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Ep 22 B: The four pillars for a successful retirement- Part 2 -Maria Litzinger - Financial Advisor

Updated: Jul 16, 2023


Hello, This is Sirisha, welcome to my podcast!

To have a comfortable, enjoyable, successful holistic retirement, invest in the 4 pillars of retirement. Maria Litzinger talks about the second 2 pillars-Family and Purpose being cornerstones of our emotional fulfilment in retirement. These pillars will provide you clarity on when to retire, where to retire, and what steps to take today to have a healthy tomorrow.

Maria Litzinger is a financial advisor with Edward Jones who helps her clients achieve their financial goals. She has extensive experience guiding individuals and families through transitions and planning a successful retirement. She is also a speaker and educator who uses her expertise and platform to have an impact on her local community and beyond.

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Below is a transcript of the episode, slightly modified for reading.


[00:50] - Meet Maria Litzinger [Jump to section]

[01:27] Third Pillar - Family [Jump to section]

[04:40] Fourth Pillar - Purpose [Jump to section]

[10:11] Independence in Retirement & Beyond [Jump to section]

[14:36] Note to your 21-year-old self [Jump to section]


[00:50] - Meet Maria Litzinger

Sirisha: Hello, everyone. Today, I have our guest Maria Litzinger, who's a financial advisor with Edward Jones. Maria is going to talk about the four pillars of retirement. She and I are connected, both of us are Carnegie Mellon alumnus and we actually met through that program when she presented on the four pillars of retirement. For the most part, I really thought retirement was more around the finances and this gave us a much broader holistic scope of everything you need to consider for having a really good quality of life in retirement. Maria, Welcome! I'm really looking forward to today's conversation.

Maria: Thank you, Sirisha. So am I, appreciate being here.

Sirisha: Before we dive right in, This is part two of our interview with Maria Litzinger, where we are talking about the four pillars of retirement. Join us, as we step into pillar three in this episode.

[01:27] Third Pillar - Family

Sirisha: As we continue, how does it work with family when we prepare for retirement, for the quality of life?

Maria: So historically, the definition of family has really been those who are related to me by blood or adoption or by marriage. And what we came to find out in this research here is that 66% of the respondents now have an expanded definition of family and that expanded definition really includes anybody you love and care for. So maybe, it's a caregiver who's been with your family for many years, who you just have such a relationship with or maybe sometimes if you have an honorary aunt or uncle they're not related by blood or marriage, but again, just those very close relationships that you have with people outside of that traditional family definition, who you really consider to be family. The number one area where retirees are looking to spend their time in retirement is with family. Having those relationships is integral, just up there with health. It keeps people engaged emotionally, and physically in all of those things and spending time with those, whom they love. So I think it's, again, one of those things that we can be thinking about all aspects of our life, are we investing in those relationships? In the ways that are most important to us now, even busy careers, maybe small kids at home, all of the things that sometimes take our time at different phases in different seasons of our lives. It's so important to keep those very important relationships front of mind and invest time into them. As it's such an area where there's fulfilment, not only through our working lives but then particularly as we get into retirement.

Sirisha: Family, as a definition has changed. I'm originally from India. Many years ago, it was a joint family. It's become a nuclear family and now, we are separated by an ocean. So, it's a very different definition, just even from a close-knit one. And then you have your family and friends and your circle, that you're investing in when you're getting ready for retirement. And I'm glad you brought that up because when you're thinking of family, they're always thinking about that straight line - parents, kids, grandkids, just going down that path but when very often people now live in different cities, they're not in the same country sometimes. So, that closeness is different and research has also shown that for people to stay active and have a quality of life or a successful retirement, or just a successful transition into that next phase to be mentally and socially active, actually socially active is a very key part of it, And that's where the family comes in.

[04:40] Fourth Pillar - Purpose

Sirisha: It also lends itself to the next pillar that you're talking about, which is Purpose. So, how do we stay mentally and socially active and what does your research show on purpose as you look at retirement?

Maria: To draw this in specifically again to women, the research shows that generally throughout our lifetimes when we talk about who lives alone, the numbers are very interesting. Again through the majority of a lifetime, the numbers are pretty equal in terms of the split between men and women who live alone at any particular point. But when you get to the age 75 and over age band, the number of women who are living alone is astonishingly high. The reasoning behind that, women, generally tend to outlive our male counterparts. Really going back to that family and why just thinking about it as who lives in my house right now, or my children or grandparents and so forth, it really does need to be expanded because our lives will change over time. When it comes to the purpose pillar, I'll start just throwing some numbers out for everyone to consider. So when you're in your working career, let's assume a working career means eight hours a day, five days a week, a traditional 40-hour work week, the majority of us are working maybe 50 weeks a year. Now, if we multiply that by 20 years, and the reason we're doing that is that in retirement, an average length of retirement is about 20 years. If you figure from age 65 to 85, all of that multiplied up., So your 40-hour work week, 50 weeks a year, 20 years is 40,000 hours. Right now you have 40,000 hours of time accounted for, if you are still working. If you have transitioned into retirement and retirement for you is not working at all, you now have this what we call time affluence of 40,000 hours of time to fill, which probably in your working career sounds amazing. All of the things you can think of that you can get taken care of - You can get the groceries done and get to the dry cleaning, get to all of these different things. But when it really comes to the reality of retirement, a lot of people are not prepared for that amount of free time. Generally, people might have a couple of trips that, throughout their lifetime, they've always wanted to take and those are top priorities on the list, whenever they've chosen to retire. Other times people may know they're definitely going to want to spend more time with their family. Again, that can be an extended definition of family. But when it comes down to the specifics of what about all the rest of that time? It's not really, well-defined. So Purpose, when it comes to that concept, is really a few different things. And it's all about having and exploring those interests that maybe you haven't before. It doesn't have to be, groundbreaking in any way, maybe it's volunteering somewhere that you've always wanted to before. Or maybe, you were volunteering somewhere in a limited capacity, and now you have the opportunity to more fully engage in that. Maybe, it is getting engaged with interests that you hadn't been able to do before, whether it's physical activity related or, taking classes at a community college not for credit, but just to continue learning. It can take a lot of different variations, but having an idea going into retirement of things that just fill your bucket, fill your soul, and continue to keep you engaged, whether it's continuing with that extended family concept or meeting new people and mentally, physically staying engaged.

Sirisha: 40,000 hours sounds great. Yeah, filling it up actually makes me wonder what I'm going to do for 40,000 hours. I might have ideas, but I read an article once a few years ago and it opened my eyes. When I asked colleagues when they're retiring and I go to their retirement party, most often, I hear that they are planning to travel or spend time with kids. I don't think that's going to take the 40,000 hours. So what are you going to do with the rest of it? And the article really talked about thinking of retirement five years before you retire, like planning, even when you're volunteering, it's not something you switch, like an on-and-off switch. So today I retire, and tomorrow I don't immediately find a volunteering opportunity because volunteer opportunities also have limits, they have a certain cadence to them. They're looking for certain things - Depending on what type of volunteering you're doing, especially thinking like of a board position or something, that's something you build over time just like you build a career, it's a skillset, it's an experience, it's a community you build. It's also good to start thinking about it a little bit before that, to realize what are those purposes. What are those families? What are those dynamics? Where do I want to retire? Do I want to retire near my child? Do I want to retire near the beach? Hey, I always wanted to live in this country and you're maybe looking at health. I know that some people retired to other countries for those reasons as well. So, there are just so many different pieces that these four pillars tie into. When you have the 40,000 hours, you're only talking about the work hours, right? You're not talking about the rest of the day, the evening, the night, all of that. So how do we get prepared for this as we look at all these four pieces?

[10:11] Independence in Retirement & Beyond

Sirisha: The research is interesting, and eye-opening, but also not surprising because those are the things we should be thinking about. Like when I have a conversation with my parents, it's about health. They have a community built around them and that is one thing, very important because when they come to visit, it is different because they don't have transport. There's not a social community for them, so it can be sometimes quite isolating and that can be very challenging. In India, where they live, the communities, it's an open door policy. So people come in and out and to come here and be isolated is socially very, disempowering, to feel dependent on someone else when you've always been independent. That ties into those four pillars, it's a question of independence. How long can I manage my independence? How long do I have a say, how long can I control my thing? And I just wanted to wrap back around, we talk about women and finances, and you brought that up with seventy-five per cent of most women living alone, and this is a significant number who do live alone because of social circumstances. Women, first of all, live longer than men and there's the age difference. So that usually becomes a key factor for them to be on their own. So, what I want to emphasise that is, I would like as many women as possible to start looking at their finances. I'm sure everyone knows what to do, taking a more keen interest, and having an idea of where all the pieces are laid out so that they can own their own financial journey and are not put in a hard spot when circumstances suddenly change. Is there anything else you wanted to add to this conversation?

Maria: I think really we've touched a lot among so many of the highlights of this study and just going back and I think just like you were saying, really thinking of this as a journey and that retirement is not something that you should simply begin thinking about whenever you are ready to retire. It's a combination of all of the different choices and activities that have taken place over a lifetime and certainly, some circumstances are different for different people. Specifically, when it comes to the financial pillar, not everyone has all of those opportunities to start investing the moment that they start working, but really understanding how all of this works together and how you can really successfully get to that transition point of retirement. I definitely agree with you in terms of, really thinking about things that are 5 years out, even possibly 10 years out about like, okay, this is the trajectory that I'm on. This is when I'd like to retire. Is this all possible? And what are the pieces that I feel unattended to, as it comes to these four pillars that I should really start focusing on if I haven't already? I feel like really thinking about retirement as a comprehensive and holistic lifestyle is a much better way to think of retirement than it's simply being a financial decision.

[13:16] Planning for Retirement

Sirisha: Are there just like 5,10 questions I need to ask myself when I'm thinking about this retirement that people can utilize to set them on that path?

Maria: Conceptually taking these ideas and doing a self-assessment against, How is my health? How are my connections with my family? Where am I making a difference or feeling engaged from a purpose pillar? How are we doing and trending from preparing for the future financially? Again, talking with an advisor, I think is always a really good starting point because everyone's situation can be so uniquely different. It can be hard to say if you're doing this set of things here, then, you're in good shape. So having those conversations with someone who can help guide and direct you in areas where you may not even see it as something that you might want to explore until having those conversations can be really very helpful.

Sirisha: Yes, I'm glad you brought those different pieces tied together and I just wanted to throw one out, think about where you want to retire, because that ties into your lifestyle, it ties into your family relationships and probably where you want to drive your purpose. If you want to go back to a different place or different country and so those are all the different pieces.

[14:36] Note to your 21-year-old self

Sirisha: So there is one question I ask every guest. What is the advice you would give your 21-year-old self for your life and career, and maybe even in retirement in this case?

Maria: Wow. It's such a good question and thinking back to being 21, when you think you have all the answers, then life tells you differently as you continue. I think from a career standpoint, I would suggest to people to really learn from every experience, as I had said at the beginning. I wasn't always a financial advisor, but what I have found is that every time, every position that I held I have learned something from, so whether it was, a great experience or not the greatest experience, there is always something you can take from that. And it's so interesting how all of those experiences will help shape you into who you become in the future. So don't write off anything that may not be perfect right now as something that's not helpful to you. Every experience you have is helping to shape you in a way that will, in time, you'll find out how it all works together. It may not always make sense at the time, but looking back 5 or 10 years, you'll really be able to recognise, oh, this is actually something I took from that last position and I see how it really impacts my life today. When it comes to the financial side of things, I would also say it's never too early to start saving. And now there's a big emphasis on, tomorrow is not guaranteed, which we all recognise and so many people are really focusing on today and that's important. You can't not live today in order to, live for tomorrow, but really integrating all of that together being able to do the things that are important to you and that you value today, but also recognising that by what you're saving now and preparing for in the future will help you continue that lifestyle that you're looking for in the future.

Sirisha: And you brought up the different experiences and looking back, I've had two carrier breaks and one was unintentional. I got laid off, but it was a hard time then, but now when I look back, actually it was a very pivotal moment. And in some ways, I'm glad I got that experience because it taught me so many things about feeling more confident. The fact that I know, things will work out, I can figure out how to go about that. So you never know what you consider not the best moments might teach you as you look forward. So, I'm glad you highlighted that. So, What is the one word you would use to describe yourself?

Maria: Determined. I'm determined to make a difference for people. I talk a lot about it, We do this one time and life is too short to take for granted the things that are important and I'm determined to make this the best life that I have for myself and for those around me.

Sirisha: Thank you, Maria. This was a very good conversation. It's very relevant for a lot of people. When you think of retirement, I don't have to be at the later stages, getting ready for retirement. A lot of these are conversations I should be having early on with myself and with my family and friends because it is steps that sometimes take a long time to get me on the path. Especially finances, and health, they're long-time build, they're building on each other. It's compounding as time goes by. So, I'm glad we got to have this conversation about the four pillars. The picture I have in my mind is, it's a chair with four legs and every one of those legs needs to be there, otherwise the chair isn't going to be stable, so it's very important. So thank you for being here.

Maria: I definitely appreciate the opportunity it's been great and again, just appreciative of your time and thank you.


Host: Sirisha

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