Retirement Stepping Stones: Find Meaning, Live with Purpose, and Leave a Legacy

The following is an expert from Retirement Stepping Stones: Find Meaning, Live with Purpose, and Leave a Legacy, by Tony Hixon, available September 14th, 2021 from River Grove Books.

Praise for Retirement Stepping Stones

“Retirement is extremely complex and continues to change. People need guidance and a process. They need to be able to understand the hurdles that are in front of them and ways they cannot just survive retirement but actually thrive in it and leave a meaningful legacy. This book walks you through the hurdles and roadblocks that can be in your way and provides a streamlined and easy- to-follow process so you can leave a life-changing legacy at the end of your retirement.”

— Jamie P. Hopkins, Esq., MBA, CFP®, LLM, CLU®, ChFC®, RICP®, managing partner of Wealth Solutions,Carson Group, author of Rewirement: Rewiring the Way You Think About Retirement!

PROLOGUE

Sometimes, unexpected events have a lifelong impact not only on our day-to-day lives but also on the way we see the world and how we relate to others in our lives — family, friends, and those we do business with. Something like that happened to me, and one result is the book you’re reading.

I’ve been a financial planner and business owner since 2002, although entrepreneurship was never originally in my plan. In fact, when I grew up on a farm outside of Findlay, Ohio, all I knew was that I wanted to get out into the world and do something with numbers. Math had always been a strong suit of mine. I chose to attend Ohio Northern University, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in accounting. After graduating, I started work at a local accounting firm. I loved what I was doing, retirement stepping stones but I had a feeling that there was something more in store for me.

As passionate as I was about technical financial work (I still am a numbers guy, after all), I was frustrated to see how many people struggled to live comfortably through- out their retirement. The majority of my accounting firm clients had the means to live any lifestyle they wanted, but through a lack of planning, they were struggling. They owed more in taxes than they wanted to and were unable to check off all their bucket-list items during the exact time of their lives when living happily should have been a priority!

I also felt an immense frustration that the clients I was helping were essentially project based. By that, I mean that I’d see them annually during tax season, then they’d disappear until the following year. I consider tax planning a critical component of a comprehensive financial strategy, not a time-to-time activity. Still, I felt like I was helping clients create Band-Aid solutions retroactively to account for past financial mistakes. I wanted to help cli- ents become proactive about their money and empower them to live lives they were proud of, and I was ready to do that.

In 2002 my business partner, Adam Zuercher, and I decided to launch Hixon Zuercher Capital Management. We had originally met back in high school. Of course, as two teenage kids growing up in a small town outside of Findlay, Ohio, we never had imagined we’d be setting out to launch a business together years later. We were both passionate about financial planning and helping our clients reach their goals and retire with confidence. As a self-proclaimed numbers guy, I was eager to give our clients a technical overview of their strategy. We had soft- ware that could create long, detailed reports, and I’ll admit that I found solace in the certainty that numbers provided. My goal was to help our clients ensure that they wouldn’t outlive their money — and possibly even have enough to accomplish some of those bucket-list goals.

However, after several years of doing business with only numbers as my criteria for client success, a family crisis changed my thinking and how I now counsel clients to think about their lives and plan for the future.

My mom, Pam Hixon, came to me when she turned 60. She was eager to retire but wanted to know if she could financially pull it off. I took some time to crunch the numbers for her. She had enough saved to live comfortably, and so I gave her the go-ahead.

Like many people, my mom had built up retirement as an ideal in her mind. She imagined long days of relaxing, filling her hours with her favorite hobbies and activities, and spending more time with her loved ones. She had two granddaughters, and her first grandson was on the way. She wanted to connect more with the kids, and she was ready to travel with my dad, Bob Hixon.

Unfortunately, she didn’t have a detailed plan for her retirement lifestyle. There was no way the grand retirement stepping stones ideas she had focused on before retirement could fill all of her time.

As the big day started creeping up on her, my mom started feeling less excited and more anxious. I spent time reviewing the financial data with her, reassuring her that her savings would last and that her projected expenses were well within reason, given the size of her nest egg.

As I kept talking to her, I realized that her anxiety wasn’t completely financially rooted. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked her. She insisted she was, though she admitted she was a bit concerned. She wasn’t sure what would come next. Still, she was burned out at her job, and I and many of my family members thought that getting out from under the pressure of work would free her up to live more joyfully.

She retired almost as soon as I gave her the green light in 2010. What happened next changed my life and the direction of my career.

Previously, when working with clients, I had seen only the rosy side of retirement. These folks were excited to enter the next chapter of their lives and had a clear idea about how they wanted to spend their time as retirees. I believe my mom was the first person I spoke to who actually felt unsettled by the idea of leaving her career. She wasn’t sure what the next chapter looked like, and she wasn’t particularly open to putting a plan together for both her finances and her lifestyle.

But now I know exactly how necessary that is for pre-retirees. These days our wealth management firm focuses on the quantitative financial data and the softer, nonfinancial side of retirement when meeting with our clients. We talk to them seriously about the possibility that, when they retire, they may feel lost.

It’s a sad truth that your chance of suffering from depression goes up by close to 40 percent after you retire, and approximately 25 percent of adults1 over age 65 are experiencing some form of mental-health issue. The worst part is that very few people openly discuss this increasingly problematic issue. Retirement is still painted as 20-plus years of vacation. As a result, retirees are under- prepared to face their retirement in an empowered way that allows them to live into their purpose.

Pam Hixon’s Legacy

Part of my mission now is to carry on the legacy of my mom. I firmly believe that, although her life story ended in tragedy, it doesn’t have to stop there. My mom had been dedicated to helping others in every way she could. Now I’m carrying on this tradition in my own work as a financial advisor.

I want to help my clients and loved ones prepare for a retirement stepping stones retirement they love; I’m dedicated to showing them how to build a lifestyle that gives them purpose. Without a plan, life in retirement can lose meaning. My goal, both in my work and now with this book, is to help people who are planning for retirement make that transition with confidence. There’s no reason to enter retirement blindly. With a few clear steps, you can build a strategy that helps you derive meaning from your life and add purpose to your days, even as you leave your career behind.

That’s the reason for this book. I want to ensure that your retirement brings you pleasure, serenity of mind, and the enjoyment of a well-lived life. That your transition is from success to significance. That you find a newfound hope and a newfound purpose. That retirement brings you your best years. My ultimate desire is that your retirement equals peace.

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