088: The Philosophical Questions Behind Retirement with Mitch Anthony *
Sometimes a client comes into our office and thinks the way that we plan for retirement is kind of strange. Before we get into the weeds, I often want to talk about what money was like for them growing up, as well as what retirement really means to them. These clients ask, “When are we going to get to tax strategies? When are we going to get to income strategies?” We discuss all of those things, of course, but much of the philosophy behind how I help clients plan for retirement comes from the teachings of Mitch Anthony.
I’ve been inspired by Mitch since I was in high school. Mitch is the author of many books, including The New Retirementality: Planning Your Life and Living Your Dreams at Any Age You Want. I’ve been following his work for decades, gifted his books dozens of times, and I’m honored to have a chance to interview him.
Mitch joins the podcast today to discuss how he helps his clients find purpose in life as they plan for retirement, how changing attitudes toward aging has affected people in mindset, health, and longevity, and how to find a sustainable balance between vocation and vacation – no matter what stage of life you’re in.
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In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
- Why Mitch didn’t understand the psychology of retirement when he was young.
- How his first career in a suicide prevention center led him to help his retirees focus on living with meaning.
- Why the concept of retirement is so recent in history that it’s barely discussed in writing before the 20th century, and why retirement as we know it now is so different from what it used to be.
- Mitch’s warning for people who think playing all day in retirement is going to make them happy – and why the divorce rate spikes drastically in the first 18 months of retirement.
- What Mitch’s mother-in-law did to stop her husband from spiraling after leaving his job of 42 years.
- The tools Mitch uses to help couples bring their concepts of retirement into alignment – and how couples have successfully navigated the challenges of retirement together.
- How Mitch works with his financial advisor – and the philosophical questions that inform his decision-making process.
- “The purpose of life is not money. The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose.” – Mitch Anthony
- “The concept of retirement was a shortsighted political machination and social manipulation.” – Mitch Anthony
- Storyselling for Financial Advisors : How Top Producers Sell
- The Financial Lit-Kit
- The New Retirementality: Planning Your Life and Living Your Dreams…at Any Age You Want
- Man’s Search for Meaning The Classic Tribute to Hope from the Holocaust
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Casey Weade: Mitch, welcome to Retire With Purpose.
Mitch Anthony: Thanks, Casey. Super excited to be here. I love the name of the show, by the way.
Casey Weade: Well, Mitch, I’ve been inspired by you since I was in high school. My dad was a financial advisor and he always had your books around. I mean, that was probably the first book my dad ever gave me was one that you wrote, which was Storyselling for Financial Advisors and I have regifted that book dozens and dozens of times over the years. I’ve got The Financial Lit Kit around here, that are your children’s books that you wrote. We read our two and four-year-old at night and most recently got finished reading your latest edition of The New Retirementality. So, I have been following you for literally decades and I’m just blown away that I finally have the opportunity to sit here in front of you and I’m so appreciative.
Mitch Anthony: Well, thanks, Casey. I appreciate it. Now, we know who’s been buying books in Indiana.
Casey Weade: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, I guess, the nerd in me comes out of me sometimes. So, I want to get into your new book. I want to talk about that just so many great topics that you have that you can share with our audience that people really need to hear. But I want to start with something real high-level because you have a different way of viewing retirement planning that I think most do. I think sometimes individuals will come into our office. They think the way we do retirement planning is kind of strange. We’re talking about what money was like growing up and what retirement means to them. They go, “Well, when are we going to get to the tax strategy? When are we going to get to the income strategies?” And a lot of this comes out of the teachings I’ve gotten from you. So, if you could just describe what retirement planning means to you, what would that be?
Mitch Anthony: Well, that’s an interesting thing because when I talk to consumer audiences and I do like a lot of client events for financial professionals and that sort of thing, I always start with when I say the term retirement planning, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Of course, you know the answer to that. Answer is money.
Casey Weade: Right. Yeah.
Mitch Anthony: Right? And it’s because we’ve inculcated our audiences, the consumer audience, to believe that that’s all they need to figure out is, “Do you have enough money?” I mean, this conversation of how old are you now, how much do you have, at what age do you want to retire? And then the conclusion is, usually, “You’re going to be really poor and come in and take our free review and find out how big a loser you are,” that sort of bit. And it’s like one retired executive said to me says, “I figured the money part out. What do you want me to do now? Hug my checkbook? I don’t know what to do with myself.” Recently, this is just a few months ago and I actually wrote an article about this, I interviewed the head of psychiatry and psychology at the Cleveland Clinic and he told me he spends all day all week retiring or, excuse me, counseling retired executives who are depressed. And so, here’s what got me onto this topic. First of all, I have to be quite honest with you, you talk about when you were young, you sound like a pretty precocious guy, if you’re reading those books when you were in high school but when I was young, Casey, I didn’t get this retirement bit. I would watch people go to work to jobs they absolutely hated and I would ask them, “Well, why are you doing that?” And they’re like, “Well, someday, if I have enough money, I’ll buy an RV.”
I’m like I would look at these people and I’d say, “This is your real life, you understand that, right? This is not a dress rehearsal. This is your actual life you’re living right now. It’s not like a video game where you push a button and you start over.” And I just couldn’t understand, first of all, why anybody would spend their whole life doing something they hated. The purpose of life is not money. The purpose of life is life. Or another way we could put this is the purpose of life is not money. The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose. And it’s like Viktor Frankl is an author I love following my whole life and he had this amazing, he wrote the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, which was voted the best book of the last century. And one of the things, one of the incredible statements he made in that book is he says, “Man shakes his fist toward heaven, and cries out, ‘What is the meaning of life?’” And he said, “And God quietly answers back, ‘You tell me.’” He’s left it to us to figure out what gifts has he given us? What direction has he given us? What really stimulates our curiosity? What are the things that cause us to feel passion? Like what are the areas we want to make a difference?
And I hope this isn’t too long-winded of preface here, Casey, but years ago, my first career, I ran a suicide prevention center and so I was dealing with purpose in life every single day with people that were on the very edge. And to be honest with you, living that life of meaning and that life of purpose is what attracted me to the topic of retirement because purpose seems to get put on the back shelf and money got put upfront. And so, the way I sort of capsulize it today and we can go a lot of directions with this is I tell people there’s only two things I guess you need, enough purpose to wake up in the morning, enough money to sleep at night.
Casey Weade: Yeah. I like that. I’ve heard that over and over again. We’ve got this idea of retirement. We set this date of 60 to 65. You’ve said this is an unnatural concept. You know, the idea of retirement is not natural. One of the things that I would like to hear from you, you said the concept of retirement was a shortsighted political machination and social manipulation. What do you mean by that? I think one of the most important, one of the most insightful and interesting things from your book, The New Retirementality, was the history of retirement and how we actually got here in the first place.
Mitch Anthony: Yeah. Well, I don’t know how you’re wired but I’m always curious about why did we settle on this? Who made this up? And if I can study the history of something and the origins and go, “Yeah. You know what, that makes sense,” then I’m fine with it but if I look at it and go, “Well, that made sense in 1885, but it doesn’t make sense in 2019,” now we have a different story. Before we started this recording, I had just mentioned to you that this book is now in its fifth edition in 2020. When I first wrote the book in 2001, I’m not kidding you, people looked at me like I was smoking something that later would become legal in many states. And they were like, “What in the world are you talking about?” I said, “Look at the history of retirement. Look where it came from and why we had this.” Well, first of all, if an idea is natural, you will find it in the earliest recorded text of mankind. Right? Birth is natural. Youth is natural. Growing up and marrying is natural. Having children and grandchildren and death, those are all natural stages of life.
Where did this space called retirement which now, by the way, has grown into one-third of life for many people? How is it that this space in life, this huge space in life is not accounted for in any of the text of mankind? None of the anthropological, none of the historical texts has anything to say about retirement. You don’t have God coming to Methuselah at 900 going, “You’ve worked hard enough. How about playing shuffleboard for a while?” It’s not there. And so, what it is and so my first…
Casey Weade: God never retired?
Mitch Anthony: Yeah. So, my first description of retirement is that it was a social invention designed for a very specific purpose in a very specific age and that age was the industrial age. And in the industrial age, what you traded for a paycheck was raw physical output. You were doing a physical task. And so, it just made sense to the industrialist that if you were 60 years old, your energies and your motivation and your zeal for work and your capacity for physical labor was probably going on the downside. It was probably waning. And they could take that 60-year-old out and replace them with a 20-year-old and their industrial machinery would just keep go moving along smoothly. So, the very first retirement policy institutional was in Germany under the leadership of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, and it really resembled a disability insurance policy. And basically, what he said was, “If you were 70 years old, you had to retire.” This is if you’re working for the government. By the way, do you know where he got the 70-year-old mark from? From, I believe, the book of Psalms has given demand threescore and 10 years. So, he chose that number, so he had sort of a moral precedent to it.
And so, he set the retirement marker at 70 and once you turn 70, you got this sort of disability insurance. By the way, two numbers that are interesting. One, von Bismarck himself at the time of legislation was 76 years old. So, apparently, he got grandfathered in. The other number that’s interesting is that the average German worker in 1885 lived to the ripe old age of 46. So, think about this. Let’s just do some quick math. The original marker for retirement was set 20, or no, 45. Yeah. 46. So, the original marker for retirement was 19 years, or no, no, excuse me, 24 years past life expectancy, which would put our modern marker at 109 if we follow the same algorithm. And so, being 60 – and by the way, they lowered the age in 1918 to 65. We adopted 65 in 1935 with the passage of the Social Security Act and then lowered it to you years later to 62. Sixty-five in 1935 and 65 in 2019. They’re not the same thing. Not even close. So, here’s what I tell people about the creation of retirement. It was designed for the industrial age. So, what I asked people is what is it you’re trading for a paycheck? This is important to think through. If you’re trading raw physical capacity, by the way, like if you’re doing construction work, those guys beat their body up over time, right? And their joints start hurting and they’re arthritic and so then it might make sense to retire from that physical trade.
But what they’re going to find out is with this loss of structure and loss of purpose in their life, they might start spiraling intellectually, psychologically, emotionally, and in terms of purpose in life, the most important factor of all. So, what are you trading for a paycheck today? Most of your listeners are trading one of three things. One, intellectual capacity. It’s what they know. Right? And so, what I always challenge people with is, “Okay. Well, let’s talk about intellectual capacity. Does it appreciate or depreciate with age, with maturity?” And by the way, that’s a trick question, Casey, because the reason it’s a trick question is it appreciates only if you use it. If you stop using it, it begins to depreciate. It actually is one of the leading factors in the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s, not using your intellectual capacity. That’s why Warren Buffett, for example, 20 years ago refused to retire. He said, “I’ll retire two years after I die,” because he knew if he stopped using it, he was in trouble. Another thing that we trade for a paycheck today is what I call relational capital. It’s the networks you’ve created. It’s the relationships you have and you build those relationships over time.
So, here’s a question and this is not a trick question. Relational capital doesn’t appreciate or depreciate with maturity. Well, we all know it appreciates. And then the final form of capital, if you will, is what I call experiential capital. It’s the fact that you have all this experience, you’ve been there, you’ve done that, you know what you’re doing, you made more mistakes. An example I like to use I live in Rochester, Minnesota, home of the Mayo Clinic. Do you want to see the surgeon who’s done 4,200 procedures or the one that’s on his 14th? Right? There’s no question. You want the one on the 4,200 because you don’t want to be one of the other guy’s mistakes. So, experience pays the bills today. So, it’s intellectual capital, relational capital, and experiential capital and they all appreciate with age so why are we telling people to walk away at 62?
Casey Weade: Well, today, it’s for a different reason than we did when we originally instituted that age of 62 to 65 and it was largely for unemployment reasons. I mean, we were trying to reduce unemployment rate, get people back to work. That’s why we created this artificial age and given that artificial age to 62, 65 most people weren’t going to make it there anyways and if they did, they’d only be on social security for a few years. And so, we’ve just kept this marker, you know, as this line in the sand and it’s unhealthy. It’s just truly unhealthy to set this line in the sand for yourself kind of like you said with Warren Buffett. I mean, you got a guy that’s very sharp, continuing to be healthy. He’s got longevity because he’s never said, “I’m going to retire at 65.” I guess, do you think we should be putting lines in the sand? I mean, I think most of the people that come in they go, “I’m 65. I should retire.” Why? “Well, I got Medicare.”
Mitch Anthony: We’re saying that is because we as a culture, as a society, tell them that. It’s a tacit expectation. Here’s another definition I’ve given retirement. It’s an artificial finish line. By the way, and this is something that a lot of people don’t really understand. The principal cornerstone of all retirement policy, whether we’re talking corporately, institutionally, governmentally, or culturally, the primary cornerstone of retirement is ageism. It’s the belief that all people are equal at a given age and, in this case, the age of 65. Who in the world, who listening to this or watching this right now actually believes that all people are equal because of their age? That is one of the most absurd constructs I’ve ever heard. And we all know people who are 65 going on 90 and 65 going on 40. And so, what I like to do with people is distinguish the difference, delineate the difference between age and old. This is important. Age is a chronological marker, right? You just track it from your date of birth forward, and we know our age. And by the way, I don’t like the way we treat age in our culture and I’ll come back to that because there’s a lack of dignity in how we treat age in our culture, that isn’t present in other cultures and hasn’t been present in other cultures in the entire history of the planet.
We are one of the few cultures in the world that worships youth. Okay. So, in the Latin languages, for example, if I wanted to know your age, I wouldn’t ask you how old are you, Casey? Think about how that’s phrased, “How old are you?” What they ask in their language is how many years do you have? It’s better.
Casey Weade: How much experience do you have?
Mitch Anthony: Yeah. That’s exactly right. It’s valuing the years. We disparage those years in our society, and basically send this message, “Well, you’re used up at 65.” So, age is a chronological marker but old is an attitudinal marker. You don’t get old until you decide to get old and here’s an astounding study that came out of Yale. I’ve been tracking every study that has anything to do with successful aging for the last 25 years. And the most prominent, the most powerful, potent factor in extending good years in life came out at a study in Yale, and it basically said, “You can add seven-and-a-half good years to your life simply based on your attitude toward aging.” So, if you have this sort of lamenting, “Oh, I’m getting old,” and, “Oh, you know, here we go,” it’s going to kill you. That attitude will kill you. It’ll take you to an earlier grave, but if you just rejoice in your experience and rejoice and everything that God has given you, and everything that you have in your life and you just pack all that, you just pack all that in and say, “I’m thankful for every stage.” Like, I’m reminded of the words of Viktor Frankl who said, “Why would I apologize for having gotten so far? I have my victories won. I have my sacrifices made. I have my losses lost. I have my love’s love. It all makes me. Why would I blush over having made it this far?” I think that’s a beautiful attitude. In our culture. It’s like, “Oh, yeah, he’s 65. He’s over the hill.” What are you talking about?
Casey Weade: Well, I even see apprehension towards sitting down with our team. They know we do retirement planning and they’ll say, “I don’t want to retire. Yeah, I don’t want to retire. So why would I meet with a financial advisor that’s going to start setting me up for retirement?” And I think it’s different than that. I think we still plan but I think sometimes people might hear what you’re saying and go, “Well, why would I start doing retirement planning?”
Mitch Anthony: Well, okay, that’s a very fair question and that’s why everybody thought I’d lost my mind because I’ve been talking to financial professionals about this and they’re saying, “You’re going to ruin our business.” I say, “No, we’re going to redefine your business is what we’re going to do.” Because what is the best thing money can do for you? What is the best thing financial planning can do? This is my opinion. I’m going to editorialize here. I believe the best thing that money can do for me and you is give us the freedom to do what we want at the pace we choose to the people we’d like to. Okay. It’s my autonomy fund. I’m not motivated to reach the age of 65 and grab the keys to an RV but I am motivated to do what I want every day when I wake up. You know, when I’m done with this interview today, my brothers here in town. We’re going to go play in the Member-Guest Golf Tournament and I can do that because I’m free, because I’ve done my financial planning. I saved my money. I have an advisor who helps me invest it well. So, I have an autonomy fund. To me, that transcends a retirement or that sort of thinking is get enough money so you can do what you want with your life or, and thank you for giving me the freedom to speak this way, fulfill your calling.
I just spoke to 200, 300 financial advisors who serve largely Christian audiences and ask them, “How many of you know people who are not walking in their calling because they’ve made financial mistakes?” And every hand in the room went up. Think of what this world is missing, think of what the kingdom is missing because people haven’t done the right things with their money. They’ve been unwise with money and now they’re forced to do things they didn’t want to do or they weren’t called to do.
Casey Weade: Yeah. And you’ve been there. You were employed and then you found your vocation, you found your autonomy. Can you tell us what that transition look like for you from employment to autonomy?
Mitch Anthony: Well, okay, so I’m sort of a weird case. From the time I became a paperboy at the age of 10, I’ve only had a year-and-a-half of my life where I worked for somebody else. And let me tell you, it was a miserable year-and-a-half for me because I’m just a born entrepreneur and I like to think for myself, and I don’t like being held back by people that don’t get it. And so, I took a contract for a year-and-a-half to help a startup company and this is a guy who had taken four companies public and he offered me 150,000 shares in the IPO and a full-time salary for doing part-time work and then literally started driving me nuts and was expecting me to work 18-hour days because that’s what he did. And oh, by the way, he would miss he and his wife’s anniversary and kids’ birthdays and stuff like that and he wanted me to think that was a great example of a work ethic. And I would say, “You know what,” and I had to drive an hour-and-a-half each way to get to this job and I would leave home at six in the morning, get to the office at 7:30am, and then I would leave at 4:30 so I could sit down have dinner with my family at 6 pm and he started castigating me for leaving early, and I’m like, “I’m going to have dinner with my family. Okay?”
And it got to the point where I was so stressed out and I was doing it for money. It was the only period of my life where I had sort of sold-out like I had bit the bit and said, “Okay, 150,000 shares, I can be set for life. This could be the greatest thing ever.” And one day, I’m driving home this hour-and-a-half drive, and I’m 45 minutes into the drive, Casey, and I looked at my hands on the steering wheel, and I’m literally choking the life out of that steering wheel. My knuckles are white and I had been choking that steering wheel with white knuckles for 45 minutes, I didn’t even know it. I had an epiphany and I heard a little voice in my head and that little voice in my head said, “If you don’t start writing, the writer is going to die.” I knew I had these ideas in me I had to write and this book we’re talking about is one of those ideas and I heard that that voice, “If you don’t start writing, the writer’s going to die.” And I knew I had to make a change. I came home I told my wife, I said I’m quitting. I’m leaving the 150,000 shares. I’m walking away. I’ve got to fulfill my calling. I got to do what I’m called to do and I’ve never looked back and I’ve been blessed. Let’s just put it that way. I mean, I didn’t have to go through a desert. I just had to walk away from supposed riches.
Casey Weade: Yeah. Well, I think that’s what you kind of feel is the future of retirement planning is more of maybe it’s autonomy planning if you will, and maybe that’s the evolution of retirement. But maybe in your words, can you describe to us what you really see as the future of retirement? And more importantly…
Mitch Anthony: Well, you know, Casey, I’ve been working so hard on trying to scrub this word away and I can’t do it. I’ve been trying for 20 years and other people have to. So, like you said, people, maybe there haven’t come into your office and talk about it because like I don’t really want to do that. So, you’re doing the right thing. You’re saying, “Well, let’s redefine this thing.” And so, that’s what I do in the book and I’m sure you’ve given the book to clients to read because, in the book, I give them permission to think any way they want about their life. Don’t let them tell you what to do with your life. This is your life. It’s your decision. And that’s what you’re doing too as a financial planner. You’re giving people permission to think any way they want to think. And if they want to retire in the traditional term, go ahead, but I always tell them. I warn them. I say, “Be ready because six months, a year, year-and-a-half when the retirement honeymoon ends, you’re going to wake up one day and go, “What am I doing?” I just can’t. You know this every day is Saturday bit, well, I mow my lawn on Saturday and pick weeds. You think I want to do that every day?
And so, what I found is people need a balance in life and here’s what they need to balance in between. They need a balance between vacation and vocation. And the mistake our culture has made is the belief that you spend the first part of your life in your vocation or your work and then you quit that. You’re all work, no play, and then you’re going to go to all play no work. It doesn’t work because we weren’t designed for all play. We weren’t designed for leisure. And by the way, I can back this up with solid gerontological studies. I had a gerontological researcher at the Mayo Clinic who’s put it to me this way. He said, “Mitch, I can prove to you that a life of total ease is two steps removed from a life a total disease.” And here’s the first step, you get bored, right? The same game, the same course, the same force for them to say, “You know, whatever the thing is you’re doing to wow your time away,” and it gets boring, and then it moves from boredom to pessimism and negativity and bad habits. Pretty soon they’re sleeping until 11 and watching TV all day. What kind of life is that? So, I don’t know if I answered your question there but at the end of the day, money is there to support a life. Life is not there to support the money.
Casey Weade: Well, given this shift, this change in retirement spending two or three years in retirement, now spending two or three decades in retirement, how should retirement advice or retirement planning advice evolve? And is it already maybe?
Mitch Anthony: Yeah. Well, I teach retirement coaching to advisors like yourself because what I figured out is when I say the term retirement coaching, what’s the most natural landing place for that conversation? I don’t want it to be the psychologist couch. I think we can have a dialogue about it before it gets to that point and the most natural place to have this conversation is with a financial planner, a financial advisor, because they’ve been doing the monetary planning all along. So, I spend a lot of time coaching and teaching advisors like yourself on the conversations that they need to have around lifestyle. So, here’s how we start that conversation, Casey. We say, “Look, Mr. and Mrs. Client, there’s two big questions we need to answer. Number one, how are you going to spend your time? Number two, how are we going to pay for that?” Those are the two big questions. Which question needs to be answered first? Well, obviously, the lifestyle question has to be answered first. We can’t figure out your budget if we don’t know what you’re actually doing with your time. And so, somebody gave the standard answer, “Well, I’m going to golf.” All right. Well, the next question out of Casey’s mouth is probably going to be, “Private or public course?” because the prices are different.
So, I tell this to people. Everyone has the same amount to spend in retirement, 168 hours a week. How are you going to spend your 168? Do you know that there are studies that demonstrate that people spend more time planning a two-week vacation than they do a 30-year retirement? People are absolutely clueless. They think it’s just going to take care of itself. And it doesn’t.
Casey Weade: Well, you talk about retirement whiplash in there. That’s what you’ve got to explain this kind of happens. You said chances are if you attempt full retirement, you won’t get it right the first time. It’s for all these different reasons that you’ve explained I think. If we haven’t really identified how we’re going to spend our time, then, well, now what are we going to do? We get kind of lost. We decided just to go back to work right away. Is there a way that we can increase our chances of not going back to work or getting it right the first time? Or is this just something we have to go through?
Mitch Anthony: Well, no. Yes. It’s a great question, Casey. There are conversations we can have that help us get it right and getting it right is going to be different for every person. So, I preach the IRA, the independent or individual retirement attitude. Do it right for you. Don’t do what other people think you should do or expect you to do. Do what you want to do. For some of us, that means we’re just going to do what we do as long as we can for the rest of our life. Like what I’m doing right now, this is what I do. Why wouldn’t I want to do this? Why would I reach any age where I no longer want to write? I just flew home last night from Las Vegas. I spoke to 500 financial advisors at a convention. Why wouldn’t I want to do that? Now, other people have careers. Maybe they’re a dental surgeon and they’re just like, “You know, I’ve done this for so long. I want to do something else.” Okay, I get it. Some people are going to just keep doing what they do. Others are going to say, “I’d like to try new things.” Others are going to say, “You know what, I just want to spend more time with my family, my friends, and get involved in charities and volunteer.” Wonderful.
But the thing I always warn people about is if you go into retirement and think living behind gated walls in a community where all you do is play all day is going to make you happy, you’re going to be sorely, sorely mistaken and you’re going to learn the hard way. And that’s why the most recent study I saw on this show that it takes people three to four attempts at retirement to get it right. So, I have another conversation I’ve created called My Retirementality and this is especially designed to solve the couple’s conundrum because a lot of couples struggle in retirement. I don’t know, you’re probably aware of this, but the divorce rate actually spikes in the first 18 months of retirement.
Casey Weade: Gray divorce.
Mitch Anthony: Yes, gray divorce. And how sad is that really? We’ve come all this way and now and, you know, it’s like the old yarn goes, “I married you for better for worse, but not for lunch. Please get out of here.” And you know, it’s like in our town we have an IBM factory, not factory but a plant here. We have a lot of engineers and I always tell people, “Engineers might be the most annoying retirees that ever lived because they’re just like born meddlers. They just they can’t leave things alone.”
Casey Weade: You know, spreadsheet and punching numbers and change this and change that.
Mitch Anthony: Yeah. This one woman who was married to an engineer told me on his first day of retirement, he thought he was going to change the world by alphabetizing her spice rack. I mean, you can imagine what this looks like by month’s end. And another woman in Texas said to me, she said, “Son, I’m going to give you the math on retirement.” She said, “I got twice a husband, half the space, and he’s getting bigger.” Oh, my gosh.
Casey Weade: Your mother-in-law did something unique. You talked about briefly in the book. You didn’t go into it nearly. As soon as I saw it, I want to learn more and it didn’t give me the description or the depth that I was hoping for. So, maybe you can give that to us here. You talked about kind of a retirement prenuptial that she puts in there.
Mitch Anthony: Well, she called it the pre-retirement agreement and I called it the prenup for retirees but her husband was a math teacher for 42 years and she could see the writing on the wall of what was going to happen. And so, she sat him down on day one and said, “Here’s the rules. These are the things you’re going to do and these are the things you’re not going to do,” and you’re not all of a sudden thinking, “I’m home now. I need you just build your whole life around me and my schedule every day.” No. She says, “I have things that I do and I’m not giving all those things up and you’re not going to follow me around like a little lost puppy all day.”
Casey Weade: How’d he take that?
Mitch Anthony: Well, you know, I mean…
Casey Weade: It feels like he’s being forced into a box now.
Mitch Anthony: Well, you know, what he did is he started tutoring kids because he soon realized that that brought great gratification, that that was his calling. He was a born teacher. And so, he started tutoring kids and he did a lot of part-time jobs really up until he was about 80. He was doing part-time things here and there so that he had something, and I think he still does volunteer gigs like that too.
Casey Weade: Most people are having this discussion with their spouse until they walk into our office, I find. Yeah. We asked him, “How are you going to spend your retirement? What are you going to do on a daily basis? What’s an average day look like?” And, boy, there are some surprises that come up there and then you kind of feel like you turn into a marriage counselor during that period of time.
Mitch Anthony: Casey, I’ll recommend to you and I think it’s in my book, I have a profile you can use called My Retirementality and when they each take it, they can see how their personality is wired toward retirement. Because there’s really four things people look for in life in the retirement stage. One is like play indication. Two is connecting with others. Three is renewal, personal renewal. It could be spiritual. It could be intellectual. It could be physical. And then the fourth is work or vocation that could include volunteering. So, those are the sort of the four pillars of life in retirement but when they take this profile, they see how they’re wired versus how their spouse is wired and they’ll see like, “Oh, we have these two in common, but we don’t have these two in common, but now we have a more realistic expectation,” and that’s huge, right? Go into retirement with a realistic expectation of how this is going to play out and don’t expect your spouse to just automatically fit into your description of what you think retirement ought to be.
Casey Weade: Yeah. My wife and I did the quiz and we were completely opposite. I mean, mine is vocation. Hers is family time or hobbies and it’s amazing just how different we can be. But if you ever had that kind conversation, I can see how it could lead to all types of issues once you get into retirement because now you don’t have – and for many, it’s not having structure. I think that’s what you’ve talked about here several times, just like this individual he talked about. He just realized through that conversation, “Yeah, you’re right. I am going to need some structure, not just for me, but for our relationship and our marriage.” But most times I think we step into retirement going, “I don’t want structure. I’m sick of structure. I don’t ever want to have structure again.” So, if you believe we need structure, how do we determine how much structure we actually need and what it actually looks like?
Mitch Anthony: Well, let’s be honest about human beings and human nature. Where would human beings and human nature be without any expectations and any structure? I mean, I remember something called the Ten Commandments. That sounds like moral structure to me. Right? I mean, that there are just rules that you follow if you want to live a healthy – it takes discipline to live a healthy life. That’s the bottom line. And another conversation that I’ve created is called the retirement worksheet. In the retirement worksheet, and the reason I bring this up, Casey, is because most people underestimate the lifestyle benefits of work, the things that they’re getting in within themselves from their work. So, for example, that social component that a lot of people just absolutely love and then they leave work and realize, “Oh, my goodness, I miss meeting people. I miss those engagements. I miss those conversations.” Other people like competition. Other people like working as a team. Other people like creative tasks or challenges, meeting challenges, you know. So, this retirement worksheet has 10 lifestyle benefits to work and 10 economic benefits to work and they rate them all one through five.
Well, the epiphany and I’ve done this in a lot of workshops with couples where you have 100 couples in the room and the epiphany that most people have when they go through this retirement worksheet is that they realize and they never knew this before, that the lifestyle benefits of work were more important to them than the economic benefits of work, and they actually thought the only reason they were going to work was for the pay. And they’re suddenly confronted with this reality, “Gosh, really, there are aspects of this I love.” And so, then the negotiation becomes, “Well, how could you get rid of the things and shed the things you don’t like doing and retain and keep the things you do like doing?” Maybe we should have that conversation before we have the jump off the cliff at 65 conversation. And one of the reasons I’m just so ardent and passionate about this, Casey, is because I’ve literally had hundreds of people come to me and say, “I wish I’d read your book three months ago because I already made the leap. And now re-entering is so hard.” So, you got to work this out in your head before you do it and maybe what you work out is I’m going to work until I’m 67 or I’m going to work until I’m 70 or I’m going to work my whole life or I’m going to work part-time. You know what I mean? But let’s have these thought processes and these conversations before you make the move, and then look back and rule the move.
Casey Weade: Well, it seems like the individuals I’ve talked to that have been most successful have had more of a bridge to retirement. They didn’t just quit and run into it. They spent some time kind of testing the waters with their free time and how they like to spend that free time. But most of those people are leaning towards those three attitudes to retirement you spelled out in the book. They’re leaning towards to, “I’m done or I have to.” I don’t see too many people that are walking in, stepping into retirement because they’re inspired to do it. They’re inspired because they feel I have financial freedom now. I have this foundation, this financial foundation. Now, I can go follow my dreams, but most people seem to want it. I could talk about family members and so many individuals that they say, “Well, how can I get inspired?” They say, “Well, should I go see Tony Robbins? Should I go read this book? Should I listen to this podcast?” And a lot of them will go through all these different things. They’ll go to events, they’ll read books, they’ll listen to podcasts, and they still can’t figure out how to inspire themselves. What would you say to those people?
Mitch Anthony: Well, first of all, I have compassion and empathy for the people who are burned out because if you’re working in a corporate culture where the culture has just worn you down or you just don’t enjoy it anymore, you don’t enjoy the way they go about business, I’ve met so many people in that situation. I feel bad for them because it’s just chipping away at their life energy. We only have so much energy to give in life and when we’re giving it to corporations and people that don’t appreciate it, I get it. But what I warn those people, the caveat I give those people is, “Okay, go ahead. Retire from that.” I hope you realize that what you’re actually going to go into here in your first stage is decompression stage. It’s just going to be like, “Ah, I don’t have to do that anymore. I don’t have to deal with them anymore.” It’s like my sister said, “Life isn’t too short. It’s too long to do something you hate with people you can’t stand.” If you only have one life to live, so then they go through a series like, “Oh, what a relief. I don’t have to do that anymore,” and they’re so happy for a while, but then they wake up one day and it’s almost like that movie about Schmidt with Jack Nicholson, where he just wakes up one day and realizes, “I don’t have anything to get up for,” because we put way too much stock in play and leisure in our culture and not enough stock in being occupied with a vocation.
You know, the word vocare, the Latin word vocare from which we get the word vocation means “a calling”. I believe we’re all designed with a calling of some sort and to me the worst that here’s sort of the spectrum. J-O-B over here and calling over here. I don’t want to get anywhere near a J-O-B where I’m punching a clock and checking dates off a calendar just to get through. That’s not a life.
Casey Weade: That was what my dad taught me. He’s like, “You have to go out and you have to start doing something.” I think a lot of people look at this generation. It’s the millennial generation, the younger generations and say, “Well, they are so focused now on purpose, and meaning that then they just never do anything,” because, “Oh, well, that’s not fulfilling or I don’t like this or I don’t like that.” I think you talk about it in your book is different life stages exploration, utilitarian, renaissance, mission. And he just said, “You just got to start doing something.” And I think that’s what you’re saying. You just got to do something. You got to get out. You got to try different things. You got to keep moving. But if you’re just sitting there reading books, going to events, you may never find it.
Mitch Anthony: Yeah. Well, thanks for bringing it up. It’s great to be interviewed by somebody who’s actually read this whole book and can articulate it back to me, but what you just quoted there, Casey, exploration is the first stage work. Really, it’s not just trying to find the right fit. It’s finding out what doesn’t fit. And how many things did your audience, how many things did they do where they went, “Nope, that’s not for me?”
Casey Weade: And then you find retirement.
Mitch Anthony: Right. And then suddenly you do this thing one day and it resonates within you and it’s like your whole system, every cell in your being is screaming out, “This is awesome.” I love that. I’m so energized by that. And that to me is a sign from the eternal one. That’s it. That’s what I designed you to do. So, do that thing but then people go into this stage of work I call utilitarian mode where it’s like my dad you say. I couldn’t change where I work because I had to work for the company store because I had a mortgage to pay. Five kids. They got the car. They got the insurance. In other words, we just got to make ends meet. I don’t have any choices. And then people get burned out after a while. I say, “This usually happens in their late 30s, early 40s, where they go into what I call the renaissance mode,” and they just start going, “Can I really do this for 20 some more years? Am I just going to crawl to the finish line?” And then they go through that, like I’ve got our friend here in town. I’ll see him today. He was a lawyer and he couldn’t, he just said, “I can’t do it anymore.” Today, he’s a commercial real estate guy and he’s loving his life. And so, that happens for some people. They just have to make that radical shift or they just have to come to terms, come to peace with now this is the thing I need to do. This is the thing I’m supposed to do.
But I think this gift, if you’ve been given enough money in your life, and we’re all stewards of money then it’s a wonderful gift to have enough not only to sustain yourself but maybe to give to others and to sew into other missions and to become a part of something bigger than yourself. And by the way, all these things lead to longer lives and better lives then we move into that thing called mission mode. But I think you can live your whole life, Casey, in mission mode, personally. We don’t have to track from Renaissance to utilitarian to renaissance to mission. We can start with mission and stay with mission.
Casey Weade: Can we start with mission? Or do we have to start with exploration?
Mitch Anthony: Yeah. Okay. You have to start with exploration but I think you can go from exploration to mission.
Casey Weade: Straight to mission. Yeah. You know, that was the thing I wrote down. I said, “Could I have went straight to mission?” Because I definitely went through all four stages myself and it sounds like it’s possible but some, you get there a little faster than others. Maybe it takes until 65, maybe it takes until 30 but you eventually can get there. And I know we don’t have a whole lot of time left and I just have to talk about this particular topic because we talk about ROI and ROL on probably every TV radio show, most of the podcast discussions. We always talk about it with the families that we work with and I’ve got to hear it from the creator himself talk about ROI versus ROL. What is it?
Mitch Anthony: Well, this is a good segue because what we just finished talking about was the meaning of work. And how in the world have we been having retirement conversations for 60, 70 years and never discussed the meaning of work? Now, you and I are segueing into the meaning of money. What is the point of having money? I mean, that’s a fair question. Or I can make it even simpler. What is the money for? What is the purpose of the money? That’s all return on life is. So, I define return on life as getting the best life possible with the money you have. Right? Because if I asked everyone listening to this or watching this, what is the purpose of your money? What is the money for? They’re going to tell me, well, it’s for the people I love. It’s for the places I love. It’s for the things I love to do, the meals I love to eat. You know what I mean? It’s life. Money is there to support the life. Life isn’t there to build a pile of money, but we’ve turned that upside down in our culture and we’ve made it all about return on investment. It’s like, “Oh, I got to get all the money I can. I can never have enough and people are just killing themselves to get the money and not enjoying the money.” And by the way, you know…
Casey Weade: Sometimes we equate that to stewardship, right?
Mitch Anthony: Yeah. Right.
Casey Weade: And we confuse the two I think. Well, stewardship is getting the biggest return on my money I possibly can. Growing the biggest nest egg I possibly can, that’s not necessarily good stewardship or finances.
Mitch Anthony: That’s right. Well, for some people, good stewardship might be spending some money some time too and enjoying themselves. There are people that don’t, you know this with retirees. There are a lot of retirees who’ve been so – they’re like the ant bringing home the crumbs every day and that became such a discipline that when they retire and they actually have the money, they don’t know how to spend it, they don’t know how to enjoy it. Or a good stewardship might be supporting a cause and getting involved in that cause not just financially, but personally with your personal energy and experience. But anyway, return on life is all about asking the question, personally, “What’s this money for?” and answering that question with, “Okay. I want to use the money to accomplish these things.” And that becomes our focus, not having a pile of money, not how I did against the Standard and Poor’s index, not how I did against somebody else’s portfolio. It’s how did I do using what was given to me to accomplish the purposes that really resonate for me?
Casey Weade: So, if that’s the case, if it’s not about ROI, it’s not about the biggest return I get every year, it’s about the return on life, how should that impact the way we actually invest the money?
Mitch Anthony: Yeah. Well, I’m not an expert on investing but I personally believe and this is just my bias, Casey, I personally believe we shouldn’t take any more risks than is necessary. I mean, some risk is necessary as an investor. If you have a goal that’s here and you need this much, you have to take a certain amount of risk to reach that reward. But I’m not going to take any more risks than what is necessary for me to live the life that I need to live. Why do I need more money? Okay. Let me put it this way. It’s really easy for financial advisors to talk to people and say, “You don’t have enough.” Why isn’t it just as easy to look at people and go, “You have more than enough?”
Casey Weade: Yeah.
Mitch Anthony: Right?
Casey Weade: They’re talking about RRR, right? What about required rate of return?
Mitch Anthony: Yeah. At the end of the day, if there’s such a thing as enough, then that means you could be below enough and you can be above enough. And so, if you have more than enough, then we need to have that conversation too.
Casey Weade: Yeah. We ask that question and, well, let’s say you sit down with someone, you find out that the required rate of return is 3% a year. And we see this all the time, they’re coming in thinking, “I need to make 6% to 10%, because that’s what my broker’s has been telling me for last 20 years.” And then they go, “Wow, I only need to make three.” So, what should they do with that information?
Mitch Anthony: Well, see, again, this is part of that brainwashing that the system has done with people, telling people you need this percent because the reason they’re telling them they need that high percent is because they also believe you can never have enough. It’s that scare tactic that keeps people investing. You can never have enough. Well, yes, you can have enough. And the fact of the matter is, as people get older, like when they get in their 80s and 90s, they actually spend less money. It’s like a big deal. They’re not going to go on that trip around the world at 92 possibly, and they know what their tastes are and they’re pretty simple and they know what they need. So, why do we need to make? Why do we need more money than we need? I put that question right back in the person’s face. Tell me why. If you only need 3% to live the life you want to live, why do you believe you need 10?
Casey Weade: Yeah. I think they typically what I hear is it comes back to stewardship. Well, I need to get a bigger return so that’s the right thing to do.
Mitch Anthony: Yeah. Well, I disagree.
Casey Weade: Well, I appreciate it.
Mitch Anthony: Look, you know, I’ll take all the money God gives me and I’ll use it. I’ll try to be conscientious about how I use it and invest it but at the end of the day, money doesn’t remove anxiety from your life. And you know this for a fact that sometimes the more money people have, the more anxious they are. So, money can become a God and money is a God in our culture, quite frankly, and so we have to be really careful to keep money in its proper place. Money makes a beautiful servant, but a terrible God. And I described money as a utility that it’s like a sail on a sailboat. It’s a utility that we use to navigate. That’s all we do. It’s not the shore we’re sailing toward. It’s not our reward. It’s not the sea we sail upon. It’s not even the vessel upon which we sail. It’s simply a utility that we skillfully manage in order to navigate. So, a utility like water, like electricity, that’s all money is. It’s a utility. It’s not the meaning. It’s not the purpose. It’s just a utility. Let’s keep it in its proper place.
Casey Weade: Yeah. And it provides us greater peace of mind by having that focus on ROL over ROI. That’s we’ve accomplished the goal. That’s why I absolutely love that topic. And I want to wrap up with this because you said earlier, you had a financial advisor yourself.
Mitch Anthony: Yeah.
Casey Weade: And you wrote in the book about why you should not go it alone. I mean, you’re somebody that I think has a fairly astute on the investment side. You might not say that, “I’m an expert in investment planning or financial planning,” but, boy, you’ve coached thousands of advisors. You’ve been around this industry long enough to get a pretty good grasp on what’s going on and you’re not going it alone. In your book, you say, “Don’t go it alone.” Why do you say that?
Mitch Anthony: You know, last meeting I had with my advisor, we were looking at my portfolio and deciding, “You know, should we liquidate this? Should we move this to this?” And he looked at me, and I love this, because he’s turning my own philosophy on me. And he said, “What’s the purpose of that money?” And I was like, “Whoa, why am I just sitting here focused on should we move this from here to here and maybe we could get more by moving here?” And he looks me in the eye says, “Well, what’s the purpose of that money?” That’s the question we got to answer first, isn’t it? Right? And so, look, some people can do this alone, Casey, but not most. I got a friend here in town who was an IBM engineer and he designed his own retirement income plan but he’s an engineer. And he sent me this thing and I looked it over just yesterday in my airplane ride and he said in his note to me was, “This is really simple. Anybody can get it,” and I read it and I’m like, “This thing was daunting.” Do you really want that management obligation? Do you really want that responsibility? Do you really want that anxiety? Do you really want to have to babysit all the factors that go into a good financial plan, and all the rebalancing, and all the allocation issues and all the tax strategies?
If you want to do that, go ahead. You’re welcome to it. I have no problem with that but you know what, for the vast majority, it helps to have someone that you’re accountable to, it helps to have someone who understands that and does that on a daily basis, and it really helps to have somebody like yourself who’s there to support your best interest. You’re there to help them not to pad your pocket.
Casey Weade: Well, I think it goes back to that whole ROL, ROI discussion, even if you’re able to eke out an extra half a percent in return every year by doing it by yourself, where you spending your time? Are you really spending your time on the things that bring you meaning and purpose?
Mitch Anthony: Yeah. You know what, Casey, I see a lot of people that are doing that and they spend their time watching the CNBC ticker, and pouring down bottles of Pepto-Bismol. That doesn’t sound like a retirement plan to me.
Casey Weade: Not at all, not at all. You know, if someone’s seeking financial advice so they’re going down this road, what do you think their expectation should be when meeting with a financial advisor?
Mitch Anthony: Well, if the first thing that financial advisor asks you about is how much you have and how much is earning, and word is I’d walk out right now, because the financial advisor, first and foremost, needs to have a fiduciary sort of conscientiousness and obligation to. They’re there to serve you and help you and they need to understand your situation. They need to understand your family, they need to understand your career, and they need to understand what your future looks like in your own mind, and then start talking about money because money is there to serve the life, not vice versa. So, there are a lot of people out there that they wax eloquent about how smart they are, and how they get better returns than anybody else but at the end of the day, the biggest question for the client is, “Are you there for me or are you there for you?”
Casey Weade: Yeah. Well, I think one of the interesting things I saw in the book that kind of struck me is you provided questions to ask yourself, after a consultation with an advisor, I think most of the times most of the articles, most of the things I read their questions, you should be asking the advisor. Not asking yourself, that’s it. Why did you take that angle on it? And maybe you can share with us a couple of those questions as we wrap up.
Mitch Anthony: Yeah. I don’t have those questions in front of me. I think you probably have the book in front of you but, really, it was what I just alluded to here a moment ago and that is what did they focus on in the conversation? Was it all about how smart they are? Was it all about how much money do you have? Was it all about I’m Einstein with money and how lucky you are to be in my office with me? Or was it about you? So, at the end of the day, you can tell people can read we’ve got antenna, emotional antenna that tells us what that person is about whether they’re there to serve us or serve themselves.
Casey Weade: Well, I think it’s at the core, you know, finding someone that you can see spending the rest your life with. It’s like getting financially married, right? You didn’t marry someone just because they could produce more money necessarily. It was about much more than that, hopefully. So, Mitch, thank you so much for joining me today. Is there anything else that you didn’t get to share that you’d like?
Mitch Anthony: No, this is one of the best interviews I’ve had in years. Thank you, Casey.
Casey Weade: Awesome.
Mitch Anthony: You hit all the bases.
Casey Weade: Thank you. I hope we get to connect again in the future. Appreciate it.
Mitch Anthony: All right. Appreciate it, man. See you.