The day Pete Kauffman and his wife, Margaret, realized they could retire brought a flood of emotions. As small-business owners, the couple had to sell nearly everything to get their company going, and keeping it afloat wasn’t always easy either. They had many ups and downs through the years, but Pete remembers, “When we finally got to that day we could retire, then we could start living out our dreams about where we could go and what we could do.” He jokes about “interviewing” lakes with his wife and finding a place to call their own. But there was another dream too, one Kauffman had his entire life — to race cars.
Kauffman’s Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Advisor, Ted Shanahan, was also well aware of the dream. “We talked about the tire budget often,” he says, laughing.
A love of cars was something Kauffman was raised with. It was his dad’s passion, and that passion easily passed from father to son. He still remembers his first purchase. “I bought an old Jaguar, which I towed home on a rope. I paid $150 for it when I was 16. I learned how to fix that car; and when it wasn’t dropping oil all over the road, it occasionally made it from A to B.”
Kauffman’s early passion was fueled over the years. He has owned and raced old Porsches, Jaguars and BMWs. The racing bug really bit in 2004 when a friend invited him to drive a 1930 Bugatti at the historic races at Le Mans, the world’s oldest racetrack. “I asked my wife if she wanted to go to Paris. Then I asked if she minded if we made a stop along the way,” Kauffman teases. But once he was there, the experience ignited a new and different way to love cars. He says simply, “It brought tears to his eyes.” He was hooked. Over the years, Kauffman has raced cars, rebuilt cars, led several auto clubs, taught people how to race their own cars and organized classes for teenagers on how to drive safely.
Kauffman’s time in retirement may center around cars, but that is not his sole fascination. When he’s not behind the wheel of his black 1977 Porsche 911, Kauffman golfs a few times a week and takes pride in his gardens. He even donates some of his time to help grow food for less fortunate people in his area. “I joined the local master gardener program, and we have a community garden where we grow things for the needy. Every year, I also start hundreds of seedlings that are later transplanted to the larger garden. Last year our gardening club produced about 2,500 pounds of produce for the needy in my county, which is one of the poorest in Virginia.”
Seldom did we have any focus on our long-term personal goals. Until Ted, I could tell you more about my business than me.
Continuing to enjoy his life’s passions into retirement was no accident for Kauffman. The plan to make it happen started about two decades ago when he started working with Shanahan. Initially, Shanahan ran a 401(k) program for Kauffman’s business. Shanahan says, “I work with business owners. They have the same dreams and aspirations that everyone else has. They want to have impact along the way; and then some day they want to wake up and go someplace because they want to, not because they financially have to.” Shanahan says he is constantly aware that for many of his clients the road to financial freedom is their business. “I have to sit at the epicenter between two things: what they (business owners) want to do personally, and what their professional piece will do to provide for that.”
Reaching the final destination typically begins with a financial plan. Shanahan noticed Kauffman didn’t have one. Kauffman admits it was off his radar at the time. “Seldom did we have any focus on our long-term personal goals. Until Ted, I could tell you more about my business than me.” But the two began personal planning when Shanahan suggested Kauffman set the example for his employees and create a financial plan.
“As we plotted out what we wanted retirement to look like, Ted guided us through the process,” says Kauffman. Over time, meetings to review Kauffman’s plan would quickly lead to his garage for a look at his latest project. Kauffman says, “We eventually got the ’go’ for retirement. That’s when the big smiles came.”
Today, Kauffman races one Porsche, and he is having a second one rebuilt. His rare 1974 Porsche Carrera has been on the blocks for six years. But soon, it will look as good as it did when it came off the showroom floor. “I’ve picked up all of the passions and interests I’ve had as a person and never really been able to enjoy. That’s the wonderful result of all of this. Some of them are things that are personal to me like racing, and some of them are things like helping provide vegetables for the needy from my garden or teaching kids how to be better drivers. It’s a wonderful result of all the planning. Without that planning, none of this could have happened. We never would’ve lifted our heads up from the day-to-day struggles of running our business. The flip side is, now that it has, we literally can do what we want to do. We are truly blessed that all of this happened.”
Shanahan says he knows he’s done his job well because when he calls Kauffman to continue to check in these days and asks how they are doing, Kauffman always answers, “Living the dream!”