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Podcast 186

186: The No-Regrets Retirement Plan with Robert Laura

Robert Laura is a retirement speaker, baby boomer expert, author, entrepreneur, and money manager. As the Retirement Activist, he’s committed to changing the way people think about and prepare for every aspect of retirement. Over the course of his career, he’s learned that retirement is one of the most fascinating and least understood phases of life, and he’s laser-focused on helping people create no-regrets retirement plans.

In his nationally syndicated columns at Forbes and Financial Advisor, he challenges the status quo of traditional retirement planning. He’s also the founder of RetirementProject.org and Naked Retirement, and he frequently appears in the Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Investor’s Business Daily, Yahoo Finance, The Street, and other publications.

Today, Robert joins the podcast to talk about what he calls the “retirement mirage,” what makes retirement so stressful for so many people, and what it really means to have a no-regrets retirement plan.

In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
  • Why it’s so hard to talk about the problems that people have planning for retirement.
  • Why retirees need to focus on the person first - not the money - in order to transition effectively.
  • What Robert refers to as the “dark side” of retirement - and why some retirees need a coach or a therapist more than they need help from a financial advisor.
  • How the financial coaching industry is changing to address the complicated nature of modern retirement.
  • The five keys areas to address as you build a real retirement plan with personal health, financial well-being, and freedom in mind.
  • When to bring a financial advisor and retirement coach into your life.
Inspiring Quote
  • "If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will." - Gregory McKeown
  • "When values are clear, decisions are easy." - Roy Disney
Interview Resources
Disclosure
Offer valid in the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, to first-time requestors. During the offer period, receive one (1) in-stock book per request. Limit (1) book per week per household. Limit three (3) books total each calendar year, between January 1 and December 31. Offer valid while supplies last. Howard Bailey Financial, Inc. reserves the right to cancel, terminate or modify this offer at any time. Void where restricted or otherwise prohibited.
Read the Transcript

Casey Weade: Bob, welcome to the podcast.

Robert Laura: Hey, Casey, how are you? Good to be here.

Casey Weade: Hey, Bob, I'm excited to have you here. I actually came across you originally in an article that you had a little feature in in Kiplinger, How to Transition into Retirement. And I loved your insights so much that I started diving deeper into your background and your history and your bio and all the things that you've created around the world of retirement. And one of the things that I wanted to ask you as I read through your bio, you said that you're fascinated about retirement.

And I don't know that I've heard too many people go, I’m just fascinated by retirement. They might be fascinated by the universe or religion or maybe even a sales process or marketing but to be fascinated about retirement, I don't know that I've met one other than myself that's that fascinated with this particular subject. What fascinates you about retirement?

Robert Laura: Why people fail at it, and kind of the mirage that people make it out to be. It's perceived as this perfect time that just magically unfolds. And prior to becoming a financial professional, I’ve been an advisor for 20 years, but before that, I was a social worker. So, I really enjoy the psychology of what makes people tick. What are they thinking and feeling? And I just like to engage people on that level. And as I started to engage more people, it really became clear that retirement isn't easy. It always doesn't work out.

But here's the funny thing, I think, you can't tell anybody that. There's a huge stigma about it. So, people can suffer in silence because if you have enough money not to work and all the time in the world to do whatever you want, whenever you want, but you're saying you're not happy, people think you're crazy. But that's really what's going on behind the scenes for a lot of people because, yes, they may have enough money to retire, but they're not prepared. And so, that really just kind of lit a fire under me of like, how do we help people make better retirement decisions and better transitions? And so, that's the part that really, just because I like to engage at that level with those real thoughts and feelings is what's interesting to me.

Casey Weade: I don't think I've ever heard it framed as a retirement mirage, but I like that concept. I hear that or interpret that in such a way that I'm looking at retirement as this glorious opportunity to never have to work again. I'm going to spend time on a beach. I'm going to the golf course, spend time with family. It's just going to be incredible no longer to have to work, but much like that mirage that you find in the desert, once you get there, it wasn't what you expected it to be.

Robert Laura: And it's such an important point because retirement doesn't eliminate work, it reorients it. And that's what people get wrong. So, work doesn't go away, you just have to work on different things. You have to work on your health, your relationships, finding purpose, staying engaged, staying connected, and it takes work. And again, people don't realize that. No one is telling them that. They're not saying, Hey, here's how I kind of frame it. People assume they're gaining so much when they go into retirement, but they're losing a lot.

And if we don't have replacements, that's why people waste the first two to three years trying to figure it out because they don't have those replacements. They're like, wait a minute, this doesn't look right and feel right. And yes, I love my grandkids and I like playing golf, but not every day all the time, I need something more. And if they transitioned with it, instead of trying to figure it out when they got there, things would go a lot smoother, a lot quicker.

Casey Weade: Well, it sounds a little bit like marriage. You look at marriage, oh, this is going to be wonderful. And then you find out, well, this is a lot of work. It can be wonderful. It can be fulfilling, but there's a lot of work that has to go into it. But unfortunately, you don't often realize it until it's too late. And I see you as being that voice of reason that helps to guide people before it becomes too late, right? We want to make sure that you understand the level of work, what you need to work on before you get there, so that you don't run into trouble.

Robert Laura: Well, and I call it vaccinating clients. And I think the financial professional industry, we need to do a better job. We don't have to be counselors, we don't want to be a coach, we're not doing therapy. We have to raise awareness and vaccinate people and if you think about when little kids are vaccinated, so a small amount of something negatives insert into them and they build up their defenses. We got to quit lying about retirement. It's not this perfect Pollyanna phase where it all just comes together. You've got to do this work.

And if you're upfront with people about that and help them write down, this is what I preach, a written non-financial plan, like literally what does a perfect day in a perfect week look like in retirement? Most people can't do it. They can write down a perfect day, but you get to a perfect week there by Wednesday or Thursday like, wait a minute, that's Groundhog's Day like. That's a lot of time to fill, but there are simple things our industry can do to really help people see this. Of course, if you're married and you guys do that as spouse, they look at each other's like, we're not on the same page, we're not even the same book. It's those little things that again can really help people make a much better transition.

Casey Weade: You say you’re a so-called retirement activist, and I don't know that I've heard of retirement activists. Usually, this is something about political or social change. And just looking up the definition of activism, a campaign to bring about political or social change, so as a retirement activist, how do you apply that definition to what you're doing and living every day?

Robert Laura: Well, my mission is to change retirement. It's backwards. People focus on their money first and then themselves or assume that stuff again is going to fall into place. If we turn it around and focus on the person first, that money stuff falls into place and it reduces that stress and anxiety because if you ask people what their perfect definition of retirement is, it's really not a perfect definition. It doesn't really boil down what's important to them because if you take all that stuff away, it's family, it’s health, it has nothing to do with money. And so, my mission is to change the process that people go through with retirement planning. It's just not about the numbers. And this includes employer groups and other things that they need to offer skills and other things to really help people make a transition.

How do you find your purpose? A lot of people want to volunteer, but they don't know where they want to volunteer. So, they go to someplace, they get locked in, it's not rewarding. They don't know what to do about it. Or else people want to find a part-time job that's engaging or fun that can help them stay connected, but they're all just kind of thoughts and ideas, these vague assumptions, but nobody guides them to write the stuff down. And I'm telling you, if we just implemented that, here's how retirement planning works, it's non-financial first, then financial, life would be better for everyone. So, my mission is to change that, ingrain that, and make sure that happens for everybody.

Casey Weade: So, really, it's a timeline for you. You see that we're receiving our financial advice before receiving our non-financial advice. And you are a retirement coach. And it's amazing to me, I didn't even know before I started this podcast a couple years ago that there was this whole world of unlicensed retirement coaches that only talk about the non-financial aspects of retirement. They don't even give financial advice. And now, I've interviewed dozens of retirement coaches, and it's amazing that this world exists. But it not only exists, but it's growing exponentially.

The opportunity for people to engage retirement coach, to engage retirement advisor, I think that is something that's very new in the world and something that's kind of difficult to understand at the same time. Do you believe that retirement coaches and retirement advisors, can they be the same thing? Are there pros and cons to having a retirement coach that’s also retirement advisor versus having the ability to separate those two? Should you separate the two?

Robert Laura: It's tricky and I think different for everybody. I like to play both sides. I love looking at portfolios and talking numbers, but I also love talking to people. Some people are just more hard side than soft side. And so, it can work either way. And I think as this continues to evolve, because there's such a higher level of specialization on both sides, I do see it separating where again, just like a financial advisor be able to refer someone to an attorney or an accountant for estate planning or tax planning, they'll want to refer them to the coach to really help them get those other pieces in place because, again, once you got the money in place, it's really just how do you really leverage that money, but you have to understand that personal side.

So, I think going forward just will be an ancillary service provided by financial advisors, but it will be an independent person who is literally and that's what we're trying to do, just take it to a whole nother level of specialization, so that people understand the process, they understand the context, they understand why they're thinking and feeling a certain way. And that's not always going to be your advisors, even though the advice needs to enhance their soft side skills, I think it'll be an independent person doing it.

Casey Weade: Yeah, I love this concept. I've been contemplating this and how this fits into our practice for some time. Right now, we've got retirement advisors that are also retirement coaches. They're doing both and people are stepping into a conversation they're not used to having about purpose and meaning, designing their life after work before we ever get into the financial topic and when are we going to get to the numbers? And so, what can we wait on? We really need to nail this part down before we do the ladder. And I see it as a separation too. I see us in our office having someone that that's all they do because it does take, I think, a little bit of a different mindset to have that kind of conversation and have that kind of focus. And then have someone else kind of integrate that type of information into the financial plan.

And a big part of it is just getting people prepared to have that conversation. If they come in, they want to meet with a financial advisor, they're not prepared for this type of conversation, what do you think that not only an advisor can do to better prepare someone for that conversation, but what can an individual do to prepare themselves for a non-financial conversation with their financial advisor?

Robert Laura: Well, there's a lot of good articles out there. I think I got close to 500 articles at Forbes that talks about this stuff. Why is retirement so stressful? What happens to smart people in retirement? There's just some good stuff out there that they can start to get this context because everyone's been brainwashed that retirement is this financial journey and this financial process and you get to this finish line. And so, it really just starts with your attitude about life after work, like what am I thinking? What am I feeling and be able to, not only just again, think about those things, but write them down? Just like we help people write down their financial goals. What are your personal goals?

Because I asked this a lot of times, how do you know you're winning at retirement? You don't know. How are you winning at work? Or how are you winning at life? You've got this framework for it. Well, that framework goes away in retirement. And that's what we have to provide. It's why we use a lot of positive psychology, other science-based things to really help people thrive that again, there's this methodical process that you go through instead of just this kind of hopeful, just thoughts of pie in the sky ideas. And so, I think it's really important to have that science behind it to figure this stuff out and kind of get a picture where you're going.

Casey Weade: Can you give us an example of where, you've maybe worked with someone or you know… how can the non-financial aspects, if we don't get those non-financial aspects right, maybe you've met someone that didn't get those things right, but they did retire, they put it together, a plan, not having this discussion, what impact does that have on a plan? And what is the concrete reality of this is where the plan went awry, the financial plan went awry, because it wasn't organized around purpose, meaning, or these non-financial aspects?

Robert Laura: So, there's a lot of examples. So, what I try to do, what we teach coaches or other financial professionals or other people, it's really about normalization, context, and permission. So, normalization just means we want to normalize how they're feeling, hey, you're not alone, you're not the first person to retire, get into it six months or a year and just kind of not feel good about it. We want to give them context. There's something called disenfranchised grief. That just means it's grief that's not honored. And so, if you lose a loved one or you get divorced, we can sympathize and empathize with that person because we understand it. But again, if you get into retirement, it's not going well, people don't get it. And so, you can feel isolated and left out.

And people need to hear that context, like, oh, okay, there’s a foundation for this. And then permission to step outside the box to be more and do more, to think differently. That's what they're really looking for. And again, that can be done with something like positive psychology that has this acronym called PERMA, which is just Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Achievement. So, those are things that help you thrive in life.

And so, to your point about the story, I've had plenty of clients that across the table and I say, “Tell me how retirement is going.” And that's important because you don't want to say, “Hey, how's retirement?” Because everyone's going to say, “Oh, it's great. I wish I would have done it before. Don't have any time.” Like, no, that's not true. So, tell me about retirement. What are you doing each and every day? That changes the conversation right away.

But I had a guy who just said, “I'm struggling with achievement.” He had just taken over a job to turn around this community center. He spent the last four years turning it around, getting it from the red to the black and so, he was really committed to it. And he just felt like he was wandering around retirement. So again, as I explained to him, “Hey, there's this PERMA acronym, and we have to identify specific things that you want to achieve in the next couple years’ retirement, so you've got something to focus on.” So, that's a really good example.

And then there's just a lot of people who they just feel lost. I had a conversation with a guy in Portugal the other day. He's going through our certification program. And that's exactly how he found these, like, I couldn't tell anyone and just opening up that conversation, that's why I write the articles just like, I just want to normalize for people that, hey, it's okay not to feel right in retirement and there's ways to turn it around.

Casey Weade: There is reality that some people really shouldn't retire at least in the traditional sense. I've met so many individuals that have come in, especially as you said, high achievers that have come in and now they've lost that achievement. I've seen them turn to alcohol. I've seen them getting divorced in retirement. I think this is why we're seeing the highest increase in divorce rate and that retirement age, demographic baby boomers today is a good part about this just while I'm 65, I'm supposed to retire, and then you step in retirement. And now here you are, you’re now what?

Robert Laura: There's a dark side to retirement. If you don't fill your life with stuff, other things will take it over, addiction, depression, suicide. Rates of suicide are highest among white males aged 65 and older. Why? Because they lose purpose. Or they turned, every day is a Friday. So, there is a real issue out there. The issue isn't who's in the Oval Office? What is our trade policy? Or is the stock market crashing? It's about your personal life. And so, we've got to really protect those things. And again, if you don't have a plan, it's easy for that stuff to creep in and fill it up.

But again, nobody's talking about it. No one. Actually, one of my first articles I wrote that kind of put me on the scene with the stuff was called The Dark Side of Retirement. And I received some notes from people like, “Whoa, man, you can't say that or do that.” But yes, you can. We need to be having these conversations. They need to be out there because when people come face to face with it, they need to know who to turn to and that's where the gap is. They don't know who to turn to because they can't go to their traditional advisor and ask for help. But they can go to a coach and refer them to a therapist or other place.

Casey Weade: And that's why we're saying this balloon and retirement coaches probably because there's a real demand for these types of things. And what you had said there about, it made me think of a quote, if you don't prioritize your life, someone else will, for you. And in this case, the world will for you. If you don't make those priorities before you step into retirement, then you can end up with priorities that don't truly align with who you are and then you end up with regrets.

Robert Laura: And you've seen this prior too, spending money, updating your kitchen, buying a bigger house doesn't mean you're going to be happier, or that your family's going to come over. You've got to repair those relationships. But that's what people do, I need to take out $30,000 to remodel my kitchen like, okay, but that's not going to make your son or daughter come over, that's not going to do this. And again, that's where it's tricky because sometimes you got to have those conversations to really nudge people to say, “Hey, yeah, you’ve got a bunch of the stuff. Everything on the outside looks good but everything on the inside, it's not good.” And that's sometimes what we have to focus on and fix.

Casey Weade: That's a pretty tough emotional discussion, though. If you've been living this life for 60 years, 70 years, and now someone tells you that maybe your priorities aren't right or that you need to fix something that maybe has been a part of you for a lifetime. How does that conversation go?

Robert Laura: That's the fun part and again, because I was a social worker and I worked in environments where you have difficult conversations. But really, if you want to see people succeed, it's not confronting them or challenging them or seeing their bad or negative, but it's raising awareness. And again, coaching can do that by asking the right questions. And so, it's not about coming out and saying, “Oh, my gosh, Casey, you've got this all wrong. You're doing this wrong. This isn't right. You better fix this.” But as we're talking through, really what gives you purpose, if something were to happen to you and you were told you had five years to live or 48 hours to live, what would you regret, as people start to bring this into focus and then it's actionable steps like, “Okay, let's talk about this and what can we do about? What's one thing we can take that step forward?”

One of the things I do in my workshops, in my book, Naked Retirement, we talk about your social network. People don't think about who they want to surround themselves with retirement. So, we literally ask them to write it down. Who do you want to be around in retirement? And then once they do that, at the end, I encourage them reach out to that person and say, “Hey, I'm interested in spending time with you, or when I retire, I want to do this.” That's really the engagement that people have. And so, it's not again about confronting them, but raising awareness around why friendships are important, how valuable they are to a successful transition, and what steps they can take to solidify them right now.

Casey Weade: Well, what I hear you doing is you're asking great questions, and every great answer came from a source of a great question. And that's what comes with being a coach. That's what comes with being a coach or a leader is having the ability to ask good questions, to have someone find the answer for themselves and not deliver advice. But if you go see a financial advisor, advice is in the name. You go down that career path, and you're “Hey, I'm supposed to sit here and give advice.” And that's what ends up happening. This is why people end up in the wrong place because someone sat down with them, started giving them advice instead of asking them good questions.

Robert Laura: Yes. Well, and I think the other thing too, what's interesting about what's changing about the coaching industry, so the pure coaches out there would just say you can only ask questions or the client has to discover the answer for themselves. Sometimes, people are in a spot where they can't. And so that, again, is where I encourage people to work with an experienced coach. And it's the same for experienced financial advisor. Someone who's got three to five years of work under him has a different perspective and a lot of times, it's not just asking good question but giving good examples. And again, that's the normalization process.

I can help you feel normal or okay about your situation by saying, I had another client who did this. I had another client who saw this. I had another client who took these steps. So, I think it is a combination of the quality of our lives dictated by the quality of questions we ask ourselves, but then also, who you surround yourself with. That's why advisors and coaches are so important. But I think there's a blend, but you want experience so you can guide people through stories.

Casey Weade: You talk about a no regrets retirement plan. Can you tell me exactly what that is? I'm trying to figure out now, where is this line? Is there a line between the financial plan and the retirement plan? Are these two separate things? Are they all together as part of the no regrets retirement plan?

Robert Laura: I think they're two separate things. And a lot of times, again, if financial advisors are listening to your program or clients, like I really do a lot of and they can too do workshops up front where you can go through some of this stuff and sometimes, it's better delivered in a group setting, so that you're around, especially baby boomers love to be around each other and hear from each other. In my worksheet response form, the most common comment I get is, I wish there was more time to hear from other people.

So, people love hearing what they're thinking and feeling because there's plenty of financial advice out there. You can say, “Oh, my advisor says mutual funds or ETFs or using annuity or this or that.” Everyone sharing that advice, but no one's sharing that personal side. So, a lot of times, I keep the two sides separate by doing group programs. And again, I would encourage other advisors to do the same thing. Do workshops on this non-financial stuff, crack the egg, get them thinking and feeling about it, then you can start to process in the office and then align it with their money. When you know what's important to them, you can align it with their money and their plans for the future.

So, I do see these two separate things, but then it's also to continue to engage on it because again, some people when they make a transition, they don't have purpose, their social network is a little bit light or they've got an issue with a significant other or a family member. So, you can part and parcel this stuff, too. It just doesn't have to be this hardcore process that I wouldn't go through. So, I do think it's separate and I think if you get the personal stuff right, the other stuff falls into place.

Casey Weade: Is it actually possible to have a no regrets retirement plan? Can we put this plan in place today and not have regret? Isn’t the hindsight always 2020, and we wish we would have bought Apple stock or Amazon stock?

Robert Laura: Right. Well, and I think it's the attitude. So, if we can get the no regrets retirement attitude that, hey, I've got these things I want to do and you start moving forward because that's the other issue with the retirement transition, temporal discounting, basically behavioral economics that, would you rather have $100 at the beginning of the month or 125 at the end of the month? Most people take the hundred dollars at the beginning of the month because they don't want to wait it out.

Well, that happens in a reverse fashion because a lot of people when they retire, they fall into that honeymoon phase and they take less. They're just like, I'm just going to take a break. I'm not going to start working out or eating healthy. I'm not going to start connecting with friends and this is going to take a break. Well, six months later, they're wondering why it doesn't look and feel right. And so, it's really about programming people to see this from a new perspective that the way to create the ideal no regrets retirement is to create it in life before you get there, not afterwards because that again, is the other mistake that people make is they postpone what's important to them.

That's why a lot of people say you have to retire to something. That is wrong. It should not be set. You need to retire with something. If you retire to something, you're postponing it. Once I get to retirement, I'm going to start working out, eating healthy, doing this. No, you're not. You're not going to do anything. There's no extra motivation there for you to do it. Do it now. And so, when you make the transition, it's with you. It's a lot easier to continue what you're doing and we know this from Covey's 7 Habits. First, we make our habits, then our habits make us. So, don't assume your life is going to be better when you get there because it's not. You have to work on that transition.

Casey Weade: Well, I was going to save this for later in the show. We sometimes will ask individuals, what does it mean to you to retire with purpose? And what you said there just gives me the warm and fuzzies because we're not going to retire, then find purpose. It's retiring with purpose. You find it today and then you bring that with you in retirement. And also, as you were discussing there, you were talking about, so it just reminded me a story that you told in one of your articles about your childhood and sweeping some stairs. Do you mind sharing that story?

Robert Laura: Yeah. So, when I was in high school, I got in trouble for something, we won't talk about that, but my dad had said… I'd do some chores, I got in trouble, I was grounded. He said, “I want you to sweep the stairs from the bottom up.” And I was like, “Okay, no problem.” I'm just doing my time and then, I get there and as I'm doing it, I'm realizing that this doesn't make any sense. And so, of course, at that time being a teenager, I thought, for sure now I knew my parents knew absolutely nothing about the world.

But that's when my dad kind of told me that every time you sweep that way, you're just creating these messes. You're making more of a mess with every decision that you make, whereas if you sweep going down, you can clean it up off the bottom. And so, it just clicked for me that I've got to start making better decisions and not constantly cleaning up more and more messes because the choices that I'm making.

Casey Weade: I’m remembering my childhood and vacuuming. We had a vacuum. We had carpet stairs, so we were using vacuums, not a broom. But you were using a broom and says you used that broom and you're going up the stairs and you just keep making more of a mess, like sweep this stuff down the stairs and then you get it all to the bottom, it's already there. And I guess, that just goes along with your whole story of making sure that you're doing it in the right order. Can you just integrate that with that story you told a moment ago? How do you take that story and apply it to how you should be preparing for retirement?

Robert Laura: Well, so our philosophy, this is what we teach in our certification, you want to plan for the spiritual, mental, social, physical, and financial. And spiritual, we're not necessarily talking about religion or church, but spiritual being your core beliefs. And so, when your values are clear, your decisions are easy, well, Disney said, that's one of my favorite quotes. So, when you understand what's important to you, you can figure out the other pieces. That stacks on top of them mentally being prepared. If you know what your purpose is, if you know where you want to have an impact, if you know what people you want to be around, it makes a lot more sense, then that builds on to the physical aspects, taking care of yourself, the social aspects where you surround yourself with, and then that falls into the financial. So, that's why I think there's five key areas to assess…

Casey Weade: … financials here.

Robert Laura: Yeah.

Casey Weade: The financial is now, then that's what's happening right now, here's your financial and too many times, we put this financial plan together and then we start living our purpose, our physical health, our mental health, and we go, “Well, that's not really what I wanted. That's not really what I was hoping for.” But we didn't define it first. We didn't look forward in the future and kind of plan our way back to where we're at today. So, if we're going to do that, if we're going to plan our future, we're going to go out in the future and say, “This is the ideal future.” How far do we go out into that future?

Sometimes, we will have an exercise where we have somebody plan out a day in retirement. Where do you wake up? When do you have breakfast? Who do you have lunch with? Where do you go? What do you do? And as we continue, as you said a moment ago, going further and further out, you go out a week, you go out a month, you go out a year, you go out 10 years, it gets more and more difficult to even grasp those things. So, how do you walk somebody through that process? How far in the future are they planning? And how do you get to that point where they're planning maybe 10, 20, 30 years down the road? Maybe you think that's impossible, I don't know.

Robert Laura: Well, I think for the most part, I try not to get too far out in front because things can change so quickly. And again, if they're living my purpose or if they're living according to their values, the things are going to fall into place. And that's why I think you can't plan everything out perfectly. And the harder you try to do it, the further away you get from it. So, part of it is being present and living it. But also, by just knowing what's important to you, it makes it a lot easier to make decisions. And so, you don't get as wrapped up in some of the drama or hype or other things that are going on out there if you're focused on the near term.

So, we don't necessarily push anyone to think out 5 or 10 years. Naturally, that's what some people do. There's some people who want to plan out a year or two, other people want to think out 10 or 20 years. So, it really just depends on their personality, but I think it's again, just getting the mindset, the attitude, and their feelings right and not focusing so much on the other stuff like the money.

Casey Weade: It kind of sounds like a framework. It sounds like a framework to make decisions upon in retirement, to make sure you continue to stay on the path. If you know your values, if you've clearly outlined those values, then you can use that as a framework to make decisions in retirement. Does that make sense?

Robert Laura: Yeah, and I think too, it makes spending your money and your time much easier. It also helps you establish some boundaries with adult children. It pours into a lot of stuff. The other thing that we do, I do a class and of course, called Legacy Notebook. It's free. It's just that Legacy Notebook that work. But people spend so much time passing on their wealth, they don't do it with their wisdom. And so, wealth doesn't create wisdom, but wisdom can maintain or create wealth.

And so, it doesn't just stop with traditional retirement planning or financial planning, it's got to flip over to the estate planning. I don't care about your beneficiaries, your heirs, or the taxes that you're saving because if they're not prepared, it won't matter. And at some point, you're going to be giving people lots of money. And so, we really have to continue this process about passing on wisdom, and not just wealth.

Casey Weade: Let's get back to what I see is, it goes right along those lines, you're talking about something that's being put into writing. You've written several articles that I've read about having a written plan for the non-financial aspects of retirement. We put together a written financial plan. When we look at a written plan for the non-financial aspects, that can be, here's my emergency funds, here's my income plan, here's my inflation strategy, here's my estate plan, my long-term care strategy, my tax strategy, how does it break down? Or what does it look like when you talk about a non-financial written plan?

Robert Laura: This is a great part. It's a one pager. Yeah, it can be found in my book, Naked Retirement. It takes people through that process. It serves as the foundation for our course and our things. But if you think about a successful retiree, so think about someone who's a successful retiree, so when you look up to that that nailed it, they had a successful career, they made a smooth transition and things look like they're going well. Well, what have they done? They've done five or six things right. They found a way to replace their work identity. They find a way to fill their time with meaningful tasks. They find a way to stay relevant and connected, mentally and physically active, and they feel financially secure and the ability to express their spiritual beliefs in some way.

Those are six things. The more of those boxes you can check, the more of a successful transition you're going to make. So, what our coaches teach and what the Naked Retirement book kind of goes through each of those areas, like, let's look at how do you fill your time and replace your work identity? So, we use something called a curious list. It's just what are you curious about?

It eliminates the angst of a bucket list. I got this whole list of things I need to do or like, that's okay to have that, but curiosity creates motivation. When you're interested in something ahead, you walk faster, you look ahead. And so, just doing simple things like that and by going through each of these areas, but then putting it on a one pager, makes it really, really simple. And I call it a refrigerator page, just like your kids or grandkids when they draw you picture, you put it on your fridge. It's the same thing. We just want you to put it on your fridge as a reminder of what's important to you, why it's important, who you want to be around, so that no matter what you're doing, you're going to be impacted by it.

Casey Weade: Far too many people, I just find, don't do that. They don't get to that point of putting those things on the fridge. I know I've done this ever since I was a kid, whether it was goals, now I've got a top 10 and top 5 lists and those critical things I want to pass on to my kids and I just look at that every day and it just keeps it top of mind. How are my actions going to reflect these values and these things that I truly want to accomplish?

Robert Laura: The problem is everyone keeps it up here. They just keep it mentally, but I don't even know what the statistics are. I think it's something ridiculous like 60% or 70% of people who write down a goal accomplish it. It's the same with your personal side. It's interesting because when people get to retirement, before they get to retirement, they're like, “I'm going to do this. I'm going to do that. I want to have this or that.” Then, they get there and they forget what those things were. This is just a simple reminder.

And again, behavioral economics talks about nudges, just going to nudge your behavior in this direction, nudge you towards making better decisions. That's what this stuff is. It's a nudge towards making better decisions and following that because, come back with no regrets retirement, you don't want to regret retiring, you don't want to regret these things. Those nudges help you along the way.

Casey Weade: Can you repeat those six things? Identity, task, mental, physical, spiritual.

Robert Laura: So, we got the five key areas which is the spiritual, mental, social, physical, financial, and then the six layers of a successful retiree, find a way to replace their work identity, fill their time, stay relevant and connected, mentally and physically active, way to express their spiritual beliefs, and feel financially secure.

Casey Weade: That's good. That's great. So, if we're going to put together this list, let's say we come out with these six different items, we're trying to keep it to a page, how granular do we get as we're going through this process?

Robert Laura: You don't have to get that deep into the woods. This is the first time, a lot of times people are being asked these questions or thought about it, they don't have an answer. I see people shell shocked to my workshops all the time. They're like, “Well, no one just has asked me that, I got to process this.” And it's okay. It can be a process, but it is just about raising that awareness, making noise. So, you don't have to go super deep, but once you and that's why I write so many articles, I just want it to pique their interest so they keep going for a little bit more, a little bit more. But they have to do it, they have to take the interest, they have to get granular, they have to go that extra mile because again, I don't see that as my job to do it but if I nudge him in that direction, that's what I want to do.

Casey Weade: When you're doing these workshops, do you find that the majority of the attendees or people you're coaching, are they already in retirement and they're struggling and that's why they're coming to see you? I find that that's probably the most likely situation. They're having issues, that's why they're seeking help. Or do you find that there's some really woke people out there just looking to get some preretirement advice? Is it an even blend? Or do you see it overweighted to pre-retiree or retiree?

Robert Laura: So, I've been doing this for almost 12 years and so, very different early on compared to now. And so, I see a lot of people, I would say, three to six months away from retirement. Retirement is this thing that's always 5 or 10 years away, that all of a sudden, it's there, that they're ready to retire or they're being forced to retire or they're getting a buyout so now, they're scared. They're just like, “Oh, my gosh, this is supposed to be something I'm looking forward to, but I'm scared.” And so, we get people on that front end that are three to six months away, well, let's try 50% of our audience, the other group might be three to six months into it and things aren't going very well.

But at this point, now, we're also getting people who are front running. So, we’re seeing more of the 50 or the 55-year-old instead of the 62-year-old knocking on the door. So, the message is getting out there that, hey, this makes sense to think ahead and plan ahead. You don't have to be knocking on the doorstep. So, it's kind of a blend like that.

Casey Weade: When is that appropriate time? It seems like that's one of the most common questions that I get is, when do I need a financial advisor? When do I need a retirement coach?

Robert Laura: When you start thinking about it. So, I think when you're 45, 50, I mean, obviously, I think you should have a financial advisor as soon as you're kind of engaged in your career because that, again, is going to guide you. And the sooner you can start planning for this stuff, the better, but everyone's got a different capacity. And so, this is the hardest part of this non-financial side is most financial advisors are process or formula driven. Like, we do this, we do that, and we got to have efficient practices in all these things.

The nonfinancial isn't efficient. You can't force it on people. It takes time. So, it's really just about engaging it over time. Some people are planners. They want to jump into this when they're 40 or 45. Some people want to get in at 62, want their retirement at 65. But I think what I'm trying to do is raise that awareness, so that more people are aware about it, and they do get in front of it much more than waiting until it's too late or waiting until they're six months in and not enjoying it.

Casey Weade: Well, it'd be great if you're sitting down having this conversation with someone who's 30. And I think the problem is that you’re a retirement coach, the problem is that this is the retirement purpose podcast. We're talking about retirement and we say, “That's not supposed to happen until I'm old. I'm not there yet.” But you should be getting into this when you're 30, you should be getting into this when you're 40 or 50 or 60, or whatever it is. I think it's always an important conversation because it's not a conversation about quitting work. It's not a conversation about retirement, and that's where we've gotten off track with retirement, the word retirement, the idea of retirement, and I think we're shifting that.

Some of the work that you're doing is retirement activism. You're working with retirement coach or retirement advisor for that matter not to necessarily retire from work. We're stepping away from something that maybe we just want to eliminate some of the things we don't like. It doesn't mean we're not going to work. And I don't know what your opinion is on the FIRE movement or financial independence, retire early. Yeah, but that's not retirement in the way that most people think of it.

Robert Laura: Well, I mean, my thing is, I think and a lot of people say we got to retire the word retirement and all this. I think I just pluralized it, retirements. So, you're going to probably retire from five different things. You may have five different careers. You may have volunteer roles or board roles or part-time jobs. If we just say this is my first retirement or my second retirement or my third retirement, it just takes it away. And I think too, the hokey advice when you love your work, you're not really working. It really is true, it's not hokey, but people just don't put enough emphasis on that. I mean, really, I love my work. I was excited to know we're coming on here. I get to talk about my favorite stuff and the experience I've had and how it can change people's lives. That's amazing to change people's lives.

And I think that's the other issue that people get stuck in situations or places they don't want to be and they don't see a way out. Well, you've got to start somewhere and if you dig into things that you like, it's huge. And also, you know this like, because people are living longer, it's hard to save up enough money to walk away from work at 62 or 65. You may not be able to stay connected or feel you may need to work and that's okay. I think it makes sense to continue to find things that bring in income but also give you social connection, purpose, meaning, mental and physical activity. There's great opportunities with that stuff.

Casey Weade: So, we put together a financial plan and we should do a review of that. And my problem with a financial plan is just the wording plan. Plan is something that we put together at one point in time and now, we're all taken care of. Really, it should be a framework. The planning framework should be something we can revisit and take that framework, overlay it with where we're at today and say, “Do I need to make some adjustments?” And that should be reviewed on at least an annual basis, if not a quarterly basis throughout retirement because life's going to change.

Your purpose, where you find purpose, where you find meaning, in order to keep all these things in balance, time and relevance, physical, spiritual health, you put together this non-financial plan, how often do you recommend that people revisit that non-financial plan? And how do they revisit it? What does that review look like, that annual review or quarterly review or whatever that may be?

Robert Laura: It just really should be done annually because again, it's just a good reminder. I mean, I have a goals notebook. I go through it all the time and I've had it for quite, like close to 20 years. It's fun just to be able to look back at the stuff I was wanting to do 10 years ago and, of course, it feels good to say, “Hey, I have maxed some these things off my list.” So, it should be done annually.

And again, we kind of create this one page, making retirement or retirement wellness worksheet that kind of identifies those mental, social, physical, spiritual aspects because things are going to change. It could be your health that changes something or your social outlet or you may need to move other things. And so, as you continue to look at it, that's what's important. And also, too, your purpose and your passion can shift. You may feel really committed to doing something or being part of something, but then find an opportunity or it leads to something else. And so, I think it's about being open and to your point about we don't have this direct plan, here's what the next 30 years of my non-financial life is going to look like, but it's giving people permission to look at it, to be more and do more and to feel good about where they're at and what's going on.

Casey Weade: And I think that's great to continue to revisit that thing, at least annually to figure out if I'm on track. So, you mentioned a worksheet there. I'd love for people to go back, check out that worksheet. I assume we can get that at robertlaura.com.

Robert Laura: It's just in my Naked Retirement book, one of the places, so it's just not sitting out there but if there's, I’m trying to think of, it's just inside the book. And if you work with a coach, they have access to the same stuff as well, but I don't have it just sitting out there.

Casey Weade: Well, we'll make sure we have a link to the book in the show notes and an explanation where to find that worksheet. So, before we get into a couple of my final philosophical questions, I'm just thinking about someone that's listening right now and they're going how this is great, I wonder where I went wrong. I've worked with this financial advisor planner. I love this guy or gal. I want to continue to work with him, but I'm afraid. Maybe, it's not totally in alignment with my values, my vision for the future, the non-financial aspects of my life. What should their action step be?

They don't want to go out and get another retirement coach. They want that advisor they're working with to be their retirement coach and be able to integrate these things with their financial plan. How should they prepare for that conversation and get that advisor on board? What should they expect?

Robert Laura: It’s your money and you can tell the advisor… I've had a lot of advisors actually sign up for, it's called the Certified Professional Retirement Coach Designation because there are a handful of clients that, “Hey, I don't want to just talk to you about money. I want to figure this other stuff out.” And so just tell your advisor to go get the training.

It's going to be a norm in the industry. This is my second year at the FPA Annual Conference talking about these non-financial pieces. I just did a piece for the American College for the RICP designation. So, it's getting more and more ingrained. So, the training is coming whether they like it or not. So, if they're working with their advisor, you can just tell them to go get it and be ahead of the curve instead of trying to catch up late in the game. And there's plenty of training and other tools out there. So, there's a lot of different ways to get it.

But if people want, they're going to work, that's my job. I am programming people to want that and demand. It's no different than when you see a pharmaceutical commercial and they're saying, “Ask your doctor about this.” I want people to be asking their financial advisor, “Do you have this training? And can you help me with this part?” So, they go out and get it?

Casey Weade: All right. So, we're going to have a bunch of advisors running out and get that designation if they want to retain their clients, it sounds like.

Robert Laura: Yeah.

Casey Weade: There was one other question that I want to make sure I asked. You talked about having a contingency plan in your non-financial written plan. What is that exactly?

Robert Laura: It's about social support. So, who can you rely on? So, we've got the emergency savings account that if something happens, you can fall back on the stuff or even when you're doing a remodel on a house, you have a contingency plan in case you find something in the walls. Well, you're going to find some bumps in retirement. And again, people aren't thinking about this stuff. So, if something goes wrong, you have a bad medical diagnosis or something comes up, you need some help, who are you going to call?

Because a lot of people haven't focused on the relationships. And when you look at a number of studies and other things out there, the stronger your social connections, the better your transition is going to be. And so, friendship is a two-way street. And so, really, are you investing in other people? Are you reaching out to them? Are you kind of taking your friendships for granted? I was for a long time. This stuff kicked me in the butt 10 years ago and I've really started to do things very differently with, especially my friendships and also my family because you got to pick up the phone, you got to invest in because when things get rough in retirement and they will, who are you going to rely on? You should have those people written down and make sure they know that they're part of your plan in the future.

Casey Weade: So, it's really about having this worst-case scenario box. These are the things that I am going to do if something goes south in one of these, say, six areas. If something's going south in my physical health, this is who I'm going to talk to, this is my strategy. These are the steps that I'm going to take if something's going on with my spiritual health, my mental health, my identity, the use of my time. I have this kind of Rolodex of, okay, emergency procedures.

Robert Laura: Correct. So, you got a tax issue, you got an estate planning issue, you have a financial issue, you got people to call. Who do you call on the other stuff? And again, it could be a support group. It could be something at church. It could be a retirement coach. It is just about having these people and also just close family and friends that you can rely on. So again, because people don't think about this stuff, then they get there and they're scrambling. Well, we can help you out by just thinking ahead.

Casey Weade: Well, Bob, you're walking a lot of other people through finding purpose and meaning and retirement. So, it's only fair that I ask you, Bob, what does purpose and meaning mean to you? How do you define those things for yourself?

Robert Laura: Well, the most amazing thing about the situation I'm in is I have the ability to have an impact and influence others in a positive way. And my real goal is just to help people live a better life. So again, something I wake up today, even though I've got a million things to do, like, things I just think, where can I influence others? How can I be a service to someone else, just make them feel better or okay to take that next step, to be more and do more? Because I think so many people get caught up in the old saying, the ready, aim, fire, they kind of ready, aim, aim, aim, and whether it's in their personal life, their career, their health, or any other things, they spend all their time aiming, but you got to take that next step.

And so, that's what gives me purpose, passion, and meaning is the ability that again, how awesome is this that I get to come on a show that you've developed, cultivated an audience, and have a potentially positive impact. So, it's just fun to be able to connect with people like you, your audience, and just kind of share my experience because I'd love to say, everything has gone smoothly. I've never made any mistakes. I've never failed, but those are the two key areas in my life. I've failed more than most people would ever want to. I make mistakes all the time. But because I have a strong social network and determination to push forward, you keep moving forward and you turn the mess into a message.

Casey Weade: So, it's to help people take action to live a better life is what I hear.

Robert Laura: Yes.

Casey Weade: That's awesome.

Robert Laura: It took me 10 minutes to say that. You did it in 20 seconds.

Casey Weade: I find that it often comes down for myself or anyone. It really just comes down to helping people and figuring out what's unique about you, that you can leverage to help more people and who are those people that you really want to help. We want to be a hero to everyone. We want to save the world, but we can't. I'm not sure the world needs saving, but we can help people. We can find one person every day to be a hero too. Do you separate purpose and meaning? Are those two different things for you? How do you see purpose and meaning, and define them separately?

Robert Laura: I don't necessarily see them separate and I think it's the combination of things. And again, because I like to be proactive, I like to be juggling and intermingling these different pieces, but again, what's at the core? What's meaningful to me, but also gives me purpose and passion? So, I see them as a combination. And again, I've got four kids. So, it's that whole, getting it from every side, not just from my work, but from my family and being a part of those different things. So, I see it as a combination and just a focus that drives me forward.

Casey Weade: That's great. Last question, what does retirement mean to you?

Robert Laura: Retirement means I've got an opportunity to focus on what I'm doing, retire from that, do something else I want to do, retire from that, do something else I want to do, because I think the whole definition of retirement isn't about being done but being on to something new and exciting. And that's what I'll continue to do for the rest of my life.

Casey Weade: And that's something that somebody could do their whole life. You can live your whole life like that, even without financial freedom. Financial freedom is just elevating the ability to truly do that next thing that you want to do without all the garbage.

Robert Laura: Yes.

Casey Weade: Well, Robert, thank you so much for joining us here for the podcast. Great conversation. We'll make sure people can get in touch with you by visiting our show notes. And maybe, we'll get to do this again.

Robert Laura: Yeah, this was great. Casey, thank you for the time. Appreciate everyone listening. If they've got questions, happy to answer for anyone.

Casey Weade: Thanks again.


Robert Laura: Thanks. Take care.