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Love and Community Helped My Mother Thrive in Her Golden Years Thumbnail

Love and Community Helped My Mother Thrive in Her Golden Years

Just after midnight on New Year's Day of 2012, I was standing in a pizzeria in New York with my wife Carissa. We had just watched “The Ball” drop in Times Square. Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" was playing over loudspeakers. Confetti was in the air. Spirits were high. And I was filled with gratitude and hope for the year ahead.

Then I happened to see an email from my mother come in on my phone. What it said confused and worried me. I showed the email to Carissa, and she confirmed my reaction: "It is clear your mother is telling you goodbye."

On today's show, I discuss how this experience changed my life, as well as my approach to financial advisory and building community at Keen Wealth Advisors.

"She's not answering the door."

As I tried to process the email, I was thinking no, it isn’t so. I mentally ran through everything my mom had gone through in recent years.

Her husband, my stepfather, had died unexpectedly after a stroke about two years prior. My siblings and I had been there for her, but we had also tried to give her space to find her footing in this new stage of her life. We weren't going to force her to move or make any other major life changes while she was still coping with the loss of her husband. And as far as we could tell, two years later, she was doing just fine.

Still standing in the pizzeria, Carissa put her phone to my ear and instructed me to read to the person on the other end of the phone my mother’s email. She'd contacted the police back in Kansas City and had convinced them to drive through a blizzard to my mom's house. After a short time, the officer told me, "She's not answering the door." I knew that my mom would never drive in a snowstorm: "She's in the house. Please, get in there somehow."

The officers on the scene had to go up the chain of command to get permission. When they finally entered, they found my mom in the garage, sitting in her running car. She had indeed tried to take her own life, but she was alive and on her way to the hospital.

"I don't want to be a burden."

In retrospect, I could see that we'd probably given my mom too much space. She was living alone in a large house, which was hard for her to manage. And she was too worried about being a burden to her children to ask for what she really wanted: to be closer to her family.

In short order, that's exactly what we arranged. I helped my mom with extensive repairs on her house to be able to sell and move into a wonderful retirement community closer to where I lived. My podcast co-host, Matt Wilson, even helped me hook up her new TV. The entire family pitched in. My mom started going to counseling. And as she spent more time with her family and with her fellow residents, she started thriving again and looking forward to the future.

Three years later, we were back in Times Square for New Year's Eve. And this time, my mom was there celebrating with us! After The Ball dropped, we went back to that same pizzeria and took a selfie together. She did not know the significance of that moment for us, but it was very moving to be back there, with her, as she was now thriving in life.

“People, not dollar signs.”

My mom has been on my mind for the past couple of weeks as Carissa and the Keen Wealth team prepared for our firm's annual Valentine's Day Party.

What my mom went through really opened my eyes to the challenges that so many seniors face -- often in silence. As you age and progress through the various stages of retirement, it can be so hard to find ways to express what you're feeling and what you need from others. The shift in identity that folks experience when they stop working is often accompanied by changes in their relationships with their friends, their former co-workers, their spouse, and their kids as they grow up and start their own families. Some of those changes bring joy, like a fuller travel schedule or the birth of grandchildren. And some bring heartache, like the loss of a spouse.

It's at these moments of major transition that a financial plan can be truly priceless, especially if you're working with advisors who put people before dollar signs. My team at Keen Wealth considers it a privilege to help folks put their resources to their highest uses, whether that means settling a loved one's estate, taking care of an aging relative, or making an exciting move across the country that will transform retirement.

My mom’s experience is also a big reason why I place a high value on investing in our community of clients and friends. Events like our Valentine's Day Party and our summer BBQ Bash are a way for us to bring people together to share good food, good company, and some fun. For this year's Valentine's party, we served a delicious lunch from Garozzo's and comedy from Crusty Mustard Improv, who even performed a very funny impromptu bit about the CEO of Keen Wealth!

I'd like to thank Carissa and my team for all the hard work they put into this party and all the events we host at Keen Wealth throughout the year. And I'd like to thank my mom for giving me permission to share her story.  I hope seniors and their families can learn from my family’s experience and help each other get the love and support each person needs to thrive at every stage of their lives, especially during retirement.

If you or a loved one are dealing with suicidal thoughts, call 988 to connect to the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

About Bill

Bill Keen is a financial advisor with over 30 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he focuses on providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.

KWMG, LLC’s dba Keen Wealth Advisors (“company”) is an SEC Registered Investment Advisor located in Overland Park, KS. The company and its representatives may only conduct business in those states where registered or where excluded/exempt or from licensure. For registration information please contact the SEC or the state securities regulators for the states where the company is notice filed. A copy of the company ADV is available upon request. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where the company and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. No advice may be rendered by the company unless a client service agreement is in place. This information is not intended to be investment advice or construed as a recommendation or endorsement of any particular investment or investment strategy and is for illustrative purposes only. Clients and prospective clients must consider all relevant risk factors involved with each strategy, including costs or fees, and their own personal financial situations before trading.

The views outlined in the book, Keen on Retirement Engineering the Second Half of Your Life, are those of the author and should not be construed as individualized or personalized investment advice. Any economic and/or performance information cited is historical and not indicative of future results. Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted.

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