With Robert Laura, Financial Planner, Author of Naked Retirement: Living A Happy, Healthy, & Connected Retirement
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Robert joined Steve to discuss some of the most important topics contained within his insightful new book Naked Retirement. This tome aims to prepare people for their golden years, but doesn’t merely focus on the financial aspect of retirement. Robert instead argues that it is important to get all elements of retirement on point, and that the non-financial aspects be vital in enjoying a happy retirement.
As Robert noted, everyone dreams of retiring. It is viewed as a deserved and well-earned Holy Grail, when they’ll finally live the life that they’ve always wanted. At least, that’s the theory. The reality is that only around 40% of retirees actually find sustained happiness in retirement.
Undoubtedly, there are tremendous positives to retirement, not least the freedom involved. But there can also a dark side. Depression, suicide, stress, loss of meaning and purpose…these are just some of the most common pitfalls of our retired years.
Naturally, these are problems that people would be much better off avoiding, so “Naked Retirement” provides all of the information that retirees, and those planning for retirement, need in order to make the most of their lives.
Healthier And Happier
Chatting with Steve, Robert shared the essence of his book, and noted that the way that retirement works is changing. We are living longer lives, and this inevitably means that retirement lasts longer as well. So health becomes increasingly important, as merely living longer doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re healthier!
Robert suggested that assessing the every day life aspect of retirement, examining how to replace work identity, how to be connected, and how to stay both mentally and physically fit, is just as important as looking after your dollars and cents.
Importance Of Planning
In order to get people thinking about the key things that they need to be addressing, Robert includes a wealth of simple yet useful exercises and worksheets in the book. Readers can then use these to prepare themselves for this next phase of their lives. Robert was keen to emphasize that planning becomes a a key part of life during retirement.
Suddenly your days are no longer bursting to the seams with all of the things you need to get done for work, and to make ends meet. This can be an opportunity. It can be liberating to no longer be burdened by such distractions as going to work, taking care of children, and so on. But, equally, many retirees struggle to know what to do with all of this newly found free time unless they plan ahead.
Robert had lots of fascinating ideas about retirement as a whole, and his interview and book provide a fresh and illuminating perspective on a time of life that is so important for so many of us.
Disclosure: The opinions expressed are those of the interviewee and not necessarily United Capital. Interviewee is not a representative of United Capital. Investing involves risk and investors should carefully consider their own investment objectives and never rely on any single chart, graph or marketing piece to make decisions. Content provided is intended for informational purposes only, is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and should not be considered tax, legal, investment advice. Please contact your tax, legal, financial professional with questions about your specific needs and circumstances. The information contained herein was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however their accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. All data are driven from publicly available information and has not been independently verified by United Capital.
Steve Pomeranz: As you all know, I spend a lot of time speaking about and educating you all on aspects of retirement. Some of my work is my own and some from others. And when I find a source that has done some deep thinking on the subject of retirement, I like to hear what he or she has to say. So allow me to introduce Robert Laura. He says, quote, he’s a social worker turned financial planner, and I believe that. He uses both skill sets to help folks prepare for the mental, social, and physical, as well as financial aspects of retirement. And today we’re going to discuss his book, entitled The Naked Retirement. Hi, Robert, welcome.
Robert Laura: Hi, Steve, how are you?
“So securing a satisfying retirement in today’s world requires different tools and ammunition than it did in the past.” That’s a quote from your book, what do you mean by that?
Robert Laura: I think as people have transitioned, it’s just not your parents, your grandparents type of retirement anymore. You really have to look at the everyday life aspect, how to replace your work identity, how to be connected, how to stay mentally and physically fit. So it’s much more than just the dollars and cents, you got to look at the other stuff as well.
Steve Pomeranz: And people are living an awful lot longer on average.
Robert Laura: Exactly. Just because you’re living longer doesn’t mean you’re healthier.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, that’s true.
Robert Laura: So you want to make sure you’re well positioned to live out those years well.
Steve Pomeranz: You know, I was really surprised, but a few weeks ago we were helping a client with an estate insurance situation. We were advising them and talking with their insurance agents and so on. And the insurance companies were required to, in their illustrations, to run them out to age 121. That was shocking, don’t you think?
Robert Laura: And it’s a reality people aren’t preparing for. Everyone still kinda thinks, I might make it to 82 or 85. You’re going to make it a long time, and you want to make sure you’re prepared to make the most of those years.
Steve Pomeranz: Absolutely, now people have perceptions when they’re going into retirement. As a matter of fact, quoted in your book you state that 75% of pre-retirees expect life in retirement to be better, but only 40% of actual retirees find that to be true. And, Robert, that’s a major disconnect, how come?
Robert Laura: I think a lot of it’s because people are, I don’t wanna say delusional, but they think that all retirement, I’m not going to have the stress. I’m not going to have to deal with this. And that’s not the case. You still have all that same stuff. It’s just the matter of you have more time and less distractions. So problems can become bigger. And again I think first we make a habit and our habits make us. A lot of people want to put off eating healthy or doing things a certain way until retirement. And we get there. There’s no extra motivation. So it really is about preparing yourself in all of those areas and just not hoping that things go well.
Steve Pomeranz: For those of us who’ve worked all of our lives, and we go, perhaps, to an office, and we have a certain amount of regiment at the office, now you’re home. You’ve got to come up with your own sense of discipline. Also, there’s a quote in your book that I found really shocking a little bit, and meaningful. And it goes, Bob, don’t ever retire, someone told you, because the minute you do, you won’t mean anything to anyone anymore. And those were his exact words, you won’t mean anything to anyone anymore. What do you say to that, Robert?
Robert Laura: It’s a wake-up call. Because again, I think a lot of people, particularly men, identify with their work. That’s where they get their self-esteem, that’s who they are. When you step back, work is what you do, not who you are. And for those people who aren’t prepared to replace it, you do end up lost. And I can tell you if you’re in your practice, when you look at people when they retire, some people wander around aimlessly for years because they have no direction, they have no passion. And so the book is really about saying, hey, we don’t want you to run out of money. But we don’t want you to run out of family, friends, and well-being. And you have to do the work, you have to take those extra steps to figure that stuff out.
Steve Pomeranz: One thing that I liked about your book is there were a number of worksheets and kind of thought questions. Can you give us a sample of how you deliver some of this information in terms of getting people to think about their new life?
Robert Laura: Well, I think the first time we don’t wanna assume we know what is going to happen and what’s best for you. And so we want people to uncover it for themselves, and by just pulling the impressions that aren’t part of the typical retirement planning process. They can start down that path and start to have conversations about it. It’s interesting because you don’t want to have people in my workshops or when they read the book, describe a perfect day and a perfect week in retirement, and they get to either Tuesday, or they get-
Steve Pomeranz: [LAUGH].
Robert Laura: To the afternoon, and they don’t know what to do. And so again that’s where they get these, they have these thoughts and ideas about retirement, but they’re not truly connected to what it’s going to be like. And so it is about taking the time to look at the, what’s the perfect day? What’s the perfect week look like? What kind of issues are you concerned about? What kind of habits do you have? And identifying them and starting to put them in place. Again, just waiting and hoping they happen.
Steve Pomeranz: And those worksheets are in the book, right?
Robert Laura: Yeah, they come with the book and there’s an online video if they don’t. Basically, I do the webinars and the seminars here in Michigan, but if they want to watch it online, they can watch it online and go through the book as well.
Steve Pomeranz: Sure, the book is entitled The Naked Retirement, the author is Robert Laura. Of course, he’s with me right now, and he’s a financial planner from Michigan. Not to be too negative here, but there’s also the dark side of retirement. Looking at some of the stats that you provided. The National Institute of Health reported that of the 35 million Americans aged 65 or older, about 2 million suffer from full-blown depression and another 5 million suffer from less severe forms of the illness. I think that’s kind of really reinforcing what you’re saying. What should someone do if they find that they’re bordering on depression?
Robert Laura: Well, I think that for advisors, for family members, even for new and existing retirees. You’ve got to recognize the symptoms. And again, I think that when you start to look at retirement, people look at it as this iconic time where everything is going to be perfect and then it’s not, and it can really put you in a different spot of what you anticipated. And again, the important thing about the dark side – because there’s depression, there’s addiction.
Suicide rates are the highest for white males over the age of 65. These are the kinds of things that happen if you don’t do this type of planning, and again we both make our money as financial professionals. But the key to making sure people live out their lives and use those monies well is having those other things in place. And making sure you don’t don’t fall victim to addiction. Again, when you’re retired, every night’s a Friday night, right?
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah.
Robert Laura: Every night’s a Saturday night. And then the depression of not being surrounded by the people or having a purpose. And then, again, not replacing who you are, can have a really devastating effect on people.
Steve Pomeranz: A lot of men really don’t have a lot of friends and they may count their workmates as their friends or their acquaintances. And then they become retired and friendships become even more sparse. So that’s an important thing to concentrate on. You have a list of items here I want to go through. You call it The Naked Retirement plan, again, congratulations on being able to use the word naked in any kind of conversation about your book. So let’s start with number one, retirement bumper sticker. Your first exercise is to create a retirement bumper sticker or mantra that summarizes your new thoughts and feelings about retirement. Give us an example of that.
Robert Laura: I think it’s important to have a concept of retire, a metaphor if you will. And again, I’ve had a lot of different people say, free at last or no more alarm clock or a guy who went to the book and developed a curious list saying, I don’t want to fiddle around because he wanted to learn how to play the fiddle.
Steve Pomeranz: Aha, I got you.
Robert Laura: There’s lots of little cute ways, but again, I think people need to go into retirement with a positive reinforcing metaphor that, hey, this is a great time in my life. I need to make the most of it, not that this is the death sentence and the end of me because it will influence your staking and your attitude.
Steve Pomeranz: I like this one. This one’s entitled retirement conversations. Select the five most important conversations you need to have and list them. Along with the target person you want to have that discussion with.
Robert Laura: This is important because people make their own assumptions about retirement, and some people think you’re just sitting around eating bonbons waiting to die. And that may mean that your kid’s thinking that you’re rich and have all sorts of money to give them, or that you have nothing better to do than babysit their kids. Or that could be coworkers who say, hey, you come visit me because you’re not going to be busy, I’m working. And so it’s a matter of taking those thoughts and having them in the actual conversations, also very important for couples talking about one of my favorite things from the workshops I’ve done is a wife said I’ve married him for better or for worse but not for lunch every day.
Steve Pomeranz: Aha, right, yeah.
Robert Laura: How much time are you going to spend together in a work? Are you gonna be with the grandkids all the time? Are you gonna be on the golf course? Figuring that stuff out is really important.
Steve Pomeranz: I agree. I totally agree. And not anywhere near the least important, and you mentioned it a little bit earlier, is this idea of taking good physical care of yourself, listing your three to five health habits opportunities or the concerns that you want to address immediately. Again, if you want to live a long life and you want it to be a satisfying life and stay healthy, now’s the time to really start taking these situations seriously. What would you advise people there?
Robert Laura: I think before you retire, start establishing those habits. Don’t wait until you retire to start working every day and eating healthy, do it now. And then also, you have to be cognizant of we can make our friends, but we can’t make our family. So you may have certain health risks that have been passed on as well. Just being aware of them concerning the management, because again, when you look at it from a financial planning perspective, is your health going to be an asset or a liability for you? Are you going to be a burden and are there ways that you can make those changes? And the answer is yes, but it starts now, not later.
Steve Pomeranz: My guess is Robert Laura and his book is The Naked Retirement. He’s a financial planner located in Michigan. And it’s a good book for you guys to get to really start to kind of concentrate on some of the specific aspects of retirement. And, finally, Robert, this idea of developing a spiritual action plan, whether you’re religious or not. What do you really mean by that?
Robert Laura: [LAUGH] It was interesting because someone brought the point up to me a while ago that my book makes retirement to be the ultimate goal but getting into heaven is. And as I brought that up to my publisher and other people, there was a lot of pushback on whether there should be a Christian perspective, should you mention heaven, but at the end of the day, retirement is the last phase of life.
The guarantee that comes with it is you will die at some point, and so with that in mind to create a no-regret retirement plan to get on a spiritual path. Whatever that may be of what’s going to happen and when you are on your deathbed, you want to be able to look back and say, I did all the things that I wanted to do and I’m ready for this next phase.
Steve Pomeranz: Very well said. The book, The Naked Retirement. The author with me right now, Robert Laura. He is a financial planner located in Michigan. Thank you so much for joining us, Robert.
Robert Laura: Thanks, Steve, I appreciate it.