Recently, the world lost one if it's true comic geniuses, Gene Wilder. Most of us know him for his classic comedy in movies like Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Willy Wonka, and a plethora of movies with another legend, Richard Pryor. His "retirement" was rather unique from most others in his field: while most work it until they just can't anymore, drawn back the spotlight- Wilder pretty much called it quits at age 58 to settle down to a normal life unlike most of his peers. His estate plan was different than most: not necessarily in the quality or points of his plan, but in the fact that he retired a "traditional retirement" unlike almost all in his field. His concern was not to see how many millions he could continue to accumulate, but to see how much pleasure he could accumulate while he was young enough and healthy enough to enjoy it. Unlike most celebrities who live in mega mansions in Beverly Hills, Wilder lived a quiet life in Stanford, CT in a modest home away from the glitz and glamour he formerly surrounded himself with. He dedicated himself to family, friends, support for Ovarian Cancer Research and the pleasure of knowing he could stop and smell the roses all he wanted.
So you see, even as a famous and legendary celebrity, his retirement plan was relatively as normal as yours and mine. He worked hard, and retired in the same manner and timeframe as most of us. Yes, he could have continued to work hard and earn more, but chose to have his life to himself. Although he did some short appearances here and there (he said just to have some fun) his didn't opt for a late life movie disaster just to bring in the bucks. Quality of life outshone the spotlight: which brings me to this month's thought: when do you balance continuing to work to bring in "just a little more" with the issue of quality of life? At some point in time, is it worth losing a year or years of retirement to hopefully sock away a bit more? What events will you miss, what family occasions will you not have time for, how much time with your beloved will be shelved for another year with the justification that it’s "just one more year?" Newsflash: when we are born, we are not stamped with an expiration stamp on our bum...it could be any time, any place- do you really want to go out working?
An estate plan is an outline of intentions. Gene's estate plan had him moving out of the spotlight into his retirement at age 58, and considering he passed in his 80’s it seemed to work out fairly well. My personal definition of retirement is the ability to do what you want, when you want, where you want. Retirement doesn't necessarily mean becoming a couch potato for the rest of your life to wait for the grim reaper to claim you. The plan is an outline as to who may take care of your kids, grandkids (if you are in a guardian position), pets, objects like houses, cars and the like, and your money. It's been my personal experience that those who die without a plan have left behind a mess for their kids to clean up, and most often, it sets up a battlefield among the surviving siblings leaving a lifetime of family discord in its wake. Passing without a carefully crafted plan says you don't care what happens to your accumulation of things and money after you're gone. What about caring about your beloved spouse or partner when you're gone- did you consider their good and welfare? Did you make formal, written provisions and arrangements for them?
Let's go back to kids for a minute. Nothing says "I love you... more" than leaving an unequal amount to your kids. Certainly, circumstances prevail where you gave more to one than the other during your lifetime, a child has disabilities, or issues with drugs, alcohol or other "isms." This can be all handled in your estate plan in a fair, reasonable and logical manner. The key here is to make sure you are working with a Certified Financial Planner™ and estate attorney who has vast experience in their field: not just your general insurance agent or stockbroker who claims to know everything. No insult to anyone, but you don't go to a divorce attorney for criminal defense, or a podiatrist for a sore throat. Make sure your advisor has enough experience to guide you from experience and tenure. Nothing says "I'm familiar" more than someone who can prove they've done it over and over.
When is the right time to retire? This my friends is a question I've been asked hundreds of times. My answer is... one day, although you've talked about it over and over a thousand times, you will wake up, sit up in bed, and know this is the time. There is no way to predict it, or say when is best- we're all different, and have different needs and wants. The key here, is that you'll know... most do... just be prepared. See you on the tee!