A Reflection from C. Michael Johnson, CFP®

Living on the Other Side By C. Michael Johnson, CFP®

I get asked all the time, so now that you are on the other side (translation old and retired), do you think the financial advice you shared for the past 40 years as a wealth advisor was useful and made a difference in people’s lives?

In other words, was I really offering anyone valuable financial insight?

My answer is an emphatic yes!

Here is my sage advice:  which, by the way, I fully agree with now even more than ever!

  • Market volatility and emotions – stay the course. This takes on new meaning.  Some days or weeks the fluctuation is more than I earned in a full year.  I have coached others through this anxiety; now, I know what they are feeling.  However, the advice remains the same; stay with your asset allocation and continue to periodically rebalance back to your target percentages. Following sound principles of investing are a must. Otherwise, feelings will take over; and, most often they will be wrong.  Following your feelings is never an investment strategy!

 

  • Being a long-term investor is not just until retirement, but rather, our deaths and even beyond! Think of using trusts and endowments for after life wishes. Hence, the truly long-term investment strategy must be oriented for capital growth to protect against inflation while positioned for income generation at the same time.  Personally, Dona, my wife, and I think it is important to not just leave the assets we have accumulated to just a few family members, but also to causes that support our values and life objectives. If you have the resources and want to leave a legacy, it is necessary to look out far and wide.

 

  • For years, I preached to everyone who would listen – to have a successful retirement, you first must be debt free! How to achieve this is often not easy and requires making tradeoffs. Second, your adult children should be 100% off your payroll; and third, be a master at running your household budget.  In practice, this means you must have a real workable spending plan and follow it through both the earning and retired years.  In retirement, generally a sustainable spending plan works only if one distributes 4 to 5% annually from their asset base.  Sadly, I have watched what happens to wonderful people who do not follow this advice and spend down their wealth too early in retirement. Because Dona and I have a spending plan in place, I do not need to remind my wife she is spending too much on her hair these days nor she tell me I am spending too much on fitness gear.

 

  • Health care costs must be understood. This category requires more of our time and cost than the textbook averages suggest. Wellness care becomes a new category of spending and possibly the most fun. I have been most surprised by retiree’s lack of exercise and wellness care.  Being mindful of the hidden costs of health care, I have said often, eating less and moving more really does pay off in the long run.  I built a wonderful gym in one garage bay a year before COVID; and yes, my wife and I use it most every day now.

 

  • Plan for the next chapter. I have said often you cannot just retire from something; but you must have something to retire to.  For each person it will be different. I have found Dona and I need purposeful and meaningful relationships.  Having a faith community gives us that. We believe all that we are and all that we have are God’s gifts to us to be used for making a difference in the lives of others.  Having this passion and calling not only brings us fulfillment but utilizes our gifts and talents. It keeps us active and productive while keeping us from being inwardly focused with our resources.

Mike & Dona in Winslow, Arizona

 

As I reflect on these insights, I am reminded of a motivational speaker I heard early in my career who said “you can get everything in life you want, if you help enough other people get what they want.”  I fully agree!

Growing up poor and never wanting to be that position again, became a motivating force to learn sound principles of money management and teaching them to others.  As I learned and shared my financial knowledge, I was privileged to witness people achieving their goals and having financial stability.  This noble work led me to experience a lifelong career more fulfilling and purposeful than I ever thought imaginable.

All of my advice wrapped into one sentence is this:  Live on 20% less than you earn, start investing early and time will be your ally, minimize the use of debt, find employment and activities that provide purpose, and work with a Wealth Planning Corporation advisor who will be your accountability coach as you plan for your future.

I wish you God’s best on your life journey!

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