“Some people make more than a career out of their work.  They make a difference.”

It’s been more than a year since I retired from my position as Portfolio Manager and Chief Compliance Officer with PDS Planning in Columbus, Ohio.  One of the many retirement cards I received from clients and colleagues contained the above quote.  We never talked specifically about “making a difference” while I was working.  However, as I look back over 30-plus years, we certainly did make a difference for many, many individuals and families who entrusted us with their dreams.

People can choose to make a difference in any work, and I hope all who read this post will think of ways they can do just that.  I volunteer for a local food pantry, and I see the folks who work there making a big difference in the lives of those who need help.  A good friend of mine has been a volunteer at the local Ronald McDonald House for years, and there is no question she has made a difference in the lives of thousands of children and their families.  Think of the hundreds of local artists and musicians whose work makes a huge difference in the quality of life here in Central Ohio.  They make a difference.

Those of us who are retired actually get to choose where we want to make a difference.  There are hundreds of places that desperately need help: Meals On Wheels, hospitals, youth groups, after-school programs, food and family services organizations, animal shelters, arts organizations, Special Olympics, and many more.  The opportunities are endless.  We can make a difference in the lives of many people, and the only cost to us is our time, of which most retirees have a lot.

Former colleagues and clients ask me what I miss about working, if anything?  For sure, I don’t miss getting up at 5 AM and in the office around 6, spending hours each week dealing with federal securities compliance issues, nor listening to corporate representatives talk about the latest investment idea we should implement.  One thing I DO miss is the daily interaction with the fantastic staff at our firm.  I hope I shared my gratitude and admiration with them while I was still working, but the fact that everything is humming along just fine without me gives me even greater satisfaction.  These are smart, caring, committed people.

Perhaps the working aspect I miss the least is the need to stay focused on what is happening with the investment world on a daily basis.  This was important because many clients focus on it, so we had to stay alert, too.  Since retiring, I do not check my investment values much at all.  Over a thirty-year investment career I saw hundreds of market declines, economic recessions, political turbulence, interest rate changes, and much lousy reporting by the broadcast business media.  Making long-term investment decisions on these gyrations is almost always folly. 



Here are some important general lessons learned:

1.)  Find a mix of investments that allow you to sleep at night and not be worried about market fluctuations.

2.)  Put money aside every paycheck in your 401(k) or other retirement plan, and don’t borrow from it to pay for children’s college or weddings or taxes or for vacations.

3.)  Try to pay off credit card debt in full each month.

4.)  Pay off your mortgage prior to retirement.

5.)  Be sure you have health care power-of-attorney and durable power-of-attorney documents that are valid, and be sure your will and/or trust documents reflect your current wishes.

6.)  Don’t be afraid to pay a qualified financial advisor to help you set realistic goals, help you stay on track, and be there for you, through good times and bad.  They just might “make a difference”.