I was recruited to post this by a Publish0x member who was deeply moved by this true story. I hope it inspires and educates you as you consider your future with or without crypto.
He sat hunched on the colorless bedspread in a nondescript hotel room in a city that felt like all the rest. He thought about things while the TV droned on about some news event or a sitcom or a movie. It didn’t matter, he’d seen it all.
“I’m going to retire” he announced to nobody. So he shut off the TV, called his wife and shared his epiphany. She was over the moon.
That night was the best sleep he’s had in 41 years of business travel.
When we sat down to chat, Gregory Alan Spiros, Managing Director, had three weeks of work left until he would become Greg, the anonymous retired guy. “I’m 64 but I don’t feel old” he began.
He fidgeted with his chair while he pretended to be calm, and slowly shared his life, his decision, the excitement – and the fear.
“Every morning I get up early and I ride my stationary bicycle for 10 miles. Then I rush to work or catch a flight somewhere. I don’t really have any hobbies. I’m not sure what I’m going to do.”
It’s been a rough year for Greg, with a national network of manufacturing plants under his direction that were especially troubled with change management, quality issues, and logistical mishaps. He could figure it out – that’s what he’s good at.
But did he still have the fire in his belly? He struggled with the thought.
Ready or not?
Why is it so hard?
Every week enough people to fill Orange Bowl stadium will retire. Seventy thousand people a week!
Their average age is 66 and they’ll live for 13 more years. Half of them have no savings and will live on an average of $1,461 a month in Social Security income. 3% are afraid of death; 14% are afraid of nursing homes. All are afraid of running out of money.
Greg is not an average person, nor has he ever been.
“I earned the first college degree in my family thanks to a football scholarship. I was a fullback. Broke three ribs, two fingers, and a toe. But we won more games than we lost.” He joked with obvious pride.
He’s a tall brick, always smartly dressed and neatly combed. His booming voice and air of confidence command respect. And while he still has the carriage of an athlete, it’s apparent that time and gravity are gaining ground.
“With savings and Social Security I can replace 85% to 90% of my salary.” He said with guarded enthusiasm. “I think that’s good but I’m not sure. My parents passed in their early 80’s but I think I can go a few years longer.”
“Do I have enough?” He asked me as if I was a fortune teller.
Mentors’ life lessons
From necessity, Greg began working at age 12. By 16 he had enough surplus income to fund his athletic and mischievous pursuits. Lady luck or divine intervention kept him from trouble and got him into college where he stumbled across a man with good ideas and inspiration. A mentor.
“Anyone can live on any salary, but few choose to live below it,” Greg explained. “My college mentor taught me to spend carefully and deliberately, and from then on I’ve always saved 15% or more of my income.”
Greg said that his wife Sharon was a talented accountant, but two lively girls and one rambunctious boy later, in their mid-30s, they agreed to wean themselves to a single salary. Actually to 15% less than a single salary – their commitment to savings held firm.
About that time, he met an impressive older colleague on the verge of retirement who had amassed a small fortune by living a life of frugality. In retirement he would bask in luxury, travel first class, and relish the certainty of financial stability. Soon after, his wife died, and he emphatically shared his regrets with Greg.
“Don’t shortchange today for tomorrow,” He said. “I’d do it all differently if I could. Be smart but enjoy life – you never know what the future will bring.”
The specter of obscurity
Retirement is the great equalizer. A corporate titan is no different from a warehouse worker when standing in line at the hardware store. Loss of status, peer identity, and respect – for any retiree – can be humbling and demoralizing.
I asked Greg how he planned to deal with the inevitable anonymity. His shoulders drooped a bit as he replied, “I don’t really know. I’ve thought about it and it makes me nervous. It’ll be rough at first.”
In 1969 Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the ‘five stages of grief’ - a series of emotional stages in response to tragic life circumstances like illness and death. If retirement had stages, Greg would be in the one called ‘Befuddled’.
“For a while I considered changing careers. Then I thought maybe I’d just get a different job. All I’ve ever done is work and I don’t want to lose my skills and knowledge.”
His voice trailed off as he pondered an idea he had already rejected.
“Or maybe I won’t completely retire.” He said with more enthusiasm.
“Consulting can keep my skills sharp. It might be a way to help others. I could volunteer – I don’t need the money. Maybe I’ll become a personal trainer like my brother.”
Greg, the Managing Director, is a planner. That’s his job. It’s what he’s good at. But right now he doesn’t have much of a plan.
Then again, maybe he doesn’t need one.
By all accounts, Greg is an intelligent and successful man. He’s leaning into the uncertainty of retirement with the courage of a grizzled sea captain in a gale. And like that captain, he’s learned a lesson or two that could help us all as we prepare for our own voyages.
- Listen to yourself. Recognize when you’ve reached your limit. Don’t forget that we’ll all die someday. Greg believes he has about 20 years left to enjoy. How many will you have?
- Save with discipline. Resolve to live on less. Maybe you can’t start at age 12, but you can start now.
- Save with balance. Enjoy today responsibly – your future is uncertain.
- Fear of retirement is normal, even for the fearless. It’s just another stage in the process – you’ll get past it. Everyone does.
- Time it right. Greg chose a time when he and Sharon would be close to the predictability and support of Medicare and Social Security.
Monday morning, the first day of not-work, Greg will get up early and ride his stationary bike for 10 miles. Except this time there will be no planes and offices urging him out the saddle. This ride will be a leisurely one, and it will take him to a new destination – a place he doesn’t know and isn’t quite ready for.
Will it be exhilarating? Excruciating?
Regardless, wherever Monday’s journey takes him, he’ll figure it out. That’s what he’s good at.