When Northwestern Mutual client Scott Clark retired from WABC in New York in January 2011, he was at the top of his game, as an Emmy Award-winning sports director and anchor.

“I went out on my own terms — a rarity in the broadcast business — so my last day was a joyous one,” he explains. While he was sorry to say goodbye to colleagues with whom he had enjoyed working for 25 years, he was looking forward to filling his time with family and new friendships.

“I loved my work from day one,” says Clark, “starting in the 198th market in my hometown of Lima, Ohio, and eventually leaving the broadcast business in the No. 1 market ... New York, New York! Although I had a great passion for my work, I also desired to retire sooner than later.”

He considered doing so at 50, but that was “too early.” It turned out that 58 was the right number. “The contract was up; the lifetime savings were adequate to go the rest of the way comfortably; and the mind, body and soul were all still intact. But the energy and desire to give my job ‘my all’ was beginning to wane. That’s when I knew it was time,” he recalls.

Moved by his desire to retire early, Scott got to work with his financial professional to develop a strategy.

“Financial planning was the only way I could have ‘pulled the trigger’ on retirement,” he says.

Scott says he was able to retire early due to three important factors: regular contributions to his IRA, a stock purchase plan offered by his workplace and, “most importantly, starting early with whole life insurance.”

“I obtained my first policy before I was 30, and continued to add policies when I could,” Scott says. “These policies performed double duty for me over the years. They insured my family would be taken care of if something were to happen to me and they were a forced savings plan that yielded interest.

Scott’s life insurance cash values grew over the years, “exponentially in recent years” according to him, enabling him to take money out of the policies as needed.

“I am so grateful that I took these actions when I was young,” Scott says. “Now, if I could just get my golf game in order!”

Even with all the pieces in place, celebrity must have been tough to give up. After all, Clark had covered Yankee championships, Giants Super Bowl wins and the Rangers’ elusive Stanley Cup victory. So does he miss the spotlight? 

“No,” he says simply. “Earlier in my career, my job was my life. As time went by, my job was still my passion, but it was my job, not my life. Today, I have merely taken another direction, and it is most enjoyable. I used to say that my job beat working, and I meant it. But retirement — for me — now that beats everything!”

What has surprised Clark most about retirement is that he has had no burning desire to do something else. “If the right freelance project came along, I would consider it,” he says. “But there is no active search for something else from this retirement camp. I’m simply having too much fun! Whether it’s golf, grandchildren or just goofing off, I love this segment of my life.”

Clark and his wife, Heather, now split their time between Michigan and South Carolina. “It was only a matter of days after retirement that I was looking at New York in my rear-view mirror,” he says. “Although I grew to love my time there, experiencing the limitless interests that New York has to offer, I was born and raised in the Midwest, and I yearned to return. So we had purchased a lake house in Michigan a few years before I retired.”

With two of three children and all of their grandchildren living in the Chicago area, Michigan also affords proximity to family and old friends — as well as a lower cost of living than New York. “But when it gets cold, we head for our place on Seabrook Island, just outside of Charleston,” he says. “One of my requirements in retirement was avoiding winter weather. Done and done!”

Financial planning was the only way I could have ‘pulled the trigger’ on retirement.

For others who are planning retirement, Scott shares this advice:

WHILE AGE MATTERS, IT’S NOT THE KEY FACTOR

It’s most important to be financially and emotionally ready. For example, some people work their entire lives because it is right for them. Also consider that retirement is, in some ways, like having children. It’s hard to pinpoint the perfect time. But if you want it, and if you have adequately prepared for it, retirement can be a most rewarding phase of life.

THE SWITCH FROM SAVING TO SPENDING IS A BIT OF A SCARE

For so many years, you have saved for this day. Still, the thought that money is no longer coming in but is only going out can be daunting — unless you have good financial advisors who have your best interests in mind. If they are worth their weight, they have already guided you to this moment. Now it’s a matter of adhering to the budget that you and your financial advisors have worked out, making sure you are not exceeding your weekly, monthly or yearly “paycheck” so that your savings continue to work for you.

THE LESSONS WE LEARN IN RETIREMENT ARE THE SAME EVERY PHASE OF OUR LIVES

That means, to accept the things we cannot change, to change the things we can and to know the difference between the two. Someone smarter than I came up with these suggestions, but I find that they work, and are worth passing along.

LIVE IN THE MOMENT

Death may be the only guarantee in this life, but “right now” is the only guarantee you have while you’re living it.

 

This article contains profiles of certain Northwestern Mutual clients, their personal financial needs and how Northwestern Mutual met their needs. The personal financial needs and results of the clients shown may not be representative of the experience of other clients. Also, working with a Northwestern Mutual financial representative or any other financial services provider is not a guarantee as to future investment success.

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