I would want my loved ones to get real clarity on what their second half of life is going to look like. Again, that includes emotional, social, and psychology regarding retirement. Making sure both spouses are on the same page and they’re in agreement about what they want their days and lives to look like.
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 Bill Keen of Keen Wealth Advisors.
Bill has conducted over 15,000 private client meetings. He hosts a popular podcast entitled “Keen On Retirement” with over 100 episodes published on iTunes, Spotify and all of the major platforms. Bill conducts over 50 live classes on retirement planning each year and as a bestselling author of the new book “Keen On Retirement — Engineering the Second Half of Your Life,” available on Amazon. He is regularly asked to share his thinking with national media outlets such as U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, and Yahoo! Finance.
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?
Iremember sitting on my father’s couch when I was about 10 years old, and waiting for his unemployment check to come in the mailbox. My father had a difficult time maintaining work back in the late 70s, and we lived in a very small, apartment. As a young boy, I internalized the stress and anxiety around money issues. It was at that point, whether or not it was a healthy thing, that that experience instilled in me a real desire to live in the world and learn how to be responsible by handling my financial affairs. At that point, I just wanted to see my father happy and I wanted him to be relieved of the stress and anxiety around money.
Soon thereafter, I realized that I was probably going to have to support my father and my mother, too. They were divorced, and it put a lot of stress on me as a young boy. That’s what gave me the motivation and drive to seek out a finance degree in college. Ultimately, here I sit with nearly three decades of experience as a financial professional. But that inspiration came at an early age, which is somewhat unique.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
There have been a lot of interesting stories, but we’ll go back to the early days in all of this. This story is outlined in my Amazon best-selling book, Keen On Retirement: Engineering the Second Half of Your Life.
I say in the book that my life as a young professional was like a cross between the first half of the original “Wall Street” movie (before Bud Fox went bad), and the movie called “The Pursuit of Happyness,” where Will Smith portrayed a man who started with nothing and built his way up.
In “The Pursuit of Happyness,” Will Smith portrays Chris Garner who started at Dean Witter and worked his way up from no contacts, no assets, no money, no influence and made his way to becoming a success. I just so happened to also begin at Dean Witter. I was a young guy, pursuing my dream. I was sent to New York City to be trained and worked on the 83rd floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center in the early 90s. I was there during a time when, many of our readers will probably remember, a big truck drove into the World Trade Center parking garage and detonated a bomb. It was 1993. It was quite an interesting time to be working in New York City on Wall Street.
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?
I don’t have anything on the top of my mind right now so let’s go onto the next one.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you’re grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
In my book Keen on Retirement, there are several pages and pictures of my great aunt. Her name was Nina Schantz. Aunt Nina was a lady ahead of her time. She was born in 1901 and passed away in 2001. She was the Personnel Director at an iconic department store here in Kansas City called, Emery Bird Thayer. She was the first female director there from the 1930s until 1968 when it closed. She taught me about the markets. She taught me about buying stock. She would even have me read the Wall Street Journal with her as I would visit her regularly here on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City.
She owned shares and I remember specifically she owned shares in the Russell Stover Candy Company because she knew Russell Stover, personally. He was the owner and proprietor of this major candy store in town that is now nationally known. It was wonderful to have her as a mentor. She passed away at age 100 in 2001. She was a constant source of comfort and counsel.
She would take me shopping for school clothes and even suits as I got older. She gave me etiquette training and provided unconditional love and confidence in my future, in addition to being a valuable resource on almost any topic.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
First, it’s about taking care of yourself. Getting a good night’s rest consistently. Making sure that you stay moving and working out physically (I do that every morning before I come into the office). Also, watching what you eat. Those are three things that I would say are key. I also have a morning routine where I go through the things for which I’m grateful and have a little time of dedication and devotion, as well. Starting the day off with some physical activity and thoughts about what’s most important each day can be very impactful for your productivity.
Secondly, it’s coming up with a shutoff time. I think simply saying that at a certain time each night this cell phone’s going to go off and focus is going to be on family and things that are not work-related.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
It takes three things to create a fantastic culture — understanding your clients, picking the best team and having a clear mission. We’re in a personal service business and I ask my team to provide the highest level of client service to the folks that we are privileged to be able to work for and serve. But I want to really be discerning and thoughtful about who we will accept as clients.
First, we work with people with whom we share similar values who are grateful, humble people on most days. People that are willing to be coached. People that are willing to have a relationship with their advisor. People who respect and value relationships. By maintaining a consistent culture of the type of clients we serve, and not working with toxic or disrespectful people, that allows me to then protect the culture of the team members of Keen Wealth, as well. By maintaining the culture of our clients, it doesn’t matter how much money someone might have — if they don’t fit and they’re toxic and disrespectful — we’re not going to engage with them.
Secondly, when it comes to our team, we’re very disciplined about who we accept on the team as employees of the firm. Everyone understands when they start at the firm that we expect a personalized and precise experience for our clients, that we’re not asking them to deliver that service to people that will be disrespectful or difficult to work with. When it comes to our team, each of our team members gets the chance to meet potential new hires before we offer the position. It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to maintain a healthy and inspiring culture and environment.
Lastly, it’s key to have a clear mission, vision, and values of the firm as well as to communicate that mission regularly to our team so that all of us are on the same page with each other and our clients. This allows clients to understand our objectives as well, which makes for wonderful relationships and a wonderful culture.
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 five most common things that people wish someone told them before they retired?
1) Underestimating that we need to prepare emotionally, socially and psychologically for retirement. We need to prepare emotionally, socially and psychologically for the aspects of this next phase of life. The next phase of life is about more than just the numbers. The numbers are important, but there’s an emotional, social and a psychological aspect to moving into that next phase of life that many people miss. The back third of my book deals specifically with these issues and even has a chapter entitled, “Tend to your marriage.” For example, when either one or both spouses have worked their entire career and they’re both now retired and at their home all day every day, it can be a little confusing and can take a little while to find the right rhythm.
An illustration in my Keen on Retirement book shows a man and a woman, sitting at a kitchen table, and the caption says, “I said ’til death do us part,’ but I didn’t mean ‘for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.’” So, understanding what we’ll be doing with our time both as a couple and individually is very important.
Also, understanding where we both want to live. Will we be next to grandkids or are we going to be living by the beach, if that happens to not be by the grandkids? What is our thinking as a couple about what we’ll be doing in that next phase of life? Most of the people we work with had very engaging careers and they’ve done great things around the U.S. and around the globe. When workers come out of that environment, they could experience a real sense of loss of their self-worth and the meaning of life in this next phase. So, understanding and thinking about where we will be giving time, whether it’s being a mentor to younger folks in our line of work or in charitable activities or even up at the local YMCA or Health Center. Thinking about the things that will be taking our time and giving us meaning and understanding the WHY of our lives going forward is something that should be thought about well in advance of retirement.
The other thing emotionally that we see is many of the clients we work with are savers by nature. They’ve saved, they worked hard, they live within their means and they get to the point where they are indeed able to retire. They have the resources, but there’s a sense of guilt and anxiety around the point where the paycheck stops and they are not only not saving money anymore, but they’re beginning to spend money. It takes a decent amount of time for folks to get comfortable with becoming spenders, as opposed to savers.
All of these things need to be thought about well in advance of retirement as my number one concept.
2) Making certain your spending plan is specific and sufficient and that both spouses are on the same page, with the spending plan. I use the term “spending plan” in the book and in private meetings with clients. I don’t talk about the word “budget.” I would rather use the term “spending plan” because “budget” feels restrictive and “spending plan” feels more proactive. It’s important to have a spending plan that is specific and sufficient so that you don’t underestimate what things might cost in retirement. So, we ask people to review their spending from the prior year and get conscious of where the money is really going. And that’s a wonderful starting point. Having both spouses, if married, in that conversation also avoid surprises in retirement when folks are on a “fixed income.”
3) Making certain that your asset base is capable of maintaining your spending plan and standard of living. Understanding how much we need to have a good life in retirement is crucial. We do not want to operate under stress and anxiety and not be able to be truly inspired by that next half of life. We’ve got to make sure that resources that have been accumulated are indeed capable of maintaining that standard of living.
The last thing someone in retirement would want to discover after they left their good job, is that they shouldn’t have. Or, frankly, that they weren’t in a position to maintain their lifestyle. They would much rather know that before leaving a good job as they may not be able to find another one. It would be much better to know upfront than after retiring and then realizing six months or a year later that they simply don’t have the resources to make that money last the rest of their life.
4) Understanding health care costs and the nuances and timing of Medicare and Social Security. Health care costs are one of the biggest issues that retirees face in retirement. Whether or not someone is eligible for Medicare is very important to know. They have to get insurance off the exchange and it can be as high as $2,000 or more a month for a couple. Once they hit 65, the cost of insurance becomes a little bit more manageable. Understanding the timing of taking social security is also very important. Taking Social Security before full retirement agenda then deciding to get another job as maybe a consultant or something part-time, can be an issue if you end up getting penalized. These are things that you need to understand before you retire and before you start engaging those plans.
5) Understanding the difference between tax planning and tax preparation. Many people think that when the CPA or they themselves do their own taxes on one of the tax software programs, tax preparation is sufficient. But tax preparation is simply reporting history. It’s somewhere around February, March, or April of the following year. Folks gather their materials and they report to the IRS their history about what happened the prior year. Tax planning is getting out ahead of those things and thinking ahead about what things they can do today to affect their tax situation next year, the following year and even further out into the future. Many of the things that they can do in regards to tax strategy, by the time the year is over it’s too late. Roth conversions have to be done by the end of the calendar year, not in March or April of the following year when you’re filing taxes. Charitable donations and other things are the same. So, tax planning is much different than tax preparation and you need to be thinking about these things well in advance of retirement.
Let’s zoom in on this a bit. If you have to advise your loved ones about the three most important financial issues to keep in mind before they retire, what would you say? Can you give an example or share a story?
1) I would want my loved ones to get real clarity on what their second half of life is going to look like. Again, that includes emotional, social, and psychology regarding retirement. Making sure both spouses are on the same page and they’re in agreement about what they want their days and lives to look like.
2) Making sure that the spending plan that they have in place is effective. That it gets the job done and that the spouses agree that there’s not a huge discrepancy between one spouse wanting to take the entire family or extended family on a cruise that might cost $100,000 and the other spouse only hearing about that desire post-retirement. It’s so important to talk about spending issues. Or one spouse wanting to be a member of a country club and the other one not knowing about it until later. Then feeling like they’re in a position that one of them has to forego pursuing one of their dreams because of the other spouses’ desires. These are things that a couple very well might make a decision to work an extra couple of years so that both spouses can see their dreams play out in retirement.
3) Making sure that the asset base is able to sustain them and that the resources are there. You have to be careful to not just get with a financial advisory firm that wants to handle your assets and tells you what you want to hear. You have to get with a firm that will tell you the truth about your position. If you’re not able to retire, even if you don’t like hearing the advice, you’re going to be grateful for that advice and be able to plan ahead accordingly so that you’re not compromising yourself in the later years of life.
At Keen Wealth Advisors, we refer to this as the go-go, the slow-go and the no-go years. We call the first ten years of retirement the go-go years because many people are very active and spend way more money during those years than they do later on. Spending tends to drop off in the middle retirement years, which we call the slow-go years when people might not be able to travel as much. Even if they still have money and they’ve stuck to their plan, they tend to naturally moderate their activities. Finally, in the no-go years when people are typically in their late 70s and 80s and beyond, they’re often spending much less money. They’ve given up most of their expensive hobbies and they’re content to relax at home.
We had one couple who wanted to pay for their whole family to go on a vacation. That client took twenty-two family members on a Disney cruise at a cost of well over $100,000. However, it was intentional, and they planned and set money aside for this. They were able to do it without compromising their plan.
I would say finally that you must take into consideration that life throws curveballs. Whether it’s health care costs or needing to step in and help a child. It’s important to take these things into consideration as you’re thinking through any plan.
If you had to advise your loved ones about the three most important health issues to keep in mind before they retire, what would you say? Give an example or share a story.
First, it’s important that people are making it to their annual checkups, whether that’s to our family practitioner or to the dermatologist or other specialists to make sure that we catch anything that might be able to be caught early.
Secondly, take care of your health now as opposed to thinking that you’re going to wait till you’re retired and have more time to do so. We see so many people work for 30 or 40 years only to retire and have their health start to fail because they didn’t focus or tend to their health while they were working. They worked 12 hours a day — or 14 hours with commuting time — and there was a tremendous amount of stress involved, as well. It’s just a shame to see someone work hard, get themselves into a position to be able to retire, and see their health fail shortly thereafter.
Thirdly, staying active now. I said earlier, sleep, diet, and exercise were an important way for advisors not to burn out. But I would also recommend a healthy sleep, diet, and exercise schedule to our clients, as well, to avoid burn out themselves.
If you had to advise your loved ones about the three 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?
The first thing that comes to mind for me is making sure that both spouses if they are married, are on the same page about where they want to live in this next phase of their life. One spouse might have the thought of retiring to the mountains of Colorado, while the other spouse wants to be by the grandkids and that happens to be on the east coast somewhere. I’ve had clients that have had to have counseled over whether or not they were going to be by the grandkids or move to their dream location. Also, living in a warm climate or a cold climate. The other aspect to it that is more financial might be considering where to live based on where property taxes and state taxes are more affordable.
You are a person a 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.
This is an easy question to answer because I’m essentially trying to start a financial and retirement literacy movement now. I’m getting this information and engagement to as many people as we possibly can through a podcast that we’ve had out for over four years, called Keen on Retirement, that has over 100 episodes. Also, now through the book that has been recently been released. We are already touching people all around the nation, bringing inspiration and engaging folks to take personal responsibility for their future. Through the podcast and book, we’re providing the information, objective guidance and counsel to help people to know what they should be paying attention to and how to take personal responsibility. It’s one thing to say it but it’s another thing to provide people with real resources to be able to think through and plan the WHY for their life. We are helping people plan for their life through the podcast, and the book that we have released.
Speaking of ??is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
The first thing that comes to mind is a book that was written by a gentleman named Nick Murray. I read it just a few short years after entering the business. It’s entitled, The Excellent Investment Advisor. He provided information about the good that financial advisors are able to do not only in the lives of their clients but also for generations to come that will be impacted by one family handling their affairs responsibly and creating multi-generational wealth for that family. Nick Murray also helped formulate the psychographic aspect of financial planning, that is so important to our culture here at Keen Wealth Advisors. Murray stated that working with people that you like, trust, respect, and with whom you share similar values is an important foundation for your business, although it seems like common sense. But he articulated that message in such a way that I was able to grasp that it was a gold standard by which I could operate my own business. Over Twenty-five years later, we still carry that same philosophy into our work every day.
Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
Here’s a saying that I embrace: “The Best Is Yet to Come.” The title of my book is, Keen on Retirement: Engineering the Second Half of Your Life, People say, “well, we’re past the halfway mark, technically,” and it’s kind of funny. I tell them, you’ve picked up wisdom along their journey. You’ve got resources. You’ve got time to focus on the things that are most important to you. Now with those various things coming together, the best IS yet to come so no matter where you are in the journey of your lives. I think it’s important for folks not to think that just because we might be in the second season of life or the back half, that all the best days are behind us. I truly believe that no matter where we are, the best is yet to come.
What’s the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
You can follow us on Facebook: @KeenWealthAdvisors and LinkedIn: Keen Wealth Advisors. Our website is www.KeenWealthAdvisors.com.