In September of 2014 I dusted off an old retirement plan where I had planned on retirement at age 55 which for me is in 2018. I had created that plan in my early 30’s. I’d guess the plan was similar to what many others considered retirement. Everything paid off, a monthly income through pensions and savings that equal what I anticipated would be our monthly expenses.
The idea of what retirement would look like had changed considerably by 2014. I was no longer content to just have everything paid off and an income that just met my monthly bills while living in a small house, in the city, until the day someone pushed dirt over my grave. Karen and I had moved to the north side of Kansas City onto four acres with woods. We loved to garden and created our own oasis with walking trails through the trees lined with garden spots. Life was good other than having now lost both my parents, one to a heart attack and the other through cancer. I’ll not go into that other than to say both taught me a final lesson which influenced my own future.
So, dusting off the old retirement plan including a new meaning of what retirement will be for me. I’m so lucky to have a wife who is an adventurer. I’m the planner, worrier and the type that must have a plan A,B and C before I’ll make an important move. She is the one with the survival instincts that includes faith that it will all work out even without a plan. I learn from her everyday how good life could be if one just lets it happen. Fortunately, we both like to camp, be outdoors and travel. Neither of us are afraid of big change even if we have different approaches in how we get there.
By 2014 I’d planned to move my retirement date to 2023 or age 59.5. By then there would be no need to work even part-time. We could stay on our property, in our current home and garden – until someone pushed dirt over our graves!
After thinking of the final lesson my parents taught, in 2014 I came up with the idea to travel in an RV after retirement and before we set down permanent roots. Karen was on-board after the first conversation. Although I work in law enforcement, business was my college major. My father was a cop for over 50 years. We had a talk when I was around 17 years old. He suggested I go to college and get a business degree while working part time as a police officer. Over the years, I’ve owned my own business, worked for a corporation and handled my own financial planning. I’m the type who must have a 100% understanding of what is going on financial to feel comfortable with the plan. In other words, until recently I would not have felt comfortable with someone else investing for me or planning my financial future.
Like many others planning to fulltime in an RV, we moved our start date ahead by a few years. I adjusted the financial plan in anticipation of leaving in 2019. I call it my save and leave early plan. Late last year I took a hard look at the earnings on our retirement investments. I talked to a few people I trusted who were already or nearing retirement. At the time, most of our investments were with Waddell and Reed. I should have done it years ago, but for the first time I compared their rate of returns against just the simple index funds. Waddell and Reed had always done a little better than the “market” when things were good and a little less poorly when the market was down. That had been changing in the last few years as their returns were not up to expectations. I know exactly what our rate of return must be before and after retirement. Over the past ten years, Waddell and Reed had just been clearing that rate of return by less than half a percent. Not good when their funds are expensive to own in terms of what they charge to get into a fund and their annual expense ratio. So, I arranged a couple meetings with our account manager at Waddell and Reed who by chance was also preparing for his own retirement.
Waddell and Reed is a large financial company. They have independently owned branch offices scattered around the country who are affiliated to Waddell and Reed where they can invest in only their mutual funds. I’ve over-simplified that a bit because it’s boring to write about. Anyway, the guy who I’d worked with for years told me he was selling out to a Waddell and Reed corporate executive as part of his retirement succession plan. He wanted me to meet with him and the new owner because I’m one of his “different customers.” By that he meant he wanted the new guy to know he would have to explain every move he made to me in detail and put up with my type A personality.
Fast forward a few months to the point where I’d evaluated my Waddell and Reed account over a 10-year period. I was not satisfied and called the new guy. He asked me to come by their new office which had been moved to a more affluent area of Kansas City (Briarcliff). I intended to tell him I was moving away from Waddell and Reed. To my amazement, he told me he was doing the same for the exact reasons I was which included Waddell and Reed mutual funds were no longer performing to expectations. Shocking news to say the least. Because the new guy has only had one job since he got out of college more than thirty years ago, and that was with Waddell and Reed where he rose through the ranks to become a devoted executive. He was moving his office to offering financial planning services with investment options to include all forms of investment rather than just Waddell and Reed funds.
I was faced with a decision that for the first time included detailing my financial condition and all investments to someone else to manage. Or simply leave and go to just another mutual fund company. I thought a small test was in order! I handed over my current retirement plan to the new guy expected the salesman side of him to shine which would include him telling me there was no way I was going to be in financial shape to meet our goal to retire early and travel. I thought he would tell me to retire later and give him more money to manage and charge for that management. Turns out he has other clients traveling in RVs. He has learned from them and was excited for us.
The new company is part of LPL Financial. I told the new guy Karen would be coming to our second meeting because I wanted her to know everything about where our money was kept. That was in case I was hit by a bus and she needed help. I told him if that happens he should expect a call because I only wanted Karen to have to call one person to help with financial considerations in the event of my death rather than all the other account managers where our funds had been scattered to include the bank, Waddell and Reed, credit union and Fidelity Mutual Funds. And eventually the money we keep in savings after selling our home.
I walked out of that meeting with a total sense of relief and for the first time felt comfortable with someone else holding the purse strings. For a control freak like me, that was quite an accomplishment I might add. The new guy has already given me some homework which is to look at structured notes as a place he might put some of the money from the sale of our home. In this case, he would build-in protection of the principle investment. He is also considering structured notes for part of his own retirement savings. I had told him we would like access to the house money in about six years after we retired to an RV which might be a time we would either settle down or stay on the road which is somewhat of a guess. I’ve not finished my homework assignment, nor sold the house, so have not given him the go-ahead with that type of investment. The new guy has already met with the other 12 financial planners in his group to decide which mutual fund investments they are moving clients towards. As our Waddell and Reed account was converted to cash and moved to the new company, he has also yet to invest those funds. He and others think the stock market has generally run-up and may go down in value soon. He is waiting until March to dollar-cost average into the market thinking others have invested early because of expectations in market growth based on the new president’s policy. Neither of us believe in market timing where you take a guess at when the market will be low or high and invest accordingly. It’s just that for the first time in years my account is sitting with all cash needing to be invested so it’s being done wisely and at intervals.
What does all this come down to for me? For the first time, I’ve hired someone to manage my investments and to trust their opinion. That’s costing me 1.5% of my portfolio annually. And Karen has only one person to call if that bus hits me. And, if we need the income in retirement I’ll simply have to call one person and tell him to set it up based on how much we want each month.
In the meantime, we continue to down-size our stuff at home. I’ve been doing a lot of research on trucks and will post about that later. And I had a few internet links of interest I wanted to share with everyone but will do that later as well.
Thanks for reading and commenting.