’t be able to get this book in the mail to those international listeners. But please, it’s a great book. Go out on Amazon, pick it up. I know that you’ll find value in it just as I have. So, George, thank you so much for being here with us.
George Schofield: Thank you.
Casey Weade: I hope we could do this again because I only made through about 50% of my questions.
George Schofield: We’ll do more next time and I really like working with you, Casey. Thank you. It’s great.
Casey Weade: Thank you, George.
George Schofield: Okay.