Make sure you have a home where you can age in place. Your 60-year old self needs to try to picture your 80-year old self and make sure you’ll still be ok without requiring a move late in life for health reasons.
As a part of my series about the “5 Things Retirees Say They Wish They Were Told Before They Began Retirement”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric Brotman.
Eric Brotman, is Chief Executive Officer of BFG Financial Advisors, an independent firm assisting clients with wealth creation, preservation, and distribution. Eric recently published his third book “Don’t Retire… Graduate!” and hosts a podcast by the same name, available at www.dontretiregraduate.com. He also published “Pay Less Taxes Now! Four strategies to Help Reduce Your Taxes Legally,” available for free download at www.lowtaxbook.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I was an English major planning on attending law school, and my first job was in the legal department of a brokerage firm. I fell in love with the personal finance world and decided against becoming a lawyer. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Early in my career, I was invited to join the Executive Women’s Network of Baltimore as the only male member in a group of 400 women. I became a board member and chaired the corporate membership committee, and over the next 25 years have been on a mission to create more equity in the financial planning industry. I’m currently serving on the advisory board for Females & Finance, and in an industry which is still 88% male, have built a firm with eight financial advisors — four of whom are amazing professional women!
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
It may not be a “mistake” by definition, but early in my career I met with anyone who would give me ten minutes of their time. I can remember one prospective client who offered to meet with me if I would come to the food court of a local mall at 9:30 on a Sunday night, which is when she was picking up her daughter who was working fast food. I showed up in a suit and tie and conducted a meeting while the mall’s janitorial crew put the chairs on the tables and turned the lights out.
At one point I also wanted to build relationships with local attorneys, so I sent letters to 1,200 lawyers inviting them to lunch and 60 took me up on the offer. Sometimes, I had three lunch meetings at the same restaurant in the same day and spent the whole afternoon eating.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are two, and their stories are related. The first is Michael Steinhardt, who was my first manager when I came into the financial services industry as a life insurance agent. At one point, he knew I was interested in financial planning and that I was going to leave the company, and instead of being threatened by that, he actually introduced me to the person who would become my mentor and helped me leave the company — to his own detriment. I’ve never forgotten that and credit Michael for being a selfless and kind individual who helped me more than he may have realized at the time.
The second is David Berman, to whom I was introduced by Michael Steinhardt. David was leaving an insurance agency and starting a financial planning firm and he needed a “junior” advisor to help him launch. I learned more from him in our four years together than I have ever learned from another person in my life. And in 2003, when I sought to launch my own firm, he treated my departure as a graduation rather than a divorce and we’re been lifelong colleagues and friends ever since.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Create a “rhythm” for your business. Create a weekly, monthly, and annual schedule that allows you to have busy “seasons” as well as downtime, and make sure to take that downtime to unplug and fully recharge.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
- Surround yourself with people different than you in every way — different backgrounds, ages, interests, strengths, etc… and get out of their way so they can become stars!
- Work hard and play hard. Make sure the people in your organization can see you as a human and not just a “boss” and don’t ever take yourself too seriously.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact nearly every aspect of one’s life. Obviously everyone’s experience is different. But in your experience, what are the 5 most common things that people wish someone told them before they retired?
- Retirement should not be a retreat, surrender, or disappearing act. It should be a graduation to the next exciting and active phase of your life.
- You need a life plan that is much bigger than just a financial plan.
- There are things more important than money — like legacy, stories, visions, histories, and values, and you need to share them and record them for future generations of your family.
- Saving for the future is important, but don’t scrimp on the “here and now” completely, as the future isn’t guaranteed. Have a balance between enjoying your life now and preparing for your future.
- You are going to live longer than you expect, and life is going to be more expensive than you ever dreamt.
Lets zoom in on this a bit. If you had to advise your loved ones about the 3 most important financial issues to keep in mind before they retire, what would you say? Can you give an example or share a story?
- Be debt-free or at least free of adverse consumer debt.
- Make sure you can age in place or you have a plan to downsize or change your residence.
- It is FAR more important to miss the big mistake than to catch the biggest wave. In other words, don’t chase returns or try to play “catch-up” with your investments. Avoid the icebergs and, even if you arrive more slowly, you’ll do so in one piece. And don’t overreact to good news or bad news.
Example — In 2008–09 we learned the power of behavioral finance and objective advice. And we learned how buyers, holders, and sellers should prepare for black swan bear markets.
If you had to advise your loved ones about the 3 most important health issues to keep in mind before they retire, what would you say? Can you give an example or share a story?
- It is much easier to stay healthy than to get healthy, so don’t allow yourself to slip into poor health habits — they are very tough to break later.
- Prepare for long-term care. Healthcare is the most expensive potential pitfall in the second half of your life, and an extended illness can destroy almost any financial plan.
- Use it or lose it… your body and your mind alike.
If you had to advise your loved ones about the 3 most important things to consider before choosing a place to live after they retire, what would you say? Can you give an example or share a story?
- Stay flexible. Your kids and grandkids may change jobs and locales and you don’t want to be “stuck” in a place without family.
- Live close to your beloved friends and family. Your social connections matter even more when some of your professional connections may wane.
- Make sure you have a home where you can age in place. Your 60-year old self needs to try to picture your 80-year old self and make sure you’ll still be ok without requiring a move late in life for health reasons.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Retirement is NOT a retreat… it is a graduation! Financial independence is a great goal at any age, but being idle isn’t healthy and people without purpose don’t thrive. Make sure you are moving towards something and not away from something.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
Believe it or not, “The Catcher in the Rye” had a huge impact on me. There is a line in the book which says “The mark of an immature man is to die nobly for a cause; the mark of a mature man is to live humbly for one.” That has stuck with me since high school and has become a calling for me.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!