222: Living Your Best Retirement with George Schofield
Today I’m speaking with George Schofield. George is a professional advisor, navigator, connector, and author. His individual and business leader clients are people working to move beyond habits, patterns, and not knowing what they don’t know. He helps them become transformative thinkers, create adaptable plans, ask better questions, adopt great tools, and get unbiased feedback.
In his previous appearance on the podcast, we extensively discussed his last book, How Do I Get There from Here?: Planning for Retirement When The Old Rules No Longer Apply. We talked about how to set more meaningful goals when it comes to retirement, but I still felt like I wanted to go deeper.
That’s why I’m having George back on the podcast for another discussion. Today, we’re talking about how COVID has changed the nature of goals, and the big questions you should be asking to better understand what you want from life, both in and out of retirement.
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In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
- How George’s goal for a high quality of life has held up in the wake of the COVID crisis.
- Why financial independence and retiring early is less about money and more about experiences for younger generations.
- The questions George asks his clients to help better understand what they want from life, both in and out of retirement.
- Why George prefers the term “release” to the term “retirement.”
- Why George doesn’t like the term “coach” - and why he believes there are no predetermined solutions in the post-COVID era.
- The dangers of the standardized, robo-advisor financial plan.
- How George found an advisor in alignment with his family’s intentions.
- "The quality of the answer comes from the quality of the question." - George Schofield
- "A good goal is about going towards something that’s well thought out, not primarily about going away from something." - George Schofield
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Casey Weade: George, welcome back to the podcast.
George Schofield: Thank you. It's nice to be here.
Casey Weade: Well, George, it's been about a year and a half. So, you're originally on the show back in episode number 106, where we extensively focused on your book How Do I Get There from Here?: When the Old Rules No Longer Apply. And I wanted to kick off our discussion, just kind of focusing on what the last year and a half has looked like for you. And I want to talk a lot about goals here. Last time, the topic that we focused on or attempted to focus on during our discussion was goals, and how to set more meaningful goals and retirement. And I just got done listening to the full episode once again from my second or third time listening to it myself. And I said, what? I don't feel like we got deep enough in goals. We need to get deeper into this goal thing.
And when we had that conversation back in 2019, I asked you what was at the top of your goals list. And I don't know if you remember what you said, but you said, I would like a high quality of life, verbatim. I would like a high quality of life.
George Schofield: Well, got to be constant.
Casey Weade: I'm wondering how that goal has gone over the last year and a half or so.
George Schofield: Boy, have we had to redefine, for me and my clients, by the way, we've had to redefine what a high quality of life looks like in the last 14 months or so, since COVID intruded and the ramp-up to COVID, even though we did know it's the ramp up. Health has become much more important, and building the things around sustainable health, that's one. Two, it limited what we could do socially and physically, how much we were able to get out, how I would engage in the various groups that I belong to. It changed my dynamic with my two sons and their wives and my seven grandchildren who live across the United States.
For me, it's affected my wife and me because she worked out of the home, and I worked inside and I had to go out to consulting, but my home office is my base. And suddenly, Linda and I are in the house for the first time ever that we're both here all the time. So, where do I start to talk to you about all the different changes? That's one. Two, in terms of my clients, I've seen an evaporation of a lot of the earlier models. So, let me tell you what I mean. An earlier model was let's just look at life stages where childhood and then we had education and then we had, for most people, marriage and work and family. And then we have maybe more work for a while, and then we had retirement.
And retirement was actually considered to be a stage of life. What's happened in the advent of COVID is it's amplified what was already there. It's no longer just about age as it was when I began research for the book four years ago. In fact, older people are starting businesses and middle-aged people are having families. And it's all over the map. So, I don't think the general models apply anymore. They were already evaporating, but COVID has really accelerated and accentuated that.
Casey Weade: So, what have been your biggest accomplishments over the last couple of years? Any big goals that you're able to check off the list? Any new ones that slid in there?
George Schofield: So, let's talk about goals for a minute, because as you know, I have a different idea about goals. Goals are often sort of like a religion. If I don't have goals, I'm not okay. If I'm not working on my goals, I'm not okay. If I can't name them, I'm not okay. And if I can't name them for me and the benefit of my various advisors, that's really in trouble because they can't help me without knowing what my goals are. My own experience is that I had to set my goals aside, and this is true for a lot of my clients, too. It's like in the old days you would retire and you were supposed to know what your goals were and imagine what your life was supposed to be. If you'd work for 30 years, and your life was in a certain groove, if you will, how on earth you're going to know other than you had the fantasy of what it could be like, how on earth you're going to know what you want your life to be like because it's another planet, or what your goals will be? I don't know.
So, when I'm working with my clients, I usually say, okay, I want you to have goals, but I don't want you to have goals for the sake of having goals, I want you to take a deep breath and go out there and wander around for four months or five months, get used to the life because it's going to be brand new in the beginning. You can sleep in, you can go play golf early, you can stay up later than you ever did before, you can take a cooking class, you can travel, you can do all these things, but there will come a time when the novelty of it wears off. And I'm interested in your having enough life experience to be able to look me in the eye and say, this is what I would like my life to be like. And out of that, we can fill the goals if you will.
So, this is what happened to me with COVID. My wife and I came back from South America and six weeks later, COVID struck. And aren't we lucky we came back when we did? Or I might be talking to you from Santiago today. So, seriously, I had to set what I thought were my goals aside and say, okay, I've moved to another planet, I don't know the rules here. I need to sort of get my bearings about where I am and what this means for me. One of my goals for me and one of my accomplishments was I learned, one, to not be so driven and two, to spend more time alone than I've ever spent. It was time, but in a weird way, COVID gave me that. I probably wouldn't have had it otherwise. I’m not glad COVID came, I’m not glad it's here, but you have to work with what's in front of you.
Casey Weade: Well, I know you have a real problem with the word do, and a great opportunity over the last year to just be a human being rather than a human doing.
George Schofield: Thank you. Thank you. I don't remember if we talked about this before. There was a company called Nextel, and it was a phone company, I think, and at the time I lived in San Francisco, and their motto was, I do, therefore I am. And they put black and yellow shrink wrap on San Francisco mini buses.
Casey Weade: Are they gone now?
George Schofield: Yeah, I know they're gone, but I do; therefore, I am has not gone because it's still held close to the chest for a lot of people that if I'm not doing, I must not be. So, this has been part of the COVID experience for me to look much more closely for me and for my clients. And if I'm not busy doing, then there's another piece of me that I need to get to know and develop. And that's part of what I've worked on during this time.
Casey Weade: And what does specifically come out of that, as you spent some more time just being, is there anything specifically you could share about the experience?
George Schofield: I think my range of motion is much bigger, Casey. I think that where I could not do for a short period of time, sort of like crashing, I think I have a much bigger range of motion from not in motion, if you will, to a high level of motion and much more comfort across that. I actually am enjoying it. I didn't know it existed in this way. Now, I've created some ambitions for myself around this, but I didn't know what I didn't know. Well, I don't object to goals, I think everybody should have goals, it would be great, but I think the right timing for goals is really important. And if people need to have goals to be okay, even if they don't know enough about what they're in and where they're going, then it's too early to create. We can create intentions and turn them into goals, but I think having to have goals just because we're supposed to have goals that we’re not okay is not a good idea.
Casey Weade: I think historically, when we're working, we work for 30 or 40 years. We get to this Gloryland called retirement. We've been doing for so long, and our goals have all been about work and money.
George Schofield: Right.
Casey Weade: Now, we don't have those things. I think that's why the first interview that we did together was so popular, because I think when people make this transition into retirement, they go, well, I've been a goal setter my whole life. That's why I've been able to accomplish what I've done my whole life, but now, I've got the money, I don't have to work anymore. So, what does a good goal look like at that stage in your life? Give us a couple of examples of maybe some goals you might set in retirement.
George Schofield: So, just back up a minute. You spoke from your experience of work. It was about work, work, and money, if you will. That's not the experience of a lot of people, it could be about simply getting by and raising kids that could be about going on with their education so that they can actually get to where they make more money, I think it's really simplistic to say for most people. It's been true for you, and I really admire and appreciate that. I think it's less and less true that it's about work, and then money, because the whole notion of retirement used to be that we've come to this golden era and then we have to figure out what our goals were in that era. I'm much more interested in our quality of life across the entire range.
So, to answer your question, back to goals again, I want people to understand where they really are, not just in their fantasy life. What's really going on that they can accomplish? Like I was somewhat more limited during COVID because I wasn't going out as much. What do they imagine their life to be like, is the first question? Second question is, what will it take to achieve that? So, I'll give you a personal example. I never had time to be artistic in any way, and I sort of thought of myself as somebody who wasn't artistic anyway because I have no fine motor skills. If I tried to draw a picture of any sentient human being, that person would come out looking like a Dachshund, no matter how hard I tried.
And so, Linda and I sent me to photography school. And the very first day, my teacher, who I might add was a young woman from Mexico City who is half my age, looked at my photos and said, okay, you have the eye, I can teach you the rest. So, this is what I mean by getting the experience and putting yourself out in the traffic. So, what she meant was, and I didn't know it at the time, that I have really good composition skills. If you look in a viewfinder, and you're responsible for every dot in the viewfinder, positive space, negative space, dark, light, composition, angles, symmetry, asymmetry, I can do that, and that translated because I didn't know that it was going to, but it did, into an art called ikebana, which is a Japanese art of floral design. And so, I actually now have been working on it for years and years, but I'm a very high-ranked Ikebana Sensei, Sogetsu Ikebana Sensei. And that's become my form of art.
So, here's my point. I had a general goal of discovering if I could have something artistic in my life that I could do because I thought that was really fulfilling. And this turned out to be a meditative process, although the plant material and I don't always agree on what we're going to do. I went from going to photography school to having this young woman say to me, “Okay, you have the eye, I can teach you the rest,” which is one of the most liberating things anybody's ever said to me, to realizing eventually that I might have composition skills to looking around and seeing where I might apply them and realizing that I had always been interested in Ikebana, but it was never something I thought I could do.
And once I could see that Ikebana was basically the same flavor of positive space, negative space, color, light, mass, line in a space that I could do that and I've gotten very good at, it’s very, very rewarding, but I could never have told you that my goal was to become an Ikebana Sensei, it was iterative. I had this overall intention of trying to explore the artistic George, but I had no idea where I would go. I had to go out, put myself in traffic, and back to goals again. I mean, I encourage people to go out and put themselves out in traffic a bit and learn enough about themselves, enough about what's out there, that we can begin to do better research that may create a good direction and good goals for them.
Casey Weade: I think this has been a fairly major shift over the last, say, 10 or 20 years when it comes– I mean, if I think about my dad and my grandfather, they worked until they had enough money, then they stepped into retirement. And I think that's one of the things that's happening with the millennial generation and even some of the younger boomer generation as well and some of those individuals in between. I think you're starting to see this fire movement take a different form. Financial independence, retiring early isn't just about money, it's really about focusing on living a bigger life every possible year. And a lot of individuals have had the opportunity over the last year to get a little taste of that and say, oh, yes, go to work now. I'm going to work from home, or I got laid off for six months. Yeah, I want to continue to work for a long period of time. And it's helping with this goal, disillusionment that I think we have had as a society for many generations.
George Schofield: Which is not to say we shouldn't have goals, I'm not dismissing goals. I'm always saying I would like them to be really wise goals, which means I want people to know enough that they can form really smart goals for themselves, not just out of their imagination about something they don't know, but they have enough traction now to have some sense of direction and people that they can go talk to about it and explore it.
Casey Weade: I've seen that with many of the families that we've met over the years. My grandfather being one of them, my dad being one of them, they go, well, now what? I don't have anything to do anymore. And then what's my life really all about if it's not about work or money? And so, for someone that hasn't made that shift yet, they haven't had that experience where they're focusing on the now, whether they're 25, 55, or 75, how do they begin to make that shift and make smarter goals?
George Schofield: Right. And part of that means and it's uncomfortable for a lot of people, you can't know in advance. You have to go out and spend enough time to provoke curiosity and questions and relationships and some knowledge, and you might get very surprised. There may be some things you have to give up. My current example would be that one of my best friends lives in Philadelphia, and he got a new bright red Mini Cooper Coupe, he was very proud of it, took it out in the snow recently in the last two months, wrapped it around a tree and totaled it.
It was the first time that he realized that he could take Uber or Lyft or one of the others, and he didn't have to own the car. So, how he arrived at that is he said to me, “What am I going to do? I've got to go out and buy another car.” And I said, “Well, where did you learn that?” And his answer was, “My father. My father was obsessed with his car. He always had a car.” And I had to say to my friend, “Hello, welcome to the current year. Not only do you not have to have a car, if you really need a car, you can rent one. The way you travel, the way you get around and you love to talk to the drivers.” This guy knows everybody's history and their grandchildren's names by the time he gets out of the cab or the Lyft car. So, this is a marriage made in heaven, but he had to go out and get in traffic, he had to explore what the options were, he had to be willing to let go of something, and he had to create some direction for himself. And he said he was a technophobe and he wasn't willing to do that. I don’t think he could live without using Uber or Lyft or whatever now.
Casey Weade: That's the whole concept of just getting out there and exploring and not feeling like I have to do this, so.
George Schofield: Just like more research.
Casey Weade: And how long do we spend in this research process before we actually put these things into writing? Or do we put it into writing? What does a proper goals list look like in retirement? I mean, we write these things down in a sheet of paper, we set dates and times.
George Schofield: That's one option, and that works for people. Remember, retirement is a bell curve, there's a huge distribution. So, when you say the word retirement, 50 different people might have 47 different interpretations of what that means. So, to ask me what the timing is or what the good goals look like in retirement, my answer to you would have to be, who are we talking to, and what's their notion of retirement? I have a friend who is working with her son because his son is going up the corporate ladder as he is coming out of the corporation. He wants to go back to work. He, my friend, is helping, is doing career work with his son, but he also himself wants to come out of the corporation and go out and start a small business. Is that retirement?
So, I'm starting to use the word release rather than retirement because retire is put away. I retire my golf clubs and I put them in the closet, or I retire my car and I put it in the garage, or I retire my track shoes because I'm not going to run anymore, I give them to goodwill. At the moment, I don't have a better word, and I think a lot of our language isn't serving us well at this point. I'd prefer the word release because it's open then, and we can decide what's on the other side of release by working together.
Casey Weade: You know how many conversations I've had like this about the new age of retirement and what it should be called. You're the first to say release. It's rare that I would get someone to bring something new to the table to define retirement, and I like that. We're releasing something from the past, right? It is the release of something from the past and moving on to the next stage. Is that what you mean by that?
George Schofield: Yes, we are being released. We are released, but they're also releasing on our part. My friend who wrapped his new car around the tree and ended up taking the other forms of transportation, really had to release the notion that he could be a man and not own a car. It was fundamental as that, because in the era in which he grew up and everything he knew about manhood, it required owning a car. So, if we go back to the notion of release, there are multiple releases going on, one of which is I am released from the kind of groove that I've been living in. For some of it, it's a deep groove. So, that’s a very shallow groove. For some of it, it's a straight line, some of it go wander. So, I'm released from the groove, but I also release myself and the circumstances around me, but there are a certain number of beliefs and behaviors I will have to release also just to be freed up to have the space in my life to say, I don't know what my life's going to be. I've been doing this so long, I don't know what I really want my life to be like. I have fantasies about it, but they're all mostly about going away from what I knew as opposed to what I'm going towards. And that's very important.
A good goal is about going towards something that's well thought out, not primarily about going away from something. So, I'm working with clients and I want them to do research. Once they're in the release phase, I would have to say to them, okay, let's make a list of six people. I know three and you know three. Let's come up with the very best questions that we can think of, none of which is a closed-ended question.
Are you happy in retirement? What's your experience of retirement? I don't want closed-ended questions, so if we take six people, I will ask my clients to do and which is all very tailored to the individual is to go out and have lunch with each of those six people and then come back and we will work with the discovery because we picked people who have a variety of experience, who have great stories to tell because we don't want everybody to reinvent the wheel every time. It's very personal. We all remember it's a bell curve. We're much more diverse than we give ourselves credit for in our language.
And we're a species that likes to categorize, age, gender, politics, wealth, health, whatever all these things are, we like to categorize, and that is a really major release. If people I'm working with are going to go out and do this research, which is really important to do, then I usually ask them to step outside of the binary definers that they have used and simply go out with an open mind and ask great questions and see what they find out.
Casey Weade: I would have a tough time asking those questions myself, I think, because I do think like that. What do you do for your health? What are you doing for work? What’s your financial plan? You want to put those things in two different categories, and I don't know how I would organize my questions intentionally if I didn't have those categories top of mind.
George Schofield: Right. And yet, if you hang on to those categories and go out and do the research in release, then you're still confined to those categories. My goal for my clients, and one of the things I'm really good at is, first of all, selecting a variety of people for them to go interview for. And second of all, coming up with the right questions that they would ask, because the quality of the question always drives the quality of the answer.
So, to the degree that I can have them to have a research experience outside of the normal binary categorization that they have is how they've thought of themselves until now. And we can come up with great questions, and they can have a really good learning experience once with six different items. Sometimes it's more, sometimes it's less. Then they can come back and have a much smarter conversation with me. And that's really what I'm after, I am after people going out and doing enough research, they can go back and go, wow, I never thought of this, but there are six possibilities that never occurred to me. If I hadn't gone out and put myself in traffic and had these conversations, I would be much more limited than I am now. And I'm trying to open it up for people.
Casey Weade: What would be one or two examples of a noncategorical question?
George Schofield: Well, let's take somebody that I'm working with now. I'm working with someone who is very wealthy, who is coming to a shift. He's been an investor all these years, and he thinks he might like to actually be a CEO, but he's never done it before. He's had CEOs work for him, but he's never done that work himself. So, an example in that case would be we would try to find through the chamber or the banks or other investors or Rotary or whatever the organizations are, I would be looking for six different people who have the experience of either transitioning from the investor to a CEO role or from a CEO role to an investor role. And then, we would craft the questions, the first of which would be, what on earth started you down this path? And what did you find out that you didn't know? And what, by the way, didn't you find out that you wish you had known in advance?
So, I asked open-ended, not closed-ended questions, and that provokes conversation. One of the things you know about really good research, Casey, is that really good research is not just about dreaming up the best questions and getting great answers, it's also about provoking the person you're interviewing to say things that inform you that you never thought about, even though you have the best questions you can think of. So, I want the people that I'm working with to go and have the best questions, the right people go out and get the stories and experience included and what their potential is, but I also want them to be listening, on the other hand, for something that’s really interesting that wasn't in our questions that the person they're having lunch with might say because they might decide, well, this is much more important for the purpose of this lunch than conversation that around just the questions we built. So, I think that great interviewing and great research is about listening and provoking information about what you hadn't thought about, but that's important, in addition to just getting answers to questions.
Casey Weade: Really just provoking a conversation is when I hear. Provoking a conversation rather than just a yes or no answer.
George Schofield: Yeah. And not just any conversation, because they could tell me about something that has nothing to do with what I'm interested in. So, I'm listening for the insight or their experience, that’s something that I realized I hadn't thought about, but that I should explore. So, the person, my client was doing the interview and it takes practice that we do practice might hear something go, oh, I never thought of that, and that's really important. And step away from the pre-prepared questions and explore that and then come back to the pre-prepared questions.
Casey Weade: If we were to explore one of my favorite things here, you said one, the quality of the answer comes from the quality of the question, but one of my favorite things that are probably used, maybe more than anything else in ongoing conversations, is this whole concept of ponies on the track. I feel like there's an intersection between setting goals and having ponies on the track. Can you discuss that intersection?
George Schofield: There is, and we talked about ponies on the track the last time we talked.
Casey Weade: Go ahead. If someone didn't go back and listen to that episode yet, what does that mean exactly, before you dive in?
George Schofield: The history of what's been marketed to us, in my opinion, and by the way, I'll probably give some people fits in the process, is that we've been told we need to find our life's purpose, singular. And if we can find our life's purpose and we'll pursue it, then that somehow happiness will come out of that. My own experience is, one, I have many purposes in my life, not just one. I might have a couple of or three overriding ones, but I am more than a one-person guy. All the clients who come to me that may not be aware of in the beginning, but they're more than one purpose, men or women.
So, I have to help them understand that if they're looking for the Holy Grail to find their unique rest of their life purpose. So, they probably need to go work with somebody else because I can't help them with that, it's a false assumption. So, one, back to ponies, there's more than one purpose; two, they’re assuming that in pursuing that purpose, they need to find the one thing that will take them to the fulfillment of that purpose. My purpose is to play professional golf, not mine, but my purpose is professional golf. That would make me ecstatic to win the trophy. I want to start a small business, I've had this idea of business for a long time. My kids are finally gone. I would like to pursue this. I think people are better off having several purposes. I'm not talking about 50, but a small, manageable number.
Like one of mine was to exploit my artistic capacity, which I wish had been lying fallow all these years because I assumed I had no fine motor skills; therefore, I could never be artistic. I never dreamed that I would end up being a highly, internationally ranked Ikebana Sensei. So, back to ponies on the track, some people can just do one and be perfectly happy. So, again, it's a bell curve. I'm not providing you with a one size fits all answer, but the majority of people I work with are happier if they have two or three or four things that they are pursuing at the same time. And those are what I refer to as ponies on the track.
So, if you have three or four things going, not just one, you might work with one of them one day and another one another day. You might work with a couple of them on one day and then you might work for an entire week with one. The ability to go back and forth between multiple interests or multiple ponies on the track, including goals, by the way, leads to, in my experience, a much richer life and energy, because where I begin to feel drained with one thing, working on the book in my case, I can only work on a book so much, and then I want to throw myself off a cliff for a couple of days and then I'm renewed. It isn't just enough for me to fall down and pant until I'm ready to come back and work on the book. I need something that I can volunteer on or I need client work or I need to get involved with something with my wife or I'm planning a road trip for us at the moment, now that we're finally liberated, whatever these things are, I get energy from being able to move from the other, and each of them provides energy to each other.
Casey Weade: As I'm hearing it, I'm going, okay, well, here's some goals. One goal is to explore, let go. I mean, that could be a goal in and of itself. I'm going to release myself, my preconceived notions. I'm going to go explore.
George Schofield: So, I associate the word goals, maybe my limitation with metrics. And in this country, there's a book called The Tyranny of Metrics, you might want to look it up along the way. We have an underlying assumption often that if we can't metricize something, it isn't worth paying attention to.
Casey Weade: Well, especially if we were a CEO like myself, everything's run on metrics.
George Schofield: That's right. Exactly. So, I'm not putting that down, that's fine, but if that's the only track that your brain can go down, then it's wonderful and it's limiting all at the same time. I encourage people to say, okay, let's create a set of intentions without metrics. So, I want to add two tracks to your model. You have one track and that's the goal track, which is mostly about metrics and success and the people involved in it, I realize.
The other track would be a set of intentions which are deliberately not metricized. And this is what I mean by putting yourself out in traffic. So, I ran across the International Ikebana Chapter where I lived and I started going because I kept doing the photography, but once I got that I was doing a composition, then I began to research and go around to various other art forms where my ability to do composition would work. And Ikebana really stuck for me, but I couldn't have a goal, I didn't know to have a goal of going to Ikebana with metrics attached, I had to have a certain amount of my energy go into a set of intentions, not metricized, because I want to honor goals, I'm not putting the goals down at all.
Casey Weade: I’m starting to feel like you hate goals, George.
George Schofield: Well, I'll send you some anti-paranoia pills, then how is that? I think people are well served by having a set of intentions track also, which are not metricized. And that’s really uncomfortable for a lot of people.
Casey Weade: It sounds like a progression to me. We have this intention to explore, this intention to research, this intention to create some general intentions, right? And then, we're setting some specific goals around those general intentions over time once we discover what they should be.
George Schofield: Right, but what we want– so, let me back it up, and then ask you a question. Is what you want now what you wanted 20 years ago?
Casey Weade: Absolutely, no.
George Schofield: And you're not old enough. So, I'll just do a 10. And 10 years before that?
Casey Weade: Closer.
George Schofield: Okay. So, these things shift, and if we lock in on the one purpose and the one way to get there and we metricize everything, that's great for that one track, but I think we're bigger than that. So, my own example would be, as you know, we talked about it, I raised my sons by myself from the ages of three and seven at a time when the world pretty much thought men couldn't do that and women couldn't be CEOs. Now, I went through a period where I had enough of kids, and my boys went away. And I am pretty much a kid free, 8, 10 years. And then I started to miss kids, and my grandchildren came along.
And so, I was very involved with my grandchildren. Now, they're getting a little older. I don't have a two-year-old I can carry around or who goes– I miss this, by the way, who comes up and gives me a huge juicy smack on the cheek. I miss the touch of that, but I discovered I really have come back around to wanting kids in my life. So, I decided that I would volunteer for a reading program. This one happens to be through Rotary, and once a month before COVID, and I will, by the time we get to settle down, go in to read to third graders in a reasonably impoverished school in my area that doesn't have a lot of resources. And there are publishers that give us books that we can take in, but I go in with a story every time and I read it. And because I have a lot of theater background and I have a lot of improv background, it's moved into the kids and me, the third graders and me reading the book but then acting it out.
So, I can never, ever would have been able to set a goal of saying, okay, I'm going to go into a third-grade class in a school I've never heard of with kids I don't know and do improv, but that's how it's played out. If I've gone down the goal track, I do have goals too, but if I've only gone down the goal track, I never would have had the range of motion to be able to go down the intention track and discover, oh, I would like more kids in my life.
Casey Weade: And do you feel like some of this comes with financial freedom? And you had the financial freedom to have some general intentions as well. And is it easier? I guess, maybe I'm not saying it right, but is it easier to have these broader intentions and be able to do more exploitation when you have that financial freedom?
George Schofield: It's easier, it's not necessarily better for you. So, it's certainly easier because I can get up at any hour and the only person who's going to fire me is me, I mean, and I made the clear choice not to not work. I don't work the way I used to, I'm not crazy. I work every week, two or three ponies on the track, but I have a lot more leisure to make choices and to change them as I go along. Money makes it much more plastic and adaptable and makes me more adaptable. So, it's true, there are people out there, I will tell you, in this giant bell curve, however, who wait for the money. And I have people coming to me at 50 and 60 and 70 saying, “You know, all I did was work in the mess money, and I don't know what to do with myself now.”
So, it isn't that I want people to squander their time or to do things which don't make sense for their careers, but I think it's really important to begin to integrate some of these intentions early on and stay with them, even if they're just in a quiet corner of one's life because it works to have the money, I realize, but I don't think it's necessarily good for us. I would rather see us have at least some small corner of intentions and explore those as we go along.
Casey Weade: And make them broad as well.
George Schofield: Yeah, I know a lot more about myself because I do this improv with these third graders than I would have, otherwise. It's been a great experience, and I've loved every minute of it. On another podcast, I'll tell you about the most recent improv, but I'll spare you that story at this moment.
Casey Weade: Well, I really want to make sure we get to maybe my favorite blog post that you've ever had. We talked about this previously, and it was titled Don't Call Me Coach! Three Questions to Ask All of Your Professional Advisors. And I think this is a good segment. This really ties in well with setting goals and what that really means, setting intentions. First of all, let's just kick it off with what's wrong with calling you Coach George?
George Schofield: So, let me just back up and say, I'm in the middle of blowing up my website because of COVID as we all have to pivot. You asked me one of the things I've accomplished in this period. I've had to look in the mirror and say, now, who really am I professionally? And how am I going to make that work on my website? And do I really want to craft a language which works for search engine optimization, which doesn't give you the best, it gives you the most arithmetically common? Do I want to be arithmetically common? So, I go to my website and I've actually separated out, there are going about to be two blogs. One, Don't Call Me Coach, and the other one is Three Questions to Ask All of Your Professional Advisors.
So, there's some progress of my own in my own thinking. So, coach is a sports term, and we use a lot of sports metaphors, we're a sports country. That presumes known opponent, a game with a score and rules, it happens within a certain frame, if you will, tennis court, swimming pool, football field, soccer field, whatever, has repetitive plays, has referees for the rules, and why I object to coach is that none of those things are true about our work lives and our professional lives anymore. There aren't rules, there isn't a referee, there's no coach out there who has tons of experience in where I'm trying to go. I can go and get advice and hear other people's stories, but there's no one who knows more about my life than I do at this point.
I certainly need professional advisors and I use them, but if I look at life doesn't happen inside a certain framework, like a tennis court, it isn't involved with repetitive plays and you don't always know who the opponent is and there isn't a clear way of scoring. Other than that, the metaphor really works. I just don't think the sports metaphor works. Do I object to the word coach? Only because it's code for all those things I described, and I think we have to think bigger than that and realize that somebody's selling me predetermined solutions for a known problem isn't going to serve me well in this post-COVID period. And so, I've blown up my website and I'm working on it deliberately to put myself out there as an expert in nonrepetitive problems, even the word problem is from nonrepetitive solutions.
Casey Weade: Yeah, I want to dig into what you said there, but first, you kind of wrap that article up with preferring professional adviser over coach. How has that evolved over the last three or four years since you wrote that article?
George Schofield: That's remained constant because I haven't found a better term than professional advisor.
Casey Weade: Well, you had a term in there that I liked, strategic thinker, I think was on, maybe your homepage.
George Schofield: And that's one of the things that's going to– it'll still be on the home page of clear feedback options. Those are all, in effect, deliverables for me, but they're not the collective noun, and I don't know what it's going to be, but the word coach is just one example of the many words that don't work for us anymore, that we use on a daily basis. And we don't have to think about it, we all know what it means. Well, the problem is it's not applicable anymore in a lot of cases.
Casey Weade: What do you think really sets you apart from all these retirement coaches that are coming out of the woodwork or life coaches that are out there today?
George Schofield: As we've moved from an industrial economy to a service economy, there are lots of good people who have lots of good experience, and they've parlayed their personal experience into a program, if you will, and there are lots of people who have academic, but these people for the most part, don't have academic background. You have lots of people who have academic experience, but they haven't been out in the real world doing these things. I raised kids by myself. I've been a CEO. I've been on my own. I've been an author. I've been one of the experts identified in one of the top career books in the world as a preferred person. I'm an International Sensei for Ikebana. I didn't…
Casey Weade: You get some ponies on the track, George.
George Schofield: And I have a bunch of ponies on the track, but that's not the point. My point is, rather than finding a word and going after that in some structured way, I decided I didn't want to be predefined by an objective for the name of which was no longer true in today's world. And that's a lot of work. So, I think what distinguishes me as one, I have both a life experience and the academic background and to weave them together, and I've got a lot of experience on top of that. And I've written and I published, and Nasdaq loved my book and put my face on the Nasdaq tower. That was a biggie for me, I got to tell you, along with the title of the book. What distinguishes me is my preference, whether it's a business or an individual or a couple or a family because I'm not a therapist, is to help them get real about where they are, and in fact, what they don't know, what do they need to go out and find out so they could create great goals and make great choices. And I don't think most people being fired out of a cannon into retirement can do that.
Casey Weade: You kind of remind me in ways of one of my coaches, Dan Sullivan, where you're helping people think about their thinking rather than helping them simply set goals.
George Schofield: Yeah, which means I'm not right for everybody, the people who want the formulaic three steps to make this happen or the formulaic problem solving. One of my concerns for us is that we love problem solving. It's where a lot of our ego satisfaction comes from. We jump in, we create goals, we solve the problem. There are a lot of things going on in the world at the moment that we're never going to be able to solve. We can improve on it, but we can't solve it. And it's like my friend that wrapped his car around the tree and had to give up the notion, he had to have a car to be a man. There are a number of us who are going to have to go, okay, I can still be good at problem solving, but if I'm blind to anything that doesn't look like a problem with a solution, then I'm missing a lot of traffic out there, and I've got to open both eyes instead of just one.
Casey Weade: Well, I think it's true. We go into most of these meetings. I think as the general public, they go in to meet a professional advisor, financial advisor, life coach, retirement coach, and they kind of want someone else to tell them what to do.
George Schofield: Yeah.
Casey Weade: They don't show up. It amazes me how many people will show up and meet with our team that haven't done even basic homework to understand who we are, but let alone where their things are, where their finances are, what their budget is, what is important to them in life. They haven't done those steps and they want us to help set those things for them. Can you just speak to that?
George Schofield: I can. And I think that's one of the things that distinguishes you and me. We tend to partner with our clients. I get pretty quickly and so do you, what they know and what they don't know. So, it's my job to help them expand their thinking range of motion, if you will, so that if they've been inside that time capsule or a cannonball hurtling down their career path, we need to open that up. We need to be able to say, I'd like you to be patient and try some things first, because you don't know all the things you need to know yet. And part of it's going to be invented as we go.
So, I'm sure that you have a way and your staff has a way of, in effect, mini contracting with people for them to do some of the work that you thought they might have done before they came in. The clients who tend to be attracted to me or stay with me are not the people who want the quick fix and the three questions and the six steps. They actually are saying, okay, I've been really good at what I've been good at until now, but I need to get good at some other things that will serve me well across the rest of my life, and that's why I'm here. Let's open that door and see where it takes us.
Casey Weade: Our whole industry has kind of been built around the standardization of a financial plan and now, you see it extensively in the robo-world. Who's going to ask you good questions when you're working with a robot, if you don't have that ability? We've been criticized even in the media before on radio, where people will say, “Well, why would you go in and sit down for six hours and discuss all these things at length with a financial planner? All you have to do, we’ll send out a questionnaire, fill out the questionnaire, send it back, and we'll be able to plug it all in and give you your financial plan in about 35 minutes.” How much justice is that going to serve someone?
I want to take you back, George, before you go there, to 2013. You met with two financial advisors in 2013. You wrote an article about it. It ended up in Forbes. And what if you would have went into that conversation? I mean, you went in with clear intentions, you knew what you wanted, you knew what you wanted your life to look like, I wonder what would have happened to George today had you went in there and just sought advice.
George Schofield: Well, that would have meant that I was less goal oriented and I was willing to divide my time between educating myself and making sure that I had goals and move toward them. I think I would have been smarter, faster if I had been willing to do both of those at the same time, create financial motion in any direction, but also educate myself on the things that I hadn't thought about before, that I really needed to think about in the process of composing a life or crafting a life as I call it.
So, my friend who wrapped his car around the tree recently went to his financial planner, and his financial planner said, “So, how are you doing with your plan?” And this guy opened the book when my friend retired 14 years ago. My friend's handwriting is still in the book and began to go down the list of goals from 14 years ago. This is the equivalent of tell me what you want and I'll spit it out. My friend isn't even the same person he was 14 years ago. So, I think whether it's you or me or any other professional advisor, if we don't move quickly enough and update ourselves about our clients and what really is going to serve them well, then the value of our service is not what I would like it to be.
Casey Weade: I'm afraid, George, you met with two individuals, you told a story about these individuals that wanted to help you retire.
George Schofield: Yeah, she came to me.
Casey Weade: Think about, I mean, what if George would have retired today? Had you not gone in, already knowing that you didn't want a traditional retirement, you may have ended up retired and very unhappy.
George Schofield: Well, no, because I already knew enough to know that I wasn't going to go down her path. I would have been more adept at picking a financial advisor to begin with. So, I learned a lot from that encounter. So, the story is quickly that two women came to talk to me, asked me to lunch. They worked for a bank. And so, I thought, because I run businesses that they were going to want to set up a line of credit or something, and I could buy equipment or whatever it would be. No, they wanted me to do financial planning with them for my retirement. And I said, as I said in the article, “Why would I buy that when I have no intention of retiring?” And they said. “What do you mean not retire? Everyone wants to retire.” And I knew in a heartbeat those couldn't possibly be the people that I would be working with. And my wife wanted us to work, whether it was a man and a woman or just a woman, she wanted a woman involved. And so, that was very informative for us because it helped us figure out what we would be shopping for in a financial planner. And it wasn't those two women.
Casey Weade: Well, I'm curious, who was it ultimately, and why? I think some are listening and they want to know, okay, I'm going out. I'm going to meet with advisors. I want someone that's going to take this kind of track with me. What are some telltale signs that you looked for, some things that you really wanted out of a financial advisor, some important questions that you would ask a potential advisor?
George Schofield: So, my checklist was I wanted somebody who was entrepreneurial and not necessarily embedded in a big firm, might be somebody who had his or her own office, if you will. They're still attached to a big firm, but they're not sitting in the middle of a big bank or a monolithic firm. So, I want him or her to be entrepreneurial, that's one. Two, I wanted that person to get us in a way in which we could have a long-term relationship with this person. Three, it had to be somebody that Linda, my wife, was comfortable with because we have seen enough occasions where, well, one of my friends tells the story that he and his wife went to see their financial planner, and the financial planner talked to him the whole time and never spoke or said a word to the wife, even though she'd made half the money and owned half of it.
So, Linda wanted a woman involved. Terrific. That was fine with me. It needed to be somebody who understood that I wasn't going to retire and that the way I want to use my money might change over time, or how I want to leave it might change over time. There's a huge tradition in the US of those of us who have some money and our grandparents providing for some portion of college education. I've completely changed my mind about that because a college degree is no longer a license to life, and I think all of my grandchildren, I have seven grandchildren, at least three of them will never have a job. They'll have employment, they'll be in the gig in the gig market. Four of them might have jobs, three of them won’t, but all of them will have to get ongoing credentialing for the rest of their working lives because some technical system will change or some policy system will change or some market will change, and they'll have to get some sort of credential.
And my big worry is not, we got enough problems with four-year degrees and student debt. Now, what happens if those same kids have to keep taking some sort of credentialing work that costs money, and their employers don't pay for it and they have to have that to be able to get or retain a job. So, I'm actually interested in funding that because I think that's the big Achilles heel for my grandchildren who run from 12 to 21.
Casey Weade: So, you're seeking someone with an entrepreneurial spirit, someone that would be there…
George Schofield: So, that was an example. I wanted somebody who could get out of the box and think with me like that, and not go, oh, but of course, you're going to need money for your children's college education well, no, not necessarily. I wanted somebody to understand how entrepreneurial I was and could juggle the fact that I wanted to pull some money out because I was going to spend some money doing the research for a book, which was a risk. I mean, that I wrote that book out of a lot of interviews and it costs me money to travel around the United States and do the interviews and at that time, pay the transcribers and do all the things, those things, and do the networking and multiple trips to New York and get picked up by a major publishing house and end up on the Nasdaq tower.
I wanted her to understand that that was my money to take out, number one. And number two, I'm not going to Vegas with it, but I'm not necessarily assured that anything is going to come back from where I'm going to invest it. So, I wanted that whole range of things, and she had to be young enough and turned out to be a woman. She had to be young enough that she would retire on us. She needed to be younger than we were. And I feel the same way about my physician. I'm now at this stage of my life where I picked the dentist and the physician and they're mature and they're not young, young-young, but they're young enough, was enough younger than I am, that I don't have to worry about getting to 75 or 80. And suddenly my physician or my attorney or whoever retires, and I have to start all over again with a relationship with somebody.
So, that was the entrepreneur, the understanding that could work with a woman, the notion this was my money and I was going to do some risky stuff with it, and she needed to not have heart palpitations, she needed to be on her own, as well as affiliated with a big firm. And we wanted a long-term relationship. Linda and I are long-term relationship people. And she had to be younger enough than I am that I didn't have to worry about her retiring and disappearing on me, and there I am at 80, trying to figure out who my next financial advisor is. Shoot me now, I do not want that.
Casey Weade: Well, there's something really important that I don't want to get overlooked that you said, and that’s your money, not theirs. And I don't know how you get to the bottom on the front end of a relationship exactly what questions to ask. However, that's something that my dad told me from a young age, who is an advisor for almost 40 years, and he always said it's their money, it's not ours. And a lot of those stories would come out of individuals that we would meet with, they would say, well, I told my advisor I wanted to get out of the market, they wouldn't let me, or I told them that I wanted a hundred thousand dollars, and they told me I could have it right now. It's not their money, it's your money. I think that's a really important thing to remember. We'll still have families that call in and say, hey, can I take out $20,000 and buy a new car? It's your money, it's not ours.
George Schofield: So, back to the quality of the question. So, my question was, are you grown-up and professional enough to remember this is my money and not yours? And that was a turning point in our…
Casey Weade: Well, I think, don't you kind of get a sense of that, too, when someone's telling you this is what you have to do and you're taking a hard line? I mean, they're not being as maybe flexible with the plan.
George Schofield: Sure. And this is one of the reasons I wanted the entrepreneurial flavor in there. I'm not dismissing big institutional monolithic investment houses, but that's not what I wanted for me. I wanted the person who's both independent and affiliated with a major firm, so she's not trying to do it all on her own. When I went to my physician, I picked a physician this time, about the same time that we were choosing, I said, “Okay, I've never been old enough to ask this question if I'm not well and I can't get well. What's your position on how you treat me?” And I don't think anybody ever asked him that question before. So, in the selection process of our professionals at different stages of our lives, because the questions will be different. We need to be as smart as possible about the question, because the quality of the question drives the quality of the answer.
Casey Weade: Well, George, that's what I love about you.
George Schofield: What?
Casey Weade: Quality of the questions.
George Schofield: All stems back to that, doesn't it?
Casey Weade: Yeah.
George Schofield: And that's why you try to work with my clients and say, whoa, when can I retire is the bozo question of the Western world for me. What would I like my life to be like and who will I have to be to realize that is a much smarter pair of questions.
Casey Weade: Well, George, let's wrap up with this. You said you are working on a new book back in November of 2019, and you were going to, I believe you're doing pre-research at that time, you're going to start in January 2020. Where we at on the book? And what's the book about?
George Schofield: Very, very early interviews. I'm struck by the notion as a result of COVID that many men of all ages, your age, my age, younger men are no longer who they were before COVID, but they're also not who they're going to need to be because we're coming into this great unknown period. Even if COVID went away, there are lots of bets off about where we work, who we’re with, and how we spend our time, and a whole variety of things. And for me, it comes down to individual identity and choice, conscious choice. So, if I'm not who I was, but I'm not who I'm going to need to be down the road, how do I work with that shift? And that's the idea underlying the new book.
Casey Weade: That's just part of life, right? I mean, we're never who we're going to need to be in the future because the future is always changing.
George Schofield: Well, you and I believe that, but there are a lot of people out there who say, okay, I'm now, however, year old, 37, 57, whatever, I worked really hard to get here and this is who I am. And I'll be darned if I'm going to give this up, because this is what I wanted after all these years and I finally arrived.
Casey Weade: That's great. I can't wait to get into it, and I'm sure we'll have another interview, probably a third interview as soon as that book comes out. And we can dig into that, but right now, we want to give away your book for free. And George had sent us over a box of copies of his book, How do I Get There from Here?: When the Old Rules No Longer Apply. Still, I mean, that book is probably more valid today than it was when you originally wrote the book. I think it'll really hit home.
George Schofield: Yeah, I was more prescient than I realized, but it was a gift from the cosmos.
Casey Weade: Well, maybe you didn't feel like the book applied to you back when we did this interview in 2019, while you might feel that way now. And we want to give it out to you absolutely at no cost. All you have to do is go over to iTunes, write us an honest rating and review. Subscribe to the podcast there, and then email us at [email protected]. Send us over your iTunes username, and we will match that up with your review. And we will send you out a copy of George's book at No Cost. George, thanks for once again joining me for…
George Schofield: I always like being with you.
Casey Weade: Thanks, George. Until next time.
George Schofield: Okay, until next time. Bye-bye.