Think about all of the potential medical services and life-sustaining treatments you may need to have in different scenarios — resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, artificial nutrition and hydration, etc. Do you want them or would you prefer not to have them? Your decisions are your decisions if you make them, and if you don’t, you leave them up to someone else. Our father has end-stage Alzheimer’s. Thankfully, we already had discussed his medical decisions with him five years ago, when he was mentally capable of making decisions. It has taken so much anxiety off of us knowing what he wanted, and there’s no burden when we do have to make decisions, because we know it’s what he wanted.
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 Julie Fry.
Julie Fry is the COO (Chief Operating Officer) of Gentreo -the one- stop solution for everyone’s estate planning needs no matter where they are in life. Recognized as an eldercare expert, Julie often speaks on the evolving marketplace including spearheading the “Our Aging Market” conference at the Harvard Business School Association of Boston. Previously, she served as an executive team member and Director of Marketing for the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC), the nation’s largest home care, hospice and private duty association. There, Julie helped fight for the rights of the elderly to age in place and helped found the National Private Duty Home Care Association. Julie received her BA from Penn State and her MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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 working for a huge law firm in Washington DC and had the opportunity to move into any field I wanted. This was 20 years ago, and when I looked around, I noticed a need for helping seniors and knew that, as the population aged, the need would only grow. Technology seemed to be leaving the care and estate planning world behind, and I wanted to change that.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I created the name Gentreo for our company. Creating a name may seem like a simple task, but alas it is anything but! We knew we wanted to build a company that helped solve so many of the problems we lived through, whether it was caring for aging parents or caring for my sister’s young son, and even our grandmother who just passed away from COVID-19 at the age of 97. You not only have to consider what you want your company to be when you first start, but what you want to be three years, five years and twenty years out. We struggled with a name for some time, but then I had the idea for “Gentreo” — meaning “three generations”. We want to be there for everyone in all of their times of need, across their lives. Gentreo summed this up nicely as we are not just a legal software company that lets people create wills or trusts. We are the partner that users need throughout their lives.
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?
One of Gentreo’s best known products is our pet offering, where we help users protect their pets for when they can’t be there. We love our dog Butter and think that she’s insanely cute. She participates in all of my nephew’s holiday photo shoots, so she has her own portfolio (of course!). We thought everyone would love to see Butter too, as we always try to make estate planning engaging and fun. So we made her our Gentreo chatbot picture. Turns out not everyone thinks it is great to have a dog giving you help with creating legal documents. One gentleman even wrote to us and signed his note with “Woof”. We still get a kick out of the pictures and saying “Woof” every now and then.
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?
Our mom is a true role model. She not only was our literal teacher growing up at the school we attended, but a great teacher throughout my brother’s, my sister’s and my life. We often tell the story of how she had to pay $10,000 to do estate planning as my dad was just starting to show signs of Alzheimer’s. She had to become the one in charge of finances. When we walked out of the lawyer’s office, that is when my sister and I decided to found Gentreo because we realized that everyone needs affordable estate planning. It isn’t just for the wealthy. Our mom agreed with us and has been more than willing to be a partner in our success, letting us share our story with the world of the struggles she goes through. Thanks to her, Gentreo is a much better product because many of her struggles are reflected in Gentreo as product solutions for all users. People ask how we are different from other companies, and I want to tell them that we have Pat Fry on our side! It’s her drive, devotion and dedication that made me who I am today.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Take a break. Write that down. Put it in your calendar. You will never find a good time to take a break — even in retirement. I almost said no to the trip of a lifetime because I thought I had too much to do. My family finally convinced me to go. Not only did I get to see many amazing places throughout Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar, but I came back refreshed with a fantastic energy boost.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
At Gentreo, we work to be honest with each other. Being nice is good, but you also have to have hard discussions. Next, whether you are working remotely or now back together in the office, make sure everyone appreciates what each person brings to the table. We all think we are always giving each other praise, but when you ask people if that is the case, they will most often say no.
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?
1. How much things really would cost. From health care costs to the cost of daily living, it’s important that you plan now for costs to come.
2. You can’t predict the future, but you can prepare for it. Be prepared with the right foundation, plan, documents and people in your life. It’s not just about having a big bank account to retire on. It’s about having estate planning in place, having the right documents in place and knowing where to find them — i.e. is your spouse’s insurance policy stored in the top drawer of his dresser?
3. Find resources now. There is help out there when you retire — take advantage of it. From contacting your local Agency on Aging to your local town offices, make sure you see what programs you qualify for and take advantage of them. While you might be put off by your first AARP and AMAC cards, once you find out how much money you could save, it becomes a great thing!
4. Keep active and social. One thing the pandemic taught us was how important human interaction is. While life isn’t back to normal, take precautions and take advantage of getting out and getting social — join clubs, take hikes or visit the park with friends, or just walk around the shops downtown.
5. Technology can be a great thing. From reading a book to your grandson online to finding that vintage 45 you’ve been hunting for forever, the computer is becoming easier to use and more and more a part of our everyday lives. Just make sure that you’re always taking precautions and be wary of scams.
Let’s 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?
Prepare, prepare, prepare.
- Plan your financial future now. From vacations to see the kids to finally paying off that second mortgage, make a plan for expenses and start now — before you retire.
- Create your estate plan now. From declaring your healthcare wishes to saying who can make your health care and financial decisions when you can’t, a good estate plan helps protect you now and your family after you pass away. We created Gentreo so that everyone can easily and affordably create the state-specific estate and family plan they need when life happens.
- Keep a nest egg. We never know what tomorrow will bring, and when an emergency does occur, you want to make sure that you’re legally and financially prepared and that everyone knows where to turn for information and documents.
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?
- Think about all of the potential medical services and life-sustaining treatments you may need to have in different scenarios — resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, artificial nutrition and hydration, etc. Do you want them or would you prefer not to have them? Your decisions are your decisions if you make them, and if you don’t, you leave them up to someone else. Our father has end-stage Alzheimer’s. Thankfully, we already had discussed his medical decisions with him five years ago, when he was mentally capable of making decisions. It has taken so much anxiety off of us knowing what he wanted, and there’s no burden when we do have to make decisions, because we know it’s what he wanted.
- What used to kill people in the past now doesn’t; expect to live on after emergencies and health issues. Everyone knows someone can end up with dementia (it’s happening earlier and earlier now, unfortunately). Our dad always thought that he would get hit by a beer truck while he was crossing the road. Now, we’ve been providing him with 24/7 care for over a year. Thankfully, the pandemic allows us to work from home and help support Mom because the care, support and costs associated with dementia is much higher than we expected. It’s been hard for all of us and our mother has done the lion’s share of the work, but it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives because Dad planned ahead.
- More and more care is done at home. Make sure you have a great care team and the right documents to let them help care for you. Again, don’t wait. Get your planning done NOW before you or your family has to make health care decisions.
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?
Be close to family. Have a great medical system that you can afford that’s near you. Find a place you enjoy, where you want to spend time. Our parents retired to Penn State. They got to go to all kinds of football games, learned they love watching wrestling and were within a day’s drive from 2 out of 3 of their children. When COVID hit, my dad’s Alzheimer’s was advancing but we could still be there to help. He had great doctors being in a university community and our mom could still find things she enjoys.
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. 🙂
That’s what we’re trying to do with Gentreo! We’re making estate planning affordable and easy for anyone to do, and our goal is to help 10 million Americans create theirs. It’s so important, but most people don’t have an estate plan.
We cannot stress enough the importance of DOING ESTATE PLANNING NOW. We do lots and lots of webinars across the United States for all kinds of people — young, old, rich, poor, those with children, those with no children. Everyone needs to do estate planning as there are so many choices that are involved that will be made for you if you don’t have the proper planning in place. Everyone nods their head — but then thinks they can get to it another day. Make that day today or your family and even you may forever regret waiting for the right moment — now is the time!
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
If I am ever in need of inspiration I turn to a random page of the Bible. It is always amazing to me that the right message always seems to find me at the right time. We lost our grandmother to COVID recently. It was a tough time for my mom and us. We are all so busy, but taking time to reflect came up and really helped set me in a positive direction to try to help others too.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
Like the adage from Benjamin Franklin says, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Take the time now to prepare yourself and your family for what’s to come. It’s cheaper, you get to make decisions for yourself, and it takes the stress off your family.
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!