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The Ready.Set.Retire! Blog


The Retirement Success in Maine Podcast Ep 020: MIT AgeLab's Research on Retirement & The Impact of Technology on Aging Better with John Diehl, CFP

Benjamin Smith, CFA

Executive Summary

Episode 20

As we work with our clients during their retirement, inevitably they start to lose touch  with today's culture, especially in regards to technology.  While losing competency with technology is normal today, what if retirees instead embraced technology? How could technology be used to help us age better?  Listen in as we discuss this topic with John Diehl, CFP Senior Vice President of Hartford Funds.

What You'll Learn In This Podcast Episode:

On this episode of The Retirement Success in Maine Podcast, the team is joined by John Diehl, CFP® of Hartford Funds. We wanted to have John on the show with us, not only to share his expertise as Senior Vice President of Strategic Markets for Hartford Funds but also because John also oversees Hartford Funds’ relationship with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AgeLab. With his experience at Hartford Funds and with the MIT AgeLab, John is considered an “all things retirement expert” and has been quoted widely in publications including The Wall Street Journal and made appearances on CNBC and Bloomberg Television.

Our conversation with John focused on the retirement research conducted by the MIT AgeLab and how technology is having an impact on aging. John provided insight into questions like, how can someone visualize retirement? How is technology impacting the employment aspects of retirement? What impact does technology have on familial relationships in retirement? How is mobility affected by technology? and much more. Be sure to tune in to hear what John has to say!


Welcome, John! [2:49]

What is the MIT Age Lab and how has it developed? [11:26]

“Who will change my light bulbs?” [16:38]

“How will I get an ice cream cone?”[25:21]

“Who are you going to have lunch with?” [29:40]

How is technology impacting the employment aspects of retirees, especially in rural areas such as Maine?[35:24]

How is technology going to impact how family relationships stay intact throughout retirement? [43:09]

How is technology going to impact our mobility as we age? [48:06]

How can technology help people achieve the goal of staying in their homes as long as possible? [55:31]

What is Retirement Success for John? [1:00:04]

Ben, Abby, & Curtis wrap-up the episode. [1:07:21]


Re-Think Retirement as 8,000 days - MIT AgeLab's 8,000 Days Workbook

MIT AgeLab's Website

Hartford Funds' & MIT AgeLab's  Research Website

John Diehl's Human-centric Investing Podcast

5 Ways Technology Will Change How You Age

Listen Here:


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Ben Smith:                   Welcome everybody to the Retirement Success In Maine podcast. My name is Ben Smith, and I'm joined by my two co-hosts Abby Doody and Curtis Worcester, the Apple and Google to my Blackberry.

Curtis Worcester:         All right.

Ben Smith:                   How're you guys doing today?

Curtis Worcester:         Good, Ben.

Abby Doody:                 Good, how're you, Ben?

Ben Smith:                   We're good. We're recording. This is end of May now, so we're still doing a little sheltering in place, which is why you can see some casual backdrops behind us. But we've been talking a lot about themes and challenges that retirees have as they're entering retirement in Maine, as Maine obviously, is the point of the show and challenges that Mainers are facing. Well, one of the things that we just find a lot is, look, Maine is a pretty rural state, very spread out in terms of their service centers up I-95, so you can find that, but there's a lot of rural parts of the state. And as we hear from a lot of our clients, they have a stated goal of, "I want to stay in my house and the home that I'm living in for as long as possible."

Ben Smith:                   And sometimes we're pretty mobile in our younger years, we're able to do things and access certain services and stores and resources, that can become more of a challenge as we age. And again, we have these two conflicting ideas of, "Hey, I want to stay at my home as long as possible or the house that I love to be in, but maybe I'm not as accessible because of where I am located in state," so technology. So we had this conversation with a colleague we work with over at Hartford Funds, Greg Seaver. Greg and our team were having a really great conversation about, "Hey, you know what? You guys got to talk to John Diehl."

Ben Smith:                   John is the one of the technology guys, He's a strategic markets for Hartford Funds, and we have a relationship with MIT AgeLab. So MIT AgeLab really studies a lot of the effects of aging, and they talk a lot about technology. We said, "Well, would that be perfect of blending that vantage point to this challenge we see our clients facing?" And that was the premise for today's show. We want to have John on and just have that conversation. So with that, John, I want to bring you on, welcome to the show. I appreciate your time today.

John Diehl:                   Thanks for having me, Ben.

Ben Smith:                   Yeah. So John, with our show, we always like to start with you as our guest. And you have the specific level of expertise, and what we like about where your role is at Hartford Funds, again, you're overseeing this partnership with MIT AgeLab. But you have our vantage point from the financial planning end as you're seeing the research come out, so you're a good bridge between our two worlds. And with that, we wanted to just hear a little bit more about you first in terms of your background, where did you grow up, and your building towards your career path?

John Diehl:                   Sure. Great. Thanks for the question. So I grew up in suburban Philadelphia, about an hour, and actually it was more rural suburbs of Philadelphia, about an hour and a half Northwest. Born and raised there. I was raised basically by my mom and my two brothers, and that plays into my career choice because of what I'll share with you next. I was like most college attendees, not really sure of my future. I bounced around to a couple of different majors. I started in computer science, that didn't really do it for me, I bounced into accounting, which I loved, except when you made a mistake, it would take hours to find it, and I honestly wasn't that hard of a worker.

John Diehl:                   But I really got impassioned around economics and economic theory in particular, and I really started to take an interest in the financial markets. And I really didn't know where I was going to go or what I was going to do, but when I graduated, I was recruited to a company that was eventually taken over by the Hartford, but not really knowing what path to follow. And about that time, my father's mother had become ill with dementia/Alzheimer's. And as many of you know, Alzheimer's cannot be accurately diagnosed until after death, they can take a guess that that's what it is.

John Diehl:                   But my father really wasn't around, and I became really the primary decision maker for my grandmother along with my two brothers. At that time, I was a registered representative, so I was technically a stockbroker. I had gotten interested in the whole financial planning processes and was doing my coursework in my CFP, the Certified Financial Planner coursework. And it all seemed to come together at the same time. Here was my grandmother needing help where no planning had been done. Although, I will share this with you guys, she did have a financial advisor, and her financial advisor had worked for a nationally-known firm, a very big firm.

John Diehl:                   And all through my high school and college years, she could say nothing but great things about her advisor, Frank. And then when she got ill and we had to make some financial decisions, I contacted her advisor and just said, "Hey, thanks for all you've done for my grandmother. But she doesn't have all that much money, and it's probably not going to last long. I'll help with the account, I'll take it over because we're basically going to have to spend it down." And he said, "Well, that's great, John, except your grandmother's invested 100% in limited partnerships and they're illiquid."

John Diehl:                   So I had no experience in that area, but I got an education really, really quickly. And let me tell you folks, I came away from this experience saying, "If this could happen to my grandmother, where she's not getting good financial advice from somebody she trusted, how many times is this happening all over our country?" And it became my career mission.

Ben Smith:                   And John just interrupt you real quick on limited partnerships, for those that are listening and go, "I don't know what that is." One of the big features of limited partnerships is they're not liquid. You go to withdraw the money to take care of your grandmother, and that's just not how they're set up, they're not like a stock that you can trade throughout the day.

John Diehl:                   So essentially what we were told was, "Hey, I know the statement says she has X amount of dollars, but she can't get any of it." You've got to understand, we were in a very short timeframe trying to get my grandmother the care that she needed. And honestly, I felt lost and I was irritated and I was angry. And by the way, we did settle with that company who did not serve my grandmother well, but I came away from the experience saying, "If this could happen to my grandmother, how many other people is this happening to?" And as I said, I was experiencing that the Certified Financial Planner program, where it's not just about the investments, it's looking at all aspects of a person's life, be it tax, estate planning, investment planning.

John Diehl:                   Investment planning, in fact is just one segment of the coursework. And it really gave me a launching pad along with my position at Hartford Funds, where I was just learning and learning and learning, that our industry is about a lot more than just investments. In fact, investments to me is usually the, it's part of the solution. But the first thing is understanding the story. How do people think about money? What were those life events that caused them to think the way they do about how money is managed and how much risk they want to take and what it is that they're planning to do?

John Diehl:                   And that to me is the most energizing part of our industry. It's hearing the stories, solving the problems, or at least presenting solutions that you can work through with people, kind of, "Well, what works best in your situation? Why do you think that?" Because unless we as advisors are on the same page with our clients, the chances of success of an overall financial plan, I think falter a little bit. We need to all believe in and buy in to the plans that we put in place.

Ben Smith:                   And I love that John, because we talk about that, Abby and I with our client meetings too. Because you hear a lot about, the industry is all about, "Well, let me tell you about my hammer. This hammer, it pounds a lot of nails, and it never misses. And it does really great. It's actually built lots of houses." And then, "Here's my screwdriver. The screwdriver is a really good screwdriver." And you go through the... Well, we talk all about our tools, but sometimes we fail to take a step back and say, "Well, what type of house are we trying to build? Are we trying to build this grand mansion? Is it just a one for 900 square foot? What are we doing? What are you trying to accomplish?"

Ben Smith:                   And then you apply the right tool in the right situation to get there. And I know that's a very simple analogy, but I think that's where what you said is right, is investment planning is just one thing. We have to get to know our clients and we have to spend time with them to hear where they're going, what their goals are, what their fears are, what they're trying to accomplish. And which is the premise for the show, is these are all fears that people have, we want to find ways to address them, and having folks like yourself. So, I appreciate that factor, because that's very much synonymous with what we try to do with our clients too.

John Diehl:                   Oh, my pleasure. Yeah. And that led me into a natural relationship with the MIT AgeLab, as you mentioned, because really I spent a number of years of my career, maybe the first half of my career, actually designing financial products, working with teams to design 401(k) plans and design mutual funds and design annuity products. And so I got to see it from the perspective of the manufacturer and I had a breadth of exposure, but we wanted to leverage an existing relationship that our parent company, the Hartford, the big insurer in Connecticut had with the MIT AgeLab, where they were studying driving, and what they could do to make aging drivers safer on the road, both from a technology standpoint and even in terms of having family conversations about when is the right time to give up the keys? When are mom or dad at risk or putting others at risk?

John Diehl:                   But we decided to take that relationship, start a new path of study all around longevity and retirement and retirement planning. And so many of the issues that we just talked about, that broad space really was more important to address that before we came out with our solutions. How do you come up with a solution, as you were saying, before we know what the problems are? So the MIT AgeLab really helps us to uncover the anticipated needs that they believe we as Americans will have maybe before we even know that we're going to have them.

Ben Smith:                   So I know we're on the topic of MIT AgeLab, but could you just back up a little bit in terms of who they are, and again, for those that maybe don't know what it's about, how it started and how that developed what it is today? Can you go through that?

John Diehl:                   Sure, absolutely. So the MIT AgeLab is located in MIT School of Engineering in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And it's about 40 researchers, but they're not all engineers. As you know, MIT is known for engineering, but sociologists, psychologists, physiologists, obviously engineers, all studying what it means to live to age 80, 90, 100, 100 plus in terms of what technologies will we be desiring? How will our lifestyles change? And what products will we need in the future? So helping, for example, and this is one of the greatest benefits, The MIT AgeLab is working not just with financial services companies, in fact, they work with many different industries and companies, automobile, industry, healthcare, industry, retail industry, identifying the trends that are going to shape what we'll be doing years from now, working on technologies or incorporating technologies that can help.

John Diehl:                   And really it's that whole study around longevity that we began with MIT. We were actually one of the founding sponsors of The AgeLab back in 1999. So it's been around quite a while, and as I mentioned, our initial interest was as an auto insurer. The Hartford is the auto insurer for the AARP, and we recognized years ago that accidents and aging were running in parallel. And so the question began, what are some of the things that could be done to make drivers safer on the road? Well, on a different vein, we now look at the financial services' industry, and we use the research from MIT twofold; one is to educate financial advisors about the challenges and opportunities that come about by living to much later ages.

John Diehl:                   And secondly, we take time to educate their clients. We take time to educate just everyday people about, "What are things that maybe you haven't thought of yet that the researchers at MIT say you may need to because our future is going to look a lot different than it did for our parents or our grandparents?"

Curtis Worcester:         Got you. So, I know, and you kind of covered it there, John, you mentioned initially your partnership and by you, the Hartford, with The MIT AgeLab started on the auto industry. Can you fast forward to that partnership today, and I know, again, you touched on it a little bit with the financial services, but what does that partnership look like in depth today?

John Diehl:                   The partnership with Hartford and the property casualty side of our business still continues to this day. In 2002, we actually started an entire new vein of research, which I was asked to head back then and have been doing so ever since. So essentially, what we're studying is not necessarily what investment portfolios or how to construct investment portfolios that best serve people because look, everybody is different. What we're observing is, what are the major life events and what are the approaches that people are taking to things such as retirement, death of a spouse or a loved one, staying in our own homes?

John Diehl:                   For example, that many Americans today, and maybe we'll get a chance touch on this later in the podcast, many people still think that, "My only choice is stay in my own home or move to a nursing home." It's like a binary choice. It's not. If we live now to age 90, MIT actually says we may move as many times after age 50 as we moved prior. How do we educate people... The term we use is, how do we successfully navigate longevity? And look, nobody has a crystal ball, we don't know what's coming, but the more we know about the decisions we may face in the future, maybe the better we can prepare, because I think as you all, I'm sure agree, really our job as advisors is to try and move the decision point away from the moment of crisis.

Ben Smith:                   I like that.

John Diehl:                   We can all say, "That's never going to happen to me. I'm never going to have to move out of this home. I'm never going to have to deal with this or deal with that," and then it happens and now people have three weeks to make decisions, and that's when mistakes happen. And those decisions are oftentimes emotionally laden, versus having the time to think rationally about, what options I have and what would be best in my situation? So that's really where our research goes to today. So the way it works today in our relationship is that I have a team of six who are on my team, who are constantly, when we're not in virtual world, spread out around the United States, meeting with advisors, meeting with clients.

John Diehl:                   But now we do it virtually, but that helps us shape our research agenda. What questions do people want answers to or are they seeking so that we can develop research around that to help people understand what's changing and how to anticipate those changes?

Abby Doody:                 We really like how the MIT lab has created having a successful retirement. That's something that we talk about a lot, that's what this podcast is all about. And you have found three questions that help retirees visualize retirement. Can we talk about those a little bit more in depth and tell us about ever evolving retirement?

John Diehl:                   Sure.

Abby Doody:                 The first question is, "Who will change my light bulbs?"

John Diehl:                   Yeah. Abby, you bring up a great point, because what I usually say to folks is, "I'm going to share with you three questions that the researchers at The AgeLab say are predictive of your future quality of life." And I'll warn people, I'll say, "Before I launched these on you, they're going to underwhelm you with their simplicity coming from the rocket scientists at MIT." But so think about that, "Who's going to change my light bulbs." And usually, when we talk about these questions, I'll ask the question and you'll see some people look at me like, "What in the world is he talking about?" And other people will chuckle a little bit, and after about 20 seconds, the wheels start to turn and they start to think.

John Diehl:                   So, "Who's going to change my light bulbs?" Is the first question about a successful retirement. And it deals with the subject of your home. 90% of Americans believe that they will age in their own homes, but how many have really spent even 15 or 20 minutes thinking about what changes, what modifications may be required in order to make that home livable, not only from a comfort standpoint, but from a safety standpoint into our later years? When we think about this, I could share with you the number one category of out-of-pocket spending for American households over age 65 are housing-related expenses.

John Diehl:                   Now, they don't occur on an average basis. One month the roof leaks, two months later, the hot water heaters blow up. But it takes up about a third of out-of-pocket spending for American families over age 65. One of the fastest growing categories in that is home modifications. So when we think about home modifications, I could list the top 10 for you. Things like level entryways, kitchen and bath improvements, storage within easy reach, all 10 meant to prevent one thing in the home, falling.

Abby Doody:                 That's interesting. Yeah.

John Diehl:                   Falling, because a fall can change the plan in a heartbeat. But as we think about, "I want to stay in my home." What is it that we have to do to really make that home safe? And that eventually trees back to financial considerations, or I hesitate to say, it's even a question of, "Will my home be able to accommodate me as I age?" I'll just share with you all as an example, I still have a home in Pennsylvania. It's a home that my wife and I bought years ago, we raised our three children in it. It was built in 1860. It's got foot-thick stone walls, it does not have a single full bathroom on the first floor. It does not have a single bedroom on the first floor.

John Diehl:                   As my wife and I thought about what comes next for us, as much as we love the home, we hope the kids enjoy it someday because we're not going to be able to age there. So that began the question of, "Okay, if we're not going to be able to age here, what is the next step for us?" And it allowed us to begin planning.

Ben Smith:                   John, I'll share a personal story with you here too. My grandfather passed away in December of 2018 and he was 99 years old. So he lived in his home from his 20s all the way until he was 94. So you know what the thing that actually forced him out of his home? He is 94 years old and there is a tree limb that has dangled and it's overarching on his car. So he decides on his own, he's going to take out that six foot step ladder, which isn't tall enough, at 94, he's going to reach out and he's going to start pulling on that limb. And he's going to pull that off the tree because he's worried about that limb falling on his car. And you know what happens next?

John Diehl:                   Oh yeah.

Ben Smith:                   Broken hip. So fall, broken hip. And that was the last time he was going to be in his house, independently living.

John Diehl:                   And we ask the question, "Who's going to change your light bulbs?" Because it makes people chuckle and it's memorable and its simplicity, but I'll often challenge, I'm sure many of your listeners that when that light bulb goes out, they're not going to the garage to even grab a step ladder, they're grabbing the nearest chair. They're climbing onto that chair, they're doing the one leg stretch up with the arm. You can't do it, it's not worth it, especially as you mentioned, for many listeners in rural locations, beginning to think about who are the service providers that I'm going to be able to rely on.? And by the way, many of the electricians, plumbers and roofers that we've relied on for the past 20, 30 years, they began to age out of their professions. So how do we develop relationships or who will those providers be?

John Diehl:                   And if we have children, oftentimes our children are now in different parts of the country. So it's not like they know who to call either, so if we're going to stay in our homes, we have to begin to lay this groundwork. First of all, of assessing is the home going to be capable of accommodating me safely? If it is, what are the things I should be thinking about? Not only in terms of physical changes, but service providers that can help me manage these things to avoid some of the things that we just talked about.

Ben Smith:                   Yeah. And John, and to get back to that too, is like in Maine, as you said, Maine is actually, I think either the oldest or second oldest state in the nation. What you just said is really insightful because it's like, hey, we all have our friend connections and usually we are our connections and who we really relate to are usually plus or minus 10 years of our age. So if you're hiring that carpenter, that handyman that, or whoever's going to go change that light bulb, more likely they're in the same situation as you and you have a brain drain that's happened from our state where you have Northern Maine people that go to Portland then Portland people that go to Boston.

Ben Smith:                   So there's less young people around to do these types of things. So I think that's some of the challenge here too, is what you just said is finding those service providers that are capable and they're not in those same situation as you, that friend that you had always used to take care of, that shingle that's popped off or whatever's happening, that person is going to be in the same situation as you are.

John Diehl:                   Yeah. And the other, just to close out this topic of who's going to change my light bulb, a lot of people still have in their minds this concept of a nursing home, like the nursing homes that existed 60, 70, 80 years age. The continuing care retirement communities are actually interesting in terms of how they're growing and the services that they offer. And I think the last stat that I saw said that the average age of entry into a CCRC, in the independent living not even assisted living, were somewhere around 83 years old. We think that we're going to stay on our own homes for forever, but what happens is we find ourselves by ourselves, we have a harder time keeping up the home.

John Diehl:                   Maybe we're dealing with medical issues of our own. And that's why, as I mentioned earlier, MIT now says, you may move as many times after age 50, as you did prior, you may decide to upsize or downsize. You may decide to live in a different part of the country, AKA, Maine, where you always wanted to live, but never had a chance to when you were younger. You made decide to move closer to children, or let's be honest, grandchildren. You may want to move away from children and grandchildren, you may need to live with children and grandchildren.

John Diehl:                   You may need the care of a care community. So we can no longer think of housing as a binary choice, either my home or some kind of care community, actually we should think of it as a continuum. And we should always be thinking about, if I'm not able to sustain myself here, what would the next step for me be?

Ben Smith:                   I like that. And John, and I know, again, my conversations with Greg has been, that's a lot of what your team has been able to do is give us as advisors a framework for those conversations, because the more we're just doing, "Here's your review, here's what our investments are doing." And that's the routine and we're not talking about real issues, we're not looking down the road. So I like what you're saying, there is, "Hey, here's a construct to have this conversation about again, where are you going to live and who's going to change your light bulb," is a really good one. So I love that. Can you go to the second one for us in terms of the questionnaire?

John Diehl:                   Sure. It's how will I get an ice cream cone? When we think about how will I get an ice cream cone? The question I want you to think about are, what are the small things in your life that bring joy. Who are the people? What are the activities that you do on a daily basis or look forward to doing on a weekly basis or a regular basis? Now, the folks at MIT tell us, "If you could tell me these four things about yourself, I could probably begin to sketch out what your future would look like in terms of... " They'll ask, "Tell me where were you educated?" And that's both college university and vocational training or armed services experience. Why is that important? Because it may clue me in with the people you'll want to associate with as you age.

John Diehl:                   Where do you recreate? What are the things that you like to do for fun? Where do you congregate? What communities or organizations are you a part of that are meaningful to you? And the last one is, where do you donate? And when I say donate, I don't just mean in terms of money. Where do you give of your time and your talent? Those we call them the four -ates. Educate, recreate, congregate, and donate. If you know those four things about yourself, those are major motivators. So this question, how will I get an ice cream cone is all about access. How will you continue to access those things that are most important to you as you age?

John Diehl:                   Now, we didn't ask how will you get to your doctor's appointment? Somebody will figure that out. We say, "Hey, it's a beautiful night in Maine, do you want to go down the road a few miles to enjoy an ice cream cone?" What would happen if you lost the ability to drive? Because the fact of the matter is, one of the aspects of living longer is that we greatly increase the odds that at some point along life's journey, we'll lose the ability to drive. And we know that among those who've lost the ability to drive, they're twice as likely to be depressed and about five times as likely to need the care of a long-term care community.

John Diehl:                   And a lot of it goes, and it's not just about going wherever I want whenever I want, it is. That's part of it, but access is freedom and freedom is quality of life. Not having to rely on others to give us access. In fact, all of us are experiencing that right now in the midst of this pandemic. How do we access the people, the organizations that are important to us? And isolation and depression is one of the things that we really worry about. Not only in the midst of this pandemic, but really when we look at an aging society, it's one of the downsides of this longevity dividend that we have, is that if we don't constantly think about accessing those things that are most important to us, especially in rural communities like Maine, we run the risk of isolation from the things that make life worth living, a. And that's not a good place to be.

Ben Smith:                   Yeah. And I'll share it too, John and from our client base and a lot of times they can travel from all over and you hear that, "Hey, here's some... " It's not abnormal and Abby has a place up on Island Falls, it's not abnormal to go, "Hey, I'm in Island Falls. To get a certain service, I'm going to drive to Bangor." And that is a hour and 45 minute drive one way. And it's like, "I got to go to Home Depot because Abby's doing her renovations on her home. She's doing an hour and 45 down and an hour and 45 back." So to the point about the ice cream cone where it is, "Hey, if I want to go enjoy that ice cream cone, I have to go drive an hour to do it." In retirement as an aging, probably less likely over time that I'm able to independently do that to enjoy that life.

John Diehl:                   And from a financial perspective, I mentioned earlier that housing related costs are the number one out of pocket, average, monthly expense for families over age 65 guests. What number two is, it's not healthcare, it's transportation, the cost of fueling, insuring, maintaining, and if I amortized it, replacing your vehicle or your fleet of vehicles, let alone the cost of airfare to visit family, friends, whatever, it makes up today about 16% on average of out-of-pocket spending, number two to housing, healthcare is actually number three in terms of out-of-pocket costs.

Ben Smith:                   Nice. I know there's a third question I wanted you to cover too, in terms of another item of life to cover.

John Diehl:                   Sure. The third question is, who are you going to have lunch with? And I'll be honest with you, I think it's the most important of the three questions. It's all about your social network. So Dr. Joe Coughlin, who runs The AgeLab at MIT would tell you, one of the best indicators of healthy aging is the strength and the breadth of your personal relationships. And oftentimes, I always say the best investments that you can make for retirement don't involve money, it's an investment in your health and an investment in your relationships. All those things that we nurture along life's way, they mean a lot. We are human beings, we were built for social interaction.

John Diehl:                   Again, all of us are getting to experience the pain of not being able to see and commune with those who are special to us, our friends and our family members right now. Well, for many in the United States who are aging, this is the life that they will live if they don't think intentionally about building and maintaining those social networks. And this is especially an issue, folks, for the men in the United States today. You see, because when a man retires from their primary place of employment, oftentimes their social network retires with them. What we see is that women away from the primary place of employment, often are better at regenerating social networks, around families and hobbies and things like that.

John Diehl:                   But for a man, the second question they're most likely to get from someone they've never met before after they're asked their name is, "What do you do? Where do you work? Where did you work?" "Well, I used to, I used to, I used to." Not for five to seven years anymore, 15, 20, 25 years. This is changed by longevity, because when retirement, as many people think of it today was designed. Retirement was only supposed to last five to seven years. We would work until our mid '60s. life expectancy would take us maybe through our early '70s, but now with longevity pushing things out, one of the big things we're facing, and you may laugh at this concept, but it's boredom.

John Diehl:                   What are we going to do to fill all these days? And that's where our social connections come in. So we challenge people to think about being intentional. And by the way, the ladies aren't off the hook here, but we all need to be intentional about the social groups that we're participating in. Where do we recapture that sense of purpose right after we leave? Because that's what employment does for many of us, it gives us something to achieve in a way to help others. For many of us today in America, our work... Look, many of us aren't working. Some of us still work in the manual industries that take a toll on our bodies, but many are working in industries that where there's no reason they can't continue to participate to later ages.

John Diehl:                   And they actually like what they do and it's their way of helping and contributing so on and so forth. So that third question, who am I going to have lunch with, is thinking about five to 10 years from now. And who will you be having lunch with? Will it be the same three people that you've had lunch with every day this week? Or are you vested in a number of different places where your friendship circle is not only deep and broad, but you're refreshing it on a regular basis?

Ben Smith:                   I think that's a key point, John, because a lot of times what you find is we can sometimes get very focused on like, "Here's my friend and I have this one friend." And sometimes life challenges you, but also them as well. So if you have not kept up on your social circle and you've not had other aspects of friends and relationships and something happen to that friend where they leave or they move or health wise, something happens, then where are you? And that's a challenge.

John Diehl:                   Well, one of the biggest tips I could give your listeners is one of the most important things to think about in terms of your social network as you age is you want to integrate younger people into your social network, whether it's through a faith community, a community organization, maybe ongoing employment, wherever it is, because young people bring a certain amount of vitality and energy, but they also almost guarantee that you won't outlive your social network. Now, you could say, "Well, outliving my social network beats the alternative, which is not outlive the grid, but I would argue not unless you've met someone that's ever lost all of those around them that make life worth living.

John Diehl:                   That's really a sad thing to observe. And so we mentioned it earlier when we were talking about service providers. And oftentimes, we gather around people who are our same demographic in terms of age or experience on so forth. The downside of that is, we're all getting older and you increase the likelihood that your social network will shrink if they're the only people that you're paying intention to. So my big word there would be intentionality. Being intentional about often restarting and refreshing those interests that you have in terms of getting connected with new people, and save those close relationships, but always be refreshing it.

Ben Smith:                   And that's where we had, our previous episode on episode 19, we had Chris McLaughlin who is in charge of the pediatric and children area at Northern Light Acadia Hospital. She's talking about how do you relate to your grandchildren? So that's another way to refresh your social network is also invest in your family and find ways to continue those relationships and deepen them and strengthen them. But I want to actually go to another thing that you talked about, who will I have lunch with? What are you going to do and purpose? Because we talked about employment, and on episode 18, we had Barbara Babkirk, who's a career coach.

Ben Smith:                   So we had a really great conversation with her about as an aging and some of the barriers we face in age discrimination and the things that people will put on us in terms of the thoughts on our aptitudes. But what are you finding that The AgeLab is discovering about employment plans for boomers and retirement, because it's maybe not as much I'm retired and I'm done, is maybe there's another way to get purpose here. And then the follow-up to that is, how has technology then impacting those aspects of retirees? Because she was commenting. Barbara was commenting on how important LinkedIn is now is that the majority of employers are in LinkedIn and that's how they're getting talent.

Ben Smith:                   So where you have people are aging, boomers that are not using the platform, you're having a disconnect here. So I wanted to talk to you about that, and especially where you have rural aspects there too.

John Diehl:                   Yeah. Look, the retirement picture is in the mind of Joe Coughlin and the researchers at the lab, retirement is a story. And it was a story that was written largely in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s with the development of social safety nets and the development of our golden years, if you will, the recreational type retirement, where we'd all move to Sun City, Arizona, or we'd all live next to one another and swim in the pool and play shuffleboard all day long and make dolls. Look, all those things may be a component, but here's the problem as I mentioned earlier, that was not designed to last 20 or 25 years. So now as we look at it, here's what we've been seeing in terms of employment is that there is a desire on behalf of many Americans to work longer.

John Diehl:                   Now, when I say work longer, I don't mean working the same way we worked for the first 20, 30, 40 years of our careers. It may be working in that area, but working differently. Think about a small business owner, at some point they probably don't want to work 60 hours a week anymore. Maybe they want to work 20 and just work on the things that they really enjoy the most, which by the way, oftentimes, may be of most value to the business. Maybe it's maintaining certain expertise or relationships, so on and so forth. And as I mentioned earlier, a lot of people get enjoyment and fulfillment from the work that they do.

John Diehl:                   So one of the things that we see changing, in fact, we've done quite a deep dive on this is that the two fastest growing segments of our population in terms of the labor force are Americans aged 65 to 74 growing at 4.5% a year, and Americans aged 75 plus growing at 6.5% a year. By far, they out shoot every other age group. And again, some of the changes that are coming... What MIT would say about this current crisis that we're involved in, COVID-19 crisis is that it's not really changing things, but drastically accelerating them.

John Diehl:                   So the use of technology, you mentioned LinkedIn, for example, but think about it, for many people they may now be able to do substantial amounts of their profession from anywhere in the United States that they want to through a Zoom platform or Spike or WebEx. I'll tell you we've had WebEx available to us as presenters, my team and I for the last, I don't know, five years, I couldn't even tell you when it came on the scene. We had such limited exposure to it, And then in mid-March, it's all we're doing. And now what people are saying is, "Hey, there's some really good aspects."

John Diehl:                   Look, I hope sometime to come to Maine and hang out with all of you guys, but in the meantime, there's some real positive aspects to be able to communicate with others the way we're doing it right now. So people are starting to say, "Hey, wait a minute on this retirement thing. Maybe if I wanted to cut back in terms of travel or hours in the office, maybe three days a week, I could telecommute. I could participate that way." We're in the early stages of some research about how the COVID-19 crisis is going to change societal views on some things, and we think that it's going to shift retirement in terms of enabling people to say, "Yeah, I may want to continue with this for quite some time, but I'm going to do it differently."

John Diehl:                   The other thing that we see is that even if they don't remain in their own profession, when we say, when we ask people, "What do you envision yourself doing after your primary career?" We don't want to use the R word to influence what they would say, but you know one of the top answers that always comes back is work. But as I said, not always the same work, maybe it's working for a because I believe in, aka volunteering, using the skills and relationship, communication skills that I built up over a career, using them to benefit really a purpose that I wholeheartedly believe in. That brings satisfaction as we age, it's being able to allocate the resources that I could bring to make a difference to something that means a lot to me.

John Diehl:                   You mentioned it, the other thing that's changing is if we want to stay in our professions or we want to stay attached, we're going to have to stay educated. The other thing The AgeLab tells us is that technology is changing education like you wouldn't believe. In fact, MIT itself participates on a platform called edX, where you can now monitor courses that are being taught at Harvard and MIT. You can even earn or begin to earn your graduate level study in supply chain management, all online through edX and a program at MIT called the MicroMasters program. And look, it makes it available more widely and it'll lower price point.

John Diehl:                   So this how things are starting to shake up, but it's not just ongoing education. Let me ask you guys a question, when was the last time you bought a product that did not come with an owner's manual? If you didn't, you're usually directed where to their website, or you're told to watch YouTube where you see a 13-year-old playing with that product in their parents' basement, giving you five ways to use that thing you never would have dreamed of. Well, here's the point, folks, is that if we're not aware of the technologies that are now housing information and knowledge, if we don't know what podcasts are, if we don't know how to search for this information, how to maybe enroll in an online class and something that interests me, whatever that interest may be.

John Diehl:                   And the other side effect of that is if I enroll in a class or some learning or get involved in the discussion, I get to meet people who have the same interests that I do. And so I can expand my social network that way. So your first point is very valid, it's changing retirement, we see a desire to work longer. Actually, we believe that what employers are going to see is that we're in a midst of a brain drain today in the United States. As the boomers are exiting the workforce, the knowledge and the experience that they're taking with them is not easily replaced immediately by the Gen Xers and the millennials. And so maybe allowing older workers who want to stay on in a mentor capacity to teach things, the little things you wouldn't pick up through anything other than experience, we think there's going to be additional opportunities and technology may connect us to those.

Curtis Worcester:         I know Ben mentioned it a few minutes ago, so we recently had Chris McLaughlin on the podcast, and that podcast was all about family and relationships and retirement. So naturally family is a big theme in retirement, and to your point, I really like what you said about how this COVID-19 crisis is accelerating, certainly the technology there. Can you just talk about how and it may be now as we see it live-time, but how technology is going to impact how family relationships stay intact throughout retirement?

John Diehl:                   We know that across the United States, generationally, we are having smaller families, they are oftentimes are dispersed from a distance standpoint, quite away, yet those people are crucially important to us. And one of the things that is really important is staying a part of the family agenda. We have several examples of technology companies, one in particular, that's putting technology in the hands of seniors who are in care communities. And one of the things that their users say, just to know that somebody cares that you got up in the morning. To hear what you're planning today, the casual conversations that we get cut off from sometimes are really important.

John Diehl:                   And so the FaceTime, Facebook, I always use my mother as an example. My mom lives in suburban Philadelphia, still. My daughter graduated from the university of Tennessee in Knoxville last year. My mom had never visited Knoxville, Tennessee, but through the magic of Skype and FaceTime, she met my daughter's roommates, her boyfriend toward the campus, even told her what curtains to put up at the dorm room. It's not that big deep conversations, it's the everyday, how do we stay apart of the agenda of the people who care for us? And in terms of this current crisis, I think it is accelerating things.

John Diehl:                   I always meet people who if I were to give a presentation to 30 or 40 people at a pop, I could tell you, there's at least two people in the room that say, "Smartphones may be fine for you, but I still carry my flip phone. Thank you, very much." Almost like a badge of honor. Well, I think perhaps what we're going through now exposes some of the weaknesses. And what I always say is, if you're not at least aware, you don't have to become a power user of technology, but if you're not aware of what technology the people who you care about are using to communicate, to transport, to transact, you run the risk of increasing the chances of isolation as you age.

John Diehl:                   And so whatever those technologies may be, and I'm a great test study, because I'm not really that great with tech. I know what they do, but I asked my kids all the time. Look, nobody under 40 understand Snapchat, I don't care who you are. So just understand what is it, how do you use it? I can still look at it and say, "I'm not ready for that yet." But the technologies that we are using to communicate, it's important and it's keeping families connected.

Ben Smith:                   Yeah. And we've heard that too because it's all about, if you're looking to connect to the younger generation and sometimes the younger generation, maybe they're just too young to even know to invest back or maybe it's this next generation, they're very busy in their career or studies. And again, they don't have time too, but maybe if you're in retirement and you do have time here that you can invest in these technologies to learn them, maybe it is, "Hey, I can find an hour or two hours or three hours to practice Snapchat." And that's a way that I can connect with my grandchild that only she and I have. And it's 30 seconds that we share. But as you said, it's all about sharing your day a little bit and not, I have to go, travel to them and spend a week in their face while they're feeling smothered by grandmother and grandfather here.

John Diehl:                   Yeah. Maybe you've heard someone say, this generation, they just don't communicate. Well, we actually would argue, they're probably the most communicative of any generation, they just do it differently. Now, I'm not going to tell you that they would not benefit from some of the interpersonal skills that maybe older generations could share with them, but again, until we understand their communication modes, imparting some of what we know may not be possible, bridging that gap would be difficult, but yeah, like you said, think of it as an investment, you're investing in your children and grandchildren for your own benefit.

John Diehl:                   And so we're very encouraged. The adoption rate on some of these technologies is advancing pretty quickly, largely now because of necessity. And I think it does benefit us to at least explore and understand what these technologies do.

Ben Smith:                   John, I want to rotate a little bit here because I want to keep going in technology and keep hitting this theme because mobility is one you talked about is in terms of having that question about, how will I get an ice cream cone. So mobility is probably, it feels like it may in any way, and I don't know if I can quantitative rank them, but it feels like mobility is one of the most crucial themes in Maine because we just have so many miles between neighbors and all the things we explained. So can you talk about how technology is going to impact our mobility as we age? And then how is it going to allow us to have more independence for longer?

Ben Smith:                   Because I think that's something we all are concerned about is, I just get less and less in keeping up with things, but what I don't realize is maybe is, you kind of made the point earlier is that now I'm sacrificing independence because I'm not staying relevant on technology.

John Diehl:                   Right. When it comes to mobility, a lot of people are like, "Well, I don't have to worry about driving. I'll just wait for my Google car to take me wherever I need to go." I will share with you that some of the top researchers at the MIT AgeLab who actually are working on autonomous driving and that kind of thing, some of them believe that it's going to be a very long time until we see that technology coming through a road near you for a whole gamut of reasons. I even think about interim technologies like Uber and Lyft, I imagine that Uber and Lyft, although probably available in parts of Maine, probably are unavailable in other parts.

John Diehl:                   But here's what I'll tell you, today, the last statistic I saw that said, "If I were to ask you all, what percentage of Americans over age 65 have ever taken a ride in an Uber or Lyft Rideshare vehicle?" What would you say? What would you guess?

Ben Smith:                   20%, probably.

John Diehl:                   20%?

Curtis Worcester:         Yeah. Lower. Probably 10.

Abby Doody:                 10.

John Diehl:                   I'll tell you, that's very good guesses. So I'll tell you how rapidly it's changing. In 2016, the number was apparently 4%, only 4% of Americans. In 2019, the last number I saw said 13%. That means 87% of Americans over age 65 have never taken a ride in an Uber or a Lyft ride sharing service. And look again, I always like to use my personal examples, but let's take my mom again. My mom got her first iPhone a couple of years ago. I say, "Mom, I've got a great idea, download this Uber app. And the first thing you're going to do is load in all of your personal credit card information. But wait, it gets better, that's going to allow you to get into a car with a guy you don't know to drive you to a place where you don't know where you're going." No way, she would agree.

John Diehl:                   But this is the important part about technology, and maybe some of your listeners are more advanced in using technology and they have technologies that maybe they do like to use Uber. It's one thing to tell someone about Uber, it's another thing to get in an Uber car with someone, show them how you did it, how much does it cost, talk to the driver, have the driver tell how they rate you in the car as well. When we think about how this works for people, how that when they learn through that experience, they may decide or may not decide, "This is something I want to take up." And my gosh, if they understand what a technology like this may be able to do for them in terms of liberating them, all of a sudden, it can become a regular part.

John Diehl:                   Maybe they're not going to take it by themselves, but maybe if they can get a group of people that say, "Yeah, let's go together." So on and so forth. So we see transportation and mobility changing quite rapidly. And I will tell you, the other thing that I think people have to think about is beyond the transportation question, it's accessibility, especially as we age. So I know that there are times in all of our lives, usually between the ages of 40 and 55, where we say, "I can't wait, because you know what I'm going to do when I retire? I am going to move to the middle of Maine and I'm going to build a log cabin and we're going to have candle light and I'm going to build a wood fire and we're going to be good."

John Diehl:                   It sounds good, but it doesn't always work that way, especially as we age. When I say accessibility, how close are the nearest medical services to your home, doctors and specialists that you may need to access? How about grocery stores or the ability to have things delivered to the home that may become necessities when it gets harder for us to get out? Because this is where technologies, again, the current crisis, it's not just about how we get to places, kit's about how things get to us. The Grubhubs and the DoorDashes and the Amazons, you name it, they can make things available to us at a fingertip that may not even be available in our locale, understanding what these services are and what they do, but also understanding how available are they in the communities where you intend to age is really, really important.

John Diehl:                   And beyond all that, I will also tell you the availability of not just necessities, but the things that we do for fun. Dr. Coughlin at MIT has shared with me that the fastest growing populations of Americans age 65 plus are really springing up around college and university environment. They have lots of young people, which keeps things interesting, but look what else they have, they have education, they have culture, but what else do they offer? Oh, healthcare. Oftentimes teaching hospitals are cutting edge therapies, and the offer, if not better developed systems of transportation, public transportation, they often offer walkable access to many of the things we desire; restaurants and pubs and movie theaters.

John Diehl:                   And so again, I'm going to go back to saying, at some point, we'll get this COVID thing figured out, and people are going to want to go back and do those things socially that are fun. And one of the things we do have to think about as we age is, how will I access those things if they're not available to me by driving?

Ben Smith:                   Yeah. I think that's a really key point, John, because again, the colleges, it feels like a lot of colleges and universities in the State of Maine are relative to population. And so that seems like a really neat theme going forward, and what you said as well as what services are available to me, because in Northern Maine we struggle with this, a lot of like, "Hey, I want to sign up for HelloFresh." Well, because the nearest distribution areas, I think like New Hampshire or Boston, well, the packaging and how they dry freeze things and dry refrigerate things and ship them to you, it would be too far for it to get to you. So they can't do certain grocery delivery parts.

Ben Smith:                   So it's like these things are coming and there's some services as they scale up and scale down that they're accessible, but it is changing a lot. And the more you're going like, "Yeah, I tried it. I didn't like it, but I can see in the future how I might want to rely on that more or if there's more distribution centers, I can use that more."

John Diehl:                   Well, at least understand what the environment is, wherever it is you're intending to live. So if I say to myself in Pennsylvania, "I can't wait till I retire because I'm going to move to Maine." But I have no idea that these services aren't available to me, that may put a crimp in what I was thinking, versus if I've spent a lot of time up there, I've lived up there for a period of time, maybe I have longterm rented or whatever, I can understand whether that's something that I can deal with or not. It's really part of the planning process.

Abby Doody:                 Absolutely. And you touched on it a little bit, but talking about how people want to stay in their home as long as possible. And so how can technology help people achieve that? Certainly, we've talked about some technology that's maybe coming forth, but what's available now to help people age in their homes as long as possible?

John Diehl:                   Yeah. It's a great question, Abby, and actually MIT is doing some research on technology adoption as a result of this crisis. And what you're seeing is things like smart speakers, the Alexas and things like that are becoming one of the top things that are coming in. Some security related things like the ring doorbells and the nest thermostats and things like that. I would answer that in a twofold banner. One is that we want things that make things more convenient and comfortable, so that the connected home, if you will, that links my thermostat with, I always joke. I say my thermostat with my toaster, with my toilet, with my car, so everything's monitored.

John Diehl:                   But there's a thin line between cool and creepy when it comes to home monitoring. Do I really want someone or a technology to know when I'm coming and going and so on and so forth, but let me point this out to you. Let's say I'm getting a little bit older, I'm living by myself, and somehow, my home may be able to detect whether or not there was movement in my home for the last or however many hours. And if there isn't, it can alert someone to try to check in with me. Some people, especially younger people will say, "Oh, that's really creepy that somebody is watching everything you're doing," but if the trade off was that in exchange for a floor or a sensor system or a countertop system, that could sense my routine.

John Diehl:                   In fact, one of the ways that we can anticipate a coming medical event is a change in the daily routine, "Mom always makes coffee at 7:00 AM, well, now it's 10:00 AM, it's 10:30, it's 11:00 AM." Hey, maybe mom decided to sleep in and that's fine, but at least someone is cued in to say, "Maybe we should check and see if everything's okay." So if by monitoring, we're able to stay in our home for a little bit longer, then I think that's really a good thing. And I can share with you probably one of the most important research projects going on at the MIT AgeLab right now is on this idea of putting together a home consortium.

John Diehl:                   How does COVID-19 change the home in terms of being the hub of service delivery and security? And so, "In the future, if I do need care of some type, what is the potential of getting healthcare services delivered to my door?" Think of it like a Grubhub for medical services. Where we'd have trained professionals who would be accessible to us when we needed them, or delivery of medications, so on, so forth. How does this all change in the future around the importance... We've always heard, "The home is my castle," but really the home is the hub.

John Diehl:                   Especially when we just went through this period of saying, "Hey, isolation might be the best thing for a while. If this were to happen again in the future, will services be available to help us with that?" But beyond all that, I think the really interesting areas are areas of robotics. Maybe some of your listeners have these things like the Roomba vacuum cleaners, for example. I love them. I'll tell you. But not only that, I'll tell you who loves it more, is my mom. My mom is a clean freak. She would sweep the house twice a day, but now no longer is she getting down on hands and knees and getting back up again, by the way, minimizing fall risk, to make sure she's sweeping under end tables furniture.

John Diehl:                   She just sets that thing off and away it goes right over. I actually have a one of these robots, I think it's made by the same company that actually cleans the gutters on my house. It's amazing. I want one that climbs the downspout and puts itself in, but I haven't seen that one yet, but I only have to move the ladder. I'll put the ladder up once, put it in the downspout, and away it goes. So technology, sometimes when we talk about robotics, people think Danger, Will Robinson type robots. I'm not talking about them, I'm talking about robotics that are meant to do specific things around the home, which again, may make the home more livable and safer for us in the future.

Curtis Worcester:         So I'm going to change gears completely on you, John here.

John Diehl:                   Of course.

Curtis Worcester:         So one of the wrap up question we'd like to ask all of our guests, so naturally the name of the podcast is Retirement Success In Maine. I know you're not in Maine, but hey, you've talked about maybe moving to Maine here.

John Diehl:                   Yeah. Who knows.

Curtis Worcester:         What do you see as a successful retirement for yourself, that bucket list reach? What do you envision your successful retirement being?

John Diehl:                   So I think it really revolves around purpose. So maintaining whatever that purpose is, it's probably going to be through a new venue. I don't see myself discontinuing working. I will work. It may not be in the same form or fashion in which I work today, it may be for a charitable organization for a cause that I believe in. I want to be somewhere where my family is, if not located near, at least there's a desire to come visit. I told you all about our home that we looked at and we said, "It's not going to serve us well." Well, we actually did make a decision on the next step, we bought a home in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, which is where I'm broadcasting to you from today.

John Diehl:                   The main reason was, in terms of our family, we've been coming here for 30 years. And so we've gotten to experience, we did a lot of camping here before we ever came, and we knew exactly where we would want to be because of accessibility issues. And our kids grew up here in the summers, and so they love coming here. So I think for me it marries purpose with family, with faith, creating kind of that thing that I think I've been called to do, why I'm on earth to help other people with. If I can maintain that, no matter what my physical abilities, and this is, I think another important lesson that I learned from the folks at The AgeLab. Look, I love golf, but if you play golf, like me, golf is more of a sentence than a retirement. I'll enjoy that, but...

John Diehl:                   What they taught us is, you really need to take a look at those things that bring joy each and every day. And a lot of times what I see is people who retire will say, "You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to golf. I love golf. I'm going to golf forever, like four or five days a week." And they'll do that. But after a while, it starts to become boring. And the other thing that I see is that they've only planned for that very next step. It's like, golf was going to be everything they were going to do. Well, let's say something happens, unfortunately, where physically you're not able to golf any longer. Well, then what replaces that?

John Diehl:                   Instead of saying, "Well, that's it. I had always planned on this, and that's the end," I always want to be able to contribute Until I'm literally physically not able to any longer. And I think that's one thing I would say to you all is that, we need to think beyond just what's going to happen next week. We want to put some thought into what that driving purpose is for me, that's a successful retirement in terms of feeling fulfilled.

Ben Smith:                   John, those are really great answers, and especially with having a geography with a gravitational pull to it. And that's actually what has been a weird outcome for us doing this podcast and this show is that probably about one third to 40% of our listenership is outside of the state of Maine. And we hear from people that are listening and they go, "Actually, because of what you just said about your Myrtle Beach experience, I've summered Maine. I have family that lived there. I've spent a lot of my best memories are about being in the state of Maine and enjoying the seasons there."

Ben Smith:                   And that's something where there's this pull to it, and which is funny because people are going, "Hey, I want to go back and I want to retire to it." So there's this whole purpose around, "Hey, those memories and experiences, I want to continue on and enjoy with the people I love the most." So kudos to you for that because that's... I hear from people that are really well prepared and thought out that that's something that I really love.

John Diehl:                   And be realistic, to say... Look, my wife and I have talked about, "This is probably not our last stop. We may need to be looking at it at a different area of living. Maybe we'll always be able to hopefully, maintain a home here that the kids could use, and maybe we're coming to visit them at some point in the future." But there may be a time when we need to relocate again to a different kind of living or we need access to a different healthcare system or something like that. So we have to remain open.

John Diehl:                   And I'll sum it up this way, guys, and I'm sure you've seen this before and this drives what I think about when we interact with financial advisors and clients, is that if we weren't talking about any of this today, if all of us had a jigsaw puzzle in front of us and our job was to put the jigsaw puzzle together, what would the most important first step be? You know what most people tell me? They'll say, corners, straight edges. Sometimes they're like, "That's a trick question, you got to flip the pieces over." All those are important first steps, but not the most important first step, which is?

Curtis Worcester:         Look at the picture.

Abby Doody:                 Look at the picture.

John Diehl:                   Yeah, you've got to look at the picture on the box. And so until we look at the picture on the box, many people have done a pretty good job collecting pieces along life's way. We have the 401(k) plan that's still with the employer we haven't worked with in 20 years, and we have the IRAs down at the bank where our ex-brother-in-law was going to be an advisor sometime. We've got all these pieces all over the place, but we never take the time to think about what the picture on our box looks like. And then we don't take the time to sit with someone and talk about, what's the most efficient way for all these pieces to fit together?

John Diehl:                   Maybe we don't have the right pieces, or maybe we do, they just need to fit together a different way. And that's really what I encourage people to do or to think about it because the interesting thing with a jigsaw puzzle is that the picture is static, but in life we know the picture changes all the time. So even with people who have reviewed their financial plan will take a look at that picture. It's kind of like how they tell you look at your will and estate plan every so many years to make sure everything's still on the up and up, I would say the same thing about the picture on your box, you need to revisit it from time to time.

John Diehl:                   Because there are things that have happened that we just forget to talk to our advisors about that are meaningful and make a big difference. So I think what you're all doing is great.

Ben Smith:                   Thank you.

John Diehl:                   It was really a pleasure to participate in the conversation today.

Ben Smith:                   And perfect stated because I love anytime you can create analogies like that in your visualizations, because again, I think that's really what the show is about, is visualizing retirement, helping people look at something and saying, "All right, that's how you do it. Okay." Or, "Here's something I can take away that I can apply back." So again, for us, it's a real pleasure to have you on today, John, to have technology be theme. But I think we covered so much more in terms of the retirement side and what challenges people are facing. So thank you so much for coming on. We really appreciate it.

John Diehl:                   My pleasure. Thanks Ben, Curtis and Abby, I really appreciated the time.

Ben Smith:                   Take care. Today, I thought John did a really great job on our show. So for those that don't know, I know we gave a little bit of an intro to John Diehl and his role with strategic markets for Hartford Funds, but he really oversees that relationship between the research that MIT AgeLab is producing to this how financial products and innovation is happening at Hartford Funds. So some really neat outtakes and things that maybe for our listeners that don't know, he's pretty widely quoted on Wall Street Journal, financial planning on Wall Street, but also on TV. So you might've seen him on CNBC or Bloomberg Television.

Ben Smith:                   So really great to bring a national perspective of somebody that's hearing the research and hearing how people are struggling to technology today. So that was one thing I was really appreciative that, to get somebody like John on and have him spend his time sharing these outtakes, these viewpoints, these bits of knowledge with us, it's just meaningful to our practice, but also to our clients and our listeners out there too. So one thing we always like to do is in our wrap up was to get some lessons here. I'll have Abby lead off here in terms of, Abby, what did you take away from our talk with John today?

Abby Doody:                 When he was talking about mobility and how people over 65 or in retirement have to sometimes look at mobility differently and use technology in ways to help them be possibly more mobile when they don't have a driver's license maybe. He brought up Uber and Lyft, and just on a personal note, when my grandfather couldn't drive because of a broken hip, my husband I took him on an Uber ride to show him how to use it. So we helped them download the app to help to get him to a doctor's appointments if some of us couldn't make it. And so he did actually take Uber a few times to and from the doctor's appointments by himself.

Abby Doody:                 And he has always had an iPhone, he always FaceTimes with us. So I would say him being at the forefront of this technology has helped us stay in touch with him even more, and it's helped him maintain some level of independence throughout the whole thing. So I liked that he brought that up because I know personally it's been really helpful for our family,

Ben Smith:                   But it's really tough though to raise your hand say, "Hey, I'm vulnerable. I don't know technology, I need help, so Abby and Casey, would you mind taking a 30-minute ride with me to my doctor's, or even just down the street with Uber, showing me how to do this so I don't mess it up because I'm scared of doing this wrong." And as John said, you're entering a strange car with a strange person. Didn't they tell you not to do that growing up? That's how you get killed. So it feels very counterculture to everything you're taught as you're growing up.

Abby Doody:                 Yeah, absolutely. But it ended up being really good for him because when he wasn't able to drive, he was able to go where he wanted to go when he wanted to without necessarily relying so heavily on just getting rides from us on our schedule lab.

Ben Smith:                   And he felt safe?

Abby Doody:                 Yeah, exactly. He felt very safe. I mean, we are in Portland, Maine, but still, yeah, he felt very safe. He made sure that the license plate on the app matched the license plate of the car that he was getting into. And yeah, it all worked out well, but yeah, it was nice that you brought it up because it is helpful.

Ben Smith:                   So Curtis, from your side, what was something that you took away from our conversation with John that you took personally to be meaningful?

Curtis Worcester:         Yeah. I thought it was really a great and interesting the followup this episode or this conversation is to a previous episode with Chris McLaughlin. And I know we've talked about Chris's episode a lot here, so go listen. The word of the week, I feel like spend intentionality, and John brought it up when he was talking about staying social and your relationships, both with family and socially, overarching theme to avoid isolation. And it's, make sure you know who you're going to hang out with as you age and get older. He talks about the carpenter that you've known for 30 years or the person you have coffee with every day.

Curtis Worcester:         It's, as you age and they age with you, it's easy for things to drop off, whether it's you or your friends or whatever, as you become immobile or anything. So just investing in those relationships and those activities to make sure that you are able to do them and interact as long as possible. I thought that was a really important piece.

Ben Smith:                   Again, I liked that a lot too. Is like having this design behind, "Well, who am I spending time with?" And I really want to spend time with you as this part of my relationship or a grandchild or a family member or a friend or neighbor, but I need to think about how I can continue to have that relationship." So again, the intentionality is a big piece. What I really liked, and maybe this is a little more personally selfish for me here in terms of our meetings with our clients, but when we're sitting down with folks, and sometimes it's hard to broach these topics because you say, "Hey, well, where do you want to be in retirement?" And they go, "Well, of course I want to be in my home. And of course, that's where I've always been."

Ben Smith:                   So it just gets dismissed. So how can you frame things in a way that allows people to get to the heart of the issue, but also have them consider the ramifications of the decisions without dismissing? That they really take a moment and think about it. So that's why I really liked the three-question dynamic on visualizing a successful retirement, is, "Who will change my light bulbs?" Again, that was a big conversation we had. "How will I get an ice cream cone?" By the way, that's too in Maine because ice cream cones are not available all year round, so that's tougher."

Curtis Worcester:         Two weeks to get one.

Abby Doody:                 Short window.

Ben Smith:                   Yes, especially now with COVID, right? And, "Who will I have lunch with?" So I know Curtis, you're talking about the intentionality around people, but again, having those as questions. Is asking that question going to start with, "Ha, ha. Oh, yeah, of course, I'll just go eat at the local cafe." Okay, but what does it look like at 85? What does it look like at 92 when you can't drive anymore? And how far do you go to that cafe? Is it 40 minutes to go to your favorite spot for that coffee and tea with your friends?" Whatever.

Ben Smith:                   So I think those are really important questions, and they're framed in a way... And again, I also throw in there too, in terms of the puzzle is, I think that the puzzle visualization he had, that was really great too of putting them together, and also going, "Hey, sometimes I've got to take apart the puzzle and put it back together because my life has changed there too." And again, I think that was a really great thing to look at.

Ben Smith:                   I want to thank you all obviously, for tuning in today. We are at episode number 2-0.

Curtis Worcester:         20.

Ben Smith:                   20. One thing that John wanted to stress to us too, is, hey that MIT AgeLab, Hartford Funds collaboration, lots of great materials and workbooks. So you don't have to be a client of ours. We use some of this with our clients, but you could be anybody. We will put the links to all those resources on our blog, so if you go to blog.guidancepointllc.com/20

Curtis Worcester:         20.

Ben Smith:                   ... you can find all those resources, the transcription, the audio here. And as always, get in contact with us. Again, we're at Guidance Point Advisors. You can go to our website, our phone numbers and contact info is right there underneath our team. So if you want to reach out, I'd love to hear feedback from you if you find this helpful. But I always appreciate you tuning in. We're really lucky to be in front of you. And thank you so much for your attention. Have a great day guys.

Topics: Pre-Retirement, In Retirement, Podcast