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Worthington Wealth Management

Stay Busy

Beethoven’s greatest symphony, Verdi’s greatest opera, and Wagner’s Ring Cycle were all composed in the twilight of life. Stay busy.


My older brother, John, has officially become the “crazy uncle” of the family.  Through a whirlwind life of musical training (including a master’s degree), band directing, art, and three sons who rarely fail to upstage him with their successes, he found his niche in the Medicare supplemental insurance industry.  The nature of his clientele, and the mission of the company for which he works, became the launchpad for one of his seemingly craziest ideas yet – “I’m going to act like I’m 22 years old again”.

For as far back as my memory allows, I remember John riding his bicycle.  He had other interests - a horse and talent on the trombone - but the thing I recall most-frequently attached to his backside was a bike seat.  Terms like derailleurs, wheel hubs, chain lubes, and pannier bags flew around as frequently as saddle, bridle, tuning slide, and spit valve.  While I was busy playing drums, building Soap Box Derby cars, and learning to swing a hammer I also learned to fly. Finally, at age 14 and after many months of training, I took my first solo flight in an unpowered sailplane while Mom and Dad waited anxiously next to the grass runway for my safe return.  After landing I was excited and proud, and they were green with relief. 

In 1980, when John was 22, he hatched an idea that would make my parents’ acid and angst rise to even higher levels.  He would ride his bike from coast to coast, dipping his rear wheel in the Pacific waters of California and his front wheel in the Atlantic around Baltimore some two and a half months and four thousand miles later.  He would tent, campfire-cook, and pedal his way through as many as 75-100 miles per day.  He procured a friend to join him (although the friend would eventually not make the whole trip) but, still, we were all aghast at the scale and danger of such a knucklehead idea. But not John.

Twenty-eight days ago, now pushing age 66, John set off to do it again, this time riding across the northern tier states with a lifetime of perspective and a new mission.  You can see his story at  He’s posting about his adventures and trials at and they have a very cool GPS map that’s updating his route.  I’m relieved now that he’s made it through those northern tier mountains, although it sounds like they almost beat him.  It’s clear that the reasons he came out the other side in one piece include the kindness of near-strangers, support from other riders (one who came upon John just below the crest of a mountain and helped “pull” him over the top), those who joined him for short jaunts around town or across the county (Forrest Gump “run-ning” style), not to mention all of the stubborn determination he could pull out of his 65 year old bones and muscles to keep going.  Now ahead of him lie a thousand miles of flat, hot ground across eastern Montana and North Dakota towards northern Minnesota.  Heck, I get tired just clicking the mouse to update the map!  While it’s nearly impossible for most people to comprehend his daily grind, nearly all can relate to the grandeur of the natural beauty through which he’s riding.  John’s a very spiritual guy and I’m certain that the solitary splendor of his surroundings provides fuel for his soul.

John’s goal to finish well is not changed, but his mission is more outward focused now.  Although he’s in great shape and he’s always been diligent against adopting bad habits that threaten his health, he survived a cancer scare and a few other maladies considered unusual.  Because inaction can lead to where just getting off the couch is a great challenge, John’s message is “Get Up!  Start moving, take action, grab the bull by the horns and do something to start being more active”.  If his demonstration of “It’s not impossible!” is to ride across the country as an example, then so be it – he’ll ride.

Because his business is explaining Medicare-aged health care insurance, it’s certain that most of his clientele have the Get-Up-and-Active message ringing in their heads all the time.  John’s company loves the messaging and is his largest sponsor while using his efforts to build a campaign to attract like-minded clients.  If lowering costs and bettering people’s general health is worth the effort, then supporting such a trip makes good business sense as well.  In our business it’s been clear and reinforced dozens of times that most retirees are much busier than they were in their working life, with most including some form of physical activity in their daily routine. 

Being financially healthy in retirement doesn’t take a lot of money any more than being active requires extremes like John’s trek.  Little things can make a big difference in both health and finance.  In fact, I’ve said for years that one of my hardest jobs is convincing retired clients that it’s OK to spend a little money.  My experience is that investors got to be investors by living below their means but don’t realize that, during retirement, that practice may increase the odds of dying rich, which is great if your primary goal is to leave money to others.  But if, like my dad, you want to work towards writing your last check the day you die (“…and that S.O.B is gonna bounce!”), it takes effort and practice to spend money with the same care one used in saving it.  Most likely, a health club membership, for example, is well within your means.  So might be more travel which might entail focusing on mobility, or maybe it’s an active hobby that takes money to participate.  It all begins with a proper look at your retired lifestyle and your desire to change it, along with the math of guessing future values and costs.

If clicking Refresh to follow John’s cross-country adventure motivates you to consider doing something new or making a change, then I say Yes, whole-heartedly, do it!  Sounds Crazy – Might Work!  And if what you are considering takes a change in your spending, then make time to talk or sit down with us.  We can’t predict the future, but we can show you the odds of how a change might affect you now, in retirement and, possibly, when you write your “last check”.