070: How to Manage the Psychological Effects of Retirement with Robert Delamontagne
Dr. Robert Delamontagne is a leading expert on the psychological aspects of retirement. He’s the author of the Retiring Mind series of books, in which he helps people manage the negative psychological effects they experience after retiring.
In today’s episode of the podcast, we’re digging deep into two books in the series. The first of these is Honey, I’m Home, in which he writes about the heart energy and why you should revisit it if you’re suffering from marital conflicts after retirement or afraid of being with your spouse or partner 24/7. We also talk about The Retiring Mind, where he writes about the psychological effects of retirement – and why 50% of retirees suffer from some form of emotional distress.
Today, Robert joins the podcast to tell the story of his personal and marital struggles six months after his own retirement at the age of 63, the tools and techniques you can use to strengthen bonds and stop conflicts from escalating in your relationships later in life, and how to navigate the common traps that retirees fall into as their professional careers wind down.
In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
- What led Robert into the world of researching retirement – and why so many retirees are miserable, but refuse to admit it.
- Why so many retirees struggle to maintain their otherwise healthy marriages – and why the divorce rate is going down for couples in all age ranges except 60+.
- The reason Robert is a huge fan of enneagrams – and how to use them to better understand everyone in your life.
- Why you can’t recreate your professional environment or achievements at home – and the common mistakes retirees make while feeling angst in retirement.
- Why we struggle with our mortality and what our assets are going to be doing – and how it affects our financial planning.
- “Retirement means living the last segment of your life in the most positive way you possibly can. Optimization of life, the opportunity to pursue creative aspects of your life, the opportunity to solidify your interpersonal relationships and to live a creative, healthy, final stage of your life.” – Robert Delamontagne
The Retiring Mind Series
The Retiring Mind: How to Make the Psychological Transition to Retirement
HONEY, I’M HOME How to Prevent or Resolve Marriage Conflicts Caused by Retirement
A Message for My Grandchildren: 16 Things I Want You to Know
The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Others in Your Life
The Halftime Institute
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Casey: Today’s guest is Dr. Robert Delamontagne, the leading expert on the psychological dynamics of retirement and author of The Retiring Mind series of books dedicated to helping retirees manage the negative psychological effects often experienced after retirement. Today we will focus on two of his books in the series, beginning with Honey, I’m Home where Robert will define what he calls the heart energy and why you should revisit it if suffering from marital conflicts and how to overcome the fear of being together 24/7 in retirement. I’ve seen it happen before. We will also cover his book The Retiring Mind where Robert will define the psychological effects of retirement, of which an estimated 50% of retirees will suffer from some form of emotional distress. Without further ado, I give you Dr. Delamontagne.
Casey: Robert, welcome to the podcast.
Dr. Robert: Thank you, Casey. I love to be here.
Casey: I am excited to have a real living retiree here with us. You know, it’s always interesting. We have a lot of people that want to talk about retirement, including myself. I want to talk about that transition, but it’s difficult for me to necessarily relate as well as somebody that’s already been there and has actually coached people through this process and that’s part of the reason I do this podcast so that I can meet with people like you that are not just retirees but experts in medicine and have conducted significant research in the area of this particular life transition that can be very difficult for some individuals. So, I like to kick it off by just asking about your retirement and what retirement looks like for you.
Dr. Robert: Sure. Well, I have started a software company back in the early 80s. It’s one of the very first computer-based training companies in the world actually and the company grew substantially in over 25 years. I was the founder then the CEO then the chairman and venture capital came in and helped with us fund the business. In 2007, the company was sold to Kaplan and it’s now owned by UL, Underwriters Laboratory. And so, I was 63 years old. The company was sold, and I retired, and I thought, “Here I am. I read all these books about retirement. I’m a psychologist. I’m ready for this,” and lo and behold, about six months into retirement, I fell off. I said there’s something wrong with me, something psychologically going on with me, that I’ve never experienced this before, and it got worse. And so, I decided that I’m a smart guy. I’m a psychologist. I’ll figure this out. So, I started doing research on what happens when people retire and what happened to me.
And so, what I started discovering, I went around and talked to people who have retired but I found out that that retirement is kind of a dirty little secret for a lot of people. There’s a lot of people who are miserable in retirement that they never tell a word because they’re embarrassed about it. They’re saying, “I should be happy. I’ve retired. I’ve had a great career and now everybody expects me to be living the good life and I don’t feel like I’m living the good life at the present time.” So, that’s sort of my story and what started me down the road to researching this topic and writing the book, The Retiring Mind and Honey, I’m Home.
Casey: Well, this is a lifetime interest of yours, understanding the why people are the way they are, what makes them tick. Well, maybe you have this lifetime interest in figuring out why people are the way they are.
Dr. Robert: Right. I think I was born a psychologist to be honest with you. I think that I wasn’t blessed with very many talents, but I had one talent I discovered later in life and that was interpersonal awareness. I could meet somebody and knew a lot about them very, very quickly and it was I think it was an inbred talent I had that I never knew I had and I started using that and I decided, “Well if I feel like a psychologist inside I ought to go get a degree in psychology,” and this is what I did.
Casey: Well, and you think somebody that has all this background experience and figuring out why people are the way they are wouldn’t struggle as much with the transition in retirement because they have a better understanding themselves and why they’re acting the way they are. And not only did you have this struggle, internal struggle with yourself in retirement but you also faced some marital struggles as well as you made this transition, which I really want to get deep into this because I just see so many couples that they’re very happy until they step in retirement and all of a sudden, things have changed somehow. Can you talk a little bit about that? I just loved your book, which was HONEY, I’M HOME How to Prevent or Resolve Marriage Conflicts Caused by Retirement and I think this was sparked by your own personal experience.
Dr. Robert: Yes. Well, I was actually applying for a loan for a house and the loan officer we’re sitting in the conference room, she asked me what I was doing in retirement so, “I’ve written this book called The Retiring Mind and I’m researching this whole area of adjustment to psychology.” She got up and closed the door. She says, “We have to talk.” She said, “My husband just retired and he’s driving me crazy. He calls me five times a day. He wants to know what I’m doing, where I went to lunch, what I ate, who I went with, and explain to him. He’s obsessed with just control.” And she said, “We need marital counseling.” She said, “If this doesn’t get resolved, I think our marriage is going to be in trouble.” And so, I left the conference room. I thought to myself this might be a topic of importance, so maybe I should research this and use this as a companion text with The Retiring Mind, which is what I did. I went and I started researching it and I have my own personal experiences when I retired. I didn’t even know that I was trying to control my wife.
Here she was, she had her own space, her own routine. I wasn’t around. All of a sudden, there I am 24/7 asking her, asking her, and telling her would you do this, would you do that, and do this? She said, “Hold on a second. I’ve done just fine for 37 years without you telling me what to do.” It wasn’t anything serious, but it was really an abrupt acknowledgment to me that there is an adjustment not only psychologically for me, but there’s adjustment for everybody around me because I’m the new guy in town. I’m the new energy force in town and there’s an accommodation process that has to go on in the family often because basically life changes substantially when you retire and you’re spending all this time together. In the book, I use the term marital compression. What I mean by that is because you spent so much time together, everything feels like it’s compressed. The energy between a couple becomes compressed and it becomes any small aggravation becomes a major event sometimes if it’s not dealt with which is what the book is really about to deal with it.
Casey: This concept, marital compression, you say can become a big deal and you said this for you. It wasn’t that big a deal. Everything was going to be okay, but it could’ve become a really big deal at the time had you not address it.
Dr. Robert: Absolutely.
Casey: What did you do to address that issue? How did you overcome them? Because this is something that I hear about all the time, not just from people that are in retirement. It had that experience but before they even get there, they’re already thinking about this and a woman or man saying, “I don’t want them home,” or I don’t want her home all the time.”
Dr. Robert: Right. Well, when I retired, I was blindsided by all this because there were no books written on this. There’s nothing you can do to prepare. Nobody led the way and said, “This is what happened. Be aware.” I think half the battle in retirement is really being aware of the potential changes that are going to be required and the change is often required of inner knowledge insight, understanding of what’s happening between you and your spouse. Now, the other problematical issue that is much more serious is and we get into this in the book is that your personality differences are often substantial in a marriage and what happens is that whenever your differences get managed because one or both of you work all day. So, the amount of time you spend together is an evening dinner, maybe watching TV or sporting events or whatever and on weekends, well, she may have social events. So, you’re not compressed together. You’re not shoved together where your personality conflicts become increased. So, that’s when the problem occurs because what happens whenever you have personality conflict it’s intrinsic to you. It’s coming from the inside of you and is manifesting itself in your relationship and requires a different type of process to deal with that.
Casey: So, it sounds like maybe while we’re working, we’re spending eight hours at the office five days a week so we got 40 hours a week that gives us the opportunity to get some of those potentially conflicting personality differences out while we’re outside the house and then when we get home we can adjust to that other person’s personality because we’ve already got that energy out during work and now we don’t have to out.
Dr. Robert: Yeah. The way I described it is the personality conflicts on a marriage get managed by absence.
Casey: And now you don’t have that absence.
Dr. Robert: You don’t have the absence.
Casey: So, what did you do specifically? Were there any actions that you took in order to make sure that you could make that adjustment?
Dr. Robert: Yeah. What I did is in the Honey, I’m Home, I created a sentence completion test. I don’t know if you’re aware of that but what it is, is says when a man and then when a woman, and what it does you complete the sentences. “I like it when you ____.” “I appreciate you when ____.” Things like that and I like the psychological sentence completion test. This is designed to reinforce what it is you love about the other person. It’s very reinforcing and so what I did, I used it as a test based on myself. I filled it out on my wife and I asked her to fill it out on me. And surprisingly, we’ve been married for a long time but the time we married for 35 years and I learned new things about her, what she thought about me, what she liked about me. We never really taken the attention to talk about these things and it was actually very inspiring for both of us because what it did it brought us closer together and we realized that no matter what conflicts we had, the bond between us is so strong, we can overcome anything and it was a new revelation for both of us.
Casey: In a way, you’re practicing gratitude, right? I mean, you’re really figuring out what you appreciate in one another, which can become a daily practice for many people. Is this something that you’ve implemented and made part of the daily practice or regular routine?
Dr. Robert: Well, what happened was is that when we went through this, it really reinforced and opened our eyes to the relationship, the patterns of the relationship. When people get married, often people tell weird stories about people getting married so I put one look at her and I knew I was going to marry her but actually she said, “I saw him out on two dates that remind me he is the one.” And what that really is it’s a vibratory frequency compatibility. What happens in people function like that? There are individual frequencies compatible with the other person and so that’s when relationship move really fast is because they both know the compatibility. What I’m trying to do with the sentence completion test was simply reinforce that frequency compatibility and that’s what, I just put words to the energy.
Casey: Is that something that you need to revisit on a regular basis? You didn’t do it for 35 years.
Dr. Robert: I really never felt the need to revisit it once we did it. It was that powerful.
Dr. Robert: Yeah.
Casey: Were there some questions that were more powerful than others?
Dr. Robert: Yes. Some things that I learned that my wife really liked about me that I had no idea she would be like that, when I did that or attributes about me and it was so reinforcing. It strengthened our relationship.
Casey: Did you make any changes after going through that exercise in order to overcome some of these potential conflicts?
Dr. Robert: I think there’s no question about it. I think the changes made out of like make a decision or make a change. I think it just were a natural unfolding of the process. It just happened. Just like whenever you don’t know something, and now you know it, you change. It’s what’s inside. You know, in psychotherapy, all psychotherapy is triggering insights inside of you that make connections and once that happens, people change.
Casey: You mentioned this heart energy in the book and then mentioned again this feeling when we first encounter a loved one, we feel this connection, and I just really enjoyed this chapter. You talked about you might say, well, I’m falling out of love or I just don’t feel as connected as I used to, and realizing that even those people that might have personality conflicts or have psychological differences that feeling they had when they first met, it was almost biological understanding the research.
Dr. Robert: That’s right. Well, what in the heart methods to do the research on this and what they discovered was the heart has an energy field projected out because the strongest up about 5 feet goes out about 8 to 10 feet and what happens whenever you hug someone or you dance to someone or you’re very close to someone, what you’re doing is you’re exchanging energy. You’re exchanging information and knowledge of that person but it’s subconscious because it goes into emotions. It doesn’t go into your cognitive structure. It’s how you feel and so they’ve done all different types of research on this and when I first ran across it, I said, “This can’t be true.”
Casey: It sounds like hocus pocus.
Dr. Robert: Yeah, but then I started delving into research in quantum physics and it’s totally explainable from a scientific point of views how it works. It’s an energy field process between human beings and whenever you have a consciousness level and a frequency level is compatible with your spouse, your life together is going to be much, much better if you have a big discrepancy between your vibratory frequencies. So, for example, I’ll use a crude example but if you are a concert pianist and you marry somebody who likes to go out on weekends and go to bars and get drunk, there’s a good chance the frequency disconnect. You see what I’m saying?
Casey: I do.
Dr. Robert: It’s just that the people that have the greatest marital difficulties from my point of view are people with widely different frequencies.
Casey: But in your book, you said even if you have these wide differences in your frequency, your personality, the way you are, there’s still a tremendous amount of love or some type of energy connection there especially when you first met. You fell in love, you got married, right? You got married because that frequency was there, their connection was there. Even if there was a personality difference, you can still make it work because that was there unless you were fighting the feelings, which I found…
Dr. Robert: I think a lot of times people get divorced from an early age, the disconnect is so strong, they can’t stand to be with one another. Let me tell you what I mean by that. Let’s say you have a very high frequency. Let’s just say you as a human being have a very high-frequency. That’s what you emote. I mean, that’s coming off of you is an energy field. If you encounter somebody with a very low energy field, you make them uncomfortable. They don’t know why, and they feel it. In my life, I know there are certain people that I really liked, I really try to establish communications with, and I could tell I almost repel them for some reason and I didn’t understand that until I delved into this physics of it and realized there was a good chance that we have a very divergent frequency.
Casey: So, do these things change over time? When you get married, we have this connection and then were 35 years later are we different people with different energies that maybe we shouldn’t be together anymore.
Dr. Robert: Yeah. I think the person who makes a dedicated effort in increasing their self-awareness and increasing the dynamics of their life, the positive dynamics of their life, they definitely can alter their frequency, definitely, but it’s not transformative. I mean, what I mean by that is that you can modify, but you can’t completely transform. Let’s just say you have a very high-frequency and this person has a very low frequency. That person is not going to get to where your frequency is. They’re going to improve their frequency. They’re going to get closer to you. The chances of them altering their life to the extent of moving into your frequency level is pretty slim.
Casey: So, I guess you talked about marital counseling and I wonder, we talked about early marriage, and it sounds like you’d say, “Well, if the frequency isn’t there, marital counseling maybe isn’t going to work.” Is marital counseling different later in life as you may have been married for a few decades, you’re stuck in retirement?
Dr. Robert: Well, I think if you’re married for a long time and you’ve managed to be together and relatively happy, there’s a very good chance that your frequencies are compatible, or at least close to being compatible. It’s not a deal-breaker. Let’s put it that way.
Casey: Can you discuss maybe a couple you’ve worked with that were maybe on completely different frequencies or having a lot of struggles and how you help them overcome those things?
Dr. Robert: Yeah. We do an annual Thanksgiving party week. We have many 15, 16 people at our party. Now, if you’ve ever been to Christmas parties, Thanksgivings, and everything, all kinds of psychological stuff is going on. It’s a complete mosaic of compatibilities, incompatibilities, personality differences, irritations, wonderful things. They’re all mixed together and I was sitting around and my wife and I had a 50th wedding anniversary and my children went and done all of our old photos all the way back to when we were dating and they put this video together with the music and sound story which is really very touching and we were so pleased at such a gift. And so, we played it for some of the people that were in our Thanksgiving dinner and a couple of them started crying and you couldn’t understand what was happening. And then after it was over, we realized that not one of them came from my intact family. In other words, all these people got married and none of them, not one of them grew up without parents being divorced.
Casey: Everybody at that party had divorced parents?
Dr. Robert: The people in the room at this time watching the video. Not everybody but watching the video.
Dr. Robert: And it was so painful for them. It wasn’t tears of joy. It was in tears of loss that they never have the life arc that my wife and I had because their families were broken. And so, that’s I think a good example of a recent event where I think I had an observation of something I never thought of.
Casey: In your observation in that moment was there’s a lot of people experiencing divorce and the heartache that it’s causing.
Dr. Robert: Yes, absolutely.
Casey: And you’d mentioned a statistic in your book from the Office of National Statistics that shows that the divorce rate is dropping sharply at every age group, except those over 60. So, pat on your back to millennials out there but if we look at this age group over 60, we have to ask ourselves, what is causing that divorce? Is retirement causing divorce?
Dr. Robert: Well, I think marital compression is one of the things.
Casey: Now, nobody’s going to retire.
Dr. Robert: I know. What is interesting about that statistic is that a lot of people are economic hostages in marriage. They can’t leave their marriage because they have no alternative. Now, both couples usually work and you take the economic hostage off the table and you have a situation where somebody may say, “I don’t have to put up with this anymore.” In other words, “We’re together all the time. I hate being married to you. I don’t want to continue the last phase of my life with you.”
Casey: Yeah. Well, I experienced that firsthand with my parents. They divorced shortly after retirement in the early 60s and it was, we both deserve to be happy and I heard them say that, “Since I’ve only got X amount of years left. I’ve got maybe 10, 15 good years left, I think we should be happy.” And I’m not there, I’m not them, and I don’t know if that was the right attitude to just say, “Hey, this isn’t working. Let’s go enjoy our lives,” or should they have taken a different approach?
Dr. Robert: Well, maybe they’ve made an accommodation for a very long period of their marriage for their family and when the family was grown and healthy and no longer needed their care, oftentimes they decide this is just not working. We’ve accommodated so much during our marriage to keep going and keep for other reasons. I now want a phase of my life that’s for me.
Casey: Well, what if you’re feeling that way right now? If you have that feeling right now, you’re transitioning into retirement, I just don’t know if this is going to work once we’re together all the time. Is there something you can do to get ahead of the issue? Or you just throw in the towel?
Dr. Robert: No. I don’t think you throw in the towel. I’m saying I think that there are certain couple dynamics that they’re going to throw in the towel whether we want them to or not. Just look at the statistics. 50% of everybody that gets married gets divorced today so there’s a real issue going on there. What the most important thing to me and I counsel my grandchildren about this too, I tell them who you marry is going to be one of the most important decisions you make in your life because it determines so many of the outcomes of your life, where you go, what you do, who you meet with, and what you see. And so, the reason why you get married is very, very important because in the book, if you like her high cheekbones or she likes your Ferrari, that’s not the reason to get married.
Casey: Because those things might change.
Dr. Robert: Yeah. Exactly, right. It’s like you better think about your compatibility. You better think about your frequency compatibility. You better think about the sharing of goals. You better think about what kind of life you want to lead, what outcomes do you want associated with this marriage? Often, we don’t think about those things because basically, we’re being guided by our heart. We’re not being guided by our mental processes. It’s like I feel this and I want it and this is it. I feel it. And so, I guess it’s a combination of those emotional aspects and more thoughtful aspects that have to be mixed into the decision.
Casey: Well, it sounds like you would recommend to really get into those things to better understand yourself from a self-assessment perspective and understanding your partner and diving into those things before you get there. Maybe you find out we really shouldn’t be married. You shouldn’t be married anymore. We shouldn’t have got married in the first place. But we got married. There was probably something there, some good energy there before and so maybe it’s the personality stuff that really is what we should do to get ahead of things. I know you’re a big fan of the Enneagram questionnaires. That seems to be pretty central to most of your discussions regarding purpose. They just appear very important to you and I don’t know that everybody’s familiar with what an Enneagram is. It seems to be something that is starting to be a trend lately. I know my sister-in-law she bases all of her friendships and relationships off that test. By taking this test and then they decide if they’re going to continue to be friends with people or not or if they’re going to cut things with people. Personally, that sounds a little extreme whether you’re basing your friendships and these connections on this exam or this quiz. What do you think about that? Just talk about what an Enneagram is.
Dr. Robert: Yeah. Well, that is very extreme, but I came in contact with the Enneagram in 1980 and read a book by Helen Palmer called The Enneagram. I was floored by it. She had gone to South America and had worked with a psychiatrist down there by the name of Oscar Ichazo and they apparently went to the Far East and the Sufis had an oral tradition. They were never written down and he brought it back and he basically made into a technology and it’s very esoteric and I was completely blown away by it because when I discovered my Enneagram type, it was so accurate for me, it was unbelievable. I couldn’t believe that any methodology could describe me exactly the way that described me. And I began studying it. I’ve been using it. I ran my entire company based on the Enneagram because what I would do is I would say, “Okay. This person is a three. That person should be in sales. It’s a natural thing for a three to be in sales or management or whatever. A one, these masters or perfectionist, that person is likely to gravitate toward programming, something technical, something perfectionistic. If I’m going to have brain surgery, I’m just going to ask the surgeon, “Take this test. If you’re not a one, I don’t want you to do anything to me.”
But what I learned is that people naturally gravitate toward your Enneagram type because if you are naturally flowing in life and you’re drawn to certain things and repelled by certain other things, you eventually should end up on something that is compatible with your Enneagram type because it enables you to be successful without a great deal of effort. For example, I’m an Enneagram five, which is a solitary mystic.
Casey: You and I were both solitary mystics so I’m curious. I wonder if that’s kind of something that maybe – I think from what I read there, it’s actually natural that I see a lot of famous that I work with and maybe they’re high achievers and they’re struggling with this transition.
Dr. Robert: Yeah. Well, basically, the attributes of a solitary mystic is they tend to be mental. They tend to love to delve into things and learn about them and penetrate. I think of Bill Gates if ever there was a walking 5, it’s him. I mean, he’s really smart. He just has to push himself off into the front of the – he’s not a promoter.
Casey: Well, on that note, I thought what it said was interesting is these individuals they’re maybe introverted. They don’t like being in front of the camera or in front of an audience, but they realize that’s what they have to do it in order to be successful.
Dr. Robert: That’s right.
Casey: And for me, I don’t really like talking in front of large groups. I would rather be by myself studying but I’m constantly doing things that I’m comfortable with like this.
Dr. Robert: Well, yeah, but I think also, whenever you’re a type, you can sort of flex inside that. It’s not a hard classification. It’s more a set of tendencies. I always thought there was something wrong with me to be honest with you because I can go in my office and I could be working on something. I could be up there for three or four days if you send me food. I didn’t really need the reinforcement and the energy and the dynamics of other people. I just didn’t need it, whereas I realized with my wife, which is another interesting thing, she is a harmonizer. She’s a 9 and she needs other people. One of the points of conflicts we had is that she needed to go out and be with other people and I would say, “I don’t want to. That’s boring to do that.” So, I realized that I wasn’t really…
Casey: That is one obstacle you had to overcome.
Dr. Robert: Yeah. Right. And I realized that we had to do something because she was touching my discomfort zone because of what she wanted to do and the people she wanted to do it with. So, we made it through this Honey, I’m Home process. We made a deal and the deal was, “Look, I’ll go with you but in two hours I’m going to leave because you tend to enjoy so much you want to stay all night. You want to be the first to arrive and…
Casey: We can go out to dinner and give me 45 minutes to get the meal done. I want to go do something else. I think that they’re there for the next two hours.
Dr. Robert: Another side of a fight is after dinner you look around and they’re gone. They’re somewhere else. They’re doing something else. It’s like okay. This meal was 45 minutes to an hour. I’ve had enough and now the urgent side of me become so strong I’ve got to leave. I have a nephew who is exactly like me. He and I sit there, and I can see his knee starts shaking after 30 minutes. He starts shaking and moving around and everything, and my daughter said, “You know what,” she said, “I really hate this, but I think I’m raising my father.”
Casey: Well, your wife being the harmonizer and you being the solitary mystic, there’s opposites there it seems. And so, do we necessarily seek out another solitary mystic or another harmonizer or is it better that we have these offsets? Is it true that opposites attract and it’s like…?
Dr. Robert: Yeah. I think there’s some truth to that. I mean, being married to the same type as you are, your spouse is going to be just like you. It’s not going to be a particularly growth-oriented coupling. I mean, my wife I learned a lot from her and her perspective on other people. The other deal we worked out, it works out fine because she always holds up her end of the deal. I always hold up my end of the deal and so we pretty much satisfy her requirements and satisfy mine so it’s a happy medium for compromise and it’s an example of how the Enneagram works.
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Casey: All right. Somebody’s got to be willing to do that. If you love the person you’re with but you’re having some conflict, you’re maybe not real happy in the relationship. It doesn’t mean you can’t be. You just have to understand that other person and take dives into some of the questionnaires and exercises you’ve raised in the book to create that understanding and then put together strategies like, “Well, hey, we go to a party. I’m going to leave after two hours. Do you understand why? And if you understand why, it’s not just because I hate these people and I don’t want to be around you anymore. This is just the way I am, the way I’m built.” If you have that understanding, you can build strategies around it that gives us those buffers we need.
Dr. Robert: Well said. Exactly right. That’s how it is.
Casey: Well, I don’t want to spend the whole time here on marriage. I think we probably could. There’s so much more in there but your other book I think is the first book you had, The Retiring Mind: How to Make the Psychological Transition into Retirement. So, maybe we can speak to some of those individuals that maybe aren’t really having marital issues or aren’t concerned about that. Maybe they’re single. They’re stepping into retirement. So, let’s get on this topic a little bit and we talk about change in transitions. I think the interesting thing is we go through many transitions throughout our lifetime. We go from adolescence into adulthood and then there’s a lot of different transitions along those lines from being a child to being independent in high school to being in college than into the business world and then maybe we make it, we take it to this next level, and then we step into retirement. What is different about this retirement transition than some of these other life transitions that we go through?
Dr. Robert: Okay. I think the greatest differences how intense these changes, this is a life orienting change. If you’ve lived your life one way for 35 or 40 years, you’ve got reinforcement for who you are, what you are, how you achieve, whatever, and then they come and the blades fall down, the sheets pulled down and all the things that you built that all the reinforcing aspects of your achievements, your identity, your social interactions with your coworkers and everything is over. It’s gone. And no matter how hard you try, you cannot re-create your working environment. You can’t re-create the reinforcements that you received by your achievements at work. I think of people like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and these terrific athletes who just fans adored and the energy that they receive, I will be willing to bet you that when they go into retirement, they have an extremely difficult time.
Casey: Well, and maybe not instantaneously, right? I think many of the individuals that I work with and help transition to retirement first few months is just bliss. It’s three, I wake up when I want to wake up. I go to sleep when I want to go to sleep. I do what I want to do when I want to do it with who I want to do it with and that all sounds great but eventually things change. You start recognizing things that you missed or maybe you don’t recognize the things you miss. You just aren’t as happy as you thought you would be. Do you think there’s a timeline of change that you go through and can you recognize maybe where you are along this timeline as you step in retirement and beyond?
Dr. Robert: Yes. I think there’s a certain cycle of time and the cycle basically the first three months or six months, you’re so happy to be out from under the stress of your job, your performance stresses. It’s almost like you decompressed a little bit and say, “Boy, this is great. This is wonderful,” and then once you realized that playing tennis four times a week or going to play golf three times a week isn’t making you happy. In other words, it doesn’t fill up your life. Now, maybe for some people, of course, it does but many people end up with their golf clubs in the closet because they just don’t feel like doing it. It doesn’t help them. So, I think at the end of the first three months, six months or so, that’s when it sort of sexy ended. There’s something really the major change going on and the major change requires adjustments and what happens is I learned in The Retiring Mind, it depends on your personality. They’re probably 60%, 70% maybe of people that retire don’t really feel the angst over time. They will look forward to it. They work their whole life. They just enjoy the fact that they don’t have to go to work anymore and their personality types are more laid-back.
They may have more social interactions. They may have networks of people around them that they enjoy and love. They have hobbies and things that they can invest themselves into to give them great fulfillment. The people that I’ve identified in the Enneagram that have the greatest risk are people who are the supercharged types and I say the master is the number one, it’s the perfectionist, the person who’s just focused a great deal of energy and focused on what that person does. I would say it’s star. The star is an Enneagram type three. The star was raised to be a star. Parents do it over. The parents applauded every achievement, everything he ever did. He got a great deal of positive reinforcement when he was little, and he met the right people, went to the right schools, and is charismatic, knows how to socialize an extremely effective way, and just had it. That person is a high risk.
I would say the conquistador which is number eight, conquistador is a hard-charging aggressive type of personality. If you ever met somebody who can say things to people that make you want to hide because they say it right to their face and they’re totally comfortable in conflict. There’s no discomfort whatsoever and they do it. They were very high risk and I put us, number five, in a moderately high risk, not terrible high risk like the other three but moderate because what we tend to do is feed off of the intellectual energy and challenge of what we’re doing. It occupies us. We feel off of it. We think about it. We study it and it charges us up. It gives us something to get up in the morning to think about and do. Whenever that’s gone, there’s a decompression process psychologically and emotionally that I don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t know where to put my energy. I don’t even know what to think about. I don’t even know what I like let alone what I don’t like. That’s what happens.
Casey: Well, and I know for myself I made mistakes in that. It’s something that I go through regularly when I am not feeling challenged or I get kind of complacent or things get a little too easy, I’ll tend to take on some challenges. I compound things on top of each other. Then I feel overwhelmed and then I cut back. It’s kind of a bit of a roller coaster ride that not only am I on, but my wife gets to hold onto my back along the way and experiences this roller coaster along with me and she doesn’t understand why I do it to myself. “You did this to yourself.” But I needed to. I needed this roller coaster. Do you think that there are some common mistakes that individuals make along this timeline when they get to those point of angst?
Dr. Robert: No question. Well, in my own example. I almost bought a beach house that I couldn’t afford in the wrong location and I almost signed on the bottom line for this big house and the reason why it could’ve been a worse decision for me and my family no matter. I mean, I couldn’t have created a worse scenario for me and my family and the reason I thought about it and pulled out the last section because the man upstairs intervened but I realized that I was trying to avoid the pain that I’m feeling in retirement. I needed the action. I just wanted to make something happen. I have a friend of mine who retired after a very successful career he owned, had his own company. The company got sold and he retired and he ended up losing a huge amount of money because he worked in the healthcare industry. He invested in a potpourri factory that serviced Walmart and he lost everything. He lost every penny.
And I interviewed him for the book, and I said, “Why in the world would you invest in that? You know nothing about that industry.” He just said, “I just needed the action. I just needed to do something. I was so uncomfortable with my life and what I was doing with it. My energy was out of control and I just decided I need to do something and that’s what I did.” There’s countless numbers of…
Casey: What do you think that man could’ve done to avoid making that mistake and get ahead of it? Is it something that he just had to do? Did he have to make the mistake to realize where he was?
Dr. Robert: Well, he said that he was in a great deal of stress because when he sold his company, he was always the first in his class. He was the first in his class at high school, first in his class in college, first for me, but set sales records in the healthcare company he worked for, started his own company, story of my life successful. He sold his company and in six months they fired him. He got into conflict with the chairman of the board.
Casey: So, he sold his company and they rehired him and then they fired him?
Dr. Robert: Yeah. They made him the president and then they fired him. So, here is somebody had a double win. One, he is extraordinarily successful his entire life and he was in his early 60s, late 50s and he tells me what’s wrong and there’s nothing he could do about it and so he decided to retire and then it hit the fan and it was really difficult. Very, very hard on him.
Casey: And what kind of exercises might he have been able to do to avoid making that kind of mistake? I mean, I see a lot of people that step into retirement’s been involved say all that accumulation their entire lives. It’s that scorecard that they find. It’s their balance sheet and so then they want to double it, they want to triple it, and they just can’t accept. This is where I’m at today.
Dr. Robert: The difficulty, there’s a difficult question here, and that is that if the problems being created by your psychological image, in other words, where you are in your neurotic, healthy, probably. If you’re on the lower side, some of the issues are stemming from what’s going on inside of you and it’s not your environment. It’s not retirement so much as what the retirement is triggering inside of you that’s causing you tremendous pain. If you’re a healthy person and you retire, you’re going to go through normal adjustment processes. It can be very uncomfortable but if you’re on the unhealthy side and the rug is pulled off from under you, it starts triggering psychological things inside of you which is one of the reasons why I think sometimes divorces happen because the pain gets triggered that’s deep inside a person psychologically. It’s not an adaptation problem. It’s a psychological problem and it requires a deeper processing in order to get at that to make it right.
Casey: Well, it sounds like one of the things you can do is figure out a bridge to retirement in a way. I think you’ve kind of done that where you said, “I’m really interested in research. I like to learn how people work, how they think, I like achieving things so, I’m going to start this new company. I’m going to write a book.” You’re pulling some of those things from your past into the future and planning ahead for that and maybe that looks different for everybody.
Dr. Robert: Well, you know, the interesting end of story of the person that do this, he ended up starting a new company and company’s growing and he’s happy and so he basically just replicated his success pattern before he retired. So, it really is not retirement and he’s successful at it.
Casey: And he’s doing what he loves.
Dr. Robert: Yeah. He’s doing what he loves.
Casey: And for you, that was stepping into retirement, maybe no longer earning but still doing research?
Dr. Robert: Right.
Casey: Does that make sense?
Dr. Robert: Research, reading, really pursuing topics that are highly interesting to me.
Casey: Right. And I think one of the things you said is that one thing that helped you during this transition was focusing in on your own mortality.
Dr. Robert: Right. Absolutely.
Casey: Can you explain what that thought process look like and how other people might be able to use that?
Dr. Robert: Yes. I’ve gotten some criticism from some people because in the timeline I addressed spirituality. I addressed I called it The Divine Energy Field that exists for me at least exists in the world. It existed for Einstein. It existed for Sir Isaac Newton. Two people that looked into nature the most deeply both came away feeling that there was a divine energy that exists in the world. Sir Isaac Newton invented calculus. He discovered gravity. We know what Einstein did. Two people looked into the heart of nature more deeply than probably anyone else in the world and they came back and said, “There’s something going on. There’s a divine intelligence exists in the world.” We believe that. We agree to it. Sir Isaac Newton was a Christian and Einstein was more a theoretical spiritual person. And so, I decided to write about this in the Retiring Mind because the divine energy field is if you look at the research on it is an active field. It’s an energy that’s alive. It’s something that permeates every aspect, every cell in the world and so I decided to write about it because I feel as though as you dress your own mortality and it’s inevitable. When you read a book about psychology, psychology of retirement, you better address the concept of your own mortality.
So, I did that, and I did it though with a scientific bend. I didn’t want to do it from a Christian perspective or a Buddhist perspective or a Hindu perspective. I just want to deal with it from a spiritual perspective. And the reason I wanted to do that is because I think it’s essential for your happiness. For example, I have somebody ask me one time, “Have you ever met a happy atheist?” And I said, “Well, I don’t know because I don’t I think I know that many atheists to be honest with you but I’m not sure,” but it’s kind of comforting to think and to know that whenever your time is done, there’s another chapter. There’s something buoyant about that, something psychologically healthy about it. Something that’s optimistic about it, something uplifting about that. The alternative would be an atheist basically they consider their ego to be God. Whatever they think is right for them and I don’t want to wrangle on anybody here but I’m just saying that I think there’s some aspect of life where you address your own mortality it’s sort of thinking about, well, what’s next? What do I believe is next? Is this it? Is this all there is? And so, that’s what I wrote about.
Casey: And does that help direct your purpose? Say personally or for other people, do you believe that you can have purpose without spirituality? Does one come before the next? How do they work in conjunction?
Dr. Robert: I think it’s extremely a person. One of the things I talk to my grandchildren about. I wrote a book called A Message for My Grandchildren: 16 Things I Want You to Know. There are 16 things that I’ve learned in my life I want to pass on to them and I want to write a book about it so that other grandparents with young nephews they could sit down and read a book with them or talking about it. And so, it’s things about honesty and helpfulness and friendship and problem all that and I told him. I said, “You know, when you end up your life,” I said, “There’s one goal that you should strive for and that goal is look back and say, ‘I never purposely hurt anyone.’” Back in grade school, your high school, your college, if you can say that at the end of your life, you win.
Casey: And there’s probably nobody that can say that if they went through high school.
Dr. Robert: Right.
Casey: You probably did something along the way.
Dr. Robert: I use the word, purposely, because everybody hurt somebody in life. That’s life but I mean purposely I’m going to single you out and hurt you. And so, but that’s the kind of conversations I’ve had with them because it’s part of the book, the part of the 16 Things I Want You to Know that I passed o.
Casey: Well, if nothing else, it’s a pretty neat thing you did to leave a larger legacy than just money behind to the next generation.
Dr. Robert: Definitely.
Casey: And grandparents can have such a huge influence on the next-generation, doing things like that.
Dr. Robert: Yeah. Well, I wrote an inscription on the cover of each of the books so it’s personal to each one of them and so I said if one of these things ever happen, just think, the couple would be really happy, recognize that it was happening.
Casey: That’s cool. Talking about retirement, you’ve seen a lot of people make successful transitions and this is what I heard you say. We talk about personality types, people that are having a successful transition. Maybe they never went through that three to six-month period of panic or angst. You said they have a lot of hobbies or they have a lot of friends. They create a lot of social interactions and I’ve got to say that that’s what I see the most in most successful people. I know dads are just having a killer time of retirement and spend time with individuals. He’s got all kinds of hobbies that he likes to take part in. Would you say those are the two most important characteristics that we can have as we step in retirement?
Dr. Robert: Yeah. I think there are certain people that gravitate to other people. They have very large networks of people around then. Their personality type, they just enjoy life. Whatever it is, let’s go to a party, let’s play golf, let’s play tennis. Let’s go for a walk.
Casey: They text me and probably once a week and says, “Life is good.”
Dr. Robert: Yeah. You know, I’m not one of those people and I really admired them, and I think it’s fantastic. I wish I was more like them. But I know I’m not, but I think…
Casey: You think you have to do things differently.
Dr. Robert: Yeah. And I think also it’s a personality type. I think there are certain personality types. I look at the cruise director which is number seven. The cruise director can create a party in five minutes anywhere they are. They have this extroverted personality. They have people around them, people gravitate to them, because there’s so much fun and if you ever work in a sales organization and the person comes in and lights up the room with his energy and his bubbly dynamics and this outgoing personality, that person doesn’t have trouble in retirement. They go right into retirement without blinking an eye.
Casey: Well, let’s say you’re not one of those people, maybe you are, maybe you’re not, what would be your advice, say the top one or two things that somebody should do right now if they’re ever going through that or the transitioning into retirement. What are one or two action steps to take in order to make sure they had a successful transition?
Dr. Robert: I would say do the Enneagram at the back of the book, The Retiring Mind, because it’ll guide you in terms of what you’re like or what’s your intrinsic nature is and that’s the first thing that helps you guide yourself. If you don’t know yourself well, you can’t make good decisions for yourself because you don’t know who you is. So, self-awareness is the key. That’s the master key that goes into the lock. It says this is what starts the process. I now know I’m like this. I know these are my tendencies. I know this is what I like to do. This is like hello, welcome to this new world called me. This is who I am.
Casey: Well, maybe this is off-base. We can’t think of something. It’s just something that we encounter all the time. We’ve had two cases this week. Another one of her advisers met with a gentleman in this situation. I met with a couple in this situation where they got more than enough money to last the rest of their lives. One is sitting on a $10 million portfolio and they’re spending none of it. They’re just living off Social Security and pension, some residual income that they can put royalties and then you got another couple that are in a similar situation. They don’t have 10 million but they’re millionaires and they don’t spend a lot of money and both of these couples are a little different. One of the couples that is an opposition. Well, they’ve got this $10 million portfolio and not spending any of it and he says, “I want to make 8% a year,” and say, “Well, why?” If that 10 million in terms of a 20 million ten years from now, does that change your life?
He said, “No, not at all.” Whose life does it change? He said, “Well, it’ll probably go to my kids. Probably help them but it’s not going to impact me.” And he said, “Well, it’s really at the core it’s about the scorecard.” I said, “That’s it. That’s my scorecard. It goes to 11 to 12 to 13. It just feels good, but you can’t really quite accept that he’s not making more money for himself. He’s making it for somebody else. He can’t focus on that end goal and where the funds are going and I just see that with so many individuals that they have trouble accepting the reality of the situation, where the funds are going which is really we’re talking about the purpose of their lives. But that does kind of connect with the purpose of their life savings too. The purpose of their life savings is no longer for them. They don’t need it anymore. It’s for somebody else. They have to accepting it.
Dr. Robert: Well, you know, I just had a thought when you mentioned that. There’s a lot of people with that level of money. There are friends have that level of money as well and they’re still competitive. They’ve basically got to where they are for some reason. Either they earned it, they sold something and it’s a country club thing. It’s a discussion point. It’s like, well, do I have more money than him or her? Do they have more money than me? It’s compelling. It’s their jousting match.
Casey: And I guess does that connect back to their personality type? Maybe that’s not such a bad thing that they focus on these numbers and growing as part of their scorecard because it creates some type of fulfillment or purpose.
Dr. Robert: Yeah. Give them something to think about, something to do, something to talk about, something to it gives them action.
Casey: It’s interesting. So, I took us a little off base there but it’s been something that online why we have trouble accepting our own mortality or where our life savings is going in the end, what the real purpose is because if it’s going to the kids, yeah, there might be a better way to position those assets most efficiently to accomplish the end goal, but we just can’t get over that hump of saying, “Yes, it’s going to kids. Now, how do we best…”
Dr. Robert: The interesting thing about the example which is perfect is the root of that example is psychological. It has nothing to do with…
Dr. Robert: Yeah. Absolutely.
Casey: All money decisions are psychological in some way. One of my questions that I want to wrap up with was with your experience in psychology, you studied it from all different ages, how does our psychology change as we age? Is there a change?
Dr. Robert: Yeah. I think we mellow out is what happens and the reason we mellow out is because life beats us up some. In other words, nobody escapes life without going through hardships and pain, maybe death of a loved one, something, some harsh thing or several harsh things occur that you have to live through and I think what happens is we’re almost like a piece of metal whereof somebody takes a bullet and he keeps hitting it like this and it melts that metal and it softens it so that when we get older, you get stressed out about less because you’ve been through so much and they give you – you have more of a philosophical orientation just because of your age.
Casey: Is there a way that we can use that to our advantage?
Dr. Robert: Well, I think you do. I think it’s a philosophical thing to understand your life in terms of you go back to the energy. The energy field that you live in is molded by the experiences you have during your whole life and so where you are in retirement is a product of everything that’s happened to you in your life in all aspects.
Casey: That’s very true. Well said. I want to wrap up with a couple of questions maybe general in nature but there’s one very specific and that was one that you had mentioned that you almost bought a place on the beach and you ended up in a place. Now, you have a home on Marco Island. You spend the winters in Florida then you go back to Pennsylvania in the summer. You’re a snowbird as many retirees are today and, in your book, you talk about the power of a place so there’s a lot of families I’m working with that are thinking about buying a lake home or they’re thinking about moving to Florida, getting an RV and traveling the country. There’s this idea that you can be happy anywhere, but you don’t need to be in Florida or on the beach or in the mountains in order to be happy and I see people that are in retirement that never seem to find that happy place. They live in Florida then they live in North Carolina then they live in Montana and do you think that there is one place that can bring us happiness or can you be happy in?
Casey: Well, I can only tell you how I perceive it. I think there’s definitely something called power of place and it’s an amalgam of a lot of things and I just use my own example. I live in Solebury, New Hope, Pennsylvania. I live in a house. It was first built in 1710. It was a log cabin and it was added on and added on and added on and it eventually was purchased by Moss Hart and Kitty Carlisle, the famous playwright, and he added onto it. There’s something intrinsic, creative and intrinsic about that part of the country for me. I like the architecture. The house is made of stone. It is a stone fireplace. It’s 14 feet long and it gives me a great deal of pleasure to live there and the energy field created by that area of the country is compatible with me. I love it there and then we came to Marco Island and the same thing happened. It’s like this little quaint village of which is 2.5 half miles wide by 5.5 miles long. You can get anywhere in the island in five minutes.
And there’s something about the people here and about the energy of this is the frequency of Marco Island, this very pleasant compatible with me, the water, sand, people, the atmosphere. I really think there’s such a thing called power of place, and I think the people can find there and surprisingly, one of the things that I discovered is people that lived in Manhattan and leave, miss it terribly. They try to find a place to live and they’re so accustomed to having all the aspects of Manhattan in front of them, the restaurants, the theater, everything, that you can’t simply replace it by moving. So, I think everybody there’s a place for everyone. There’s multiplexes for everyone, but I think it’s something that’s an aesthetic. It’s something you feel. It’s not an analytical thing. It’s not a financial derivative. It’s how you feel when we’re there.
Casey: Well you said analytical thing, but some of these decisions are pretty important and they can be financially devastating as you said. You bought the beach home. It could’ve been financially devastating and so it would be nice to be able to get ahead of these things. Do we have to go and experiment and feel out these places or are there things that we can do to help identify what type of place might be best for us?
Dr. Robert: I came down to Marco five times before we bought a house down here to see. I just kept coming back because I just enjoyed it. And there are probably other places on Florida that would suit me, but I’ve gone up and down the coast of Florida and there’s no place to call me except here. Now, I’ve been to Florida, Pompano Beach, West Palm Beach, the whole thing up the side coast of Miami and just nothing felt the same. And so, I do think there’s definitely an economic consideration to move as you point out but I’m saying the power of the place is emotional. It’s a frequency thing. It’s not a financial thing. We could live in a tent in the right place and be happy.
Casey: And what it kind of sounds like we had another guest, the CEO of the Halftime Institute, Dean Niewolny, and he had called I think it kind of sound like what he defines as low-cost probes. You’re going to find ways to experiment with different places in a low-cost way. I’m trying this with my mom right now. I don’t think she’s real happy in Indiana. I saw her the happiest when she was in Florida and then in a small community there where she had people she is surrounded with and activities but now she’s not sure where she wants to go, so why not spend a month in Arizona, a month in Florida, a month in North Carolina and just kind of feel out what feels best to you and those you’re going to be with rather than just going in and buying a half-a-million-dollar home and potentially putting yourself in debt.
Dr. Robert: Great advice. Perfectly said. The worst thing you can do is just buy something so buy it.
Casey: Makes a lot of sense. Now, I’ve got two general questions for you to map things up. I know it’s time to go here. One is I think you’ve been retired for 15 years now.
Dr. Robert: Yes.
Casey: Okay. So, you’ve been retired 15 years now. If you could go revisit your 15-year younger self, what kind of advice would you give?
Dr. Robert: I think what I should have done is I should’ve invested in more pleasurable activities, things that brought me pleasure and I don’t even know what those things are because I used to play golf and I used to play tennis and I had a medical problem in my back and I couldn’t do those things anymore. And when I lost those things, I was sort of at a loss for what to do. In other words, what activities. In other words, I think my life could have been enriched by having alternative things to do that I enjoy. But in all honesty, I didn’t really enjoy golf all that much later in life. I didn’t really enjoy tennis all that much. In other words, it would be something to do but I’m not sure it’d be highly enjoyable for me to do those things. I think my enjoyment came from running the company, serving customers, and making money. That’s what I enjoyed to do and I look back at my life and I say, “That is really what you like.”
Casey: And maybe you should’ve reinvested more of your dollars into those places.
Dr. Robert: Probably. That’s right.
Casey: To bring more of that purpose into your life and have a richer experience due to your personality type and I really like the word you use there, invest. A lot of times I’ll ask that question and people will go back, “Well, I would’ve put all my money in Facebook stock,” or I would’ve put it all on Bitcoin. They think about these financial investments that would make them more money. In reality, it wouldn’t have made any impact on their life. You’re talking about not just return on investment. You’re talking about something more important, something bigger, return on life which I think we focus on return on investment our entire lives, then we get into retirement, you’ve maybe only got 15 years maybe 10 or 30 years, whatever that timeframe is, you’ve got a short period of time to really enjoy. So, stop thinking about the money, stop making it about creating more for you. You could’ve invested more of your money into building a business and maybe it wasn’t creating more money. Maybe it was just creating something bigger that had a bigger impact, but it was return on life for you. I think that’s a beautiful thing that most people should spend their time focusing on as they step into retirement.
Dr. Robert: Perfect. Perfect. Yes.
Casey: I’m going to ask you one final question and that is what does retirement mean to you?
Dr. Robert: Retirement means living the last segment of your life in the most positive way you possibly can. Optimization of life, the opportunity to pursue creative aspects of your life, the opportunity to solidify your interpersonal relationships and to live a creative healthy final stage of your life.
Casey: That’s cool. I think that’s one of the best definitions I’ve heard. Refinement is what I hear. I think we go through a good portion of our lives just trying to figure things out making a lot of mistakes and now we have the opportunity to learn from and grow and really create a foundation and a legacy that we can be proud of. So, hey, Robert, thank you. If somebody is looking for a way to get in touch with you, maybe they want to experiment and figure out for themselves if these books are right for them or walk themselves through some these questionnaires themselves or as a couple, how do they get in touch?
Dr. Robert: The website is called TheRetiringMind.com and there they can get in touch with me but also they can read the first, the preface and the first chapter of these books to see if something would be helpful to them.
Casey: Awesome. Well, I’m sure a lot of people will be getting that done for themselves and I look forward to seeing you again very soon. Thank you.
Dr. Robert: Thank you, Casey. Bye.